The Safe House

In just the two weeks I have been here, the Safe House has lived up to its name.

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The Safe House at sunset from the road.

This is a place where girls and young women can flee the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM). Here they can find safety from an early marriage that ends their education. It provides safety from ignorance as girls attend school or vocational classes while staying at the Safe House. It cultivates a safety from poverty, as girls learn vocational skills that increase their value beyond marriageability in their families and communities. And beyond all that, the Safe House is family to Salaama, a vivacious three year old, who was abandoned as a malnourished infant and taken to the Safe House by the police to be cared. And finally, the Safe House even plays the role of haven from domestic violence, as 18 month old Gatti and her mother live here until the divorce with her abusive husband finalizes.

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Gatti and Salaama soaking up the attention.

Each morning I eat chapati, tea, and watermelon at the Thompson Hotel for breakfast then walk the pleasant ten minutes to the Safe House. I spend the day teaching, talking, and being with the girls and staff that make the Safe House what it is. I then have a pleasant late afternoon rest back at home before walking to the Safe House at dusk for dinner. I have settled nicely into this routine and am grateful for work at an inspiring place as well as rest in my own cozy room.

Each day I teach an hour and a half of computer skills to the 20 teens in the vocational skills program. There’s another 10 girls who are illiterate and learning to read and write from the full time live-in volunteer, Esther. And the rest of the 70 some girls attend primary and secondary school. Those I mentioned not attending school, can’t for various reasons, mostly that they were removed from the school system when their parents decided to get them ready for marriage and can’t be reentered for some reason.

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Typing practice

Currently, I am having the girls learn to type. The group has various levels of exposure to computers, some having never used one before, and gaining basic knowledge and experience with a keyboard can be the doorway to future technical skills or jobs. The Safe House has thirteen laptops for the computer class and currently eleven of them are working. Which is a huge improvement from the three working laptops we started out with last week. It’s an interesting juggling act getting everyone logged on to the wifi, maneuvering through random computer pops or warnings, and passing around the three and now six chargers to keep the screens from going dark.

After a week and a half of typing practice the girls are already improving and it’s fun to see them all locked in to their exercises and helping each other out. Especially now that it’s only usually two or three to a computer instead of five.

Laura, Tarik, and I chipped in to buy two more chargers at only $15 a pop and we’d love to get the Safe House a couple more so the girls don’t have to worry about the laptops going dead. If you want to help out just write a comment about chargers when you donate on my fundraising site!

In addition to computer skills, this group of girls takes daily classes in tailoring and embroidery while also helping cook food for the 90+ at the Safe House.

I also am teaching English each afternoon. This same group of bright eyed girls has a wide range of experience in English that I’m learning how to work with as a teacher with pretty limited Swahili abilities. This hour and a half of my day has and will prove to be my biggest challenge. But I do enjoy their willingness to challenge themselves and their patience with my floundering Swahili. We like to end each day by singing song we teach each other, and I am thankful I have a large repertoire of fun church camp songs to teach them, which helps them a ton with English vocab and pronunciation.

I say goodbye to Laura and Tarik tomorrow as they head to Musoma for May. And I look forward to updating you again next week about some of the health education we’re also doing at the Safe House!

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Everyone loves getting in front of the camera: Salaama, me, Gatti, and Nancy.

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