Learning Lessons: Martinsville students connect with Kenya

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Learning Lessons: Martinsville students connect with Kenya

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At a "Ned's Kindness Adventure" assembly at Patrick Henry Elementary School, Decarion Spencer is dressed as a Maasai warrior. Presenter Trish Epperson (next to him) told students that Maasai warriors are both powerful and kind.

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MTV 0928 school

At a "Ned's Kindness Adventure" assembly at Patrick Henry Elementary School, Decarion Spencer is dressed as a Maasai warrior. Presenter Trish Epperson (next to him) told students that Maasai warriors are both powerful and kind.

MARTINSVILLE -- Though storytelling, interactive videos and magic tricks, Trish Epperson took Patrick Henry Elementary School students on a trip with her to Kenya â€" and they hung onto every word.

It was through a 45-minute program she gave for Ned’s Kindness Adventures. “Ned” was a life-sized cardboard cut-out character who initially was reluctant to go on a trip to Kenya but later ended up having a great time there.

“How many of you often choose what you know because it’s familiar instead of trying something new?” Epperson asked. Most of the kids raised their hands.

That was Ned’s prob lem, too, she pointed out, but he had to give Kenya a shot. She picked up a tri-fold cardboard with suitcase illustration, showing it was flat and empty. Moments later, children were oohing and ahhing as she pulled Ned’s yellow T-shirt, jeans, a soccer ball, a travel journal and even a plate of spaghetti out of it.

The video scene of the 22-hour airplane ride gave information including that 6,000 languages are spoken across the globe, which has a population of 7 billion.

“The cool thing about our world is there are kids in every country,” Epperson said. There are many similarities between them, and many differences. The differences are what make up culture, she added.

A photograph on the screen showed a photo of the smiling school principal, Anne Odhiambo, with her arms wide open at the airport, greeting Epperson, Ned and all of the students in the assembly for a visit.

Trish told the students to greet Mrs. Odhiambo, and they boomed in unison, “Hello Mrs. Odhiambo!”

Then the video showed some of the children of Bidii Primary School in Kenya. They sang, and then the Patrick Henry students learned the lyrics to their song, such as “jambo” for “hi” and “habari gani” for “how are you?”.

Epperson invited two children up front to answer questions about their school day. Summer Jordan and Nasir Turner volunteered. Then Kenyan students on the video said they get up at 5 a.m. and get home from school at 5:30 p.m.

The program also showed scenes from the countryside of Maasai Mara, where Maasai families live. It showed homes, and what people have to go through to get water, which isn’t even clear and clean.

The chief’s house was only one room, Epperson said, “but it was full of love and kindness.”

As she talked about the limited water sources in Kenya, she wowed the students by appearing to drain a jug dry â€" then pouring from it again and again.

“Women and children spen d a third of their day getting water,” she said.

Kenyans also are resourceful, she said: “If they want or need something,” they make it themselves, such as a scooter made entirely of wood, which she showed a picture of on screen.

She showed pictures of Masaii warriors, dressed in brilliant red cloth. They are “a great example of how you can be really strong and really kind at once,” Epperson said.

Decarion Spencer, who volunteered to help her with a demonstration, was dressed in the red warrior’s outfit.

As she concluded her presentation, she reviewed themes, including “The best way to make a friend is to be a friend;” “Caring is cool;” “I can make friends everywhere” and “Each person matters a lot.”

Three students volunteered to go up front to say how they would live out the suggestions of those themes.

Veronica Smith said that if her friend’s cousin came to her friend’s house while Veronica was there, Veronica would include the cousin in a game. Deniya Penn said that, “I would actually â€" if somebody was actually alone at lunch â€" I would actually sit beside them and be nice to them.” Dalton Festa said he would play soccer with someone.

Next week, handcrafted items made by people in Kenya will be for sale in the school’s office, Epperson announced. She had given one of the items to each of the children who volunteered to help with the presentation.

Guidance counselor Denise Handy said she got the show to come to Patrick Henry Elementary School for several reasons.

“I have heard good things about the program,” including from a guidance counselor friend of hers at Albert Harris Elementary School, she said. The program is free to schools. It’s a great way to kick off Anti-Bullying Month.

Most of all, though, the program connection to Africa tied into an experiences Handy had in Tanzania over the summer at the City of Hope, an orphanage, medical center and school operated by Teamwork International in Martinsville, she said. She taught school there, and when she was back at Patrick Henry, she did a presentation on her experiences and showed pictures to students. They then donated books and posters to the City of Hope.

Holly Kozelsky writes for the Martinsville Bulletin. She can be reached at .

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