Friday, April 30, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

Because WOD works with children living in the slums, this first story really pulled at our heartstrings.

Kenya Railways Suspends Plan to Evict 50,000 from Slums [VOA News]
  • Helping Kenya's Most Vulnerable [North Jersey]
  • Kenya Villagers Die in Rift Valley Landslide [BBC]
  • Teachers from Kenya Learn Lessons in Vermont []
  • Kenya Scores High Marks in Matters Green [Daily Nation]
  • African Scientists Advance Quest for a Malaria Vaccine [Daily Nation]

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Meet the Luo

The Luo are the third largest ethnic group (13%) in Kenya. Their primary language is Dholuo. Following Kenya’s independence in 1963, the Luo and the Kikuyu inherited the bulk of political power. Today, the main Luo livelihood is fishing, and the Luo work as tenant fishermen, small scale farmers, and urban workers.

Early British contact with the Luo was indirect and sporadic. Relations intensified only when the completion of the Uganda Railway had confirmed British intentions and largely removed the need for local tribal alliances. In 1896 a punitive expedition was mounted in support of the Wanga ruler Mumia in Ugenya against the Umira Kager clan led by Gero. Over 200 were quickly killed by a Maxim gun. In 1899, C. W. Hobley led an expedition against Sakwa, Semeand Uyoma locations in which 2,500 cattle and about 10,000 sheep and goats were captured. In 1915 the Colonial Government sent Odera Akang'o, the ruoth of Gem, to Kampala, Uganda. He was impressed by the British settlement there and upon his return home he initiated a forced process of adopting western styles of "schooling, dress and hygiene". This resulted in the rapid education of the Luo in the English language and English ways. The Luo generally were not dispossessed of their land by the British, and many Luo played significant roles in the struggle for Kenyan independence; most using their education to advance the cause of independence peacefully.

The first major ritual in a Luo person's life is the naming ceremony. Any time between birth and age two, an ancestor might appear in a dream to an adult member of the family. The child is supposed to assume some of the mannerisms of the ancestor he or she is named after, and the ancestor becomes the individual's "guardian" throughout life. Customarily, children had their six lower front teeth removed at an initiation ceremony, but this ritual has largely fallen out of use.

Music was the most widely practiced art in the Luo community. The Luo music was shaped by the total way of life, lifestyles, and life patterns of individuals of this community. Because of that, the music had characteristics which distinguished it from the music of other communities. This can be seen, heard and felt in their melodies, rhythms, mode of presentation and dancing styles, movements and formations.

More than 1,000 people were killed in Kenya's election violence amongst the Kikuyu, Luo and several other ethnic groups following the controversial December 2007 presidential election.

Famous Luo include the president of the United States, Barack Obama and Kenya’s current prime minister, Raila Amolo Odinga.
Photo credit: Adverts East Africa

Monday, April 26, 2010

Swahili Politeness

Last week we learned some Swahili you would hear on one of our worksites, and this week we will take a look at some of the phrases of politeness.

As a review, and because they also fit in this section, "thank you", "thank you very much", and "you're welcome" are "asante", "asante sana", and "karibu", respectively.

Next week we will start learning common phrases :)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, April 23, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

The top news story of Kenya this week was the Icelandic Volcano and how it effected Kenya's exports.

Kenya Horticulture Sector Hard Hit by Volcanic Ash Crisis [Ethiopian Journal]

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Personal Experience: Scott T

For me, the experience of going to Kenya with World of Difference is hard to put into words. I think the best way for me to describe it would be to give you a excerpt out of my journal that I kept while there:


“Jonathan asked me to speak in front of the group this morning. I talked about George Kisi (a Kenyan I just met last night), and the story he told me of his friend’s arm being cut off during the violence in Kenya last year. I spoke about the genuine forgiveness that Kisi had for the person that did that to his friend. I couldn’t believe he could be so forgiving, but it was a powerful testament to me. A lesson to take home and use in my own life. Thank you Kisi.

I also wanted to express how, when I was on the roof we put together as a group last night, the overwhelming sense of COMMUNITY and FRIENDSHIP I felt. What a strong bond, and powerful connection to everyone and everything around me.

Such an amazing place!!!!
P.S. I know that I have your strength Trudi, thanks sis.
“We are not poor, we just do not have any money”
-Director of the Shanglia Orphanage in 2007 ( passed away)”

The children that we met were so special. I did get the opportunity to teach a couple classes to these children one day, thanks to a couple WOD members. My topic, I found out, was

Be True, Be Clean….HIV/AIDS.

I am not a teacher, but I found with an open and loving heart, anything can be accomplished. Each child had written on a scrap of paper questions that they had for me. I would like to share some of those questions with you.

