TEACHING-EMPOWERING-MENTORING-BUILDING OPPORTUNITY Mission: to partner with individuals and communities in Western Kenya to support entrepreneurial activities, education and health through training programmes, scholarships, water and sanitation projects

Monday, December 21, 2009

Free Primary Education????

In 2003 the government announced the abolition of fees for Primary (elementary) education. Over a million children flocked into school, overloading all resources. Somehow the system struggled through the major growing pains, assisted mightily by donor funds, especially from the UK.

While we were at the Maseno training last week the news broke of huge corruption in the Education Ministry with millions of shillings siphoned off from feeding programmes, books and supplies budgets and --the favourite-- fake workshops for teachers. The UK has halted all donations and parents and schools are panicking about covering the costs for the new school year which starts next month.

The president (who has sat silent through major scandals such as Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing, allowing the perpetrators to continue with impunity) is reported to be furious since the primary education programme was to be his 'legacy', allowing him to be fondly remembered in the history books.

More revelations are coming out by the day and the sum of 9 billion shillings is being mentioned (1 million is roughly $15,000) The first accounts spoke of just a three month period this year where Sh100 million is unaccounted for by legitimate bookkeeping.

-In one workshop Sh 731,000 was claimed for water. This would buy nearly 15,000 bottles.

-Sh 1.5 million supposedly was spent on computers and books at a Nairobi school . The items are not to be found.

-Sh 600,00 was allegedly spent to rent a laptop for a month--total was Sh 4.2 million. During this time the ministry had 52 computers in store. Plus the cost of buying a laptop is around Sh 50,000.

-An officer who had been given a government vehicle to travel to Mombasa from Nairobi also claimed money for a return air ticket.

-Sh 24,000 was claimed for fuel for a college bus, yet the training was residential and nobody used the bus.

-Sh 70,00 went to a fictitious payment for serving porridge to workmen putting up a classroom.

These are but a few examples and the tip of the iceberg. The systematic looting of the funds extends from the top officials in the Education Ministry down to minor civil servants, head teachers and boards of governors.

So far, no one has resigned or been suspended.

Tembo Kenya meeting, Rotary grant and Virtues training sessions

On Sunday Dec 13 we held our first meeting of our Kenyan advisory committee. There was lengthy and lively discussion of all aspects of our mandate and we know the whole group is willing to help us to improve the lives of the rural poor.

Richard will be heading a small subcommittee to look at our guidelines for putting in water (wells or protected springs) His past experience and expertise will help us avoid pitfalls over land titles and negotiations with committees.

Reuben is willing to donate the use of his brick making machine for producing blocks from compressed earth. After the meeting Tembo gave some funds for cement, transport and labour and the team set to work on the earth that had been thrown up out of the dug well at Imulama. we'll have pictures soon.

Grace will be our education contact and will help with student monitoring while we are away.

Isabellah, Carolyne and Bibiana will cover micro finance and income generating projects such as rabbit keeping, while Julius will continue to work onsetting up fish ponds.

Last week we heard that we have received the Rotary Grant for the 'adopt a village' project at Emmaloba. We will continue to work with the Read for the Top and Adult Literacy projects which we had already started with Tembo funds. This money will come back into the Tembo account as soon as the funds are transferred to Maseno Rotary Club.

Some aspects of the grant will have to be deferred until we return because our time here will grow short. However, we plan to set up as many structures as we can before we leave. the grant has a two year life span, so next fall should see things in full swing.

We held very successful Virtues training sessions in Maseno the week of December 14. The first welcomed twenty participants who have done the basic training in Virtues. They returned for a ‘deepening’ session, to share their experiences and to support each other. Without exception all participants testified to the positive effects the Virtues has given to their schools in terms of discipline and performance. We had hoped for more participants, but the problems with school funding made it difficult for many head teachers to send their staff members.The serious problems with primary funding were a topic of one of our ‘examples’ during the training.Apart from direct benefits to schools, we also know that the Virtues assist us in conflict resolution and healing.
The second session involved fifteen new members for Virtues, mostly teachers. They went away as changed people and determined to spread the word about how Virtues can improve schools and communities.
All the news about Virtues in Kenya can be found at www.virtuesinkenya.blogspot.com

Friday, December 11, 2009

Two tragedies

Lake Elementaita is on its death bed... We have always loved to visit Lake Elementaita Lodge. It is situated above one of the smaller saline lakes which is a breeding ground for the lesser flamingo and a vital breeding ground for the pelicans that live in lake Nakuru. It is also home to between 350 and 400 bird species. The lake was once fed by two rivers. One, Mbaruku, became seasonal in the 90's due to degradation of the catchment areas and later dried completely. The other, Karinadusi, flows from a hot spring but is being drained upstream for irrigation.

The lodge sits on a rise above the lake and was once the home of a British army officer who settled there in colonial times. The carefully cultivated grounds were full of lush plants and exotic coloured bougainvillea.

