It was a gorgeous, sunny day... The air seemed to be electrified with excitement. Today was the day that everyone has been waiting for for months. Dozens of mothers and nearly all of the Live and Learn in Kenya children and youths had been learning special songs and dances for the annual "Mama Brique" and visitor party - which would also be the opening and dedication party for the new 4th grade classroom. It was the 5th classroom constructed so far, the 5th one being used as an office and mandatory teacher's staff room for the time being. The party preparations began very early in the morning when the Dutch visitors, Tivo, Carla, Ella, Jonneke and Jesper arrived with their costumes and instruments. Tivo, Jesper and the German visitor, Stefan, had been building a school stage with a group of fathers all week long - and it turned out amazing. A huge tent was set up with a couple of hundred chairs for the parents and other visitors. A large group of mamas had already been there cooking a meal for about 1000 people since sunrise. The children were practicing their songs and dances and dressing up in the new dresses that many of the sponsors had paid to have made for them in the LLK tailor workshop where the girls who had learned tailoring in vocational training volunteer their hours and talents. All of the female visitors had dresses made as well. Today was also the day that the 30 preschool children would graduate into 1st grade and the 30 new kindergarten children would be welcomed into the program. Parents, children, staff and the 17 visitors from Germany, Holland and the USA began to greet one another and the other guests who arrived. The local chief paid us the honor of his presence; the architect and the construction firm boss were also present.
We all formed a sort of parade and walked - danced - to the beat of drums to the new classroom. The porcelain plaque was unveiled with the dedication to Philip Rosenthal Senior and Phillip Rosenthal Jr. - the founders of Rosenthal Porcelain GmbH in Selb -, which is a true supporter of Live and Learn in Kenya. Afterwards the ribbons were cut under cries of happiness from the crowd and the door to the 4th grade classroom was officially opened to the children and to the public. One by one everyone entered the classroom and were amazed by the friendly yellow walls, the furniture, and the bookshelves filled with high quality books brought from Europe. So much happiness in one room!!!
Then we all walked back to the stage area - and the music began with drumming and singing the songs that we had taught the children all during the past week. Tivo and Jonneke, being musicians, led the way on their guitar and accordion, our music teacher, Mwai, played the newly purchased keyboards while a group of boys played percussion and Brique and Stefan sang with the children. It was an awesome feeling for us all to be standing on our own stage for the first time. Until now all of the annual parties more or less went the same way - with the children and the mamas singing and dancing for us - this time was different - we sang and danced for them. When Ella and Carla got on stage with their dance group, dressed in their self-made masks - everyone had a smile on their faces. Then the boy's dance rap group performed a breathtaking dance that could have been on a professional stage. Yes, it was all quite different with a team of singers, dancers, clowns and musicians!
Then it was the mama’s turn as they danced into the stage area in the entire luscious array of Kenyan colors. Singing and dancing they called all of the visitors and staff onto the stage area and presented them all with presents – some self-made and hugs.
Then it was graduation time for the preschool children – who proudly danced onto the stage area with Brique and their teacher leading the way in their caps and gowns. Their very proud parents and grandparents were beyond words. Tears and Smiles! It is seldom possible for children in the slums to graduate from preschool in this matter – this is usually a luxury known only to the well-to-do. After they received their diplomas and presents the 30 new kindergarten children were welcomed into the arms of the Live and Learn in Kenya International program – with a bright future ahead of them they celebrated their special day with gifts of new clothing, sweets and stuffed animals.
Then it was time for the huge meal that the wonderful mamas had been cooking for everybody all day long.
It was a day so packed full of wonderful memories. I’m sure it will be impressed in the minds of the children, parents, staff and guests for many years to come.
Now – off to raise funds for the next classroom. November is less than a year away!
Dedication in Memory of Philp Rosenthal Jr and Sr
Dancers in their LLK Traditon Outfits
Graduating to 1st Grade
Self-made Masks for the Children's Dance