We were up by 6:30, to breakfast at 7 and work at 8. Each group, after breakfast, gathered around the previously assigned MCF staff member and set off to work on the assigned tasks: projects, teaching, or interacting with the children. My team, Mike and I, was joined by Isaac, one of Charles and Esther’s biological sons. The computer team headed to work!A bit of history of Africa and the internet, then our task: major cities often have a reliable power grid, traditional phones, and most other conveniences we would consider modern, picture Tokyo or NYC, with more trees. Outlying regions rely on generators for power, cellular phones for communication, and satellite for consistent, quality internet. The brighter side of this is much of Africa will bypass slow speeds may of us have endured using arcane cables laid before I was born and dial-up modems that some of us still use. It will most likely go straight to fiber or something faster if it exists when cables are finally laid. Due to several constraints, including time, skill levels, and budgets we felt that satellite was not practical. The more research I did, the more I realized that it would be tens of thousands of dollars to just install it. Then there would be monthly access fees and maintenance of equipment and training in satellite technology, none of which our team brought, had or could teach. We, however, didn’t come empty handed. Dial-up modems were out of the questions as there are no phone lines. Cellular network access card would not necessarily accomplish everything with the fastest speeds, but it would be easy to obtain technical support, replacement equipment should something fail and it was slightly portable. It could be shared between the campuses.
After installing whatever internet service we found while in the States, my team was to help MCF with any computer requests/needs.In addition to “bringing internet access,” we also collected and brought as many things off their wishlist as possible. Each time a team goes to MCF, supplies are brought with the team. Most of the supplies teams bring are too expensive to buy in Kenya or not available. Our team brought several hard drives, cd-rom/dvd drives, blank media, memory, old laptops with minor flakey problems (on-board wireless or wried nic not working, motherboard not charging the battery, things that make it hard to use as a laptop, but wonderful to use at MCF) motherboards, software, toolkits and other parts we hoped could be put to good use. Before we could hand off our goodies, MCF requires that all gifts be documented so that there is no question as to where supplies came from and how supplies are dispersed. After completing an inventory and signing off on it, we headed to work. We walked up to the greenhouse to install the internet and upgrade some hardware in one of the computers already there. This would be my first trip of the day to the greenhouse, but by no means the last.We settled on a USB cellular network card for internet access, so that it could be utilized by both desktops and latptops as long as it could find a signal. We installed it on the laptop we brought for the greenhouse. The idea behind that was a new computer, never used would probably function to optimal specifications and allow them to take it to any campus and not worry about installing the network card on other machines. We tried to set it up on another computer as well, but for some reason that one was not behaving well. I was confident that Isaac could install it later after troubleshooting the errors, so we decided to move on to upgrade the machines in the greenhouse area. We needed some parts left at the room, so I volunteered to retrieve them while the guys worked on the computers. After I returned, took some pictures and realized they were happily working along, I headed back to the printers to document some things for Isaac. We worked with Isaac until lunch, then he had some other tasks to finish. We tried to schedule some time to take a complete inventory of computers-location, purpose, specs, software, needed upgrades. Unfortunately, we were not able to settle on a time because of other activities planned for our large team on subsequent. We had hoped to spend time at Yatta helping with the computer program there. They teach the girls how to use computers, how they work, etc. Ndalani will be starting that as soon as the library is ready, I believe.After lunch, Mike and I joined the arts and games team for an afternoon of absolute fun with a smidge of confusion. We set up stations inside for arts and crafts, while games were played outside. We split the groups as best we could and set about to have fun. The activities varied with the age group but generally consisted of decorating a t-shirt with markers or tie-dye, drawing or coloring pictures, getting a picture taken, making an animal out of pony beads or blowing bubbles. Most importantly of all was to spend time with the kids, hear their story, listen to their hearts. By the time Mike and I joined the fun, roles were assigned and filled, so we floated as needed. Mike went to the games area; it needed a guy’s touch. I was a floater-see what needs to be done and made myself available to each of the activity leaders.My first assigned task was with the little ones, and was it ever difficult! I had to blow bubbles with them. We set up inside, even though I asked if we could go outside. The cement floor soon became extremely slippery. The bubbles were supposed to keep the children occupied when they finished getting their picture taken, but it didn’t work well. We had difficulties keeping children at the correct station and helping the children with free time understand that it wasn’t their turn yet. After a good amount of confusion, I decided to take the bubbles outside, we found a way to manage the little ones inside. The huge benefit to me staying outside was that it kept the other children from trying to sneak into the arts and crafts area until it was their turn. I had so many little ones all around trying to catch and pop the bubbles. We shared the wands and made glorious messes giggled and enjoyed. I even convinced a team member passing by that he needed to blow bubbles. He looked at me as if I had suggested he jump of an extremely tall building or play in the middle of a busy highway. He returned much later and thanked me for inviting him to blow bubbles. One of the little ones managed to avoid the picture process; I had taken a liking to her and her to me. She was very unsure of having her picture taken; she had to sit by herself on a large bench. I sat with her first, then next to her, just out of the picture. I was supposed to get a copy of that picture, but I don’t think I did.When we worked with the older children, I assisted with the pony beads. We had diagrams for them to use, but the threading is difficult to get the hang of, luckily, I like to bead. We had fun and learned a lot about managing a lot of children in a small space with a small amount of time. I won’t write in specifics, I will just say that children are children, no matter where they are and there are always opportunities for growth and learning for all involved.As activities wound down and we transitioned back to our dining area, we talked with many of the MCF workers. My heart broke to hear some of the stories of other groups. No specifics were ever given, nor names, just generalities. Some groups come with an agenda they push on MCF, some are upset when plans change and they are unable to complete tasks, some are unwilling to pitch in and help. I was so grateful that those descriptions did not apply to us. Each of our teams understood when some projects were put on hold, others canceled. We rolled with the flow and asked what we could do, how we could help. We asked many specifics on day-to-day operations, needs, and goals; and MCF graciously answered.One of the girls on our team was sick, probably a cold of some sort. It began to go around the room, I went to bed not feeling very well-runny nose, scratchy throat, and extremely tired, but I knew that I had done 100% of my day with God. On my own, I would not have made it through that day.