The area of the lake is now only 85% of what it was and a few remaining birds huddle close to the out flow of the Kariandusi. The two pictures below give an idea of what could be seen just a few years ago as the surface was totally covered with pink flamingos. The third picture shows it today


The second tragedy is also man made. December is the traditional season for girls to be 'circumcised' . Unfortunately efforts to eliminate the practice have met with mixed success, most especially in the traditional, rural areas. Last week two pregnant girls of 15 and 16 were forcibly 'cut' in preparation for their marriage. In the Pokot community it is a taboo to marry uncircumcised women and girls who fall pregnant have to be initiated before giving birth.

Some 140 under-age girls have been circumcised in the larger West Pokot District since the season started last week.

One organization (unnamed) that fights the practice has written to the UN to force the government to intervene and save 350 girls expected to be circumcised in North Rift province this season. It is possible to even have the cut performed in hospitals, supposedly with less risk of infection and complications than with the traditional dirty knives and unsterilised sewing equipment.

Some courageous girls flee their community and take refuge with religious or other institutions. However, this normally means that they can never return home to their family.

FGM promises a future of gynecological and obstetric complications for women. Canadian MP Keith Martin wrote a few days ago to the UN and to the African Union condemning the practice and urging the government to take more forceful action.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A satisfying day

We met today with a group that confirms our faith that the people of Kenya are able and willing to work out their own solutions to their problems, given the right tools.

We set up the committee for a well that will be put in close to a polluted stream in Muluanda (see previous posts.)

Thanks to Bibiana, the town councillor, they have registered their group and are well organized for the start of the project. I took a wonderful video of their singing to greet us, but fear it will be much to slow to upload.

A few weeks ago I taught the making of liquid soap and cow dung fuel to a small group. One never knows how hard people will work to make a success of what they have learned. we saw today that the news has spread. It was wonderful to see a demonstration of making 16 litres of liquid soap, coloured a pretty blue. They add a little Dettol disinfectant (for the smell) and Bibiana has been collecting used water bottles from hotels that hold seminars. A few of the women have been going into town to market the
product. My only warning was that they were not asking enough money! They should make the current batch an 'introductory offer' and put up the price in the new year. It will still be much less than the supermarket and just as efficacious. We need now to think of labelling to make it more attractive and to spread the contact information.

Cow dung fuel is also making a difference to the costs of cooking and the time women gain from not trekking through fields and woods looking for firewood.

Rod has been doing lots of experiments on making compressed blocks for building with local soil and a little cement. The results are encouraging. We plan to use the earth dug out of the two wells now going in.

Our big problem was finding or making a machine. Two weeks ago we met Reuben (who will be on our Tembo committee) and who has a machine. His problem was start up to use it. We discussed using his machine at Imulama and Muluanda.

Our second problem was training people to make the correct mixture and operate the machine. Today we met two people at Muluanda who have been trained by an NGO in making interlocking blocks from earth but who have had no opportunity to put it into practice. When we dig the well, they will be able to use the spoil and put up a demonstration wall.
Small steps, but significant ones

Monday, November 30, 2009

Kenyan news

How to distill it into one post!

A number of years ago, under President Moi, large parcels of land in the Mau forest were given out to political favourites. This forest is the water source for most of Kenya. Over the years grants of land and a blind eye to squatters (some government authorised) have decimated the area. Together with natural climate change, the rivers and lakes fed by Mau catchment area have begun to dry up. A short while ago the government began to evict the squatters. They will be followed by those who have title deeds (mostly forgeries or illegal) Huge cries of protest are now coming from the owners of vast estates- some as large as 60-100 hectares-, claiming to be sympathetic to the evicted peasants, but really fearing for their own holdings. This is developing into a political battle between the Rift Valley Cabinet Ministers and the PM who is directing the evictions. There will be a showdown next week with a threatened vote of no confidence in the PM and it won't be pretty.

Ruto, a cabinet Minister and leader of the Rift Valley politicians is supposedly coming to Kakamega on Dec 6 for a fund raiser. This is Odinga territory (the PM) and we are thinking of keeping our heads very low.

This story has eclipsed for a while the ICC investigation.

Technology enables many 'unbanked' to use their cell phones to send money for family, to pay bills and even hold cash while they travel. A scheme by police officers has been revealed whereby they no longer need to collect 'kitu kidogo' (a little something) from public transport vehicles at checkpoints on the road. Arrangements are made for the drivers or touts to send the money to an Mpesa account in an officer's phone. 'Contributions' are then shared at the end of the day and officers can no longer be found with a cache of 100 shilling notes.

A wave of cholera is sweeping through some areas. Nine inmates of a prison died last week and others, particularly in the slums with no sanitation and no water, are dying or sick.
There is a mixture of news today.

On the positive front, my laptop is working well most of the time. It will need some TLC when we return to Canada but I'm hoping to nurse it along for the next four months. My netbook which went blank without any warning has now been revived (it pays to go to the manufacturer's site and download the files they offer.) So now I have a 'traveling' machine again.

Again, positive news of Tembo Kenya. We have established our Kenyan Consultative Committee with local friends whom we admire and trust. we are humbled that they all accepted to serve without hesitation. On Dec 13 we hope to have our first meeting to set our parameters and responsibilities. It will be good to have such people here on the ground when we are back in Canada.

