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, 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...