Together with my sister I stand at the check in counter at Zürich airport, ready to fly to Nairobi. I’m so excited that I will soon be back in Kimilili. I have one big box of books, which Agnes has carefully packed and weighed to not exceed the 23 kilos luggage allowance. I have second suitcase with my own clothes and some more donations. “You need to take out 3 kilos from this suitcase”, the friendly check-in lady tells me. Pleading that the 3 extra kilos are for a very good cause doesn’t help and I end up removing a donated laptop (3kg) from the suitcase and stuffing it into my hand luggage. There’s some quick thinking from my twin sister when the check in lady spies my third smaller suitcase which I’d intended to take as additional hand luggage: “This is my luggage, I’m flying as well a bit later”, Agnes smiles her angel smile and fortunately no further questions are asked.
Luckily nobody weighs my hand luggage, weighing 18 kgs (8kgs are allowed) or my rucksack, which is stuffed with two laptops, a few cameras and around 10 mobiles and probably weighs about the same as my hand luggage.
Fortunately everything arrives safely in Nairobi. On my first available weekend in Kenya I catch the 12hr overnight bus to Kimilili with my precious box of books.
New books for the school library
Headmaster Martin’s smile gets even bigger when he sees me carrying the big box of books. One of our four new teachers, Brenda, has been given responsibility for the school library. Her smile is as big as Martin’s when she receives the books, despite the work she will have to do in order to catalogue and index all the new books. J
Proudly Brenda shows me the schoolbooks that are currently available for our 400 kids. CBSM Kimilili has so far only been able to buy a minimum of one book per subject and class but seeing the nearly empty bookcase shocks me again. With the shortage of course books, the teacher copies the texts and exercises on to the black board. The students can then copy what’s needed into their exercise books. This is time both consuming and not very effective. Especially when time is short and you have 20 students preparing for the national exam in December.
I head home and open my laptop. Guido, one of our biggest Kimilili supporters is online and starts chatting with me. I tell him about the pitiful book situation and he asks me how much money we would need to buy new ones. I’m ashamed to admit that I actually have no idea. Even though these books are extremely important for the kids, we’ve just had so many critically important things to do. I know the price for a book to be around 4 or 5 Euros and knowing how many kids we have in each class and how many subjects we jointly calculate. Guido is shocked when he hears the final number, sighs and replies: “Buy the books tomorrow while you are in Kimilili”. I cannot believe what I am hearing – around a 1000 new books! “YOU ARE CRAZY” I hammer into the keyboard. “I know, and that’s my biggest problem” is what he writes back and I can literally hear him sigh. J
I slam my laptop shut and run to talk to the Reverend. I tell him about the donation of 50.000 KSH for books. He is without words – even hours later during dinner when we tell the whole family. Suddenly I realize my mistake. I mumble: “shit, shit, sorry, I did a mistake. I hate calculating with different currencies…” everyone looks up at me with their eyes wide open. I wait another few seconds scribbling intensely on my notepad. I prepare my camera to film while I look up to tell them: “I am sorry. The donor did not give 50.000KSH, he donated 500.000 KSH”. What follows is way too good to tell, but here is a video… J
Just to understand that reaction. A teacher earns 5.000 KSH. This donation represents 100 months of work, or 8,3 years of work! Even if all of our 15 teachers work together, they would need to work for over half a year!
The next day we convene our teachers for a spontaneous staff meeting. Everyone is literally speechless when I tell them about the new books. You can see the staff shaking their heads in complete and utter disbelief here. At the mid-morning breaktime, I hear loud voices coming from the headmaster’s office. When I go in to see what’s happening, I see excited teachers animatedly discussing which books should be bought and making sure their required learning materials are on the headmaster’s shopping list.
Later that day, Headmaster Martin goes to the book shop to negotiate the book prices and promises to be back in the afternoon for the show of our exchange visitors from an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. At 6pm, with still no sign of Martin, I head into town to catch my night bus back to Nairobi. Just as the bus is about to leave, Martin suddenly appears to say goodbye. After many hours in the bookshop he holds 7 papers in his hands. “We need to reduce the number books; we are over budget” he tells me. I look at the final sum and it exceeds our budget by 9263 KSH (80 Euros). I smile, take his pen and with the most serious face write, “approved! Astrid J
Martin looks at me in disbelieve. 9.000KSH is a two months teacher salary, while for us it is probably the cost of a dinner at a restaurant. Earlier that day I’d heard the teachers discussing which books are urgently needed. I couldn’t bring myself to let them down. 80 Euros means around 20 more books for the school and hopefully a greater chance of our kids passing their exams. Here is our teacher Brenda saying thank you for this huge support!
As you can imagine, I get into the bus leaving big, big smiles behind.
Three weeks later I am back in Kimilili and witness the arrival of some of the new school books.
It takes around 20 days until the first books arrive in Kimilili little by little. Bringing a total of 1,220 books to Kimilili is a logistical masterstroke. Please see below pictures of the arrival that the Kimilili Team sent via Email. This is amazing – Thank you Guido!
Thanks also to all our other friends, in particular ZIWC and the International School of Zug and Luzern, that donated story books during the last two years. In total we bought around 500 story books and 1500 school books to Kimilili!