We have: Reuben Sechele: who might run again as MP in 2012. Reuben is a publisher of school books and has much interest in income generating projects such as earth blocks. He and Rod get along well!

Carolyne Njango: Caro looks after the micro-finance groups when I am not around and is studying to be a social worker

Catherine Kibisu: Catherine was a CHES scholarship girl herself and is married to Wycliffe also supported by CHES and ACCES at school. They have started several community initiatives.

Grace Lidede: has just retired as a head mistress of an elementary school and is President of Kakamega Rotary Club

Julius Luseka is a talented jeweler and very active in his community. He has worked with us to put in three wells and two protected springs.

Vincent Ajuoga was one of our first computer students. He took courses and started his own computer repair business. He also now runs the computer school we set up.

Bibiana Andabwa is a town councillor in Kakamega. The only woman elected, she is energetic is seeking to improve the lives of women in her community. She and her husband are Virtues trained.

Jeremiah has been known to us since 2001. He runs a taxi service and now owns a large cafe in the centre of town.

We have several training sessions for Virtues planned. (go to http://www.virtuesinkenya.blogspot.com/ for details)

Here is Dorcas, who wants to be an electrical engineer and who has steadfastly resisted marriage for three years to hold on to her dream. We should know in a week or so if she will receive any financial assistance from the university.
I'll save the political and social news for the next message.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Bukhatse spring

The spring is now in full use by many people from both sides of the small valley. The locals cut down some eucalyptus (which suck up water) and used some of the end cuts to make footbridges
across the gullies.

Here are the first pictures and the finished spring. Two videos were taken in just a few minutes when we visited last week. It takes a very long time to upload, so I'm only posting one.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

No pictures right now

A couple of weeks ago I fried my laptop by knocking a drink (yes, it was red wine!) over some of the keys. It's still working for some things, but I'm having to use my mini notebook for most of my work. It was really my intention to use this little guy just for presentations, but I'm gradually having to load almost everything I use. Thankfully I haveall my files and email backed up.
I don't yet have my picture software loaded,so I will start to post pictures again as soon as I get time to download the programme.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

all things work together...

Last Saturday we had a meeting of the Virtues board and planned our upcoming training sessions. Our big problem is financing and there were some good ideas presented. We will talk more during the training week.

Last Sunday we were invited by a potential MP, Reuben Sechele, to attend his church where he was planningto make a large donation. It's an ACK church next to one of my schools. To my surprise I was asked to give the sermon! I hastily gathered my thoughts together and did a presentation on the Virtues, using passages from Ephesians. I think it was well received. Reuben and his wife Phoebe spent eight years in Ottawa. Phoebe as personal assistant to the Kenyan High Commissioner and Reuben at Carleton. Their daughter spent her formative years in school there and has a definite Canadian accent. She plans to return to Carleton for Journalism.

Over lunch we spoke more of the Virtues project and also learned that Reuben publishes elementary school readers. This was the oportunity to present Read for the Top. Children in rural Kenya are very disadvantaged becasue all exams are in English. They have little opportunity to hear or speak the language, or to read in it, so a special reading programme will, we believe, enhance performance all round. I have heard from oher schools how having a few extra reading books, improves language skills.

Reuben was intrigued by the idea and is willing to donate books to the elementary school next to the church in his village. Reuben will lay the groundwork and I will go out there in early January to present and help organise. This means we will have two schools on the project, although using different titles.

settling students into courses

Last week we spent most of one morning with Justus, Kevin and Dorcas doing their Tembo scholarship applications. Justus will do Human Resource Management and Kevin has chosen Mass Communications.
Dorcas really wants to do electrical engineering (she had 3 A's in sciences) but parallel prog is impossible (she had a B over all) But there is a diploma programme at Rift Valley Poly in Eldoret. I felt so sorry for her when she told us about it "but I will go for the other diploma" Rod wants to send her as an engineer even if it costs more. She's a delightful girl. We sent her off to Eldoret to get fee schedules etc.

We spoke to prof Akello at MMUST (our university) that evening to ask his opinion on Rift Valley Poly. He confirmed it is a good school, but said she should be in university. So few women choose engineering and her marks are outstanding. Long story short--he called her in to meet him, meet the bursar and the registrar. There will be a board meeting on Dec 1 and her case will be presented for financial assistance. The worst case is that she goes to the Polytechnic for two years and then appliesto enter the university programme. But she will lose another year waiting between the two institutions. Kenya is still dreadfully slow in processing colelge placements. She is already 22 and needs to get on with her studies. We think the news will be good.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A new constitution for Kenya?

The big news is the publication of a draft of a new Constitution. The Daily Nation published the document as a supplement and there will be a month for citizens to respond.
This draft was compiled by a "Committee of Experts" including three foreigners.
Everyone knows that the whole system needs to change if the country is to rid itself of 'the culture of impunity' and corruption. This proposal will put a new face on the nation:
- president is still elected but has only ceremonial powers as well as being Commander in Chief of the forces (at the moment the President has absolute power with no checks and balances)
- PM from the majority party and chooses Cabinet
- only 20 ministers (at the moment there are 48 with matching assistants)
- a percentage of these to be from outside parliament
- devolution of powers to the provinces with reduction of power from the central government
- elimination of districts created after 2004 in order to give jobs as political favours. All existing Provincial and District officers will be dismissed. They can reapply for positions in the new areas.

