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

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Imulama hand over

We had a wonderful reception on Saturday afternoon at Imulama. The dispensary has water to carry it through the dry season and the well as the back up. The community filled in the well that collapsed and planted a banana tree to grow where it will also receive the run off from the storage tank.

The Ministry of Health will now desist the threats to close thhe dispensary because of the lack of water and might even extend the facility-- the only one for several kilometres around. The only thing the community now needs is a microscope so that the nurse can diagnose problems such as malaria without guessing at the cause of the illness. We shall perhaps receive enough special donations to help them

I am posting a couple of pictures. I have some great video clips of the women and girls singing and one of the elders dancing, but I seem to be having problems posting any visuals especially video.

We go to Kati this afternoon, where we have put in a well to serve an orphanage. I don't know if I will be able to post any pictures until we come back from Christmas in Cape Town. We are really looking forward to the break.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The best Christmas gift

Three communities will receive the gift of clean water before Christmas. The well at Imulama (pictured above) is completed and we will hand it over on Saturday afternoon. At the same time we will unlock the 6,000 litre water storage tank and hand the key to the dispensary. After all the heavy rain it is full. The storage tank will serve the dispensary and the well is for the whole community. The three pictures show the before and after shots . We shall have some more pictures on Saturday with the dedication plaque to the Rotary Club of Nanaimo, BC, who sponsored this project .

At Emulele our contractor, Nixon, has done an excellent and fast job in protecting the spring On Sunday afternoon we will hand over the well at Kati which will serve an orphanage.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Emmaloba community grant

I have mentioned before that we have a substatial grant from Rotary to enhance the school and community in Emmaloba. With an original grant we supplied uniforms, books and a feeding schedule for the school.

This larger grant is to supply computers to the school as well as incoming generating projects for the community.
The women's group here has been wonderfully faithful in paying back the small loans we started a few years ago. The 'chairlady' of the group told me what a difference the small loans have made in her life. She is a widow, 'But,' she says, ' I don't care any more, because I can look after myself'.' This group is now ready to form a recognized group (They call themselves: We have woken up) and handle their own finances and loan scheme. Our trainer, Alex, has met with them and will do so again to assist them in their organization. Charging interest (which they will have to do) is a troubling concept and Alex is guiding them through.
Last Saturday there was a large community meeting.Many of the people in the community have already formed groups and are trying to initiate projects to generate some income. We are happy at the basic initiative and determination shown, so we were able to apportion the funding from the Rotary grant into the projects that these communities already have and which correspond to the grant proposal. They will meet again next week with Alex. The rules we set were:1) arriving on time (one man arrived two hours late last week and was upset that his group did not receive a project) 2) majority of members of the group must be present(or the project will go to a 'waiting list' of groups.
We hope that the implementation of this grant might serve as a model for the smaller Rotary grants that will involve more than just handing out money or materials but will leave a sustainable legacy in a community.
The only part of the proposal that we have not yet followed up are the comnputers. The school is scheduled to receive power and the head teacher has innvolved the local MP in hastening the completion of the power line (Yes, MPs in Kenya can do that) If they have power we will be able to purchase more desk top computers instead of the solar panels intended to run laptops. We hope this will happen in the new year

interviews for job training

We had a very successful day on Monday. Vincent, one of our advisory board, took charge of all the applications for assistance in further education or training. He reviewed them, contacted those he could, and called them for interview. We have forms for application, interview and an objective grid for assessment. We can also refer for a future home visit to verify need. Applications ranged from driving school, to computer studies, to hairdressing and tailoring. One lady only spoke Swahili and has two children. Others were fluent in English, having finished secondary school

The team of four Kenyans interviewed twelve candidates and finished with a deep sense of purpose and contribution. The whole advisory board will meet on Friday to help us select the ones who will be suppported by Tembo.

Sunday, December 12, 2010


We have contracted for nine water projects: three wells and hopefully six springs. The spring at Ebukhunza is finished and I am attaching the 'before' and 'after shots.

The people are happy and have promised us a gift of eggs--they have nothing else to give.

This was a difficult project because of the rock around.

It just grieves me that the women are so grateful for such a small step in easing their burden. Clean water should be their right, not a gift from a foreigner. I look at their hands, their bare feet, their wraps, let them shake my hand and embrace me, and think yet again how much Canadians take for granted.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

a new scandal everyday

I don't post much about the on-going scandals and political wrangling and manoeuvring, but a few things are happening of importance.Kenya did not set up local tribunals for finding those who instigated the post election violence in 2008, so the International Criminal Court at the Hague took over. Now things are nearing a climax there is a huge amount of anxiety in some parts and jubilation in others.
Politicians who think they might be in the cross hairs of the investigation have resorted to much protesting (that the ICC wants to crush certain tribes) or that the US (or the Hague) is seeking to overthrow the government. Some have tried to request injunctions from Kenyan courts to stop the processes of the ICC. Others have gone to the Hague to try to 'set the record straight' voluntarily.
In all this a number of senior civil servants and some Cabinet Ministers have been indicted for corruption and fraud. Most of the 'old guard' is in deep trouble.
The investigator for the ICC (Ocampo) has sailed through all this with a neutral expression and firm reiteration of his mandate, although privately I am sure he is grinding his teeth.
He has promised to reveal the names of six 'prominent Kenyans' for indictment on Wednesday this week. I think we will be careful if we go out that day. I don't think there will be any violence or demonstrations in this area, unless Raila Odinga,, the Prime Minister, is one of the six. But in other areas there could b some trouble ifff their 'favourite son' is named.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