These children were only 10-12 years old. The experience I had trying to help answer these questions was one of the most powerful days in life. World of Difference not only changes lives in Kenya, but they have opened my eyes and heart to the world at large.

I follow Scott, and you should too, on his blogs Big Willy's Space and Tweak Your Senses :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Meet the Luhya

The Luhya are a Bantu speaking tribal group in Kenya, the second largest ethnic group in the country making up about 14% of Kenya's total population. There are 16 sub-tribes among the Luhya of Kenya, each with a distinct dialect. In Kenya, the principal settlement of the Luhya is the western province neighboring the Rift Valley and Nyanza provinces, and they are the most densely populated group in Kenya.

There are several beliefs as to the origin of the Luhya; however it is commonly accepted that they fled Egypt because of famine, droughts, civil wars, diseases, and Roman taxation before settling in the area of what is now Northern Kenya, Southern Ethiopia, Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda. Before colonization leadership was democratic in nature, and the Luhya ruled over a large geographic area that, comparatively, was equivalent to almost a third of Texas. In 1883, Joseph Thomson was the first European known to pass through Luhya territory on foot. The Luhya strongly resisted British incursions into their territory, and they fought hard to retain their land over the decades that followed. However, the British had machine guns and massacred over a hundred warriors who were armed only with spears, hide shields, and bows and arrows. Eventually, in the 1950s, Nabongo Mumia, the King of the Luhya, was forced to sign treaties with the British after being defeated, allowing the colonial authorities to subject the Luhya to British rule.

Luhya culture revolves around the extended family, and polygamy was allowed and common. About 10 to 15 families traditionally made up a village, headed by a village headman who was also a shaman and/or healer. Within a family, hierarchy was strictly enforced; the man of the home was the ultimate authority, followed by his first-born son. Daughters had no permanent position; they were viewed as other men's future wives, and were brought up to fulfill this role.

The Luhya had extensive customs surrounding death and considered funerals with high regard as a custom to please the ancestors. There would be a great celebration at the home of the deceased, with mourners staying at the funeral for up to forty days. If the deceased was a wealthy or influential man, a big tree would be uprooted and the deceased would be buried there, after the burial another tree would be planted. Nowadays, the mourners stay for shorter periods of time – about one week – and the celebrations are held at the time of burial, with a single closing ceremony to end the forty days.

Today many Luhyas live in urban towns and cities besides their rural homeland. The majority of Luhyas can be found in nearly all urban towns for work, school or economic reasons. Most still maintain their land or property in western Kenya.
Photo credit:

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Updates from Peter

I am Peter Akol a student in private University and from a marginalized area at the Kenya Ethiopia boarder. The college as closed so am reffelecting on what I have did last semester to help me plan even do better what await me next semester. I have a dream to help my people out of the bondage of ignorance, poverty and disease because our community is a bit away from civilaized life. I carry my people at heart where ever I go, they are my first world I target to change before I spread my wingsd further for the saying is true and worthy believing that “charity begins at home” and the “ light that shines furthest, shines brightest at home”. I am therefore joining hands with every mortal that believe in changing the world and making it a better place than we found it so that together we can make a diffirence; World of difference is therefore the right place to be. Like a hunter on a mission for a prized game that brings joy to his people, I am pursuing higher knowledge with a dream of advancing my studies outside my country and the good I will find take it back to my people as jewel that everyone will admire.

Peter is a very dear friend of ours who lives in Kenya. Each week we aim to bring you unedited updates from Peter's day-to-day life. Peter is originally from Ethiopia and writes about the plight of that region's women and girls on his blog, Peter's Project, which I invite and encourage all of you to check out.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Swahili on the Work Site

Last week we learned some Swahili greetings, and this week we will take a look at some of the words you would hear on one of our work sites.

*This last word is considered street slang. It is a Kenyan modification of our phrase "take care". I say it about a million times a day to the curious kids who get just a tad too close to swinging pick-axes for my comfort!

Next week we will learn some Swahili politeness :)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, April 16, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

This one really shouted out to me, especially after talking about this in my Personal Experience post from last week.

Investors Bring Sanitation to Kenya's Poorest Slums [PBS]

*Ten Things We Have Learnt About Africa [BBC News]

*Africa Goes to Church, the Mosque and the Witch Doctor [BBC News]

*Justice is Hard to Come by in Kenya [The

*Micro-Insurance Plans Extend Health Care to Africa [AP]

*Kenya: Floods 2009 DREF...Final Report [Ethiopian Review]

*Kenya Churches Frustrated Over New Draft Constitution [World
News Vine

*Kenya and Tanzania, 7-Night Safari [msnbc]

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Meet the Kikuyu

Another new weekly tradition at the WOD blog is to introduce the tribes of Eastern Africa each week. This week we will get acquainted with the Kikuyu People.