We were involved in a lively discussion last night at the Sports Club. Much concern expressed ranging from the choice of words (semantics) to what the repercussions would be.

The Committee of Experts has done an amazing job in a relatively short period of time. After the 30 day consultation and amendments, the proposal goes to parliament. It will be interesting to see if the MPs have the temerity to tamper with it after the public has studied it and given opinions. They will be hard put to do what they did last time, which was to radically alter the proposal before putting it out to referendum, thereby almost ensuring failure.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Has a week gone by?

These three pictures link to the account below.: Minister Opinyara (Minister for Planning) wearing his Virtues pin; the three boys at their interview; one of the schools in Luanda

I am amazed to see the date of the last post was Nov. 6. The past week has flown by.

On Sunday we took 'our' three boys to Kisumu for their interviews for the East Africa Youth Leadership Conference. They were all accepted! This is wonderful news as we aim to choose future leaders of Kenya in our scholarship selection.
On Tuesday we had two profitable visits in Kisumu. One to an organization that offers post secondary scholarships to needy students. The student (or a sponsor) must supply living expenses. We figure this would be about $500 per year, about the cost of a secondary scholarship. We will send Justus (financed by a friend in France) who has been waiting at home for two years hoping for fees. His marks are good enough for university, but the costs are too high even for us.
The second student is Dorcas who scored A in Physics, Math and Chemistry in 2006. She too has been 'at home' since then. Rod says with marks like that she should be an engineer, but again we do not have the resources. However, if these two obtain a good diploma thay can then go on to other things.
The other organization we visited is the ARC, a Norwegian NGO. They have a microfinance section and their officer will come with us later this month to Emmaloba to speak to the micro finance group. We hope that at some point these women will become independent enough to run their own group.
On Thursday we met a couple of people who were at the Virtues presentation to the town council and want training for their communities.
In the afternoon Pat did a community workshop on cooperation in basic income generating projects. This is not as profound as it sounds! We did an interesting game which we know will stay in the minds of the women as they look for projects and how to organize them.
On Friday it was out to Lunada and a couple of schools way off the main road. Both still use the cane freely and the head teachers have promsied to send a couple of their staff members to the Virtues training in December. The young priest who is the liaison with these two is really pushing for whole staff training in January or February. We shall see.
On Saturday Pat gave a Virtues presentation (the first strategy) to a large group of fairly influential people in the community. (The local MP is a member) They all said most emphatically that they want to take the full training. One of the participants is a senior provincial police officer. She wants to try to bring the Virtues training to the police academy and the Kenya institute of Management.
Last weekend we met with Minister Opinyara (in the picture above) and deputy Prime Minister Mudavadi at his request to hear about the Virtues. With so many highly placed people expressing interest we hope we will eventually receive some solid (ie financial) support.
Much of the countrywide news was taken up by discussion of the government reaction to Ocampo's fleeting visit. He came to receive the agreement of the President and PM on the movement of the suspects in last year's violence to the Hague. He did not need their approval and as forecast he did not receive it. Much too politically dangerous to be seen to support the indictment of friends and colleagues. He left, appointed three independent judges and life goes on. Many are obviously very afraid. So often the 'culture of impunity' is maintained by allowing things to drag on so long that evidence is lost, witnesses die or are intimidated and everyone moves on to the next scandal. But we understand that many key witnesses have been removed from Kenya and are in protection. So, much to the surprise and consternation of some, the ICC does not operate in the same way as the Kenyan judicial system.
The Attorney General was placed on a 'not-wanted here' list by the US when his visa was revoked. He threw a tantrum, published a full colour page extolling himself and threatened to sue the US for defamation. The derisive laughter rippled around the country.
The newspapers have published the heart breaking stories of a year and a half ago. The man who lost two wives and five children when his house was burned. The woman whose husband was murdered when he went to check on his store. Last week we met a young woman who works for a media house which broadcasts in eleven local dialects. She escaped in her night clothes and watched her house burn, recognising several of the perpetrators. She is to be admired for her tolerance and lack of vindictiveness and talked to us of broadcasting Virtues information on her stations. Now people are urging that the PM and the President stand accused of allowing and abetting what happened. This is a fairly new development for people to come out openly and say this.

Friday, November 6, 2009

A whirlwind of a day

On Nov. 6 our local university held the graduation ceremony in the presence of the President. We received an invitation but only the day before the ceremony! We had arranged visits to three schools and micro finance groups and were not able to change things.

We set off for our rounds at 9 am. Our microfinance ladies are doing well and we handed out some new loans as smaller ones were completed. Rod is designing a simple machine to shell groundnuts and we hope each microfinance group will use one to shell their own nuts (a slow process by hand) and to make money for more loans by selling time on the machine. Eventually we would like each group to become self supporting. We left the groups with a request for them to consider how to organise themselves if they receive a shelling machine.