December is the month for circumcision. With the Luhya tribe, boys undergo the rite of passage at about the age of 13. The big ceremonies occur every two years. As we sat the other evening with the self-help group meeting the representatives of Shelter Forum, we heard the voices of boys as they marched from house to house in the gathering dusk. They sang as they were gathered food, gifts (& undoubtedly courage) for the upcoming 'cut'. They would be housed together, away from their families,, for almost a month as they healed. This is the traditional time for teaching on 'how to be a man.' Many boys used to return to the house primed never to lift a finger for any household chore which would be 'women's work.' In some comm unties there is nowadays more teaching about responsibility, HIV and education.
I have said before that this local tribe does not practice Female Genital Mutilation but many hundreds of girls suffer the 'female circumcision' in other areas. Some try to flee, some fathers protect their daughters, only to be opposed by the mother, some mothers try to remove their child, only to be frustrated by fathers or brothers who want the 'bride price' for their little sister.
Refusing the 'cut' means estrangement from the community in most cases. Undergoing it inevitably means dropping out of school and early marriage.
The government is also promoting male circumcision as a means of reducing the spread of HIV. The young man we support who is training to be a Clinical Officer phoned us the other evening. He is away on 'attachment' (practical training). Things are going well, but could we send him some money for a circumcision 'kit'? After questions and deliberation, we sent him about $25 but since then his phone has been off. I'm sure we'll hear from him again soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Christmas gift idea

Tembo students:
Our Advisory Commitee will be assisting us in a new round of interviews for job and skills training. We are committed to almost $1000 for those students already in a course (excluding those at university whose fees will not be required until later in 2011 and who have a commitment from a sponosr) and hope we can add another $1000 for the pile of letters we have already received. The committee will do an initial sort after applications close on Nov 30. Then we shall interview on Dec 13 & 14.

We must have received at least thirty requests for job training and we know there will be more. If you want to help a Kenyan put food on the table by acquiring a job skill, please see what you can spare. This, or a contribution to the teacher seminars, would make a wonderful Christmas gift and would make a real difference in someone's life. (donations@tembokenya.org; http://www.tembokenya.org/) Tembo will send a gift card to the recipient.

Teaching for schools

Tembo does a lot of teaching in communities, but also has programmes for schools. We have run Read for the Top in two schools earlier this year, thanks to an initial Rotary grant. This grant was increased and we have distributed books to ten more schools, reaching over 500 children.

I did a short presentation on R4T a week ago at the Rotary meeting (I have some video clips) As a result of this I did another (longer) presentation Tuesday morning with 30 teachers from informal schools run by ACCES (a Canadian NGO). Tomorrow evening I shall show the same video to Rotoract at the University where they have 70 members.

This is a wonderful small project for Rotary clubs to promote literacy.

Our big initiative (which we pray is not getting out of hand) is the visit of four American teachers to our area in January to teach strategies and skills for English in Elementary and Math in Secondary. We have opened up a number of places to other schools and have been trampled in the rush! We are hoping and praying we can cope with 60 eager teachers in a session. Some schools want to send their whole staff and we shall have to put some limits.
Yes, we are looking for donations to offset costs of meals, photocopy and some accommodation for teachers based way north who cannot travel home every day. If you want to help some eager teachers who have so few resources (and classes as large as 78!) please take a look at tembo-kenya website (http://www.tembokenya.org/) if you can spare a small amount.

It costs $1 to provide a book of handouts, $2.50 for a meal, $10 for a room. You can help children such as those in the picture by helping their teachers.

Virtues and Housing

Our Kenyan facilitators are busy almost every day with Virtues training sessions. Last week we did a two day follow-up intended for Anglican clergy but had about ten or twelve other people who asked to attend, making a group of 54.

As a result of this I was asked to speak in a church on Sunday (both the English service and the KiSwahili one --with an interpreter of course) I think there will be requests for full training from that community.

Now that schools have closed we are doing some teacher training, this week at a whole school session just outside Kakamega and next week for various teachers in Kakamega.

On Sunday evening we attended part of a meeting run by an organisation called Shelter Forum with a group where we installed a well earlier this year. The mandate of Shelter Forum is to help communities provide affordable, safe housing. They teach brick making and help with housing loans. What they feel is missing is the basic assistance to groups such as the one on Sunday where the people need help in formulating income-generating projects and receiving business training to start to save towards a housing cooperative. This is where Tembo can step in.

This Shelter Forum group would also like Virtues training to help them in their groups and we can probably do a full 'retreat' with them in Kisumu, because they can contribute some funds. This will enable more training for communities who cannot pay anything.

Then during the course of our discussion over a plate of kuku (chicken) and chips, we learned that they can help us with the implementation of the Rotary Grant in Emmaloba where we were planning on teaching brick making to build a poultry project. Shelter Forum can provide the instruction and also supply the brick making machine.

There is a clip on the video linked to our web site which shows brick making at Imulama. Incidentally, those bricks were used for the base of the big water tank that was recently installed.

The network is growing impressively.

Business training

Last Saturday was an exciting and rewarding day. Alex, our trainer went home bubbling over. This was the third session for a group of about 30-35 people in Khwisero near Kakamega. They have attended faithfully, taken notes and begun to plan in groups. This week they went home with their groups formed, plans for raising funds in place and a definite project to pursue. Two groups want to keep rabbits and poultry and we will help them with information on 'getting it right from the start'
The highlight of the day was the story of a small group who were inspired by Alex's second talk, went home and decided to begin their own project. They could only contribute 20 shilling s each at a time (about 22 cents) but they eventually raised 600 shillings (about $7.50). They took 400 shillings and began to make drinking yoghurt which they are selling in town for 60 shillings for a cup. They brought samples for us & we immediately bought two bottles. I think they made back their original investment in that afternoon. I didn't have my camera with me but if I meet them in town I'll take a picture.

We have now reached the stage where the groups forming will ask us for specific training on livestock, fish ponds, book keeping etc.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

No more KCPE?

In the midst of all the corruption charges flying around, the legislation being put into place to bring in the new constitution in the next year and the machinations of the politicians desperately trying to hold on to their positions, a new bill will be tabled in Parliament next week.
Kenyan students undergo two sets of torture in 'final' exams, once at the end of primary elementary) school in grade 8, and once (if they go on to secondary school) in Form 4 (grade 12)
At the end of primary they sit the KCPE (Kenyan certificate of primary education) Upon these results hang many a scholarship, and even a place in a secondary school. Those who 'fail' (having less than 250 marks out of 500) will not be allowed to continue any meaningful education.
Now the proposal is to wipe out these exams, and not just in a couple of years, but right away. So many educational reforms, good in themselves, are implemented in haste and with little thought for the necessary infrastructure.
Secondary schools select their students according to the results of these exams. The National schools (the premier league) take the top students, the Provincial schools take the next layer and the District schools the lowest of those who have 'passed'. So how they would now make their selection is anyone's guess. There is at the moment no continuous assessment, although the students do take regular tests throughout the year. Would these be used? and how to achieve some semblance of objectivity?
Secondary tuition is free in theory, but since most secondary schools are boarding, (all the National and pretty well all the Provincial,) those families who cannot meet the demands of boarding, uniform and 'extras' like school buses, go to the the weaker day schools.
The premise is laudable: education is a right and no child should be classed a 'failure' at the end of elementary. The head teachers association has backed this proposal, so it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Virtues news

Richard Andabwa has received his accreditation as a Master Faciltator. On Wednesday of this week he received the congratulations of 54 attendees at a Virtues deepening in Kakamega. We will now be able to train new facilitators through Richard, even when Patricia is out of the country.
Richard is shown here with his wife, Bibiana, also a trained facilitator.

