Diva Day Blog From Mom - Nicole

In this increasingly numbing society, it is refreshing to know that there is a new generation of people who are not numb. They are present, in touch, raw with emotion, passionate with desire to do, not just talk. These are the Phenomenal women of Diva Day 2019. 

For 25 days, seven women have been living under one roof. The Diva team sleep, all six of them, lined up like little caterpillars in their individual cocoons of mosquito netting. I have been treated like a queen to my own room. We share 1 toilet and one shower, which is more often just a room with a bucket and a drain in the floor. The other bedroom has six suitcases splayed open. Each one a peek into the uniqueness of these women. Finally there is the kitchen, our daily entrance to and exit from our home.  For most of these days we had no running water. We had to wait for our donkey guy to bring us a cart of 21 gallon jugs of water. Cost 500 Kshg ($6.50). I believe there was also 2 days at the beginning of our stay that we had no hydro as well as no running water (and ironically again now as I edit this post we have no hydro again.) Not once did I hear a single complaint. Not once did anyone express frustration or anger at our ‘accommodations’. What I have learned from these women is that the minute there is a ‘problem’ they switch into problem solving mode. What CAN WE do? Never did they focus on the problem, only the solution. Each of our challenges have actually generated some of our most memorable experiences (please refer to Sam’s Seven Layer Dip post.) The team are definitely getting the whole Kenyan experience.

I have watched them work as a team, in small groups, in pairs and individually.  Each one has their own strengths and perspective that they bring to the team and together they challenge and support one another. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another (Proverbs 27:17)  Each of them want to be the best version of themselves that they can be. Their words of encouragement and affirmation, and truth are the pillars that hold each of them up and provide a foundation for them to base their friendship. It is remarkable to see six confident women not in competition with one another or needing to tear each other down in an attempt to lift themselves up. 

And then, just when I thought I knew the Diva’s, I watched them rally around one another and dig deep within to hope, to believe, to hold each other up as we heard the devastating news that we had been scammed and needed $12 000.00 to get our container released. I watched them work late into the evening that night, encouraging Melissa and Malindi who were huddled over their devices writing letters, blogs and editing a video. The next morning I awoke to gratitude. GRATITUDE!!!! I could hear the girls next door calling out names one by one and thanking each and every one of you by name who reached almost 12 000 km across the ocean to show that love is more powerful than evil.  

Finally, my blog would not be complete without mentioning our honorary Diva, Martha. She is the kindest, most thoughtful, hard working, selfless, intuitive woman I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. She is an incredible mother to her daughter Prettor who often accompanies her as school is on break, and she helps her Mom magically clean up our home every day after we leave. Martha does our laundry, by hand, including washing the Kenyan red soil out of white sneakers. She makes our beds and folds our blankets. She washes our floors and does our dishes from the night before and breakfast. She cooks wonderful meals for us and makes incredible mendazi.  She has given me ‘how to’ lessons in chapati making as well as how to prepare green grams (Kaisha’s favorite). She makes sure we always have water, even buying it for us and carrying one of those big jugs of drinking water as if it were a 500 ml bottle. She is delightful to talk to and is very interested in Canada. It would not surprise me if she and her daughter show up one day. Thank you for everything Martha. 

To my incredible Diva’s…

Sydney  “So curious”

Hello, my name is Sydney and I am from Edmonton Alberta Canada.

Sydney, you are a natural teacher. If your girls could peek into your brain they would see you going over the day and making mental notes of things to change, add or delete the next day. If they were to sit next to you on the hour long bus ride each morning they would see you review your notes from the night before in-between looking out the windows at the beautiful Kenyan landscape. You are prepared! What they see is the magic that happens when you start to speak. You effortlessly engage each of the girls using their names as if you had been their teacher all year. The curriculum is engrained into the very cell of your being so you can easily move fluidly through the handbook led by the interest and comprehension of each group. You’re careful to correct any misunderstanding, conscious of the importance of the information being shared.  You are a true Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group. 

