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

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.