In other news, we are still looking at possible water sites. In a few days we shall call a meeting of the Tembo-Kenya advisory committee to help us assess the various requests.
Shibiri and Kati (with an orphan school)

This weekend we are free! So we plan a trip to a new hotel in Kisumu with a large, inviting pool. Doubtless there will be some 'errands' to run while we are there. We are thinking that we need to buy a small generator because the power is so unreliable. We plan a session on no-till farming as part of our small business training on Nov 27 with 5 complete DVDs to show. It will be a disaster if we are again without power. A portable generator will also help with other presentations in the rural areas.

Our DVD player is acting up and we're hoping it will last another 6 weeks until we go to S Africa where we can look for a reliable replacement.

The entrance to our apartment is looking so much better! Our landlord has had the whole entrance painted as well as the trim on the outside of the house. The old mesh window covering has been replaced with glass. It is so bright that we keep thinking the outside light is on! The smell of oil paint has been a little overwhelming for the past week, but is starting to fade now.
For some reason Google has decided that I speak Spanish, so my spellcheck is useless. Forgive any typos that slip by.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Our first Tembo students

Alex Omino and his attentive class
Rod, Julius and Alex
On Saturday we went to Shisilachi, the village of Julius, the jeweler. Alex, our business trainer returned for another session with the village women (although there were several men this time.) Alex is a good teacher and obviously understands the issues, since he himself comes from a poor rural area. He emphasises 'wealth creation' and not 'poverty reduction.' He is gradually getting the message across that with knowledge (which Tembo is supplying) determination and organization, small village groups can do very well.
While we were there we met the first Tembo students proudly showing their diplomas. Jeremiah, Joseph and Elphus all learned to drive a commercial truck. Jacklyne did basic computer training and liked it so much she wants to continue with a diploma. Erick is doing bio-agriculture and showed us five A's and a B for his first term. One driver was away on a job and the others still at school.
Elphus, Jeremiah,Joseph and Jacklyne

Friday, November 5, 2010

Some more possible water sites

Rod looked at a couple more sites yesterday. Here are the pictures. Ebukhunza (75 families)the two at the top and Mwituha (50 families) on theleft. A resident has planted banana right in the stream in the first location and eucalyptus around. These suck up huge amounts of water. He has promised to remove them and will have to do so before the contractor starts work if this is one of our chosen sites. Each of these will cost around 60 to 70,000 Kenya shillings which is approximately $800 including steps down the slope where necessary. We calculate we have sufficient donations for about 5 springs and will look at a couple more close to Kakamega before deciding.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

An eventful few weeks in politics

Here is the recent timetable of ministerial resignations or firings. October 19: Higher Education Minister Ruto is suspended. October 27: Foreign Affairs Minister Wetang'ula and his Permanent Secretary step aside; October 29 Kenya Anti Corruption Committee says four ministers, 45 parastatal (Crown corporation) heads are under investigation; October 29 eleven immigration ministers interdicted over alleged corruption. Nov 3 Kiplagat, the chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, steps aside. The foreign member who recently resigned in protest will return.

And this is not counting the on-going investigation in the Hague.

In other news the ubiquitous 14 seater matatus (public service vehicles) which are the public bus service and which often carry up to 20 people, will be withdrawn. No new licences will be issued and as of next month, they will not be allowed into the centre of Nairobi. Only 25 seater buses will be permitted. All licences must be held by cooperatives, eliminating (hopefully) the 'rogue' owners and drivers. It seems the same rules will apply to motor bikes which, although providing a needed service in the rural areas, are causing mayhem on the streets of the towns. Many are unlicensed and driven by youths with a fifteen minute initiation.

Water projects

Last week we finished the water harvesting (from the roof) for the Imulama Dispensary. This was the best we could do since we hit solid rock when digging for a well. We have put in a 6,000 litre tank and with the rains we have been having I'm sure they will have water at least to start the dry season. We shall meet with the community members soon to proceed with the rehabilitation of a disused well for the community.

Rod has been out this week with Nixon, our contractor to look at well sites.

The pictures show two communities in dire need of cleaning up and protecting the spring. The first two shots are of Emulele where we shall put in steps down the steep slope to the water source. The third picture is Lihanda where the need speaks for itself.

A third place has a partially protected spring but which is receiving a lot of run off. It would need totally redoing, so we will see where it sits in the list of priorities.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Read for the Top and Virtues

Last week we completed the heats and finals for the second class at Mwiyenga Primary. The children were amazing. I tried to upload a video with captions to YouTube but without success. Class six north proudly declaimed: Reading, reading reading, reading for the Top. We have read six books--four books in English, two books in Swahili---we have read for fun and enjoyment--we have read for knowledge. Reading reading, reading, Reading for the Top. yes, we have read six books. They sang 'I have a dream' with the line: I believe in reading... (instead of 'I believe in angels') Still working on the youtube upload!

On Saturday I did a Virtues follow-up training to a wonderful mixed group of teachers, pastors and community leaders. Their evaluations were so positive and they always want more time! I wish we had the funding to do it. They are great ambassadors for peace and harmony in their communties.