Sam  ‘A one two’

Hi, my name is Sam and I am from Windsor Ontario Canada

Sam, your effervescent disposition is contagious. Never again will I ever hear someone count 1, 2 and not think of you pumping up the girls as you lead them in song with ‘ah 1, 2!!’ That’s going to be fun going back to work where I count to 10 probably 50 times a day!!! Your enthusiasm and passion for each of the girls in your group to engage with their learning was palpable. Your ability to look at each girl and value their ideas, provided a safe space for them to open up and share their hearts. Your guitar will be a memorable keepsake and conversation starter for years to come. You are a true Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group.

Sierra.  ‘Kpoa!!’ (cool)’

Hello, my name is Sierra and I am from Ottawa Ontario Canada

Little did you know that you would have a side hustle while here in Kenya ~ breaking down stereotypes, shining a glow on misconceptions. The English language can be so limiting. The word confusion comes to mind. Some of these girls quite possibly have never seen a white person let alone sit with them, talk with them, break bread with them, touch them. You, must have seemed an enigma.  Yet again and again you confidently and patiently answered sometimes the same question school after school after school. As I watched you teach your girls I was struck by how you were able to normalize what for many was very personal and embarrassing content and developed a space where they felt comfortable and safe. You are a master of call and response teaching for sure. That and knowing just when to have them all stand up and start shaking their arms and legs while screaming  8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1!!! You are a true Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group.

Melissa ‘Ya! Ya!’

Jambo, my name is Melissa and I am from Charlottetown Prince Edward Island Canada. It is the smallest province in Canada.

Your face when one of your girls has an epiphany or is simply brave enough to share a thought or emotion glows, followed by your enthusiastic ‘ya ya!’ I could feel the pride 10 feet away. I am confident that each of your girls went home and told someone about this ‘mzungu’ who came to her school and was so nice. You are engaged from the moment the day begins. Calling girls by their names within minutes of meeting them, leaning in and bridging the comfort gap to ensure their often quiet voices are given a voice. Your laugh, your willingness to be silly and your energy are such engaging qualities and the girls in your group quickly picked up on that and were brave and strong in their ability to share their thoughts, ideas and feelings. Thank you for trusting me and allowing me to hang out with you at LifeCare and I would like to officially crown you the Bruise Queen of Bungoma. You are a true Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group.

Caroline ‘Hey you guys’

Hello, my name is Caroline and I am from Wolfville Nova Scotia Canada

Caroline you have such a heart for people. You are genuine in your interactions with others and there is a sweet calmness about you. It was such a pleasure to watch you teach the girls in your group gently encouraging each girl in your group to share, participate, engage and, my favourite, act out PMS charades. You were always there to support your girls when they were brave enough to step out and try, ensuring they were not alone. I watched you learn from each workshop how to speak in a way that made it easy for the girls to understand you and the information being shared. You are a true Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group. 

Malindi ‘AMAZING!’

And I am Malindi Ayienga. My Mama, Nicole Ayienga is from Toronto Ontario Canada and my  Baba, is from Nambale Kenya. I was born in Toronto Canada. I am half Canadian and half Kenyan. I am Luyah - Namangare!!

You know when it gets close to midnight at a wedding and they pull out a candy bar or start serving some bangin cocktail to keep you going, and you’re like WOW there’s more????? That’s you Malindi

You can tease out an answer from some of the most stoic faces I’ve ever seen. You find their seed of bravery and  gently coax it out of them. The storyteller in you beams as you share you love for family and friends, well, one friend in particular…KEVINNNNNNNNNN ‘Does anybody want to ask me any questions about Kevin???????’ The love that you feel from these girls is a reflection of the love you give them. You’re doing it honey, you’re living the dream. You are the original Diva and if I was one of these girls I would want to be in your group. 

And there you have it, my blog from Diva Day 2019.

Thank you all for making me feel so welcome and loved. I have a heart full of pride for all of my daughters. Your family and friends should all be SOO proud of the incredible women you are and how you conducted yourself in Kenya. It was an honour to join you at your workshops, to cook for you (these girls ate anything I cooked working with about 6 ingredients; bread, eggs, onions, garlic, leftover matoke and the occasional tomato), break furniture (one pew and at least 2 chairs), go to the hospital, get tested for malaria, get tested again for malaria, and once again.  Mostly, I was just blessed to get to know you. I have learned something from each of you and will remember this summer fondly.


Love Mom

Malindi Ayienga