Writing Haiku in Kayole

Staff_team_2015 Posted by Roger Thompson on Thu, 03 Mar 2016 | 0 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

I arrived in Nairobi late last Saturday after a wonderful week in Ndola, Zambia and was met at Kenyatta airport by Louise Githire and her twin boys, Timo and Sam. The boys have grown into bright-eyed five-year-olds (when I last saw them they were only three) and they gave me a big hug. Louise’s husband Danson then drove us home through the warm Nairobi night – it was great to be back!

I was last here in 2013 as part of a three-month sabbatical from parish ministry, and I had been profoundly affected by my visit. Based in All Saints Cathedral, I had joined Louise and her colleagues in the Urban Development Programme (UDP) as they supported the Tujisaidiye Community in Kayole slum. It was truly mind-blowing to see whole communities of people making a life in conditions of such abject poverty – the many signs of transformation the people were bringing about and the hope with which they faced down all discouragements.

Now I was back – in my new role as Partnership Coordinator with CMSI – and I felt so blessed to be able to return.

After a quietish Sunday worshipping at All Saints Cathedral and bringing greetings to the people there from all of the CMSI family in Ireland, we headed for the slum on Monday morning. Our driver Samuel Obare took us across town negotiating the crazy, gridlocked Nairobi traffic, the minefield of potholes and finally the deeply-rutted Kayole tracks.

After a reunion with Lucy Irungu – community leader and super-mum – and her son Antony, we headed off by foot to find Bahati Secondary School Centre. It was amazing to be walking through the shanty again, the hot sun bouncing off grey clay streets, and a million sensations crowding the senses all at once…smiling people dressed in brightly coloured fabrics, pillion carrying motorbikes narrowly passing as they weave in and out of the potholes, a gang of brown goats nibbling at the rubbish, open sewers seeping green, a vegetable stall neatly stacked with tomatoes and fringed with hands of bananas.

Arriving at the steel gates of the school, we were warmly welcomed by the Principal, Patrick Wanyama, who explained how he had formerly been a security guard totally consumed with his own world. One day he had forgotten his bus fare to work, and decided to walk through the slum. Passing one of the many Community Centres he decided to go in and see what was going on, and to his amazement he found hordes of happy children beavering away at their studies. This had such an effect on him that he decided to volunteer, giving up his free time to come and teach English. He found this so rewarding that before long he was spending more and more time in the school, and eventually he gave up his job altogether.

Having toured all four classes in the school we then went outside into the little patch of open space that served as a playground, where a group of eight children were having their ‘Haiku club’. A Haiku – as I dimly remembered from school days – is a Japanese poetic form in which the poet condenses ideas into 3 lines and only 17 syllables. Mr Wanyama has had some wonderful success with his students in this artform – with a number reaching the highest standards in international competitions.

We watched as the students were encouraged to observe their surroundings and turn what they saw into poetry…it was really marvellous! We finished the afternoon by videoing them reciting their creations so they could be preserved for posterity, and after a prayer of thanks in Patrick’s office, we headed back to the Cathedral full of thanks for what we had seen.

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