Friday, October 29, 2010

the corrupt are on the run

There are amazing things happening after the passing of the new constitution. One hardly knows in which direction to look, so many heads are rolling.
First of course, the International Criminal Court in the Hague is relentlessly pursuing its slow and steady course. There have been many attempts to use the Kenyan court system to expunge names or to declare that the ICC has no jurisdiction. The time for that is long past when Kenya did not establish its own tribunal. One article told us that a 'prominent person' has communicated with the Hague and volunteered to testify (confess?) to his or her part in the post election violence. There is apparently a guarantee (or at least a hope) that he will not be publicly arrested. Of course, we don't yet know who this is.
The Minister for Higher Education (William Ruto) has had to resign from Cabinet because he is implicated in a fraud case, despite his protests of not ever signing cheques, not sitting on committees, not overseeing contracts. So we wonder what exactly he is paid for.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs (Wetang'ula) has also stepped down because of a scandal about embassy properties in several countries where billions of shillings 'disappeared.'
The mayor of Nairobi has also had to stand aside while an investigation into corruption in the city goes on.
The Truth , Reconciliation and Justice Committee has been told it must do some meaningful work, basically get its act together in 72 hours, or the committee will be disbanded. This is after the second prominent person (in this case a foreign representative) resigned in frustration. This committee apparently employs 413 people as 'statement takers'. They will not lose their job, but it's to be hoped they will be used more realistically.
Now we hear that the Anti Corruption Committee is going to re-open inquiries into Anglo Leasing (where funds for new passport machinery went to a non-existent company in the UK) ; Goldenberg (where development funds were paid for non-existent exports) and the Free Primary Education (where donor funds never reached the schools).
There are some very nervous people in high places.

Friday, October 22, 2010

the end of a busy week

We finished delivering most of the books to primary schools on a very high note! It is very gratifying to hear positive feedback on our efforts and see the willingness of head teachers and staff to try something new. We have also managed to deliver most of the letters about the seminars and are sure we shall soon receive responses. It remains now to give the update to the Quality Assurance Officer at the Provincial office to find more teachers in some areas to attend.

Exams started in High Schools yesterday and most schools we visited had a resident police officer on duty to try to protect the packages which have to be sent by courier--usually motor bikes. Since we are still experiencing heavy rains, roads are quite difficult to navigate in the late afternoon.

On Thursday we held our first meeting of our Tembo Advisory Board. They had many good ideas for improving our on-ground procedures. What is more important, they not only make suggestions, but are willing to help.

This evening our business trainer will arrive for a session tomorrow with a group near Kakamega. We shall set some future
dates for him to work with us.
Standing: Vincent, Richard, Julius
seated: Bibiana. Jeremiah, Grace
The other piece of good news is that Caroline received a clean bill of health when she returned to the hospital for follow-up.
On Monday of next week we shall do the heats and finals for Read for the Top in the second class of one of our pilot schools, then a meeting of the Board of Education and finally a meeting with Maseno rotary Club to continue the matching grant for Emmaloba. we are looking forward to beginning some of the projects and computers in the school.

Monday, October 18, 2010

read for the top, teacher seminars,water and Virtues

We now have eleven schools signed up for Read for the Top and the books have been delivered. We'll be reaching over 500 elementary level children. We are sorting and labeling the sets this week and will deliver them to the teachers next week. The second class of one of the pilot schools from earlier this year is ready for the heats and finals, so I'll be ordering their T-shirts today.
The logistics of running the teacher seminars are a bit difficult. Kenyan secondary schools go into examination mode about now, and will close by about Nov 15. So we have to get information to them in the next couple of weeks. Sounds as if that should be easy, but communication is ultra difficult. The Post office is basically non-functional (even if I had all the PO Box numbers and the schools would check their boxes for mail) so I'll have to deliver to the Education Offices, either myself or by using motor cycle couriers.
We met with our well contractor this morning and made some plans for finishing the water project at Imulama dispensary. This was the well that hit rock, was blasted and then collapsed. We plan to do water harvesting from the roof into a 6,000 litre tank for the clinic. We have the bricks that were made from the spoil and which can be used to make a base for the tank.
Then there is a disused well on a nearby property which we can rehabilitate at little cost, adding the pump we already have. This would serve the community.
On Thursday of this week we shall have a meeting of our Tembo advisory committee and will catch up on what happened while we were away and what plans are for the next while.
On Saturday we shall do a follow-up session with one of the business groups with Alex, our business instructor. This group left the first session in February with projects, so Alex will review and continue with them.
On October 30 we have a follow-up session with trained Virtues people. As for the Virtues, we have a contarct to train 150 staff at the big supermarket and now the whole of the Town Coucil and staff--about another 200. Our Kenyan facilitators will be very busy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

another sunshiny day!

Today the news is good. We have our vehicle, thanks to our genius of a mechanic who modified some parts from another model. It is running well. Our concern is that it is now so old and has seen such hard service that it is becoming more difficult to keep it running. Yet, we would not be able to serve the rural communities and schools without it.

Caroline is home and feeling well. I made an error in my last post. 50,000/- is $725! Gulp! We added another 12,000/- to have her released. The hospitals here are full of patients, particularly maternity cases, who cannot leave because they can't pay the original fee and as they remain, costs keep piling up. What is wrong with this picture?

Yesterday I ran the Read for the Top seminar for teachers from 9 schools. We will reach nearly 500 children with this programme.. The teachers are understandably apprehensive about such a new approach (two of them have 78 children in their class!) but are willing to try. Kennedy Nandwa, one of the pilot teachers last year, gave invaluable support in presenting his own very positive experience. We shall have the heats and finals in February. Here is one picture of the teachers reading and preparing questions for the practice. I tried to upload the video of them simulating the contest, but the connection is far too slow tonight. I also made a 5 minute movie of the Read for the Top earlier this year and tried to upload to youtuibe. Again, no luck. I'll try again another day.

I had a long talk with the Bishop this morning about all the projects and the strategic plan for education for the diocese. After Read for the Top and the continuation of the Rotary grant for Emmaloba, the big project will be the volunteer teachers coming from the US to run seminars in Language Arts (primary) and Math (secondary) . Our plan is for this to happen in January 2011.

