Sunday, July 15, 2012

Love, Unconditionally

The other day, I had a sort of...epiphany. No, that sounds to dramatic. An important thought.

As a social work student, one of the first things you learn is about burnout. As in, you are so into your job...until one day, you aren't. Your compassion is lacking in the way it was when you started out. You're tired.

I've seen a lot of that here, in a lot of different situations. I've had my share of grumpy days, but I really hope that in my social work career, and my personal life, that I never get to the point of burnout where I neglect to help someone who needs it, or do it in a half-hearted way.

After some consideration, I made a new goal: to love unconditionally.

It doesn't mean you have to neglect your own needs. For me, it means empathy--or, just putting a human face on the situation. Putting yourself in someones shoes for a moment.

For me, it will mean being making each clients day, at least I hope, a bit brighter somehow. Making jokes, talking with them, sneaking them little snacks when nobody's looking.

It will mean not picking an eye for an eye. I'm not particularly that way, but I'd like to be more forgiving and to stop keeping track of little things.

Maybe you're sick. Get ready for some homemade chicken noodle soup and my, sometimes unwelcome, obsessive offers to get you some dawas (medicine).

If an argument comes up, it won't stay up. I also don't consider myself a yelling crazy person when it comes to these--but I just hope to have them resolved quickly and with everyone involved feeling good about the situation.

I hope it'll mean a nice, home cooked meal instead of whatever is in the freezer/ 'fend for yourself night' as it is so affectionately called in my home.

This has been my little goal for the past week or so, and I hope to keep it going. It hasn't been 100% successful, and I've had some troubles loving unconditionally (which in the name of this goal, I shall not name), I'm going to try my hardest. It can only get easier with time (and makes me feel great, too.)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Global Solidarity Challenge

Hi Everyone!

Sorry for my lack of postings lately! But I thought I use my limited computer capability for the day to tell you all about this awesome event that my friend Sabreena is hosting back home, through VIDEA (Victoria International Development Association)--it runs from the 15th to the 21st of July.

The focus is on global poverty--we've all heard about someone, somewhere, who lives on the other side of the world on only $1.25 per day. This is a topic particularly close to my heart, because I see firsthand every day people who live this way--it is happening, whether we like it or not.

That is where the 'Global Solidarity Challenge' comes challenges YOU to live on this amount, in solidarity with those who always must live on $1.25 per day. Could you do it?

Here is the idea--collect donations from family, friends, get it! It doesn't have to be that awkward door-to-door fundraiser. Make it fun! Host a foreign-themed dinner or barbeque (its the season!), check out some businesses, have a garage sale, whatever it takes! You can even make a team and put your heads together to come up with something fun

Need more incentive? Every $500 you or your team raises gets your name put in a draw, for a trip to South Africa! You'll get to visit some of VIDEA's awesome projects there. But if you aren't the $1.25 per day kind of person, thats ok too (sometimes McDonalds fries call to you a little too loudly) can throw in whatever you feel comfortable with to a team of your choice (I recommend Sabreena's, its called 'The Globetrotters'!).

Want to find out more? Check out:

The Site:

The Email:

Good Luck Everyone!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

What does AIDS look like to you?

About once each month, Lea Toto takes a Saturday to train the children on a topic of relevance to them--and there is a ton of options to teach about! This past month, the age group was from about 8 years to 12 years and I decided to go back to basics a little and find out what they knew about HIV, and then give them some information on what HIV is (and what it isn't).

One of my major challenges in working with the age group was the issue of disclosure--I was teaching them about the details of HIV, without letting on to them that they were positive. Some children can reach age 14 and not know their status (their parents tell them the drugs they take are for something else).

Note: After taking some shots while at the training, I found out that this was not allowed. I completely understand why, and the following photos are to depict what was taught, not who was there.

I started by asking the kids what they did know about HIV--'What is HIV?' and 'How do you get it?'

For the most part, they were right on the button! I was pleasantly surprised.

To discover their honest perspective on HIV/AIDS, we asked them to draw 'What AIDS looks like to them'.

This exercise is a common one in teaching children about HIV/AIDS, and always seems to bring out some varied responses. Many drawings can depict the stigma that surrounds HIV in the Kibera community, while some can range from silly to serious (to completely unrelated). Here are some of their responses!