At Emmaloba we were able to take a preliminary list of women wanting adult literacy. The head teacher says he could easily fill a class. Most of the women in the micro finance also want to learn simple bookkeeping. We arranged which days would be best for them and have the promise of space in the school. A young teacher lives close to the school and is as yet unemployed. She would be delighted to teach for us. It only remains for me to find some suitable materials and I will do that in Kisumu next week.

The principal and I also discussed the Read for the Top project. He has given me the list of four English and two Kiswahili texts which I will also look for in Kisumu. On Nov 26 I will visit the school and set up the teams in the Standard 5 class. and explain how the whole thing works.

After Emmaloba we stopped by Maseno Polytechnic and met the welding teacher (deputy administrator) who gave us a tour. The principal is called the Manager. He was absent, but we learned he trained in New Brunswick. Equipment is very simple, but there are 400 students, all working well in orderly groups. The grounds are very well kept. Tembo would like to help students learning serious trade courses, so we left an application form for the deputy to copy and select candidates for interview. It costs about $500 for a two year programme ending with a nationally recognised certification. They are also willing to help us build some of the simple machines Rod is planning for earth blocks and nut shelling. We would provide the materials and they would give their students a good learning experience.

Carolyne, the young woman who helps with the microfinance loans, keeping accounts and translating while I am here, is studying to be a social worker. She needs an 'attachment' (a practical course) in December and we stopped off with her at the Golf Club to meet up with Bibiana the town councillor. Bibiana is also a voluntary children's officer. The attachment was arranged and we chatted to Prof Akello and others to hear how the graduation had gone. While there we were joined by Wycliffe Oparanya, Minister for Planning in the central government. He noticed we were all wearing Virtues pins and asked what it was about. Here is his picture wearing his own pin!

After a few minutes the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Local Government arrived, Musalia Mudavadi. He had already received some information about Virtues and had promised to meet with us and Bibiana for more information. Both Ministers listened carefully to a brief presentation. Mudavadi promised to look at the folder of information we had already submitted. We hope that some funding will become available from the government to enable us to accomplish more.

Today, Saturday, we are taking a rest!

On Sunday we will take our candidates to Kisumu for their interviews for the Youth Leadership Conference.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The third of the springs & other opportunities

On Tuesday of this week we went to see the third of the springs we are protecting. This one is a very long way down into a narrow valley, at least a ten minute walk. I was thankful I didn't have to climb back up carrying 20 litres of water on my head. We led a small procession all the way down ranging from the youngest to the oldest.

The workmen have dug out the shallow pool we showed you before and are filling it with rocks. Our contractor came today because the pool is larger than estimated and every rock has to be carried down. So he needed more money! Fortunately we have a little in reserve.

One of 'our' boys has been at home for two years unable to pay fees for further training after high school. He had a very good mark, but no means of continuing. We heard about an organization that will pay fees and books for needy students. He went to see them and is applying for a two year diploma to begin in March 2010. We will need to pay his living expenses which will amount to about the same as a year at school (roughly $500) Not the university course he wanted but much better than nothing.

Last March we did a two day training for Virtues for an organization in Nairobi. They let me know they are sponsoring a Youth Leadership Conference in December and three of our high school students applied. I heard today that two of them are to go for interview on Saturday. This will be tremendously exciting for them.

As we make small steps in combatting poverty one person at a time, we shake our heads at the continuing nonsense in government. The ICC team is arriving and many are squirming trying to invoke nationalist pride in rejecting any international intervention in settling the issues that arose in 2008 after the election. Kenya agreed to set up an internal tribunal, has not done so, and by the terms of the agreement with Kofi Annan, the International Court now steps in.

At the last budget it was agreed that all Ministers would give up their expensive cars and would be limited to VW Passats. Any MP receives over 3 million shillings (about $50,000) to buy a tax free vehicle and then has a generous mileage allowance. Some have handed over their Benz but others are clinging to the status symbol. Incidentally, Uhuru Kenyatta has handed over his vehicles, but has imported a large number of Passat's ready for his colleagues to buy...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Kakamega council

Our friend Bibiana is the only woman councillor of 13 in Kakamega. She has the second largest ward. She and some others are trying very hard to clean up the operation. They have managed to remove the former mayor and the town clerk for corruption. The stories she has to tell are quite amazing: marked bills, undercover CID, careful traps set.

On Monday morning we paid a courtesy call with Bibiana and some others to the District Commissioner who is the chief administrative officer of the area. He also is very outspoken about the need to clean up the town (both literally and figuratively) and is strong in his support of people rejecting the attitude of waiting for 'help' before anything happens.

After that we attended the council. It was not a regular meeting but an invitation to two speakers. We were included to make a presentation on Virtues, with emphasis on leadership ethics, which matched what the DC had been saying.

The short presentation was well received and we hope to receive a date to do a full training.

Corruption is very much on everyone's mind as the US has made good its threat to deny a visa to "a top Cabinet Minister" It is generally supposed to be Amos Wako, AG for 18 years with the proud record of never a prosecution for any of the massive scandals that have broken.

