Archive for April, 2017

AMS CAMP in Kenya!

April 30, 2017

Saturday & Sunday in Nairobi This is what we’re here for – AMS CAMP!

We bussed 50 kids out of the Korogocho slum and across Nairobi to the beautiful ‘Stepping Stones’ Kindergarten. It’s like heaven even for us but for these kids? – they’ve never seen anything like it. 
Most of these kids have never left the Korogocho area. They’ve never had a shower or a bath. They’ve never seen a swimming pool. They are the poorest of the poor. 
I have a million stories to tell and no words to tell them. 

Let’s just say we had to fit in an extra session of swimming and their singing is amazing. The clothing donated from home was happily received – and they all look great!
Our Kenyan staff shine like we can’t believe and we want to bring them all home. The kids are GORGEOUS and it’s heartbreaking to send them back to Korogocho. Really hard to say goodbye. 

Think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. 

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Friday in Nairobi 

April 30, 2017

Haven’t had a second to write so this is a point form update!
Jake survived his night staying with Simon outside korogocho. Simon cooked for him (and he’s still ok!)
We gave a concert at Stepping Stones and it was a huge hit! Lots of happy parents and our Kenyan staff were wonderful. 

Meanwhile Jake and Joseph were over the other side of town giving a demo lesson at a Private School for children with special needs. There are 120 kids there and they are looking for a music program! Yep that’s us! In jakes words the lessons ‘went off like a frog in a sock’ and they were thrilled. They will employ teacher Jospeh from next term! Yay. 
Dropped into a very lovely cafe at the Matt Bronze gallery and caught up with Sally. 

Thursday in Nairobi 

April 29, 2017


Off we went to ‘Stepping Stones’ – the beautiful International Kindergarten run by Sally & Stuart. (Elite clientele and all funds back into rescuing kids from Kibera. Astonishing stuff!) This place is divine!!
Met our teachers there – Celine & Joseph (whom you’ve already met – they’ve been with us for 2 years) plus Ruby who helps our with the younger children in Tiny Musos and Mini Musos – and 3 potential NEW teachers resulting from our meeting with Elizabeth (Ghetto Classics) the other day. Lots to do!
For most of the day we split into small groups and trained whatever was needed. Jake and Lindi worked with the new teachers and got teacher Joseph through to the end of Super starter 2. I helped Ruby & Celine organize & rehearse a concert for Stepping Stones (for tomorrow!!!) and then completed Celine’s Junior training. We all did well! 
In the late afternoon we ubered to ‘lunch’ at the local Java Cafe. It’s a serious treat for our teachers so we shout them a meal as often as possible. They never disappoint – huge shakes and massive meals. (Theirs are photo worthy, my salad doesn’t quite rate…)

2 of our ‘try out’ teachers were a big hit today – we are looking forward to welcoming Teacher Kevin and Teacher Martha to the AMS Kenya team. Woo hoo!!!
At lunch they gave us our ‘Kenyan names’. Long story for each so maybe another time. Let’s just say that my favorite is ‘Jacob Juma’. 

Kevin explained to us that the soccer tournament at St John (which we saw part of the other day) is actually a big deal: 
1st prize is a goat!!!! 2nd prize some live chickens (about 5) and 3rd prize some money. 

The expectation is that the goat will be slaughtered, cooked and shared on winning and that the team and their families will eat and celebrate very well. The chickens will also be cooked but will probably only feed the team… mot sure what is supposed to happen to the money…

Jake set off with them back to the Korogocho area – he’s staying the night with teacher Simon. (Haven’t heard yet but the trip no doubt involved Matatu and possibly worse… )

Lindi, Bill & I took the civilized option of an uber home via the wine shop. Note: Lindi doesn’t drink but I’ve had a squelchy stomach for a day or 2 and we thought we’d try a gin and tonic. Happy to report I’m feeling significantly better!! (?)

A lovely afternoon on our deck catching up on things and organizing the remainder of our week. 

Wednesday in Nairobi 

April 27, 2017

5.30am coffee and fruit for 6am departure – off to Nairobi National Park! It’s not far from home (about 20 minutes) and we got there in good time. 

Our driver was ‘Hilary’ and he certainly knew where to find the animals. We saw buffalo, rhino, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, hippos, a crocodile and lions! I will admit that I slept in the back seat for most of the ‘safari’ but woke at key moments to see animals up close. 

We parted company for the afternoon:

Bill and I went to a string of meetings re teaching / development/ land / building/ expansion etc. (These all took place in very civilized cafes!)

Lindi had a little look around the market at Karen and then an afternoon at home – Moses the land man took her on a beautiful walk down to the river on our property. A lovely one hour nature walk!
Jake went over to the Angel Kindergarten in Kibera where CNN were filming some of the Angel kids dancing with current slum ballet star Joel Kioko (trained by our Ballet friend Cooper and getting lots of publicity!)
After that, he walked into Kibera with local guides and security. 
I’ve written extensively about Kibera on our previous visits. Let’s just say that it’s a massive, horrendous slum that covers 4 square Kms and houses over a million people. No water, no bathrooms, no nothing. We walk along ‘roads’ made of dirt, tires and ‘flying toilets’ (plastic bags containing what would end up flushed down a loo if there were loos…)
They visited 2 homes in the slum: firstly that of an Angel student, Khalid who is sponsored by our friends Meg and Tim Clarke. Jake described being there as; 

Mama is ‘dead in the eyes’ there’s a ‘responsible older sibling’ who has grown up way too fast and then Khalid – who is an absolute cheeky monkey! Couldn’t sit still and so excited. 

