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, 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.

Monday, February 1, 2010

a full weekend

Last Saturday and Sunday we were fortunate to welcome a trained micro finance expert to talk to two groups of women. Alex works for a Norwegian NGO and himself comes from a poor community in Nyanza (bordering lake Victoria) where he has helped set up self help groups.

Women in rural areas are very disadvantaged by lack of education, lack of communications and lack of organization.

On Saturday Alex talked to a group of 58 (including four men) about planning, budgeting and resource availability. He has promised to return to help them set up specific income generating projects. This seminar was made possible by a targeted donation to Tembo Kenya from a friend in Canada.

On Sunday he repeated much the same to a group of about 40 in Kakamega. Whereas in the first group, most could read and write and had a good grasp of both English and KiSwahili, the second group had a majority of illiterate members. However,t his group progressed wonderfully and finished the day with three groups set up with very specific projects. They too want Alex to return to continue to assist them,particularly to learn more about bookkeeping.

So many projects with hard working people fail in rural Africa because of lack of careful planning and budgeting. We trust that these groups will succeed.

Also on Sunday we visited the well at Muluanda. It is placed on a compound belonging to a family who have signed over rights. The old couple living there could not stop thanking us for the water which will be handed over to the community on Saturday. They are both too old to fetch and carry water and they live alone.

Imulama well had to be blasted twice but they have removed the large rock and will continue to dig. The walls are damp, so water is close.

We now have a long list of communities requesting protection of their springs or a well. We are hoping to be able to check some of them out before we leave to make a priority list. then, of course, we wait to see what funding we receive.