By Haley MacKenzie
Hello, this is Haley again! I am writing to tell you about a very exciting day I had in Kenya. During the first week of August, we visited Michogomone Primary school to attend their education day and celebrate the opening of their new cookhouse! Over the summer we have visited Michogomone the most of all the schools: this was our fifth time there! The headteacher, staff, cooks, and students were so welcoming and gracious that Julia and I were happy to return. Along with the cookhouse opening, today was also their end of the year education day.
Parents cooking lunch for the school’s event
A small crowd that gathered around me instantly after sitting near the children to watch the dances
When we arrived at the celebration, the students were sitting at desks outside with their parents sitting in the shade across from them and a small tent up with plastic chairs set out for us. We greeted the headteacher Frederick and other guests present for the opening. We walked to the new cookhouse and found about twenty parents cooking outside using about 12 sufurias (pots) to cook rice, stew, and mukimo (mashed potatoes and bananas) over multiple fires. We were amazed by how hardworking and helpful the student’s mothers were! We noticed that the school scouts were marching towards us alongside a vehicle to provide a grand entrance for Jennifer Murogocho and Steven Mwenda. Naturally, the students and parents cheered in excitement.
The cookhouse opening and education day schedule
The beautiful display of food the staff had laid out for guests
The schedule for the day started with the staff escorting guests to their staff room, where they had set out cut up fruit, cookies and mandazi (donuts), and prepared tea on the table with pretty flowers scattered around the table. I am surprised time and time again at the generosity that Kenyans offer guests. We prayed, introduced ourselves, and returned outside to begin the entertainment portion of the morning.
Primary school boys dancing and singing dressed in traditional Kenyan attire
A modern dance put on by older students
The entertainment included five group dances, one solo dancer, a spoken poem, and a play. We had attended events where the children had danced before, but the energy at this event was very different. When the first song started to play, a group of 4-5-year-old boys from the student crowd hopped up and began dancing – almost as if they couldn’t help themselves! The teachers had to ask them to sit down and remind them that they were there to watch. When the first group of dancers began, the parents from the crowd jumped in and began to dance and sing as well! It was evident that the whole community could not hold in their excitement about receiving a new cookhouse. The spoken poem was completed by three older girls and was titled “Boy Child”; the poem included a strong message about the need for young boys to be nurtured, loved, and supported. I was happy to hear this sensitive issue being raised by young, bright women in the form of a strongly written and recited poem.
Getting ready for the opening of the new cookhouse!
Julia, Stephen, Haley, and Jennifer in front of the new cookhouse
After the entertainment, they moved on to speeches and the cookhouse opening. Julia and I threw on XL orange t-shirts that read “The Village Feast, Souris Prince Edward Island”. The FHF team introduced themselves, music began, and we danced our way across the campus. It was a beautiful day for this event, but unfortunately the grounds at Michogomone school contains more dirt than grass. As the women danced their way across the yard, we were surrounded by a whirlwind of dust which left Julia and I coughing and struggling to talk. When we arrived at the cookhouse, we danced and sang with the parents before the official grand opening. Julia cut the ribbon and the crowd cheered and even began to dance and sing again! As we entered, this went on for about 15 minutes as the students, parents, and staff explored their new cookhouse. It is hard to put into words how I felt as I saw the pure joy on their faces as they sang to us. This was the ultimate rewarding experience that comes with working with FHF and I am so grateful to have been there to watch it unveil.
After the opening, the parents, staff, and guests walked back across the yard to eat lunch. The parents had prepared a carrot beef stew, mukimo, and rice. After lunch, the education day events began. By this time, it was already past 3:00 pm so we had to excuse ourselves so that we would have time to go to town for groceries before sundown. The headteacher understood our request but asked that we stay another 10 minutes to see how they do the awards for students, which was no problem. A man stood up and called five students up to be recognized for their academic achievement and as a reward, handed each of them 500 Kenyan shillings (~$5.00 US). Just before we left, the headmaster formally thanked FHF for their help and even gave us an award that reads, “we value your contribution greatly’! We all got pictures with the headmaster and thanked him for his kindness.
Beautiful award given to Farmers Helping Farmers by Michogomone school
Overall, it was a very happy day spent with the school and the community with lots of smiles and dancing. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to do the honours of opening the cookhouse at Michogomone, as I know that the staff and students are well-deserving. I trust that they will make good use of this new resource and look forward to hearing from the headmaster next semester!