Other things will be happening in between--a seminar of no-till farming, workshops on domestic and sexual abuse. Lots of things to keep us busy.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our first real set-back

We are over our jet-lag, there is water more often in the kitchen, thanks to the new water system gradually coming on line in town. This means we can fill kettles to boil water more easily. Great!
Plans are set for Read for the Top, the books ordered and other training sessions are scheduled.
Then at the end of last week we found that Caroline, a young woman member of the Tembo advisory board had visited a free clinic in August and had been advised to investigate a lump in her breast.
She is a student from a poor family and the cost of travelling to a centre with the right equipment plus paying for diagnosis and possible treatment would be far beyond her means.
But on Saturday she didn't look well and could hardly raise her arm. We sent her to the Aga Khan hospital in Kisumu.
Long story short: they found two lumps with ultrasound and decided to operate, then do a biopsy. The only snag being that they wanted 50,000/- (about $125) before they would admit her. So yesterday we set off for Kisumu with the cash and Tony, her very anxious fiance.
The road from Kakamega to Kisumu is very bad, so we opted for the slightly longer but better paved road through Kilingili and Maseno. That turned out to be a good choice.
As we entered Maseno, the car died. We were right outside the Total gas station and rolled into a vacant space. That was the first piece of good fortune.
But what to do? twenty minutes from Kisumu and no hope of an operation without the money. Delaying would only mean more expenses piling up.
I phoned the theological college nearby where we often do residential training and they promised to send a vehicle and driver to pick us up and take us to the hospital. That was the next positive piece in the jigsaw.
Rod phoned the mechanic we use in Kisumu and he arranged to send a tow truck.
Only 20-30 minutes behind schedule, we rolled into the parking lot of the Aga Khan. We paid the deposit (despite the computer failing at one point) and Caroline was admitted. By five another friend had driven from Kakamega to pick us up and the vehicle was safely stowed on the mechanic's compound.
We have heard from Caro--she feels fine, should be home tomorrow and will have her lab results next week.
So far the diagnosis on the vehicle if not good, is at least positive for repair. The mechanic is waiting for a part from Nairobi on the overnight bus. In the meantime we shall have to rely on friends and taxis to get around.
The network of people we have built up over the years is invaluable to us at times like this

Friday, October 8, 2010

all the news, all the time

The big thing for us is that we have had water in the kitchen two mornings!. If we're up early enough (at first light) we can fill some containers.
Other news is more serious. Sexual abuse (& violence) is a huge problem and the newspapers have been reporting on the predatory teachers who prey upon girls in their care. There is a report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11492499
Our meeting with the Provincial Director's deputy was very productive. We have been invited to speak to all the Directors of Education at their meeting on Monday. We shall touch on all three on-going projects: Virtues, Read for the Top and the seminars in January.
I have nine schools registered for Read for the Top. One counts double, since there are 78 children in the class (grade 6). I shall meet the teachers on Wednesday and look forward to explaining how it works. The Head teacher of one of the schools from last session has agreed to release his teacher for the day to assist in the training.
Here is a picture of the community Virtues training we did last week. We met with one of the owners of the Yako supermarket, one of the biggest in town, and discussed Virtues training for all his staff, 160 people in all. Bibiana and Richard, our two facilitators in Kakamega, did a training with one small group a few months ago. It was reportedly very successful and may have calmed some unrest and a potential work stoppage. This will be a huge boost to working with businesses and community groups.
In politics. the International Criminal Court is zeroing in on a few politicians. A couple of years ago, they refused the alternative of setting up tribunals in Kenya to try those responsible for the violence after the last election. Now it seems they think that is the best option, but it is too late. There are a couple of high powered people who are really bad news. They set up a legal protest to have their names expunged from any documents. Fat chance, guys!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

One week

We arrived in Nairobi a week ago (Sunday) after a delay in London because of a fault with the wing de-icer. It sounded odd to be concerned with that when we would be landing at the Equator, but figured it was better to fix it.
We had to buy a visa on entry because we were lacking the famous 're-entry stamp' in our passports, although we had our work permit renewals. No point in arguing with Kenyan bureaucracy! We went to Immigration on Monday and received our passport stamps and the re-entry visa.
Our friend Bibiana met us when we arrived and we stayed with her daughter in Nairobi. Bibiana returned to Kakamega on the bus on Monday night and took our 6 big bags with her. We have learned that there is a small 'puddle jumper' plane that now flies into the Kakamega airstrip from Nairobi. Great for commuting, although there are likely serious restrictions on luggage. We'll certainly look into that when we go away at Christmas.
On Tuesday we met our 'daughter' Isabella, who now has a job and on Wednesday we flew back to Kisumu because our vehicle had remained there while we were away for some maintenance. Our mechanic met us, we shopped at Nakumatt supermarket and by noon were in Kakamega. We took the long way round through Maseno and Emuhaya because the Kakamega-Kisumu road is reportedly even worse than when we left. In town the intersection at the road leading to the town centre and the Golf hotel has lost its surface and is all mud puddles.
Our apartment was in good shape, although a little dusty. We spent the next couple of days unpacking and sorting. Still some office work to do with files and documents that we brought back. Our phones work and our computer modems were re-activated with no trouble. It was a remarkably smooth arrival.
Friday night our business and micro-finance teacher came up from Kisumu to talk about sessions for the women's groups. Alex is on the video on our web site. He works for an NGO in Kisumu but is aiming at branching out on his own, so working with us is good experience and exposure for him. It also allows us to use his Kenyan expertise at low cost. We have organized some follow-up sessions for the groups he met earlier this year and tentatively set up a new programme for no-till farming.
On Saturday I helped with a Virtues workshop, which I found a bit tiring since the jet lag is still hovering, but the group was enthusiastic and a joy to teach. Alex also participated since we want as many people as possible who work with our groups to be Virtues trained. (For more about the Virtues in Kenya go to www.virtuesinkenya.blogspot.com. You can also see a video of Bibiana and Richard, two of our Kenyan facilitators on You Tube. www.youtube.com/watch?v=R4Roxd_BM4g)
Tomorrow morning I have a meeting scheduled with the Provincial Director of Education. I want to give him the outline for Read for the Top which a Rotary grant will put into ten classrooms, consult him on the proposal to run seminars for teachers in January with volunteers from the US and Canada. I also need to attend the next meeting of the Directors of Education to alert them to these projects and the Virtues possibilities.
On Monday we shall be interviewing a potential University student for funding through Tembo and on Tuesday I shall be starting the new study session with clergy. I'm hoping they will bring the registrations for schools to participate in Read for the Top, since we must start the first batch of schools as soon as possible.
We shall then meet up with the community in Emmaloba for the continuing of their Rotary project, which includes computers, tree nursery and a poultry project.
I'll keep you updated on all these activities with some pictures if possible. Keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Tembo Board and AGM