Ocampo (International criminal court) arrives next week!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Bukhatse spring

On Tuesday we went to the spring to be protected in Bukhatse. This community really seems to work together. The hill down to the water is steep, but it has all been terraced to prevent erosion and they have planted soy beans, red beans, cow peas, sukuma wiki (kale) and ground nuts.

At the stream, they cut away the overhanging branches and vines and revealed an excellent spot for the spring. You can see they will have two outlets. The area behind the wall will be filled with rocks, (being carried down one by one by young women), covered with thick plastic, then with clay and earth. The contractor will make a safer path to cross the streams (where Rod is standing)

The other pictures show two of the possible sources of water which are still being used.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Elephants are our symbol, but for how long?

Newspapers are reporting over 100 elephants have died in Tsavo National Park because of the drought. Elephants are severely stressed because of the reduction in their habitat as the human population explodes and seeks arable land. So many people mention that elephants passing through their area were a common sight a few years ago. (There were 6 million Kenyans at independance in 1963. Now there are 38 million--more than the population of Canada) Cultural and religious forces seem to prevent any meaningful action on population control.

Today will be full of meetings This morning we start to plan the Sunday School conference at the end of November. Then at noon Rotary and Lions are joining together to launch a project . They will be supplying sanitary pads to girls who otherwise miss many days of school in a year. One 'kit' to serve a girl for a year costs 300/- (about $4.50) We are collecting sponsors and Tembo will make a contribution. A group will come from Rotary in Nairobi and after Kakamega will pass on to Eldoret.

After the Rotary group is over we will be meeting with the town councillor, Bibiana, to plan more on a proposal to run workshops on domestic and sexual violence. Bibiana's interest coincided with that of the Bishop and she believes she has a possible source of funding. A recent newspaper report indicated that our province (Western) has one of the highest incidences of violence against women. At the request of the Bishop we brought materials with us that will enable us to offer seminars for clergy and community leaders to equip them with an understanding of the problem and strategies to cope with it. Yesterday we met with the Bishop and received his approval, so will now make the application for funding. It should cost around $2,000 to run a full day workshop for 30 people with accommodation and handouts.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

well projects

Here is Nixon our contractor wearing his Tembo Kenya cap and proudly displaying his motor bike. He bought a second hand machine in good condition and took a driving course. He is now able to zip around to all the water projects, saving time and money.

We visited the Imulama site on Tuesday to meet with the committee. They are very excited about gaining a supply of clean water. The community put in the dispensary and the Ministry of Health has promised to upgrade to a health centre if there is water. (Julius the jeweler is on the left just in front of Rod) We showed you their present water source--a dirty pool-- in a previous post.

On Wednesday we went to the site at Mvilingi where we are protecting a spring. The pictures show the pipe in place, the dug area where plastic sheeting and clay will be laid on the rocks to prevent contamination. The spring should be finished today.

Last weekend

On Saturday we left for South Nyanza near Migori, close to the Tanzanian border. The roads were good once we left Kisumu, although traffic was heavy. We made good time and stayed at the Guest House of the local sugar company, which is the largest employer in the area. The complex includes the factory of course and a school, staff quarters and the small guest house.

We were invited to a harambee (a large fund raiser) to construct a vicarage for the local Anglican church. Bishop Oketch from our diocese of Maseno Northa arrived with a delegation of priests and others from Kakamega.

We were royally entertained by Professor Akello whose home is in the area and who is from Musinde Muliro University in Kakamega and a member of the Virtues Task Force. I took mainly video while there because the church has an excellent choir, and I think I have been successful in uploading one short sequence which you will find at the end of the message.
The Harambee was conducted by Hon. Dalmas Otieno, MP for the area and Minister of Local Development. He is holding the microphone in the picture as the donations are counted on the spot and in full view. With Otieno's large contribution, they raised 300,000 shillings (just under $5,000) which is about half what they will need for the house.
On Monday before we left we drove past Migori with Bob Akello. The area is much less densely populated than here and is only recently opening up. The arrival of the cheap Chinese motor cycles has proved invaluable to these areas of the country crisscrossed with small dirt roads, allowing people to access towns, health care and markets much more easily. The countryside is lush and green (we had several downpours while there) and provides two crops a year.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

all news all the time

We read the Daily Nation most days. It is consistently well written and doesn't pull any punches when it comes to criticising the government. I thought you might like to see a sampling of the headlines from Oct 14. It will give you a taste of this amazing society:
-Community Development Funds used to pay census clerks (the census was conducted over the last month or so but those hired were not paid until they held a demonstration. Now development projects are on hold.)
- PM puts bosses on notice over tribalism at work: heads of public institutions ordered to maintain ethnic (ie tribal) balance when hiring
- Teenage sex study shock for parents: Girls as young as 12 are selling themselves for food, mobile phone airtime and even sanitary pads.
- Kibaki (Pres) and Raila (PM) shielding chaos perpetrators-- and on the same page: Ocampo (ICC) coming next month
- Officer shot MP in self defence
- 300 camels stolen on the border recovered
- Receipts forged says witness in case against a sitting MP charged with defrauding the government of 40 million shillings (about $700,000)
- Second case of drug resistant TB identified
- Mother on three years probation for killing her daughter
- Rape of girl earns man 15 years in jail
- Kibaki appeals for climate cash: President says rich nations must aid poor nations to get clean technology

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

political connections

There are always so many demands and so many rewards. Our friend Bibiana is a councillor for a ward (constituency) on the boundary of Kakamega. She spends a great deal of time and energy trying to organise the women (mainly widows) On Tuesday we were invite to meet a group of widows. They have learned how to make cow dung fuel and liquid soap and we will include them in other activities. I tried to upload a video of their exuberant greeting with no success, so here is a picture

The meeting was held in a nursery school classroom started by the community. Today we returned to give the class a few supplies from our stash. The children sang for us and recited a poem.

