Friday, April 15, 2016

Seeings Little Rock through children's eyes!

As we told you in previous posts, Carol Falk took her family to Little Rock. Following are the impressions of two of her grandchildren and what they have to say about their visit.

First there is Alex's story:

Alex Falk with Little Rock preschooler
My name is Alex Falk.  I am nine years old and I live in the U.S.  I recently visited the Little Rock School.  I think it is amazing how this school can bring education to their students of any age.
For example I visited a class with eighth graders.  For some of them they’re here because of a physical disability.  They are here because other schools may have rejected them because of their disabilities.  But Little Rock is open to everyone!

Alex with cousin, Heather and Little Rock student
I also think it’s amazing how the school makes sure nobody feels mistreated because of their looks or how they interact with other people.
Seeing this school has changed my life because seeing all these kids who have barely anything at home have so much at this school.

Then there is Patrick who had this to say:

Patrick with Little Rock  friend, Lulu 
My name is Patrick Falk. I’m 14, and somehow I got lucky enough at this age to take a trip to Kenya with my family. On the second day of the trip, we went to the Little Rock School just outside of Kibera in Nairobi. Being in an environment with these children, some of which wouldn’t have been accepted into other schools, was just incredible. The students were all bright and happy, and so excited to share their education with us. They loved to take photos and exchange stories, and they were all so open and kind. My cousins, my sister, and I made quite a few friends, from toddlers to students in our age groups. 

Lulu likes Patrick's glasses
Little Rock welcomes children with open arms, regardless of family situations or disabilities. Seeing these kids come out of poverty at home, eager to learn and discover, was so inspiring. It is so, so important to help children around the world get the education they deserve, and Little Rock is taking a big step for Kibera. This experience has been life changing, and I am so thankful that I got to visit the school.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Beth Falk's Impressions of Little Rock!

Beth Falk with Little Rock pre-schooler

Our family's visit to the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre in Nairobi was, without question, life-changing.  I think we all had a year's worth of life lessons in a single day.

I'm not certain I even have the words to describe Lilly Oyare and what she's accomplished. I'm in awe of what she has created for the Little Rock children in the midst of what could be impossible obstacles. Little Rock is such a beautiful respite for families who live in a kind of poverty that's difficult for most of us to fully comprehend.  The school is bright, clean, colorful and safe. It's clear that the children are loved and respected, and that they've learned to love and respect each other in turn. As a parent, I was deeply impressed by Lilly and her staff's recognition of all of the components of a good education, from nutrition to giving the kids opportunities for simple play and movement before asking them to concentrate on academics. The occupational therapists on staff spoke with real passion about their work, and it's clear that the team understands how critical that work is to the children who need OT. I wish some of the schools in the U.S. showed that depth of understanding of child development, and that kind of commitment to the value of education.

Kids in Kibera

Of course, we loved all the children, and our kids did, too. It was very difficult to get them to leave after so many hugs and so much laughter and shared play. The fact that children from different sides of the world could sit on the ground together and play “Duck, Duck, Goose” or color and play with stickers together made us all feel good. Our 14-year old was deeply affected by our home visit in Kibera. I think we're all experiencing a complicated mix of feelings from sadness to great hope after what we saw. 

I understand better now, John and Judy, why you've been compelled to continue this work, and I hope we'll be able to do more to support it. Our kids had lots to share with their classmates at home, and still talk about the friends they made at Little Rock. I hope that sense of connection and friendship will stay with them, and that they'll find some ways to support the community there.

Beth Falk

Friday, April 8, 2016

What a life altering experience!

Carol with Little Rock mom and her daughter

This February, I wanted to celebrate my 70th birthday by taking my family on an extraordinary trip.  For me, Africa became a magical place when I visited with my brother for the first time last year.  For John, this was primarily an EPN business trip with one of the important destinations being the Little Rock Inclusive Early Childhood Development Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.  I had met its founder, Lilly Oyare, when she visited the US the year before, and was anxious to see the school.  For me, the rest is history; I was hooked on Little Rock.

Little Rock kids

Eleven of us, ages 7 to 80, shared the most amazing experiences, but I think it was our day at Little Rock that set the tone for the rest of our African adventure.  My four grandchildren were enthralled with the kids, hundreds and hundreds of smiling, laughing, running and jumping kids who greeted them with open arms. On our way to Little Rock, we had driven through the main street of Kibera, Nairobi’s largest slum, and my grandchildren were aware that this slum was home to most of the Little Rock students.  In the afternoon, when we had planned a walk through Kibera, the three girls refused to join us protesting they were having just too much fun at the school.  Somehow, a day at Little Rock infuses one with joy, and hope, and happiness.

Carol's grandkids with Little Rock friends 

My grandchildren were no exception.  They talked about that day for the rest of the trip, and always with love and affection.  The rest of our time in Kenya was fabulous, but as we were waiting at the Nairobi airport to start our homeward journey, I asked what was the highlight of their vacation.  Almost in unison, they replied, “the Little Rock School”.   Today, we still talk about the Little Rock School and how they might be able to raise money to help their new friends.
For me, returning to Little Rock strengthened my commitment to EPN, to the Little Rock School, to the EPN sponsored Little Rock Scholars Program, and to my wonderful brother John who is really making a difference.