Kenny Yingling is an early childhood trained educator. He received Bachelor’s degrees in Early Childhood Education and Traditional Eastern Arts at Naropa University. After spending many years in Boulder teaching in a classroom for children aged 1-3, he now teaches at AACC sites around the globe.
After arriving in Kenya and taking two days in Nairobi to shake off my jet lag, I set off for my new home. We stopped along the way and my guide showed me a fantastic view of the Rift Valley wherein lies Kijabe proper. My destination was the surrounding hills which contain my home, the village Kiambogo, and my school, Kiambogo Primary School.
When we reached the turn-off from the main highway to Kiambogo, a hoard of streetside salespeople rushed the car desperately trying to sell their products (mostly fruits and vegetables). The gentleman closest to the car was selling fire-roasted corn. My guide talked to the man in Kiküyü, the local dialect. The man handed me a cob of corn and took no money in return. Feeling a bit puzzled by this interaction, my guide clarified what had happened. This desperate corn salesman is the impoverished father of a student who attends the school and receives lunch courtesy of the Mama Beth feeding center; a center started by a kindly local woman who up to the onset of dementia has worked tirelessly to help any and everybody she can (FYI Mama Beth’s home is the home I stay in). When the corn salesman found out I was coming to the village to volunteer at the school, he wanted me to have the corn free of charge in a display of gratitude.
Before taking me to my future home, my guide took me to the school where I would be working. If not for a well-tended flower garden, I would have thought I was back in elementary school on my field trip to a ghost town of the Rockies. Windows were broken, classrooms were empty of all but dust, and a latrine was collapsed.
The next day, I returned and the school came to life. Students swept out their classrooms and filled them with desks and chairs. Teachers filled the office, constructing lesson plans using a vastly outdated syllabus that didn’t quite match the slightly outdated books that would be used. A new latrine is even under construction to replace the old one. In the meantime, the 250 students share the five remaining latrines. The windows, however, are still in disrepair.
The following day, school officially began