Tembo Kenya Board Standing: Peter Kerr, PatriciaCrossley, Helen Goodchild
Seated: Wendy Reimer, Rod Crossley, Nancy Carson, Don Reimer

The Tembo board held the Annual General Meeting in Victoria,BC on September 8 2010. There was a lively exchange of information and attendees applauded the announcement that Tembo should receive its Canadian charitable status by the end of the month.
The meeting approved the installation of Don and Wendy Reimer as new board members. All Board members were introduced individually. (This information will appear on the web site shortly.) The new web site http://www.tembokenya.org/ should be launched this weekend. Patricia gave an overview of last year's activities and the projects planned for October 2010 to March 2011.

Expect an occasional newsletter put together by Don and Wendy Reimer and a Facebook page started by Tanya Harmon.

Nancy Carson announced that she has nominated Patricia for recognition in Champions of Change, sponsored by CBC and ManuLife Canada. If Patricia is one of the ten finalists (in the category of Education-Community-International) then Canadians will be asked to vote. Stay tuned for information.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Looking for teachers!

We are hoping to run seminars in January 2011 for our Kenyan teachers in English Language Arts (elementary) and Math (secondary) . If you have skills and are interested in volunteering in rural Africa for about three weeks, please contact Mary Higbee at jim.higbee(at) yahoo.com

Preparing to return

We will leave Canada on September 24 to return to Kenya. We know we will be busy.

- the well at Imulama where we were blasting collapsed and had to be filled. We will be looking for an alternative solution to supply clean water to this dispensary that serves about 600 people a month.
- we will be administering the remainder of the Rotary International grant for Emmaloba, partnering with Maseno Rotary Club. We will supply computers for the school and help the community with a poultry project, adult literacy, Virtues training and a tree nursery.
- we have received a district Rotary grant to conduct Read for the Top in ten more classrooms
- Virtues training for the clergy will continue.
- in November and February we plan to run seminars on domestic and sexual violence in communities.

We have received generous donations which will help us with water projects, Virtues and business training for women. We are still hoping for continuing donations for education and job training.

Please check our web site at http://www.tembokenya.org/ for details of projects and how you can donate.
We expect to receive charitable status from the Canada Revenue Agency before we leave.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Costs--a reminder

Tunashukuru sana --Thank you so much
Anything you could give will help someone. All money donated goes directly to support the work in Kenya.

It costs:
$2500 to put in a well in a village

$ 500 to protect a spring in a community

$ 500 per year for 4 years to send a student to High School and approximately the same amount for some post-secondary programmes

$200 per session to conduct Virtues training in Conflict Resolution and Restorative Justice in schools and communities for up to 40 people

$200 for a woman to receive microloans ranging from $15 to $150

$500 to provide an eyetest & glasses for 100 people

Between $100 and $200 to provide triaining for a trade job such as carpentry, tailoring or commercial driving.

This does not include the many people we help with personal and family difficulties throughout the year.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Home in Canada

We are safely home in Canada and have joyfully reunited with friends and family. Our taxes are done and some speaking engagements already settled. We will speak at the Victoria Rotary Club meeting on April 28, the ACW women's conference on May 4 and briefly at the Virtues Mentors conference at the end of May. We are always happy to accept invitations to present our work.

Fund raising is going to be one of our major preoccupations over the next few months. As soon as possible we'll have a web site running and have some new ideas for it.

We want to continue supplying clean water, education and, if possible, some basic simple housing for the homeless. Two of our Kenyan committee will be looking into the logistics of this while we are away.

We have been offered some land to use for a training centre where we could centralise Virtues teaching as well as instruction for small business. We will need about $2000 for buildings.

We have made a video summary of our work over the last 6 months. It lasts about 20 minutes. If you would like to help spread the word about the work of Tembo Kenya, we can give you the disc with a DVD format. Please let us know at kenyatembo@gmail.com and we will be happy to send you a copy.

We will post from time to time while we are in Canada to let you know what we are planning for our return to Africa next fall.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Our final week

This message will probably be the last one before we leave for Canada. I have nursed my ailing computer over the last months and am looking forward to a repair (which I think unlikely) or a new machine.
Let me tell you about our last week.
On Monday we attended the Read for the Top finals at Emmaloba. Again, a great experience as it was in Mwiyenga. The staff is enthusiastic and the head teacher is already planning how to use the same formula for other subject areas. They want to hold a contest on Science for their grade 8 –the final year before national exams. We left them the bells to use. The principal told us he received a delegation from grade 7, reinforced by the presence of their Peace Keeper, to ask when it would be their turn to compete. (More about Peace Keepers later)