I really appreciate anyone taking the time to read my blog while I'm away--it really means the world to me! My apologies for being MIA for so long--but, as promised, I've added some new photos below that I took around Nairobi. Feel free to check them out!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Mzuri sana

Just a little note to let people who read this and/or care about my well being that I am doing very well (mzuri sana). I haven't updated in ages because there has been rain, thunder, and lightening each evening which causes power outages and therefore no internet. But I am well, (relatively) healthy, and definitely safe. I have a ton of updates and have been up to some good, and this week I go on a mini-vacation to Ethiopia which I am looking forward to.

Back soon (and with pictures!),

Kayla :)

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Things to Smile About

Remember when I said I would take a daily photo of something wonderful? Admittedly, I haven't been doing it as often as I should. But here is the first (of hopefully many) albums of awesome.

This was my birthday treat to myself. A delicious slice of cheesecake and a milkshake. Awesome!

Some pretty jewelry being sold at Maasai market downtown. Beautiful.

Funny sign in Nairobi encouraging people to get enough Vitamin C. Hilarious and therefore effective.

A nice text from my co-worker Juliet that made my day.

Some traditional/slightly tourist oriented art for sale in the Maasai market in downtown Nairobi.

The Hilton hotel in the middle of Nairobi is a wonderful meeting friends place/people watching spot.

My computer will not accept that I took new photos of cupcakes, so I'm just putting this one up again. For my birthday, my roomate ordered me some delicious cupcakes! Yum.

Contrary to some stereotypes at home, Nairobi City is very developed and has some cool architechure--here is a shot of Times Tower in city centre.

Some beautiful, modern African art in a downtown coffee shop.

My apologies for the delay in adding more photos! I jumped on the opportunity of good internet today and hope to be updating a little more often, provided things go as planned! :) Thanks for reading!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Rosalia's Letter

This past Wednesday at Lea Toto, we had a 'Teens Day', where all the HIV+ teens in our program came together to learn about drug adherence, teen issues, and were also able to socialise with others sharing the same experience as them. Rosalia was brave enough to share this letter with the group, and it sets her far beyond her years. She gave me the 'okay' to share it with you!

Presenter: Rosalia (Form IV Candidate at State House Girls)

Greetings to doctors and staff of Lea-Toto and my fellow teenagers. It is a privilege for me to stand before all of you today in an effort to touch at least one person’s life.

As we all know, we are living with a virus in us. The first thing we should do about this is to accept it. The truth remains that there are things that are beyond us and that we can’t change them. The best we can do is accept God’s will to be done in our lives. God does everything for a reason and his reason is never negative. We should always know that God has a plan for us. There is a reason why we are bearing that virus and the worse we could do is deny it. Always remember that every person has their own cross to bear, ours is this tiny, stubborn virus. Once you accept that you can do less about it, all will be fine. With God on our side and with our hearts willing to accept our cross, we will surely go places!

After accepting, it is important that we do something about it. We are extremely blessed to be receiving medication for free. God shows us his endless love every month when we come here and go home with enough drugs. It is important to remember that not everyone is able to get enough medication like we do. It is just a grace from God and we should all say a big ‘Thanks’ to God the almighty. We should therefore ensure that we all take our prescribed drugs without failure, because that is a way of showing gratitude to God.

By refusing to take drugs for any reason whatsoever, we are just hurting ourselves and tormenting our bodies for no reason. Refusing to take drugs is just the same as slapping God on the face. It is like telling God that we are tired of receiving his graces. Is it really right to throw back to God what he has given us for free? Please, let us not do that to our heavenly father who gives us these drugs with a lot of L O V E!

Away from drugs and now to studies. We should all keep in mind that the world today requires only learned people. Nowadays, your face, your body, your cash, your beauty, and your fashion cannot take you anywhere. The only thing that can take you where you want is education. With good papers, there is nowhere that you cannot go. There is no one who can stop you from pursuing the career of your choice, so long as your grades are satisfactory. I strongly believe that no one of us has heard of anyone who was stopped from doing Medicine, Engineering, or Law just because they didn’t have a figure-8, six-pack, or nice clothes. Your papers will always speak for you.

It is quite normal for some of us to doubt our abilities compared to other people, at some point. There was a time in school, when some exam papers for a certain subject were returned and I emerged number 2. At that point, my heart justified itself by saying, “It’s okay, how can I be the first one and yet I have this virus in me?”. Just then a voice talked in me and condemned me harshly for that statement. The voice reminded me that the virus inside of me does not stop me from shining; it does not stop me from being the best. The same applies to all of you; the virus inside you does not make you less able that the rest. What they can do, you can do even better.