The Kikuyu are Kenya's most populous ethnic group as they account for about 22% of Kenya's total population. Kikuyu speak Kikuyu, a Bantu language, as their native tongue, as well as Swahili and English, the national and official languages of Kenya, respectively. The ancestors of the Kikuyu can be said with some certainty to have come from the north, from the region of the Nyambene Hills to the northeast of Mount Kenya. Today, most Kikuyu are Christians, and it is difficult to come across one who professes to be anything else.

Traditionally the Kikuyu believed in a unique and omnipotent God whom they called Ngai. Kikuyu legends have it that in the beginning, a man called Gikuyu and his wife called Mireia were placed on Mũkũrwe wa Nyagathanga in present day Murang'a District by God. It was said that they were placed near a Fig tree upon the slopes of the mountain where they gave birth to nine daughters. When these daughters were grown, they met nine young men from a distant land who married the girls and the Kikuyu nation was formed from their offspring.

According to folklore, the Kikuyu tribe was once ruled based on a matriarchal system. During the rule of Wangũ wa Makeeri, a leader who was said to be so fierce she held meetings seated on the backs of men, the men decided to revolt and take over leadership, and they have never let go.

The Kikuyu man is referred to as a mũthuuri, someone who can choose or discern evil from good, and the Kikuyu woman is called a mũtumia, someone who retains family secrets and practices. Traditionally, Kikuyu society is polygamous and the men could have as many wives as he could afford. The family lived in a homestead with several huts for different family members, and each wife had her own hut where she and her children slept. After boys were circumcised (at puberty) they moved out of their mother’s hut into the young men’s hut.

Colonization eroded many traditional practices and values, although the language has survived and continues to evolve. Many Kikuyu have moved from their traditional homeland to the cities and around the world to look for opportunities. Those living in rural areas tend to continue to practice farming.

Famous Kikuyu include Kenya's current president, President Mwai Kibaki, as well as Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello!

Photo credit:

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Meet Peter

Peter is a very dear friend of ours who lives in Nairobi, Kenya. Each week here on the WOD blog we hope to bring you updates of just what Peter is up to while at college. Peter is orginally from Ethiopia and writes about the plight of that region's women and girls on his blog, Peter's Project, which I invite and encourage all of you to check out.

Peter is known to post inspirational quotes on his Facebook page from time to time, one of which has remained with me since I first read it, and I would love to share it with you:
If you want your life to be a magnificent story, then begin
by realizing that you are the author.
Check back weekly for updates from Peter :)

Monday, April 12, 2010

Swahili Greetings

Last week we learned some Swahili pronunciation, and this week we will introduce some basic Swahili greetings.
Next week we will learn some of the phrases you will hear a lot on one of our worksites :)

Need help with your Swahili pronunciation? Refer to our guide.

Friday, April 9, 2010

This Week in Kenya

We at World of Difference love to stay apprised of Kenyan current events. Here are some of the headlines that caught our attention this week.

I really loved this first one. When I watched the video I saw places in Nairobi that we pass everyday on our way to the work sites!

Farm-in-a-Bag offers Kenya Lifeline [CNN]

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Join the Cause on Facebook!

Hey all ya'll Facebook addicts, come join World of Difference on our cause page!

Step 1: Click here to be directed to the page.

Step 2: Click "Join Cause". See it? Its that green box under the beautiful picture.

Step 3: Smile.

Personal Experience: Dori

Though I had a very detailed packing list, I knew I had no way to REALLY prepare myself for the experience. This was made abundantly clear the first time I stepped down from the mutatu (van) and onto the actual slum soil. The first thing to hit was the smell. It was so heavy of rot and sewage and wood charcoal smoke; it is what they use to cook, so it is everywhere. It finds a way of getting in your eyes and making them burn and water. Next was the actual ground upon which I was walking. When I think of a street littered with garbage, I recall my own streets, which are swept clean by the city several times a month. I picture the fresh trash of fast food containers tossed carelessly from cars and cigarette butts haplessly thrown to the ground. In the slums, it is a million times worse as it includes ALL of their trash as there is no city trash collector, as well as human and animal "waste", and it is accumulated over years and years and years and stomped down daily by the thousands of [shoeless] people who call this place home. This trash is so thick and trampled that I honestly couldn't tell where the trash ended and the dirt began. And there was plenty of dirt- no paving, no gravel, and thrashed and cracked by decades of rain creating rivers through their homes. In many places the "roads" were so uneven and cratered that we couldn't drive down them and would have to find alternate routes. Down either side of the roads were shallow ditches that supposedly acted as gutters. From personal experience I will advise you to be very, very careful crossing over these; I misjudged the leap and fell in one on my last wasn't pretty.

