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, October 30, 2011

Income- generating projects

Surfacing after a busy but satisfying day yesterday. I was sure that we would only have about 40 of the 60+ people who had attended our first business training sessions. We had 69 (some new ones) and some were there before 9 am with homework done! I couldn't believe it. Of course some came very late & will not receive an attendance certificate, much to their disgust. Gotta respect the boundaries. Alex, our trainer, was delayed arriving Saturday morning (partly heavy rain, partly other commitments) so I used his flip charts to review what we did last week. Always a good thing to run over the points again and good for the newcomers. It also gave us the opportunity to translate into KiLuyha so we were sure everyone was on the same wavelength. Four groups produced a complete logical framework (action plan) and will now turn their minds to accumulating some funds to start up. In the meantime we will give them Virtues training and specific seminars on their project (in these cases poultry keeping.) We have planned the follow-up training for group leaders later in November. These are the people who will keep things on track and monitor progress. The group of young people were very impressive. Four other groups who were sparsely represented drew up a tentative plan and have to go back to consult their groups to finalise. We gave them sodas during the session and a lunch voucher at a cafe in town (owned by a good friend who is one of our Advisory Committee) I feel very good about it all.
On another front, we expect our other volunteer agent on Tuesday so we're getting her apartment ready. We have a busy schedule planned, mainly literacy and teaching projects.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Hurry up and wait--this is Africa

Cool and wet today.
Spent all day in Kisumu yesterday since I lost a filling and we had an appointment with our mechanic (for the car, not the teeth!) Found a good dentist. I was fortunate to get her, since right now it's Diwali. There are normally fireworks for the celebration, but they have been banned because of the Somali conflict. There were a few permitted between 7.30 and 9.30 last night. The police have caught one fellow who admits to setting off the grenades in crowded spots in Nairobi and to being a member of Al Shabaab. Security in the city apparently is pretty tight.

But not all yesterday was spent at the dentist. When we arrived a month ago, we took delivery of a (new to us) vehicle. It's four wheel drive, powerful and comfortable. But it has a central locking system that is disastrous in this dusty climate. There are problems with the locks and our mechanic picked up a new mechanism while in Nairobi. He worked on it all day, only to find it didn't work. So we have a cobbled system which means that we can lock up, but he has to get a replacement from Nairobi.

We are also battling the African time table in getting our second apartment ready to welcome a new agent.We are right down to the wire.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Business training

We welcomed about seventy people yesterday to our first intensive business training. We had two groups (morning and afternoon) The message is: focus on income generating projects, because you cannot help others (as many want to do) without first helping yourself. There were inspiring stories from Alex, our trainer, about successful implementation of plans (commercial goat herd, passion fruit farming) in his area. Africa is full of potential. What is lacking is expertise and focussed planning. Aid has spoiled Africans, duping them into believing they need to first find a sponsor or a donor before undertaking any change. The message is 'hand up, not hand out.'
Here are some pictures of the group registering, singing joyfully and listening intently. Next week we shall do focussed planning on specific projects. I expect we will have fewer people, but they will be the ones we can really work with.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Possible water sites

Most of the possible water sites have now been visited. All are very needy. The rain has started early (around 1 pm) the last couple of days, so it shortens our visiting time. Here is one shot of a village water supply. In some cases we can protect the spring, in others where the water flow is inconsistent, we need to put in a shallow well

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Nixon and Mary

Here is Mary, our new office assistant, as she finds her way around the files. We met Nixon, our contractor, this morning to start things going for the water projects and the renovation of the Training Centre. Tomoorw we'll look at the sites asking for protected springs and shallow wells.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Emmaloba village

Last week we spent a couple of days in Emmaloba where we have a Rotary Matching grant. The Victoria Rotary Club has provided clean water, books, uniforms and feeding to this school.
We met with the Maseno Rotary Club and dicussed how to move forward with the remaining parts still to be realised. Thanks to the feeding and planting programe 90% of the children in the school ahve been fed throughout the year. Some pay a little if they are able, others are sustained anyway. The school took on the tree nursery grant and has about 600 seedlings (some on a private plot, belonging to Boaz (in the picture) They aim for 10,000 seedlings, the market is good and the income will maintain the feeding program in future.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Read for the Top at Kerongo Secondary

Kerongo is the first High School in Kenya to do Read for the Top. The class was Form 4 who begin their national exams later this week. The teacher, Linda, wanted to encourage the reading of the set texts in English and Ki Swahili and worked very hard to make sure it happened.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ice at the equator

We are thirty minutes from the equator, albeit at 1700m. We are in the 'short rains' which usually means a torrential downpour in later afternoon, lasting maybe two hours and cooling things down considerably.
Our network has been down for a day, so this is a little later than I intended.
Thursday was the mother of all storms. Hail fell in buckets for about half an hour, making the compound look more like a site in Canada in early winter. The ice soon melted and as we went out for the Rotary meeting later steam swirled along the dirt road as the ground released its warmth. Cars were completely covered in leaves torn off the trees.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Joys and frustrations of rural Africa

Life in rural Africa is never easy. Many joys but also many frustrations. Today we were supposed to leave for a Rotary meeting with the Club adminstering our big grant. But one is sick and one has a funeral tomorrow so we'll postpone for a week. Our bank account was dormant when we came back because of inactivity for 6 months--reason: someone who had contracted to make monthly deposits has not done so. So, reactivation in process and we are opening another account for Tembo specifically, even though our wired funds have not yet appeared. All this requires multiple visits, passport photos, copies of passports and ID cards, which is annoying even though the service people are patient and charming.
I have misplaced my loyalty card for the big supermarket and they want 500 shillings to replace it!! Add that we have a major drip in the shower and the plumber came just after we left this morning (for the banking stuff) although we had said we would be out. But Monday we go to a High School for Read for the Top. That will be fun! Stay tuned.
We also have some good news of students. Johnstone, our Clinical Officer, has finished his exams and will graduate in Dec. He is working at a private clinic in town gaining experience (but probably no money). Wilson is the grandson of our star micro-finance lady. His parents died of AIDS and he did very well in elementary school but had no hope of continuing his education. We sent him to a good high school and he completed with an A- average. He is now doing a B Comm. Two of the young men we sent for driver training in the Tembo job training programme are working in Nairobi.
We had a good meeting yesterday in Kisumu with our business trainer and have some exciting plans for the groups of women and youth.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Moving along...

Things are moving fast already. We transferred a chunk of cash because the Kenyan shilling is at its lowest point ever with about 100 shillings to the dollar. When we first came in 2003 it hovered aroung 50. Only worrying thing is that it seems our Bank of Montreal cards no longer work at Barclay's ATM. Will check into it Monday. We're just about unpacked and sorted and had a meeting today about opening a new bank account, about renovating the rental space we use for training and interviewing a lady for office help. On Wednesday we plan a trip to Kisumu to complete the paperwork on the new (to us) vehicle and to meet our business trainer for setting up future training sessions with women's groups. On Thursday I hope to go to Maseno where we have a Rotary community grant that must be completed in the next few months.