They live in one tiny room. We’ve seen it all before but Jake still came home with the word ‘heartbreaking’ on his lips. 

And then to see our friend Edwin! Edwin is tall and thriving and keen to let jake listen to his latest compositions! He sang and played and loved having Jake visit. Mama Grace was also really happy to have visitors. They are always so welcoming and appreciative. 
The tiny weeny one room house was as always, neat and lovely. The TV which was recently bought by funds from my friend Liz stood pride of place. They were proud of it!

Jake also visited the quads – the ones in the ‘safe flat’ that Stuart and Sally set up late last year. Happy to report that the girls are growing and doing really well! Apparently Mama is still not really speaking (some serious special needs there) but they are all healthy. Teacher Florence is still living there helping to take care of them. 

We met up for early dinner at an absolutely gorgeous spot in Karen. It’s always bizarre to work with the poor here and then turn up somewhere delightful for dinner.

Monday in Nairobi 

April 25, 2017


We were all up very early…sleeping is a bit tricky when your body has been through a time warp! Wondering if we can spend the whole day in our sunglasses…

Great breakfast where we live at Kifaru House. We love Moris our house man! Off in our Uber to meet our driver to take us to the Korogocho slum to train our Kenyan AMS teachers. 
It’s always an experience getting into Korogocho and today lived up to our expectations! Photos don’t do it justice but you get the idea. 
Our classes run from St John Primary School. The school is a dusty, stinky, run down establishment that houses far more students than it was ever designed for. It backs onto Korogocho’s famous dump site where the ‘chokora’ sift through the new rubbish as the trucks arrive each day. It goes on and on for several kilometers with vultures soaring above. It’s one of the worlds largest dump sites – a constantly burning awful mess. At times our classes are cancelled due to the smoke in the room. I took a few photos out of our classroom window…
It was a hive of activity when we arrived – a special Sports Day! Soccer soccer everywhere – a lovely festive atmosphere. This is the school where AMS families donated a few hundred soccer boots about 18 months ago. They’ve been put to good use!
It was wonderful to meet our 4 Kenyan teachers again! In the past I’ve written about how having a job as a music teacher has changed their lives (https://australianmusicschools.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/teacher-updates/) but the BIG news is that in the past few months, each of them has moved OUT OF THE SLUM! We are gobsmacked. It was only November last year that we were discussing this and questioning the reality of it and they’ve done it!
For the past year we have been speaking to them about taking the skills they have learned in this job and starting up something of their own – going in to additional schools & promoting themselves as music educators with AMS Kenya. We gave them teaching certificates with their packs to present to local schools so they can grow their own businesses – then it was straight into training!
They each taught for us with Lindi giving detailed feedback on each section of their lesson. It was very productive with lots of laughs! They are excellent. 

Joseph organized for us to visit the home of one of his students – a girl named Melvin. She’s 9 years old and in Super Starter book 1. She is coming on AMS CAMP this weekend!

Melvin’s home is a 4m x 4m room divided by a curtain. She lives here with her mother, father and 3 sisters. There’s no bathroom or running water. 

We piled into a taxi and endured the bumpiest ride on the worst road ever out of the Korogocho area. A short freeway trip and then we miraculously arrived at an upmarket modern shopping mall. Lindi couldn’t quite believe it! We’d gone from slum to Westfield in a matter of minutes!

Great meal with our teachers – terrific to spend some time with them. 
Our 25km trip home took 2 hours and 25 minutes in the Nairobi traffic. A few hair raising moments in between Matatu (little public buses with a death wish) but we got home safely. Exhausted after a great day!

Sunday in Nairobi 

April 25, 2017

About a year ago we went to a very new program run by Sally & Stuart (who run the Angel Kindergarten). They established the Kings Rugby Academy as another way to provide for the children of Kibera – bringing them out of the slum each Sunday and into a green environment, teaching them football skills, helping them connect with good role models… and as always, feeding them a decent meal! 
We visited again today and it was fantastic to see the program a year on – it’s going so well! 
There are now 230 slum kids each week with 17 professional rugby coaches. The kids meet at the Angel Kindergarten at the edge of the Kibera slum and are bussed across to the beautiful (actually quite grand) Hillcrest International School. 

Hillcrest donates the location and the coaches donate several hours of their time and energy every single Sunday morning. Sally & Stuart’s organization ‘Lunchbowl Network’ donates the food and has sourced the uniforms, boots and other essentials. 
We watched training and a couple of games (the new girls team is on fire!) then helped serve lunch and chatted with the kids. Just gorgeous. 

Jake and Lindi arrived and made it through customs without a hitch! Yay we’re all here! AMS training starts tomorrow!