Thursday, 31 January 2008

Layla and the Daisy Connection

I met Layla Farhat just over two years ago. She was in grade 10 at Philemon Wright High School and her guidance counsellor asked if I could speak to her about my work overseas; told me that she wanted to raise money for kids in the developing world; said she was an amazing kid. We met, she made her connections at her brother's elementary school where she intended to raise a large sum of money, and gave me a packet of letters to take with me when I returned to Kenya in January. My task was to find her a worthwhile project.

Finding needy children in Western Kenya is all too easy, but I wanted to find a project which would be sustainable. Again, there were several, but they had steady sources of funding. Then I discovered Daisy.

The Daisy Centre in Kakamega is a school for mentally and/or physically disabled children, and, more recently, for AIDS orphans. It is a happy place run by a physically challenged headmaster and a committed kind staff of teachers and care givers. In 2006 they were building badly needed dormitories. I decided that Layla's money would be well spent here.

Layla, her older sister Naj, and her younger brother have all been involved in Layla's fund raising projects, as have her friends, and now their group, Sound the Alarm, has been granted official non-profit status. To celebrate they are holding a formal gala at the Best Western Cartier March 14, 2008. All proceeds will go to the Daisy Centre. I will be posting more details later.

When Layla first told me about this, I thought, "What a great way to have fun and do some good," and I thought about the new kitchen Daisy needs, and about the workshops for vocational training.

Then reality hit. Kenya is in crisis. The first and most important need for vulnerable children in Kenya is not better facilities in which to cook food; it is food itself.

The news I am receiving from Kenyan and Canadian friends in Kakamega and the surrounding area is not good. Bullets and tear gas, arson and looting, store closings and fear have become part of daily life. The road between Kakamega and the airport in Kisumu is under siege. The shilling has plummeted and food prices are soaring. The Daisy children need even more help to survive now.

Thank heavens for Layla and the young people she has inspired.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

First Post

This is a little intimidating ... a first post on my first blog. Better I suppose than a last post for a last blog.

I guess maybe I will start with why I called it "Going to the Dogs".

Now that I am sixty-seven I sometimes feels as if my life has gone to the dogs. Certainly my body is rapidly heading downhill. I bruise easily, break bones now, and have a weird baby finger on my right hand because of an accident on Thanksgiving weekend, 2006. That story deserves a whole post.

But really, I chose the title because I have started to board dogs singly or in pairs. I am not running a kennel; it is way too homelike to be a kennel (puppies and other needy dogs get to sleep on my bed with me). I do it to make money of course, but I also do it because I like dogs and my own dog loves company.

My dog's name is Kenya. I brought her home from the SPCA about a month after I returned from Kenya the country in March, 2006. I figured it was time to settle down and a dog would tether me to Canada.

I care deeply about Kenya, the two year old flat coat retriever and border collie mix who is my best friend, but I also care greatly about her namesake, Kenya, the country, which is in turmoil right now. It too has gone to the dogs.

My posts will likely be about the misadventures and learning experiences of boarding dogs, the situation in Kenya, and also about living up here on a secluded lake in the Gatineau Hills. Because I was a teacher for nearly thirty years, I will probably write occasionally about education. Because I am a mother and a grandmother, my family may also find their way into some posts. And, because I am interested in politics, literature, film, and art, I may sometimes write about them as well.

I can't predict beyond that, but I am looking forward to sharing ideas with others who might be interested in them. Journaling is a very private kind of writing and is a bit like shouting down a deserted alleyway. I hope that these words will reach some people a least sometimes.