Murigi Charity Wanjiru: Spring Break Camp 2012 experience story

20 Jun

Like pregnancy, the birth of a new idea is filled with doubts, tests that come in positive as others negate with the contradicting results. At times, it is difficult to be a complete believer until you see the bulging bump even though you are the carrier. Feeble concepts of the idea began almost a year prior to the inaugural camp in Bondo. Bondo was an awesome experience, those rare ones that you get in with certain expectations and aspirations and they are fulfilled in a different and new way. Let me not preempt myself by going to the birth…I begin at the first trimester.

The Director of Spring Break camp is a man I met in an ordinary scenario; the University’s Library that we both shared. Regardless of the normalcy of the situation, it was no ordinary meeting. I had just met someone who would enable me to see my vision in a clearer picture like moving from a Great wall TV screen to a Bravia flat screen. However, that is a tale for another day. The point of introducing him in this perspective is to make clear from the beginning the weight of his actions in making me a believer in the social movement that is now Spring Break Kenya.

Nine months before 20th of May 2012, an idea was conceived resulting from the famine episode that struck most of the Eastern part of the country. A call for the participation of the youth in getting solutions for the stricken Kenyans was made. As students, what can we do directly in ridding our country of its crippling ailments poverty, corruption and famine topping the list? Always ask what you can do for your community with the resources at hand. Be the change you want to see.

Allow me to skip the details of the first trimester of this great pregnancy and move to December, a trip to Migori in South Nyanza gave flesh to the idea and plans began to situate the camp in Muhuru Bay. Resources were sought, connections were made and plans drawn. Do not be deceived in thinking it was in any way easy simply because I summarize the good and the bad of three months in one sentence. It was to say the least, a trying time that had its enlightening moments.

Like a woman startled in the middle of the night by labor pains that came before their time, did unexpected circumstances occur a month to the D-day. Hahaha!!!! Allow me to laugh at this point because looking back that is all I can do as I remember the moments. They were sporadic and painful but now they bring joy. There were moments I wanted to sleep and wake up in June (note my attempt to time travel and evade the painful moment) but it was the never ending optimism of Simeon, the eagerness of Esther Ngumbi, the hope of Spring break participants on Face book and the eyes of SIFE Maseno students that anesthetized the pain. And so, the month passed then…

A speedy but timely Cesarean section happened: the camp went to Bondo, and what a wonderful birth it was. The pain of the labor is erased and the weight of the months forgotten in that single moment when you set your eyes on the newborn. In our case, the ‘single moment’ stretched out for a week. A week filled with exhilarating moments, disappointments turned opportunities and new experiences.

My week began with uncertainties in the morning and my being drenched in the evening all in the first day. I know I had asked God to open the floodgates of heaven and shower us with blessings but I did not expect to be literally drenched. I arrived in Bondo town from Nairobi later than the other participants, and had to wait in the town to be picked as I was unfamiliar with the area and it was in the night. By the time I left Bondo town and headed for our humble abode, the heavens opened and I got a good shower as I rode on a motorbike in the night. The experience had began! I was cold and shivering as I entered the paraffin-lamp lit house but the reception I got warmed me up instantly. In the few hours they were together, the other participants had already bonded, had gained infectious laughter and teased each other like siblings. My first sign the group was ready for the journey. Later as they gave their expectations and desires for the camp, I saw leaders, thinkers and executives. As written in the Good Book, “As a man thinketh so is he.”

I remember Monday with two main activities: waking up early to fetch water from the village pond and sitting under a tree like the traditional Baraza la Wazee to form a game plan for the week. The process of community integration had begun. The week progressed relatively smoothly given the occasional language barrier bumps and other sharp corners along the road but we sailed through. Over the week, we split up into two groups to enhance efficiency and cover more in the limited time frame which proved to be advantageous as the diverse experiences gave us more lessons.

On Tuesday, we faced the task of communicating to the primary school children. They listened eagerly as we imparted our knowledge on the environment and life skills. The reception from the teachers and the local community was very welcoming given we were strangers in their land -of whom the majority did not speak Dholuo. Wednesday saw us trekking quite a distance to get to the secondary school where we interacted with a group of young boys and girls facing social challenges resulting from the impact of HIV/AIDS, poverty, rural-urban migration on top of the pressures of seeking education with limited resources. As I went round each class listening to the students’ questions and the responses of the Spring Break team, I was awed at how much information exchange was going on. The smile on the students, teachers and Springer’s was enough sign to signify the message had hit home. We went home a tired group with rumbling stomachs but with satisfied souls.

The week would not have been complete without the enriching talk from Madam Muchocho on Thursday afternoon on “the Role of the University on Community Development”. The simplicity of the message made it hit home. What I understood: giving back to the community is not charity
(no pun intended) it is our responsibility, considering what the community has given unto us.

Friday tested my patience and I learnt that sometimes, let things run their course. And they truly did, we had a lovely forum with the farmers on modern agricultural practices and later a tree planting ceremony. It was therapeutic getting our hand dirty and we shared the experience with the old and young, both women and men. I really had fun in the forum interpreting from English to Swahili then translated into Dholuo by Mr. Raphael, one of the teachers and a village elder. It was sad to part ways on Saturday and I believe that for all participants, the week was not simply another experience. It was a defining moment in our lives. My resume reads I am development oriented and I am sure this is the path I want to follow.

The baby (Spring Break) is cute right now, what with all the pudgy hands and chubby cheeks and I cannot wait for the first baby steps but I dread the terrible twos.

But for now Spring break ooooyeee!! Twatoka bara huku Bondo twenda kule Kwale….ala!!! Mtajiju!!

 

Words by Murigi Charity Wanjiru – Spring Break Camp 2012 participant.

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