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, December 16, 2011

Best wishes

We leave today for our Christmas break, this year to be spent with family in Ankara and Istanbul. We wish joy and peace to you all.
Often people ask us what brings us back to Africa every year. There are many answers, and this quote provides one of them:
“Westerners arriving in Africa for the first time are always struck by its beauty and size – even the sky seems higher. And they often find themselves suddenly cracked open. They lose inhibitions, feel more alive, more themselves, and they begin to understand why, until then, they have only half lived. In Africa, the essentials of existence – light, earth, water, food, birth, family, love, sickness, death – are more immediate, more intense.” Richard Dowden

Monday, December 12, 2011

Independence day

Today is Jamhuri Day, the celebration of 48 years of independence. It is hot and sunny and some are taking advantage of a day off to rest with family. Others continue to work, especially the manual labourers finishing the construction in our compound.

The country still has major problems. Doctors in public hospitals have been on strike for the past week. There are some initiatives for treating emergencies but many cannot afford to attend private clinics. A doctor in a public hospital earns about $300 per month (plus some allowances),about one seventh the income of an MP. The medical staff are also protesting the deplorable state of most health centres. Drugs and machines are often lacking. Health clinics close regularly a few days each month because of no drugs.

At the same time there are protests over cost overruns in redecorating the Parliament building, where each individual chair is estimated to cost over $200.

There is on-going argument over the new Constitution. When the British pulled out in 1963 they left a Parliamentary system with two houses and potential decentralisation. The new MPs immediately proceeded to dismantle the document with at least eleven major amendments, abolishing the upper house, regaining power for Nairobi, eventually leading to a one-party system. This changed a few years ago and the people voted in a new Constitution last year, removing much of the power of the President and instituting checks and blances. Corruption will flourish less easily. Those seeing the possibility of power slipping through their fingers are busy trying to change clauses even before there is the first election of new representatives. The election is supposed to be in August, but that will mean sittng MPs will leave a few months early (they were voted in in December). They are clamouring for 'compensation' for their lost salaries, or else to switch the election date to December. Tensions are running high.
MPs have paid no tax on most of their income under the old regime and the government has already agreed to pay back taxes for each of them, amounting to several million shillings each.

Yesterday we visited the third major supermarket to open in Kakamega in the last two years. The variety of goods and the layout are astounding in a town where ten years ago we tried in vain to have the local grocery store bring in cans of tuna, mayonnaise and olive oil. There is obviously plenty of money in the town itself, leading to an even greater divide between urban and rural polulations. We have just finsished the shortlist for our job training applicants. For some, the future already looks brighter.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Students, wells and teaching

These last three days have been full. On Thursday last week we met our 'academic' students for reporting their marks and taking fee sheets for next year. All are working hard and they wrote careful letters to their sponsors. Dorcas is in second year of Electrical Engineering and beaming. One boy won a place at a 'National' (top level) school and we sent him there for a year. But fees have shot up and are double those at a good 'Provincial' school, so we shall have to move him.
Lewis was top of his year in Form I, Dorcas and Mildred are pictured here together with Mildred and Dickson writing their sponsor letters.
On Friday we went to a community to hand over a well. About thirty women came with their water containers, some with a baby on their hip. They have been drawing water from a dirty pool and this will make life much easier for them.
Today, Saturday, we continued with the business training group who are definitely, it seems, moving toward the formation of a cooperative. We were given some reading glasses and some of the participants were able to use them right away.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Job training achievements

We just met our job training students who will be continuing next year. Some of the young men have finished short courses and are working away from Kakamega. Five women and one young man reported their marks to us. Two of the women have little schooling and are married with children. They all reported excellent marks near the top of their class in tailoring, hairdressing, catering. One is taking a diploma in social work. The young man finished a certificate in motor mechanics and wants to take a driving course to enhance his chances of employment. Two of the women had no funds and left home at 6 am to walk to the office, arriving at 9 as requested. I was happy to give them their return fare and something for a cup of tea and a snack. This was a moving morning and a true validation of our mandate to help people who have little hope of earning any income whether because of lack of education, isolation or family circumstances.

Three springs completed

Three protected springs are now in operation. It is difficult for those of us used to turning the tap for water to realise how some people collect their water from dirty pools. Where there is running water in a stream (even if polluted) we can tap into it closer to the source, protect it against run-off from manure, fertiliser and latrines, and build pipes for easy collection. Most springs are situated at the bottom of a slope, which can be steep and slippery in the rains--especially if you are carrying 20 litres on your head. So in many cases we build steps to make life a tiny bit easier for the women and children (Men do not carry water!)
On Saturday we visited the three new installations and received tearful thanks from the women. here are some before and after shots:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Call Hope for Soap

On Friday and Saturday we showed the Hope Youth group how to make liquid soap. As well as the demo they set up sub committees for research (prices), manufacture and marketing. They are enthusistic and determined and we look forward to a successful small business

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Composting latrines

Yesterday we visited the secondary school where we will install the Rotary gift of eco-san latrines for girls. They had just started to dig but yikes! with the wrong orientation! We are almost bang on the equator but the sun does move a few degrees north or south for 6 months of the year. So if we orient N-S we will have sun on both sides during the day and for most of the year to help the composting. Urine collection will be made and stored for urea for the fields. The solid waste will eventually provide manure.
In January we will hold a meeting with the girls to explain their use. We have some very simple (but explicit!) illustrations.