September 3: Softchoice Cares Meets Maai Mahui and the KRC September 3, 2013

mount Kilimanjaro under clouds

Posted in on September 3, 2013

Today we finally had the opportunity to hit the ground running. This was the moment that we have all been anticipating and preparing for the past five months. We began the construction of the Knowledge and Resource Center (KRC) that has the potential to change Maai Mahui and the people of the community forever.

Yesterday as we were guided through the village of Maai Mahui, we all saw first-hand something that many of us are unable to articulate and an experience I am still trying to comprehend. A town of 41,000 people. A community that struggles with many problems, from the basics of running water, to the extremes of the highest AIDS population in Eastern Africa. Barefoot children aimlessly running the dirt streets that are littered with trash. It was the foundation that we all needed to truly appreciate how all the blood, sweat and tears we are and will be providing can offer hope and potential for a population that deserves more.

As we arrived at the site of the KRC this morning, we were quickly greeted by the construction workers and we immediately got to work. None of us knew what to expect or had a general plan of attack. We were to follow the direction of Gershawn, the project manager, and work with his team of eight men who are contracted by CTC for the next three months. There was a pile of over 900+ 50 pound bricks that needed to be moved from the ground to the foundation, and neatly stacked in preparation for the building of the walls. Knowing that we have a mix of physical capabilities within our group, an assembly line quickly formed. This was no easy task, but the complaints from our group were minimal and the team work and dedication we all conveyed impressed everyone on site. Rearranging piles of rocks, sifting through sand, stirring concrete, moving more bricks, throwing stones into a truck, leveling concrete, pushing wheel barrows of dirt, moving the bricks again, were all just some of the ways we tirelessly spent our many hours on site today.

At any one point of the day, if you were to stop and look around, you would find each of us paired up with a worker or a group of them. They worked side by side with us as we learned about their lives and as we informed them of ours. Their curiosity about our lives was equally countered by our curiosity about theirs. Most of the morning, I spent my time with David; a 30 year old man who has a wife, a child, and is person that I greatly respect.

I’m not one to hold back any of the rapid questions that are running through my head and fortunately neither was he. Although I am aware of the financial disparity between our country and theirs, I have never fully grasped what we consider basic rights/needs, and how they view those items as a privilege or something they could never afford. David couldn’t believe that when it snows, our houses were not cold inside. He asked if we had a “machine to keep the house warm.” Hot water was not something that he regularly encounters, nor was a shower. He and his family live in a two bedroom house where they bathe by heating water that comes from the one faucet in the house. He explained to live in a house with a shower, you would have to be able to afford the 10,000 Shilling monthly rent that came along with it. To put it in perspective, 10,000 Shillings is roughly $100. To anyone in North America, this does not seem like much, but when you are making $5 (at best) a day the financial avenues to get to $100 are not available. Think to yourself what you have spent $100 on within the past week or month. Was it a necessity or an item of luxury? David and his crew worked 26 hours straight to lay the foundation of the KRC and did not receive a dime more than their 6,000 Shilling per month wage.

By the generous donations of the Softchoice community and the hard work of the Softchoice Cares board, we will be bringing the first library and computer lab to Maai Mahui. Bridging the digital divide in Maai Mahui will not only bring opportunity to people like David, but also to those working for CTC that are relentlessly trying to better the village they are ever so proud of. I am confident that the technology project and construction of the KRC will forever change the community. Day 1 proved to be the experience we were all anticipating and we are certain that what is ahead of us will only help to improve the lives of so many.

Matthew Zito
DWC Softchoice Cares Participant
Kenya, September 2013

Posted in on September 3, 2013