Bibiana has c0mmunciated with the deputy Prime Minister from this area. He is interested in the Virtues project so we spent this evening with prof Akello (MMUST) and Bibiana drafting a letter to him from Virtues asking for his help with funding and referral to key people in various ministries.

He has gone to China but will return next week when we hope to meet with him.

Also this evening we had a brief meeeting to begin a proposal for workshops on domestic and sexual violence. Never a dull moment!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Two wells: Imulama and Muluanda

In addition to the three springs needing protection mentioned earlier we are hoping to install two wells.

Imulama has a dispensary but no water supply. The water is either harvested from the roof or taken from the pool pictured here. The one nurse that serves the community estimates she deals with 200 people per day. We have received the estimate for a simple well and should be able to start digging after the rains. If funds permit, we shall consider piping the water directly into the nursing station.

In Muluanda the small stream that supplies water looks clear but is in fact severely contaminated by houses on the hill. In the rains the stream will flood and the pollution increases as contaminants are washed down from the pit latrines. Many people suffer from cholera and dysentry. We will place the well part way up the slope. The estimate for this one is also reasonable.

The Muluanda children were very curious to see what we were doing. The 'big sisters' have the latest baby on their hip.

Is polygamy bigamy?

In Kenya, it might be, depending on how you choose to marry.

If a man celebrates his first marriage under the African Christian Marriage and Divorce Act, the Marriage Act or the Hindu Marriage and Divorce Act, he becomes a bigamist --a criminal-- if he marries another woman or women unless the first marriage is legally dissolved. (Incidentally, there is a case in court right now of a European woman who married under the African Christian Marriage Act. Since she is not African, her marriage may be null and void.)

But if this hypothetical man celebrates his first marriage under the African customary law or the Mohommedan Marriage, Divorce and Succession Act, he remains a law-abiding citizen even if he marries another wife or wives.

However, after undergoing the African customary law marriage rites, as many Kenyans today do, if he then celebrates the first marriage in church or in the office of a registrar-general of marriages, in which he gets a marriage certificate, he will automatically convert the customary law union into a monogamous one.

Then if he marries another wife or wives, he becomes a criminal, a bigamist, liable to be jailed for five years.

On the other hand, if he marries in church or registry office, he cannot convert this type of marriage into a customary law one by performing customary law rites.

The written laws regard marriage contracted under the African customary law as inferior, which is why such unions can be 'upgraded' but not the other way round.

(Taken in part from the Daily Nation : article by Peter Mwaura)

In a classroom for student pastors last week I saw a list on the board of seven types of marriage including substitute marriages. For more information go to http://www.patriciacrossley.com and scroll down to the link for marriage customs.

Protected springs in Bukhatse, Mwitua and Mvilingi

We have visited and selected a few sites for water projects
One lot of funding will be from San Bernadino Rotary Club in California, one from the Rotaract Club of the University of Victoria, BC, and one from a friend at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria. We hope to be able to protect three springs and build two simple wells. (For more information about wells, go to http://www.patriciacrossley.com/water.htm)

BUKHATSE is a village where the water is highly contaminated by run-off. It has a few pools, several of which are difficult to access. One seems suitable for protection, which means improving access, building up and cementing the surround to prevent pollution and installing a pipe. Because of the ground fomation and steep access we expect this one to cost just over $700

MWITUA is the home village of Johnstone, who is studying to be a Clinical Officer. He is pictured here with the water source for the community. This one will be simpler estimated at about $600

The last spring is at MVILINGI.

Fetching water as you can see is a slow and laborious process. This one will be the easiest, coming in at just under $600

In all cases, as for the wells, we ask the community to feed and house the diggers as their contribution. We also ask them to improve the steep and slippery acces to most of these springs by digging out steps.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

adopt a village

Here are pictures of two little ones at Maseno College where we stayed the night and a group of children from Emmaloba Primary.
Victoria Rotary Club 'adopted' the village of Emmaloba last year and provided books and feeding as well as other community assistance. We visited the school on Friday. I met with the Head Teacher who is now a Rotarian and proudly wears his pin. He has done an excellent job of maintaining feeding supplies and I gave him $100 for his last bag of beans. He has enough food now (including the school's own harvest and small contributions from parents) to carry the school until closing at the end of November.
He says that the community is supportive--to the extent that no one has tried to break into the building to steal the maize and beans stored there. This would be very possible in other places and shows the extent of the poverty and hunger.
He was delighted to report that his school (grade 6 students) placed first in the whole district in Science. First time ever to be top of the list in anything! He attributes this to the books we gave and the feeding programme.
He also tells us that use of the Virtues positive discipline programme has enhanced his school. They no longer use the cane and their relationships with children and colleagues are very good. He is rightly proud of the atmosphere in his school and says it now pains him when he sees physical punishment in other places.
I gave out some of the pins for 'Virtues for Kenya' to trained teachers.

