Report on our visit to Boston Children Centre, May 17-18, 2013
Our visit to the Boston Children Centre (Boston) had two main objectives: to deliver – in-kind and monetary – donations and to complete administrative tasks between VitaFutura Public Benefit Fund (Fund) and Boston. My two-day visit (during a private trip to Kenya) was devoted to the above purpose. The first and most important lesson learned was that two days were very little…
Donations and gifts
As a compliment of Bookstation (foreign language bookshop) – and our sponsor working there – I arrived at Nairobi with a big box – actually a full backpack 😉 – of English language books (mainly vocabularies and adolescent literature). Owing to our private person donators my bag was also stuffed with hundreds of color pencils and other small gifts for kindergarten age children (balls, multiplication tables, chalk, etc.) and I had approx. 430 Euros to spend on the children living in the Boston rescue home. The spending was not a big challenge, the donations were spent very quickly. 🙂
The first thing in the morning was to go shopping in a Nairobi mall with my Kenyan supporters – actually friends – where we packed two huge carts – and spent half of the available sum.
We purchased the missing portion of gifts for the children sponsored by Hungarian donators. I brought some toys and clothing from Hungary but it was no use to transport office stationary items (it is cheaper in Kenya, we do not pollute the environment with the extra weight on the airplane and we support their economy) so I bought everything I could in Kenya. We also purchased A4 and A5 size exercise books, pencils, pens, rubbers, color pencils (for primary school students) and pairs of compasses (for secondary school students).
Besides, we also bought several kilos of sweets (lollypops, candy, biscuits) for the children. (We normally give gifts not only to sponsored children but – whenever possible – we also distribute some small gifts among all of them. This year the small ones got lollipop or candy and older ones were given a pen each. This does not seem much for us but these children were very happy even with such small gifts.)
We also purchased bigger items for the rescue home, like mosquito nets for bunker beds, color bed sheets, blankets and several tens of kilos of food (flour, rice, tea, pasta, sugar, salt, beans, lentils). The food was purchased in two parts as we did not want to spend all our money on the first day, first we wanted to see if there are any special needs. And, as usual, there were some, so the next day we bought medicine (pain killers and malaria pills) and the remainder was spent on food and toothbrush-toothpaste.
As a result we spent more than 48 thousand Kenyan shillings (approx. 430 Euros). Many thanks to the sponsors and our generous donators so that I could take so many gifts to the school.
Completion of administrative tasks
One of the key administrative tasks were to sign the cooperation agreement between the Fund and Boston (officially: support agreement), the harmonization of the details, the discussion of further tasks and the documented, official delivery of the books from Bookstation – that we all completed as planned.
Programs and our experience
After the first day’s shopping and getting lost in the Kayole district (street name tables are rare here and it did not help either that both my local supporters have been living in Nairobi for decades) we finally arrived at the Boston campus – where the primary school, the nursery school and the children home are located.
There was a break at school and many of the children were hanging out in the yard or the street and they saw us coming. There are not many cars around – except for that of the principal – so all cars attract much attention, let alone if there is a ‘mzungu’ (white person) sitting in it. After last year’s visit it was no surprise that they greeted us with ‘mzungu, mzungu’ shouts and as we pulled up at the school they immediately surrounded the car to make friends with the passengers, primarily with my local supporters. (It seems to me that they make friends with locals easier than with mzungus – they were not so friendly with me even towards the second day, tough by that time they were much less reserved as initially…)
The gifts were organized into packages in the principal’s office (after shopping they were just loaded into the car trunk and back seats) and we gathered the children supported by Hungarian sponsors to distribute their gifts – also in the principal’s office. The children – as usual – were a bit shy (they do not really frequent the principal’s office …) but the chocolate bars in the packages helped a lot to create a friendly atmosphere. However, they were reluctant to talk, even though we tried hard with the local supporters in the Swahili language. (It was hard to get on even with my own sponsored children as the older one is not very talkative – tough we got on well by the second day – while in the case of the younger child it took some minutes for me to realize that we had better switch to Swahili as she was merely repeating “yes“ at very odd instances to my questions…)
Lessons learned (distribution of gifts):
- chocolate is the best gift one can give, however, it melts in 30 degrees Celsius so it is better to buy it locally and avoid filled bars or buy sweets that do not melt at all;
- clothes were also popular (nice new clothes probably come only from sponsors) and toys too (toy cars, dolls for girls (in Kenyan stores – including Nakumat – one may only buy Barbies and toy kitchen for girls …) so it is a good idea to bring some small gifts (too) in the package;
- stationery items are the most useful gifts and you may spice up your gift by sending a cool pencil, pen, sharpener or scented eraser.
After the distribution of gifts to sponsored children all kids gathered in the schoolyard and we gave them sweets. By now we can say that “as usual” the teachers lined up the very disciplined children by classes and they were patiently – though excitedly – waiting for their turn.
The main lesson learned is that an infinite number of lollipops could be distributed here – not only for children but for teachers too. 🙂
(Anyway, sometimes we tend to forget teachers when distributing gifts – it happened to me as well – although they are very happy to receive some small items, like a pen, lollipop, chocolate bar, etc. Their salaries are not astronomical sums, as you may imagine…)
It was Friday so there were not many children in the nursery by the time we got there (though it is not far from the campus) but those who stayed were patiently waiting for the mzungu – and mainly the gifts. The gift for the nursery was biscuits – we gave some to the teachers too and left the rest for those who were not there. We also gave them a gift package with items that we mentioned before – color pencils, balls, chalk, development games – that we trusted to the teachers.
At the end of the day we walked to the soccer field where another school was supposed to play with Boston but the opponents did not turn up so the Boston kids split into teams and played football while the girls played dodgeball.
Next day we started the administration work then the children – now we can say “as usual” – gave us a nice performance: they told us poems, sang, danced and played music. They are amazingly good dancers and showed us how one can play wonderful music without instruments (they used empty bottles, beer bottle lids, wooden boxes and anything available).
After the performance we sent the rescue home kids to have lunch (they were starving by then) and after that they gathered to take a photo of all of them. It was pretty complicated to collect them – as school was over they were scattered all around and it was really hard to find all of them – but at least we had the chance to make friends with them while searching. When the photo was taken we carried the gifts to the rescue home then drove to the high (secondary) school. (The high school is quite far from the headquarters and the roads – if any – are in bad condition so it took a long time to get there. The children normally travel on foot but they know shortcuts and need less time and effort.)
There were not many students at the high school (a part of them went to some school event) on top of which those who stayed had to wait a lot for us. We were very sorry that they had to wait so long for us and we only had such small gifts … The majority of the sponsored children were at the event and we only had a couple of pens for those who could stay and from our perspective it was really not worth waiting for us so much. Nevertheless, our local supporters – tried – to comfort us with saying that even a pen is a great gift (to be honest this was not reflected on the children’s faces …). Luckily we had the Bookstation books for the secondary school (this is where the library is located) so we did not go with empty hands. By the time we finished the distribution of pens and the delivery of books the event was over and the children were coming back to school so I could give them their gifts from their Hungarian donators. The children were totally exhausted after the full day event so I did not want to hold them for long – it was getting dark anyway – so we quickly said good bye to each other and went home.
It was a tiring but very enriching two days and we are looking forward to repeat it. 🙂