Another fact is that, the sun will never stop shining because some teenager somewhere has a virus inside him or her. The world will never stop developing because some teen somewhere is HIV+. The cutpoint for the university will never go low because some student in a certain school takes ARV’s. The requirement for a certain job will never ever be changed just because one of the applicants has HIV. The constitution will not be changed because of you and me.

This calls for extra strength and power from us. We are expected to work harder in everything that we do, in order to reach the same standards as our fellow teenagers. We should not expect the world to treat us more fairly than others just because we are living positively. In our studies, let us work extra hard and for sure, God will reward us.

The greatest thing is to always put God first. He created all of us and has a plan for us. Let us not forget God’s word; the bible which speaks to us every time we read it. I would like to believe each one of us has a bible because that’s the only way through which we can listen to God’s very own words. Worship him and remember him in everything you do. Most of all obey his will because he tells us that obedience is far much better than sacrifice.

Last but not least, this short prayer should always keep us going:

Dear God,

Give me the strength to change the things that I can change,

Humility to accept the things I cannot change,

And the wisdom to distinguish the two.


God bless us all!

Isn't this inspiring, especially when coming from a 15 year old? My favorite part is 'Refusing to take drugs is just the same as slapping God on the face'. She is so wonderful, simply put.

Friday, April 6, 2012

21 22

Yesterday, I turned 22. It seems that with each year older I get, the less crazy excited about it I become. I remember making lists upon lists to do with birthday parties in elementary school. Who was invited, what things to eat, what to do. This year, I just enjoyed my day--which was quite a bit like my other days but with a bit of birthday happiness mixed in.

It was the regular things that made my day so nice! The social worker I was shadowing was gone for the morning so I got a bit of responsibility--a few people had to pick up WFP rations, so I greeted them and got them to where we keep all the corn, beans, oil, and flour. Then I got to do some home visits in Makina--I hadn't been there in ages! We went on 3, and I talked (sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly)to each family about what is going on for them and what any needs might be. A couple of big things I've come across lately is food insecurity and rent issues--food prices are going up (Milk went from 35 cents to 45 cents a couple weeks ago)and rent is increasing due to a variety to issues, some of which are slum evictions (So the government can make roads and housing in their place--when there is less housing in the slum, the prices go up. There are few rights here too so it is technically legal I believe). After the home visits, I got to fill out the per visit paperwork (which is nice, if you get to do the home visits). Then just some filing and hanging out with my coworkers-I took the matatu with one of them too so it made the ride a little less boring during the traffic.

When I got home, I treated myself to a precious bowl of KD, a soda, and a hedgehog from Purdy's that I had been saving. Awesome!

What was even more awesome was finding that I have one more macaroni and cheese package left after this meal--thought it would have been done! So, happy birthday to me.

In my humble 22 years on this earth I think I am blessed in that I have experienced a lot and therefore, learned a lot. I have grown in ways I didn't think were possible. This past year, I feel I've had an exceptional amount of 'learning opportunities', which I am sure are truly positive things and that are good happening sooner rather than later. They aren't mistakes if I learned a valuable lesson from them--and each one will definitely guide me through my 22nd year and beyond.

In true Kayla style, I think this is good opportunity to make a resolution. This year, I am going to choose happiness.

Don't we so often not? The bus is always late, someone said something mean at work, or they ran out of your favorite thing at the shop. This year, I'm glad the bus arrives at all. I'm understanding everyone has bad days and that it isn't personal. That if they ran out, you're saving a couple dollars and likely didn't need it badly anyways.

That is one thing I've noticed this past year--the ability to choose your happiness. There have been times where I've thought 'Does God not really see me as worthy of something good, so now I am experiencing this?' or 'Why does this person get this, while I do not?'. Now, I'm seeing things as the opposite--I get to learn a sweet lesson. You aren't being deprived of something, you are being given an important lesson that not everyone might get! I'm going to try to take a photo of one awesome thing each day, and post it. A visual diary of wonderful things to share.

I've still got a ways to go, but I'm grateful what I've come to know in my 22 years here on earth. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Choose happiness. Worry more about impressing yourself, and less about impressing others. You get one body, treat it right. Learn to forgive. Stand up for yourself. Don't sweat the small stuff. You're worth it. Reward yourself. Be honest. Give. Love. Be a good friend, a good daughter, and a good person in general.

I've also come to realize that as a person of 22 years, I cannot really get away with procrastination. I'm going to sleep early, reply to emails in a timely manner, clean up right away, and write papers and reports on time. I assume this will save me a lot of grief and will also help me choose happiness!

Asante sana for reading :)