It is customary to 'garland' special guests at a function. (We have a large collection of shiny garlands.) This video shows the chosen students bringing the garlands for me, Rod and the judge.
On Tuesday we interviewed seven young people who had dropped out of school and are jobless. Girls wanted to do tailoring, boys motor mechanics and driving. We can make a difference in someone’s life for little outlay by helping them acquire a skill that will put food on the table. Other organizations offer scholarships for formal education, but these people have no hope unless they receive a little assistance. We are hoping very much that generous donations when we are home in Canada will enable us to continue this.
Last Wednesday we conducted a day of eye testing at Maseno hospital. An American nurse volunteering there set it up for us. We distributed 20 pairs of glasses which improved vision enormously for the people concerned. Most people need reading glasses and we always bring a bunch of the dollar store ones with us. We had a few pairs and left some funds to buy more since we had accumulated a list.
A number of people had problems, mostly cataracts, that we could not help. Some required dark glasses because their eyes were becoming sensitive to the strong sunlight (we are on the equator). We tried to pre-screen for these problems but were not always successful. In addition we spent some time dealing with people who had no real problem but were trying to con us into giving glasses. They claimed not to be able to see the chart but lenses made the problem worse. Go figure. We decided eventually that they wanted the glasses because they were free, or for resale.
We still had a problem with the hand gestures (indicating the direction of the symbol) for some people, many of whom had never been to school and had no idea what to do. In addition there is a real problem distinguishing between 'up' and 'down', 'left' and 'right' We learned to disregard the 'wrong' gestures if they were consistent. We worked from 10 til 5 with a break of about 40 minutes. So we were doing about 3 an hour. Explaining the gestures and trying unsuccessfully to fit people mentioned above took some time.
We left the remaining frames and lenses with the nurse who will be here until July. We leave Kenya next week, so figured it was best to let her use the remaining kit.
At a Virtues seminar on Saturday we saw the teacher who had brought us the children in his school with severe vision problems that I spoke about a few weeks ago. He said the glasses were making a big difference to confidence and self esteem as well as sight.
On Thursday we did our accounts and made cheques for all the scholarships and the maintenance of existing Tembo projects while we are away.
On Friday we met our Tembo advisory committee and gave cheques into their safe keeping. They will pay fees as designated, maintain the library on rabbit keeping, fish farming, poultry etc, collect information about requests for water and educational assistance as well as continuing Virtues training.
On Saturday I conducted my last Virtues seminar for trained teachers on Peace Keeper training and Setting Clear Boundaries. It was a most interesting session. Emmaloba has just established Peace Keepers and there was a report on the process. The other schools attending received sashes for their own Peace squads. The open discussions throughout the meeting gave us many insights into school culture and difficulties in implementing a positive approach to education. We hope to continue the discussion on our email list for those who have access to the internet.

So that was our last full week. The next few days will be spent packing and leaving our apartment in good shape. In other news, ten Cabinet ministers have been implicated in big corruption scandals. Each party is trying to find clues to corruption involvement in the opposing party. In the coalition governement some Ministers belong to one party, others to the other.
At home we have had a big problem with rats in the attic (no connection between these two pieces of news) and have been scattering bait, trusting they will all be gone by our departure next Thursday.

When we are home, we will be setting up the AGM for Tembo and doing as many talks and as much fund raising as possible. Anyone interested in supporting the work of Tembo will be warmly welcomed. Thank you all for your support and prayers. We look forward to hearing from you over the next few months.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Read for the Top

Read for the Top is in full swing in two schools. We ran the heats last Monday, the semi-finals on Wednesday. On Saturday we have the finals in Mwiyenga and on Monday the finals in Emmaloba. Wednesday's semi finals in Mwiyenga were an edge of the seat, nail biting contest with scores so close it was impossible to predict the outcome until the last minute.
In the pictures the children are wearing their colour coded T shirts. We take them in after every stage of the competition and they are handed to us in carefully folded and smoothed piles. These children so rarely receive anything new, that they are enchanted by their shirts. After the finals they will keep them. The winners will receive schools bags and books.
There is no power in the school, so we are using 'shop' bells where you press the top to ring. Scores are kept for the audience to see on a blackboard with a very rough surface. For the finals when the church will be full of students and parents, we will have a sound system running from a small generator or car battery.

Virtues news

Some of you may know that Richard Andabwa , a strong supporter of Virtues and our interim chairman of Tembo Kenya, has been very ill. In short, a growth was removed from his abdomen last Saturday in an eight hour operation. I was delighted yesterday to receive a call from him. His voice is strong and he is no longer hooked up to an IV. This weekend he starts a little solid food and if he continues to do well, could be home next week. We thank everyone for their prayers. Richard and his wife Bibiana are hoping to attend the Virtues Facilitators conference in Canada in May, and for a while I was not at all sure they would make it. Now I feel much more hopeful. Just the visa needed now.
Even while in hospital before the surgery Richard was working for Virtues. He read in the news of a school in Western Province where students had rioted, burned the dormitory and left the school. He phoned the Provincial Director of Education and set up an appointment for me to meet him Monday morning. The PDE immediately phoned the principal and gave us his blessing to present a workshop for the staff. The students (boys) were at home and due to return Wednesday.
On Tuesday we left Kakamega at 7.30 and drove with two of our facilitators 2-3 hours on rough roads to reach the school. The poor principal had no Idea who was being sent to him. In fact, at the end he confessed he was half expecting a team of inspectors coming to judge him.
He was very hospitable and gracious despite his misgivings and we conducted a shortened teachers presentation. We were well received and the evaluations were very positive. They all would have liked more time of course, but they said the strategies would definitely help them in dealing with the boys as they returned to school.
Many gave their email address so we may have more participants for our email list.
Needless to say, Richard's first phone call this week was to hear the details of the visit to Kolanya.


The last week of February I travelled to Limuru just outside Nairobi for the first ever meeting of all diocesan Education Secretaries. I received a crash course in church history in Kenya and met some very impressive people including the Archbishop whose picture you see here (in shirt and tie). I was also able to do a very quick presentation of Virtues. This is the kind of programme people are looking for to strengthen relationships in schools, parishes and communities. We may hear more from the other dioceses after they have had some time back in their offices. I returned to Kakamega armed with a list of tasks for me and for the diocese.

I briefed the Bishop on my return and we settled some first steps for implementation for our schools and the whole education structure in Maseno North. Yesterday I met with the Diocesan Board of Education who are very happy with our proposals. We have to collect a lot of basic data which we will put on computer for the first time. An assistant priest in Kakamega has been given the task of collection and sending information to me while I am in Canada.