I went through the two projects that we definitely want to do whether or not we receive the full grant:
Read for the Top: the head teacher will provide a list of titles in English and Swahili. We decided to do the project with next year's grade 6, beginning in January, with book purchase before Christmas. He has 34 children in that group.
Adult Literacy: to provide skills for the microfinance group and others. A Rotarian is running a programme in the neighbouring community, so the Head Teacher will ask for curriculum and supplies needed. We hope to start this in December or January. I plan to use the eye glass kit donated to us before we begin, since many of the women have vision problems.

Rod has some plans for making a small machine to shell ground nuts. Most of the women grow them and spend many hours shelling a few kilos by hand.
After Emmaloba we visited Ebusyubi and saw the set up for using the donated computers. The school now has all its important documents on file and students from grade 4 are taught the Learning Games in groups of 8. Not bad for two desk tops and a laptop. One of these days we hope we will be able to provide more. I had hoped to include this school in the Read for the Top, but we'll have to wait to see how funds become available.

micro finance

On Thursday and Friday we visited the three microfinance schemes at Emuhaya, Emmaloba and Ebusyubi. All the women are doing well and always have an amount to pay back on their loans. All have completed at least two loans and are impatiently waiting for me to finalize the budget to receive more money!

Their businesses range from braiding ropes, making mandazi (delicious large donuts) and selling vegetables to gathering and bundling firewood. Some have bought goats and cows. One very enterprising lady at Ebusyubi has started making jicos with her son (see picture) She is an excellent role model for the others. After paying off loans of $15 and $30 they spent the next one of $80 on materials for the cooking stoves. They bend and weld the metal and bake the clay liner to make the stove which will take wood, charcoal or cow dung fuel. She offered me the one you see, but at the risk of flouting African good manners I insisted she should sell it for her own benefit.

The Emmaloba group is the largest and is part of the "Adopt a Village" project supported by Victoria Rotary Club. We plan to start adult literacy for them and for others in December or January. This will include basic bookkeeping and accounts.

We shall use the donated eyeglass kit I mentioned in an earlier post before we begin the classes so as to eliminate some visions problems.
A total of $250 is enough for a woman to progress through the loans, learning to plan her stock, reserve loan repayments, sent her children to school and generally provide better for her family. We have a number of women who would like to join the groups, but at the moment we are keeping only those who began with us.
All the 'mamas' send their warm greeting and thanks to all who have made this possible

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Virtues and water

We have met with Nixon, our well contractor, who is proudly wearing his Tembo Kenya cap (try for a picture next time) We think we can put in three wells (from a list of about eight) and protect at least two springs with the funds we have. Some of the proposed sites are requested by officials and it would be politically advantageous to help them, but we will first deal with the water that is polluted and causing sickness. Rod and Nixon will visit the sites on Saturday and take pictures. At that time we'll have a better idea of feasability and costs. Nixon would very much like to start to manufacture the rope and washer pumps himself. We could make the same arrangement as we did for the mould we financed for him and which is providing him with a steady income. We have an agreement to use the mould without charge for our projects and we could probably work out a similar arrangement for the pumps. He has proved reliable and diligent over the past few years and is a very hard worker.

We shall meet with the Virtues team on Thursday in Emuhaya (about an hour away) and from there go to Maseno Rotary Club to discuss the grant we are hoping for. We already have requests for Virtues training which is encouraging. We shall stay overnight at Maseno and then visit Emmaloba, the village 'adopted' by Victoria Rotary Club. We will be able to have preliminary discussions about the project. During these two days I shall also meet the mamas who are part of the micro finance schemes.

One exciting development is the possibility of Virtues based programmes for the police and the prison. Virtues facilitators around the world are helping me with ideas and experience on prison programmes and ahve offered help for police work. More later as that develops!

accidents and funerals

Although we have been busy over the past week, we haven't always been able to move forward in some areas. Funerals are all too common and time consuming for relatives and friends. Our Virtues meeting was put off for a week because Daniel, the leader, lost his mother. This was sad, but not surprising. Nixon, our well contractor, had to postpone our meeting because his cousin died in a motorcycle accident. The ubiquitous Chinese motorbikes have flooded the roads and are ridden largely by unlicensed young men who have only driven push bikes until now. They tend to be overloaded, sometimes carrying a whole family of adults and children. And of course, harldly anyone wears a helmet.

Johnstone, our medical student, says the accident ward at the general hospital is full to overflowing.

The mayhem on the main roads continues. A truck lost its brakes downhill on the Kisimu-Kericho road and took out a matatu (public service vehicle) carrying twelve people and two children herding cattle by the side of the road. No one survived. No matter how careful a driver you are, the maintenance of the other vehicles on the road is always an unknown