imageI didn’t realize that I was singing so loudly as I walked along the beach this morning until the people 50 metres ahead of me turned around to see what the noise was all about. I had my earphones in and was singing ” If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” I had thought that the light wind and the sound of the waves would overwhelm my voice but I guess I was wrong. I hoped that they didn’t think I was referring to them.

It reminded me of an incident that happened to me in 1987 in  Toronto. I know the date because the Skydome was just starting construction. My wife, Barb, and I had taken disco dancing lessons when we lived in Kincardine and with friends, Nick and Jackie Harvey, we had gone to Toronto to check out the discos. We went to a disco at the top of the CN Tower -flashing lights, dry ice smoke and all.

On the way out I was happily singing one of the songs that we had been dancing to. It was Donna Summer’s version of “She works hard for the money”. I was well into the chorus as we walked past a young couple kissing in the corridor on the way to the elevator down. But I guess he had heard me and thought that I was referring to his girlfriend.

When we got to the ground floor and where heading back out to get a taxi I heard someone behind me yelling “Hey f<%*head”. Not thinking he was referring to me – this is not my usual name – I continued along toward the exit. Eventually I turned around. Imagine my surprise to see that this muscular 6 foot 3  20-year-old was yelling at me. He came up to me and grabbed me by the lapels of my new gray ultrasuede jacket and lifted me partway off the ground. Nick seemed ready to take them on but I was worried about getting blood (mine) on my new jacket.

Luckily his girlfriend came to my rescue with “Oh, leave him alone. He’s just a wimp.”  I quickly ascertained that my  choice was between being called “F<%*head” or a wimp. I nodded agreement with the girlfriend and chose wimp.

I have never walk past the CN Tower or heard that song without thinking of this Toronto evening.  The ultrasuede jacket still hangs in my closet waiting to come back into style.

Everyone is a winner…

I am always happy to be part of a win-win situation. Last year I enjoyed one that was win-win-win. If I think about it I could add more win’s but you get the point, I am sure.

The St Gorety School is a secondary school in a small village called Mikei, Kenya. It is pretty rurual, about 20 km inland from Lake Victoria and in Nyanza Province, one of the least advantaged districts of Kenya.

Through CanAssist, and with my Canadian friends, Virginia and Suzanne I met Edward Kabaka a couple of years ago. Edward is a founder of a local support group called Rieko Kenya. Well, to make a rather long story shorter, Edward brought the needs of St Gorety School to our attention. Basically the school, serving secondary students from the surrounding region, was overcrowded and needed more classroom space.

St G classroom 2013So in 2012, CanAssist agreed to construct one classroom and complete another which had been partially built with Kenyan government funds which dried up before the roof could be put on the building.

Virginia and Suzanne, secondary school teachers themselves in Kingston, promoted this project to some of their students who responded with fundraising to help with this building.

At the same time, the Queen’s Health Outreach group, university students whose mandate is to promote Health education to students and youth in various parts of the developing world, were looking for a new district in Kenya to work. I have been an ad hoc mentor to this group for the past several years and it seemed natural to put them in touch with Edward and the St. Gorety School.

QHO students visited several schools and community groups in the Nyatike region in 2012.

QHO students visited several schools and community groups in the Nyatike region in 2012.

Last year the QHO group spent several weeks in the Mikei/Nyatike community, living in a house overlooking the rolling Kenyan hills and interacting with schools and women’s groups in the region to educate and promote healthy living practices. Another group of six QHO students are excited to be returning to the community in May/June this year.

When I visited the St Gorety School and other groups in the region in February, they all lit up with smiles at the mention of the QHO students and were ecstatic to hear that there would be a group returning this year.

So where do all the “win’s” come in?

  • CanAssist has been delighted to be able to provide infrastructure support to the school (and three other community groups as well…more about those in later posts).
  • The QHO group has found a welcoming community where they are able to do their outreach work to promote education about health to young Africans.
  • The community which was actually quite neglected and off the beaten track for development has been excited to welcome visitors from Canada who are eager to help them improve their living circumstances. Kenyans love visitors.
  • Edward Kabaka has found support for his dream of improving well-being in the community.
  • Some of the students at KCVI and LCVI in Kingston have established pen-pal relationships with students in Kenya and have the satisfaction of having been able to help their peers in Africa.

And I sit back and smile. It’s all so good.

Treat yourself to the joyous music from the St. Gorety school choir in the Youtube video below.