Shule in Swahili means “school,” and samaki means “fish.” You may be wondering what these two words have in common, as we are not planning to send any of our Arrive kids to learn to become sushi chefs…yet. So let me explain the connection – this past month in Kenya has been school break. But like every other school break since when we first rescued these former street children, their break isn’t like other typical Kenyan students’. Arrive hires teachers to come to our childrens home and run morning classes so that the children can get academically caught up quicker.
This has proven very successful and you don’t even need to look past Astarico to see why. Astarico is 12 years old and his mother is 24; take that fact in for just a second. Astarico’s mom was a street girl herself, and like most young street girls, her only way to survive was to sell her body. Astarico was the unwanted by-product of her business; the baby of a young prostitute who could not afford to raise a child. For that reason, she gave her baby to a friend or member of her extended family (nobody is exactly sure). This Good Samaritan cared for Astarico from his infant stage until he was nine years old. He ate well, went to school, and lived a relatively good life. When he reached nine years old, he was told “You have grown big now and we can’t continue to support you. Sorry, you need to leave.” Astarico was forced back to streets and for three years lived homeless. Then, he was rescued by Arrive and brough home.
When Astarico started school at Emmanuel Lights Academy he entered third grade. Out of the 17 students, he was academically ranked last – number 17. But he has worked hard, studied every night, and remained focused. Now, a year later and in fourth grade, he is academically ranked second out of those same 17 students. Had it not been for his hard work coupled with Arrive’s extra tuition classes during break, who knows where Astarico would be. And if he was able to improve that vastly in such a short amount of time, who knows what bright future is awaiting for him!
Now, all of the students are back in school and looking forward to a productive third term. During the break, we welcomed two volunteers who came for a very specific cause. Mark and Kevin, both engineering students at the University of Texas, came to aid us in building a fish pond. Our farm supplies us with a plethora of vegetables and fruits, our cows with fresh milk, and our chickens with eggs. To become even more sustainable, General Electric approved the second part of the grant we submitted – the building of a fish pond (the first part of the grant was our very successful Running Water Project). Stocked with tilapia and catfish, the fish will grow to a suitable size to be caught, cooked, and eaten by the kids of our home.
But so many aspects determine the success of a fish pond – hydroponics, aquaponics, oxygenation and flow of water, water level maintenance, vegetation, recycling fish waste as fertilizer, and more; and I don’t know the first thing about any of those. Mark and Kevin helped us tremendously with their knowledge and aided us during the most crucial steps of the construction process. They helped design and cement the pond, install the rainwater collection system, develop the water oxygenation process, and so much more. While they only stayed for a week, our fish will grow bigger and live longer, healthier lives because of the work they accomplished. In the end, the extra protein in our kids’ meals will help them to grow big and strong, and everyone likes a bit of variety in their diet.
Caring for the fish will teach the kids about fish farming and how to care for additional livestock – valuable skills that will help them in the future. Even the dirty fish-poop-infested water will be regularly drained through a pipe leading to our shamba (farm) to be used as fertilizer for our vegetables. As you can see, Kevin and Mark’s hard work was done before the pond will be filled with water. This stage in the construction process is most essential and that’s why we are so grateful for their trip across the globe to help make our fish pond the best in Kenya.
In the next few weeks, GE employees will make the trek from their urban Nairobi offices to this part of rural Kenya to get their hands dirty and help complete the fish pond. It will be an exciting day when we, together, fill the pond with water, vegetation, and our first larger fish. The GE employees will then head back to work in Nairobi, but not long after we will be serving the freshest tilapia this side of Japan.
Stay tuned – in our next blog post I’ll post stunning photos and updates of the completed fish pond along with a reunion of a grandmother and her granddaughter that will bring you to tears. Until then, shule and samaki will continue to go hand in hand at the Keumbu Rehema Childrens Home, although I don’t think any of us will be carrying our fish to school any time soon.