(Read PART ONE here)
The next morning was spent on the build site of the arts centre at Kisaruni. This is where sh*t got medieval. And by this I mean we were building walls old school brick and mortar styles. The guys had to chip away at massive stones in order to make them fit. And then there was the "flicking". The process basically involved throwing mud at the new wall to reinforce the bricks. Despite our novice skills, the Free The Children (FTC) staff were impressed with the day to day progress we made, and the work was definitely rewarding.
On one afternoon we had a sit down with the schoolgirls. I was paired up with five super keen girls who, at the moment I was about to say something, would lurch towards us in unison. I've never had anyone so captivated! However, it's the girls who impressed us as they are all so dedicated to their education at Kisaruni and beyond. They all agree that they don't want to marry until they've had jobs. Some want to be teachers, some doctors, and there was also a future pilot in the mix.
It was day 5 when I had the chance to lead a class with Toronto-based artist Daisuke Takeya. After he instructed the group on the basic technical points, painting scenes on rocks and inspirational words on one wall. The latter was a little project I'm proud to say I dreamed up...likely because I did not want to do any more flicking. All the girls took on the tasks, and impressed us with their imagination and precision, despite most not having ever picked up a paintbrush before.
The highpoint of the CTV documentary is when Nelly gets to tell a young girl, Susan, who desperately wants to go to school at Kisaruni, that she'll be the 41st student allowed to attend classes. All of the neighbours rushed out, singing of course, when they heard the news. Pure joy.
The FTC and Artbound crews were all waiting back at Kisaruni to welcome Susan with a huge celebration that included the Kenyan Boys Choir. Despite the heat, these guys smiled through their version of Nelly's "Powerless". Then the clouds rolled in and the festivities moved inside. Jillian Vanstone (principal dancer with the National Ballet of Canada) performed a specially choreographed modern ballet dance. Beautiful. After this the girls started in with their angelic voices...and when the guys did a mashup with the girls...well, roof-raising. Yet another day I'll remember forever.
Our last full day at Kisaruni had us wrapping up the wall project and doing the last bits of building, as well as planting trees on the school grounds. Then it was on to a cheery (and tearful) final tea with the girls. On our way back to Bogani, we stopped in a nearby field to engage in a bit of Maasai warrior training. We learned to shoot a bow and arrow, and to throw the sticks that are traditionally used to kill animals. My (dismal) efforts still earned me one of the traditional red blankets that the Maasai wear. Success! The sun was going down and we all decided to walk back to camp, reflecting on the many reasons to come back to East Africa. The whole experience from beginning to end was life-changing in ways I never imagined.
Artbound's 4th annual fundraiser -- The pARTy 90210 -- is taking place at Evergreen Brick Works this Friday, September 20th. The 90s-themed event will be headlined by Naughty By Nature and all funds raised will be used to sustain local and international initiatives. Artbound is currently in the second phase of a two-year capital campaign that will not only give Canadian youth the essential opportunities to flourish in the arts, but also reinforce what was started in Kenya, and make progress on an Adopt a Village project in Rajasthan, India. This year, 100% of The pARTy proceeds are earmarked for breaking ground on an all-boys school in the Maasai Mara - another first of its kind! Visit Artbound.ca for tickets and more on Where Art Does Good.