Photographer Sue Thomson with Home, Corporate, & Church Based Art plus Poetry and Christian Perspectives
By Sue Thomson
My daughter, Katie Thomson is a teacher who as a student attended ISU and graduated from Roosevelt University in December, 2012. For a year, Katie taught English to preschoolers and sixth graders at a private school in Taichung, Taiwan. While she was there, she traveled throughout Taiwan, as well as Japan, Cambodia, Thailand, and Malaysia. In July, 2014, she volunteered to help in Kibera, Kenya, the largest African slum, which borders the city of Nairobi. In Kibera, she taught in an under-equipped school that serves sixty orphans and ninety more students who have only one living parent. The school was a building of patchwork of scrap metal, a dirt floor and lacked electricity and running water. They were in the process of building a new school, but they had to stop and start as funds became available. That is where our multi-post story begins! Katie was a drop of water which fell into a pond but whose ripples have touched so many lives around her, both here in the states, as well as in Kibera!
In the Fall of 2014, Katie was invited by architect and pen and ink artist, John Green, to share exhibition space at the Indian Trails library during the month of October. I think that would be a perfect place to begin our story…
2 ) KIBERA:
Through Katie’s pictures you will see both the beauty and the struggle that is found in this humble and impoverished community which is located on the edge of Nairobi’s garbage dump. Some of the pictures are blurred because these photos were taken with Katie’s iPhone. She was repeatedly reminded to keep her phone hidden as it was something of great value that could put her in danger, so she always had to take quick shots and quickly place it back in her pocket.
3) TWO CHILDREN:
As Katie entered Kibera, she found that the homes and school were patchwork quilts of scrap metal pieced together. There were no floors, no electricity, or running water. With Kibera on the edge of a garbage dump, litter blows in the wind and scatters along the streets. Often their shoes, furniture and other items are things they salvaged from the dump.
4) THEIR FIRST MEETING:
Katie was eagerly greeted by the children when she arrived at the school! The school started with 15 children 2007 and has grown to 150 children. They pay no tuition and therefore the school is only viable through donations from Bringing Miracles, an organization overseen by Cindy Baucom which is based in North Carolina. The school has 60 orphans and the other 90 children have only one living parent. There are 7 teachers, but none are certified. A few were never able to finish high school because they themselves were orphaned at a young age and the others do not have the funds to attend college. It is for that reason that there is network for volunteers to go and work with the teachers on curriculum and teaching methods. What the school does provide is faith, hope, love, and an education that will hopefully lead these children to a brighter future. They also provide other necessities like medicine, clothing and food.
The children receive porridge for breakfast and rice and beans for lunch which provides nutrition and is filling. At night, the orphans usually move from house to house looking for a place to sleep and many times do not receive any dinner. Katie noticed that many of the student’s bowls were old, cracked and broken, so she purchased 70 new bowls.
From afar the children look well dressed, but a closer glance you can see rips and tears in their clothing… worn out from being worn day… after day… after day. The children that have uniforms came to school with no clothing. The uniforms are made of the cheapest material that the school can buy. Often, the children have found shoes they can wear in the garbage dump.
In July it was winter in Africa. Katie figured out which children had sweaters that were in the worst condition and bought them new ones! They jumped up and down for joy and could not believe their good fortune!
11) THEIR SCHOOL:
Their school is one large room that includes preschool through fifth grade. The school building is patchwork of scrap metal, a dirt floor and lacks electricity and running water. While they have no real funds for school supplies or textbooks, in their present school there would be no where to keep them safe from the outside elements.
12) A NEW SCHOOL:
They are in the process of building a new school when finished, will have solid floors, separate classrooms, an indoor kitchen, running water, indoor bathrooms with running water and electricity. They must stop and start construction as funds run out. As money trickles in, they continue construction and then stop until there is more. In this series “To Kibera With Love” you will soon see the progress and joy surrounding their new school!
In closing today’s post, I will share photos of the Indian Trails Library gallery exhibit, in its entirety, below, along with John Green’s beautiful work! More of these amazing and heartfelt stories and photographs are just around the corner! I hope you will continue to join us on this beautiful journey called To Kibera With Love!
John Green of Green Ink – Portraits Here And There