The kid’s in Africa are obsessed with Michael Jackson. We took a trip to Maai Mahiu to meet up with our partner organization Comfort The Children International (CTC) and see the progress of their environmental projects. Mama Hope has funded two projects in Maai Mahiu on a plot of land at the Ngeya Primary School. It was so amazing to see how the projects have grown due to the hard work of energetic youngsters in the club.
One project is a drip irrigation vegetable garden that grows over 10 different types of vegetables. I have been told that this garden provides daily lunches to Ngeya Primary’s 1,700 students. I ramble off that fact often but when I saw them all out playing at recess it really put it into perspective how many children that is. I have never seen so many kids at one time. After recess we met with the 80 students, aged 6-12, in the schools environmental club who plants and manages the garden. They learned how to build drip watering systems, how to plant seedlings, and maintain and harvest this garden. They were so excited to show us their plot! The outgoing students pointed out the particular plans they worked on, telling us about the different types of vegetables and their favorite part of gardening. It was very cute to see how into it they were.
This drip irrigation technique is not only fun for the kids but a very important life skill to learn because in Maai Mahiu, much like most of sub-Saharan Africa, there is very little water and many Kenyans struggle to grow enough food to feed their families due to long periods of drought. Drip irrigation maximizes limited water supply and allows people to farm all year round, so they no longer need to wait on rainwater. Many of the students have taken these learned techniques home to their families, who now have drip gardens in their own homes. Wohoo!
Mama Hope and the environmental club’s second project is a youth led tree nursery. Another reason it hard to grow crops in Maai Mahiu, besides lack of water, is because of climate change. The director of the Environmental Club is a man named Rocky who is the most soft spoken and innovative Kenyan environmentalist I have ever met. He told us that when he was a boy Maai Mahiu used to be covered with trees and was very lush and fertile. Unfortunately, since then people have cut down around 70% of the trees to use for firewood and charcoal production. This lack of indigenous trees has affected the climate so much that now over 80% of vegetables have to bought from the neighboring villages. The environmental club’s goal for this tree nursery is to repopulate Maai Mahiu with trees so that when they grow up there will be good climate conditions for themselves and their families to grow food. It was so wonderful to see these young kids taking action to make a better future for their entire community. So far the children have planted over 500 trees in the school compound, and have 3,000 tree seedlings that they will use to repopulate the town with. Their goal is to have planted over 30,000 trees in the community within the next couple years. It was so fantastic to hear the childrens’ ambitious goals and how they had such pride about the project.
After the Environmental Club meeting had adjourned… the real fun started! Some of the kids stayed after school to hang out with us. They swarmed around me like a school of fish, and began shouting out different questions for me to answer “Have you acted in movies?” “Do you like Michael Jackson?” “Are you friends with Michelle Obama?”… and the list goes on.
One little boy asked me to sing him a song. As most of my friends will tell you… I am not the best singer, but after asking me 4 more times and giving me the sweetest puppy dog face ever, I caved. In that moment with 20+ kids looking up to me wide eyed in excitement, my mind went blank. I could not think of a single song to sing… and the ones I did think of I blanked on their lyrics. So after many seconds of hesitation I started to sing the first thing that came to mind, “Beat It” by Michael Jackson. In my first week of being in Africa, I was asked if I liked MJ by at least 10 different groups of kids. So I sang, and accompanied it with my best MJ dance impression. The kids went crazy when I started snapping, popping my knee and spinning around. It was quite a sight to see… but how can you not go all out when singing Beat It.
We finished up the day with some more dancing and playing games. As always, hanging out with the kids is a huge highlight of the trip.