Cleia Noia

Cleia Noia (Kakenya Center for Excellence – KCE): Cleia was born and raised in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where she worked as a corporate lawyer. At the time of her fellowship she was studying for a Master’s degree with The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. Her concentrations were on humanitarian studies, human security and international organizations, with a particular interest in poverty reduction, human rights and social justice. After her fellowship Cleia wrote: “I enjoyed tremendously the personal satisfaction I got from connecting on a deeper level with the people from Enoosaen, particularly Kakenya’s family and the girls at the school.”

Muzungu, how are you?

10 Jun

I arrived in Nairobi last Friday, and met with Charlotte Bourdillon, another fellow who has been working with KCE for the past 3 months. My luggage wasn’t as timely though, and Charlotte and I had to stay in Nairobi an extra day to wait for it. The weekend turned out to be a great opportunity for us to get to know each other and to explore the city.

On Monday we made the 7-hour trip to Enoosaen, which was actually quite pleasant considering we were crammed with other people (and our luggage) in a little van. This long trip was made better by the great scenery outside of our window, and I spotted an ostrich, gazelles, cows and the odd Maasai on the horizon, which is always a novelty to a bona fide city girl like me.

Before arriving in Enoosaen, we stopped in Kilgoris to change into a smaller car, and I was impressed with the activity in this little commercial center – it wasn’t quite Nairobi, but it was definitely not some remote little village. From Kilgoris we made the final trek to Mama Kakenya’s house, where I’ll be staying during my time here. We arrived to a warm welcome from everyone, and they had clearly missed Charlotte during her time away to explore Rwanda before my arrival.

The bustling city of Kilgoris

The next day we made our way to the Enkakenya Centre for Excellence, and I heard for the first time what is sure to become the trademark of my time here: nearly every child we encountered along the way called “Muzungu, muzungu” as we walked by, which is technically the Swahili word for European, but loosely used to greet any white person. The Muzungu call was also followed by some child asking “How are you?”, which I happily replied to but got no answer back. It seems that they are only conversational in English up to that question, but have no idea what to answer in return.

Kids from a nearby school gathering to see the Muzungus

After making a few other stops along the way (Charlotte is incredibly popular around here, many people knew her by name and I’m truly impressed with the Swahili skills she developed in only 3 months!), we finally arrived at KCE. This moment will be one that I’ll remember forever: the kids ran to meet us, and enveloped us in their collective embrace.

Some of the girls at KCE greeting us upon our arrival

To introduce myself, Charlotte and I had planned to play a little game, and to reward the girls with some sweets. This quiz turned out to be great fun, and I got a glimpse at how smart these girls are.

A little quizzing game with the girls

My first impression could not have been better: the girls were so welcoming, so happy to see us there. It made me incredibly happy to be here, and grateful to be part of this amazing project. They are 94 girls divided into classes 4, 5, and 6, and hopefully with time I will be able to get to know each one of them.

Posted By Cleia Noia

Posted Jun 10th, 2011

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