After the initial adjustment to the smells, the street, and the smoke I took in the buildings and the people - oh so many people. The majority of the vendor buildings are, essentially, discarded and found corrugated tin - much of it with holes and rust and plenty of very sharp edges - held up with rotting sticks and rebar. The buildings that people live in, often entire families in a single room, are stones and cement, the same construction as the schools and orphanage we worked on. Many of these buildings are incomplete - with rebar sticking out or up five feet or more and walls half built, as though someone just simply stopped halfway and walked away. There is no running water or electricity in the slums we visited. Using the "facilities" meant standing in a dark stone closet and squatting over a hole.

As for the people - the streets were just full of them. Shoulder to shoulder everywhere I looked. Cooking, cleaning, doing the wash, buying, selling. It was so alive! And everywhere I looked I was smiled and waved at and children swarmed to me offering their hands to hold and crawling into my arms. There were times in which I would be cradling one kid in my arms and holding the hands of six more, with still more wrapping their arms around my legs and holding onto my pockets. I was hugged and welcomed and loved and accepted. And they did all of this with holes in their shoes (if they were lucky enough to even have shoes) and tears in their clothes (which were worn by countless people before them), and hunger ravaging their little bodies. What a contrast from the city streets of Los Angeles! Here you must be a "crazy person" if you smile or wave at a stranger, and I just can't imagine if I picked up a stranger's child in the market!

On one such walk through the slums, after just having used the "facilities" and fallen in a ditch, the weight of it all hit me. These were conditions I could "tolerate" because I was only there for a few weeks, but I got to leave. This was their home; that hole in the floor was the only restroom they know and that pile of blankets on the stone floor - if they were fortunate enough to HAVE a stone floor - was where they laid their heads at night. At the end of it all I came back to my very own apartment, and washed my clothes in a machine, and took a hot shower, slept on my feather mattress covered in crisp, fresh sheets, and, yes, flushed a toilet or two. When I am hungry I can go to a store where I can buy anything I happen to be craving - and I HAVE the luxury to have a craving, and to fulfill it. When I am sick I can go to a doctor and get the treatment and medications I need to make me well again. And if I can't afford to do any of this? I am lucky - oh my goodness SO very lucky - to have a government who will provide assistance for all of these things.

The weight of just how much I have taken for granted, that I have been blessed enough to be ABLE to take this for granted, really hit home. In Nairobi, there isn't even free education. Maybe the thing I have taken for granted most of all. So much, in fact, that I would be careless enough to have "ditched" nearly 50 days of my senior year of high school! I had been offered a free education on a silver platter and had thrown it to the ground! The schools we help to build are created by people living in the slums themselves who want to create an opportunity for the children to leave the slums and have a better life. How humbling is that, I ask you.

During my time working on the orphanage I had quite a lot of conversations with Emily, the young woman pictured above who, with her family, has dedicated her life and opened her home to 50 children orphaned by genocide and disease. She said to me once "the children, they are so hungry, but no one can give them food because they have none themselves." She is one of those who has nothing, and still she gives all she has to these children. I grew close also to Isaac, who, with his wife, worked long hours for many years to save just $5 a month with one goal in mind - to be able to build a school to elevate the children around him to a higher level. Isaac has been a driver for World of Difference for about a decade, and every year has seen the organization assist so many other schools, yet has never asked for anything for his own school. As this year's project had already been completed, a fact we didn't know until arrival, it opened the door for us to give Isaac additions he so needed. On my last day with Isaac and Emily they thanked me. Thanked ME! I am the thankful one, indeed. I can't express enough my gratitude and awe at being able to witness such dedication and hard work and selflessness. And I am thankful most for having been shown what a true hero is. Endless thanks to Isaac and Emily and all of the other amazing Kenyans I met who dedicate their lives to the service of others.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swahili Pronunciation Guide

Swahili is the national language of Kenya. In light of this, here at World of Difference we think it would be great to have a mini-Swahili language lesson every week. The first step to learning any language is discovering how their pronunciation compares to ours. Below we have provided a guide for some key Swahili sounds!

First lets look at vowels. There are five distinct vowel sounds in Swahili represented by A, E, I, O, and U. These approximately have Spanish or Italian values. Each vowel should be given its full value whether accented or not.

Now that we have mastered those vowels, lets see how consonants compare. Swahili consonants generally have English values, with the following exceptions:

Stay tuned for next week when we will check out some Swahili greetings!