We drove to Nairobi because while I was in the conference Rod wanted to take the opportunity of visiting a tree nursery and farming project also in Limuru. This will be for the next stage of our Rotary grant in Emmaloba. We are hoping to be able to start a nursery of indigenous trees including the species of acacia that is commonly known as the 'fertiliser tree'. This tree drops its leaves in the rains (at planting time) and provides a nitrogen boost to the soil eventually eliminating the need for fertiliser. Crop yields are said to increase by 200%. Well worth looking into.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Scrambling for Virtues

Our good friend and Virtues facilitator, Richard Andabwa has been in hospital in Nairobi for the past week. He has not been feeling well for a while but was hiding his discomfort. He has been suffering from prolonged malaria which reduced his haemoglobin. The malaria has been treated and he has received blood transfusions. But they found a growth in his stomach and will operate next Friday. Biopsies and blood tests to date do not indicate cancer but they will not know for sure until the operation. We are all praying for good news.
So I switched some of my commitments in order to teach Richard's class of police officers last Friday. I was to leave at 8 am for Kimilili training centre about 2 hours away. I was to travel with a police Superintendent..
It turned out she had to have a meeting that morning and set the departure for 10. She arrived shortly after ten to say she had to go to the bank and also the police chief had decreed that they could not put two vehicles on the road. Since some people needed to go to Bungoma (on the way to Uganda) we had to take them. After a long delay to sort out account problems (the police account was empty) we drove to Bungoma where we had lunch with the local Senior Superintendent. We arrived in Kimilili at 4 pm. and I began teaching at 4. 30.
We went on til 9 with a brief break for supper. A police officer took pictures for me but his hand was not steady and I don't think they are worth posting for you.
Two hours on the road trying to avoid potholes in the dark, and I was home at 11.30 pm.
Despite all this the evaluations were very positive although they all wished for more time. We think this may be the opening we are looking for into a government department.
(Reminder : check http://www.virtuesinkenya.blogspot.com/ for news about the Virtues Society)
On Saturday I had to finish the Virtues training for teachers. Again a rewarding and exciting day.

Read for the Top is starting the heats in Emmaloba school this week. I am at a church meeting near Nairobi so have to miss it, but will be present for the finals.

The country is tense

I have mentioned from time to time the squabbles between the two leaders of the coalition. If you can call it squabbling when one, the President, is never heard from.
There are huge scandals in the country: the missing funds from the free primary education docket ( I told you about this a few weeks ago) and the importation of maize to relieve famine. Tons of the maize were allocated to private companies (including at least one software company!) mostly owned by friends and families of politicians and civil servants, They sold it on at inflated prices. It is estimated that Kenyans pay about double the world price for this staple food, while thousands go hungry.
Last week the Prime Minister suspended the ministers in charge of Education and Agriculture in whose offices the corruption had taken place. They were to remain out of office for 3 months while investigations were going on because they had both refused to step aside. Both these men are members of the PM's party.The next day the President rescinded the suspension saying the PM has no authority to discipline Cabinet Ministers.
We left for Limuru (near Nairobi) for a meeting today and were prepared to take our traveling bags, plane tickets and passports with us in case we could not return to Kakamega, remembering the riots and road blocks in 2008. However, things are still quiet since the PM returned form a visit to Japan asking to meet the President to iron things out.The President is reported as saying there is absolutely no problem or crisis in the country and he is in no hurry to meet.
We figure that as long as the PM is willing to stay in the coalition things might continue to limp along. If he withdraws he will be setting a match to a pile of dry tinder.
He did apparently send a letter to Kofi Annan asking him to assist, but it seems highly unlikely he will do so.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Virtues training

Last week Richard Andabwa and Patricia conducted a Virtues community training for 40 Anglican clergy in Kakamega. A guest in the group was a senior police officer(provincial staffing) She has arranged for Richard to do a session with trainee police officers this Friday. Patricia conducted a training for 15 teachers and community members last Saturday at Mwiyenga (near Musoli). We will do the second session this coming Friday

Sight testing

Before we left Canada we received a very generous gift of an eye test kit from First Sight of Omaha, NE. Here are some of the results from our testing last week in a school. Most of the children we saw were both mentally handicapped and very impaired visually. The results were good. One little boy (in a regular class) was restored to 20/20 vision. He is in grade 4 but can't read because he had never been able to see clearly. The others had vastly improved vision (20/40 from virtually nothing) We really think some would be classed as close to legally blind.
It was good to see them lift their heads and smile. Because of their vision and their shyness it was very difficult at first to have them even look at us or the charts. The teachers stayed and assisted us all the time, which was essential. Both the small girl and the older boy in the pictures could only squint sideways in an effort to focus when they first came in. The girl was unable to open one of her eyes fully. You can see her sitting up straight and happy in the picture.
We go to a rural hospital next Wednesday for testing with adults.
The testing is being done in collaboration with the Rotary Club of Maseno The teacher in the school is a Rotarian as is the doctor at the hospital.
We were assisted by two American missionaries who were very impressed by the possibilities of the kit and would recommend it for anyone coming to Africa.
BTW we tested ten children Two had no vision problems and one was so mentally handicapped that we could not conduct the test at all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Handing over the well at Mulwanda.

The first of our current water projects was handed over to the community last Saturday afternoon. The people had prepared everything outside but heavy rain (hail) started shortly after our arrival. We have had rainstorms for a few days, which is most unusual as this is supposed to be the dry season. The stream where Mulwanda takes its water is heavily polluted in the rains by pit latrines and other run off coming down the valley from new housing construction.
I am copying the letter they wrote and read out at our meeting.

I welcome all of you to this important function in this community.
We residents of Mulwanda have for a very long time been suffering diseases because of drinking contaminated water from the natural springs you have just seen.
We have sent requests to many leaders in this area but have received no support in the past. We are grateful that our elected councillor for the ward was able to link us to Mrs. Patricia and Mr. Rod Crossley. Introduction of this couple to our community has resulted in where we are here to witness today.
I wish to express my sincere appreciation to our councillor and to the Crossleys for their support of this community.
All of us are aware that the water is life. Today's function is a special one because our families will start to drink healthy water.
This is God's gift to the people of Mulwanda.
We shall care for this borehole. We shall protect it jealously because this is a rare case where our visitors have committed their resources to care for us and our future generations.
In order to maintain this water facility it is necessary that we pay a small fee of KSh 50/- per month per household. my committee will review each household and will determine the needy cases who may be allowed free water....
We shall continue to remember you in our prayers.
thank you
Agnes Atamba Ichela
Chairlady, Mulwanda welfare self help group. 6th Feb.. 2010.

This project is an excellent example of cooperation at all levels. The funding was provided by the Rotary Club of San Bernadino, California. This club has faithfully provided a well each year for the past few years. The community fed and housed the diggers as their contribution and our contractor, Nixon Ifeda, did his usual excellent job. A local family agreed to give up a portion of their land in perpetuity so that the community may always have access to the water.