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, December 31, 2012

Egypt at Christmas

Just back from a short visit with our daughter and son-in-law to Egypt over Christmas. We had a really excellent young man as our guide between Luxor & Aswan and I think I learned (& retained) more than on our first trip. Although maybe it's just doing it over again makes the religious system a little clearer. Visited the oldest synagogue in Cairo. The story is that it's built on the spot where Moses used to come to pray. It's interesting to see where the ancient temples were used as churches by the first Christians and the attempts to obliterate the faces of the gods. In some temples all three
faiths are represented (Egyptian, Christian and Muslim)

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

What is table banking?

Table banking is being used by many groups now. It has more structure than in many arrangements popularly called ‘merry-go-round’ where people have no repayment schedule. Often they just pay interest on the loan & the group cannot lend again because the capital is tied up. So with TB the group has to set rules for lending & repayment. Also having shares requires rules and gives people ‘ownership’ They have to be more business like & assess the capability of an applicant to repay. They also have to separate ‘compassionate’ handouts or loans (for eg sickness & funerals) from the real ‘banking’ business. They are in fact setting up a small bank. I gave them a number of case studies to look at where they could see what people had done both with small loans and with ‘top up’ loans for larger amounts. We had nearly 30 people for the morning. Both Safaricom & Airtel are offering loans through the mobile phones. The interest rates are low but the repayment period is short.

Creating a savings culture is very important. One woman said at the end that she had never realised that it was worth saving even 50/- a week and that it would amount to something if she bought shares.

Table banking

This is the latest 'twist' on micro finance. On Monday we did a short introduction to two self help groups on table banking. Today it was repeated in a short half day session with representatives of 6 different groups.

Mostly women, they are so eager to learn and to organise. They are ready for more complex structures for their groups than in the past. Philice and Jackline our two motor mechanics were there! Many of them have done Virtues training.

I didn’t have my camera and Rod forgot his was in his bag!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Clean water for three more communities

This brings the total to five. When you look at the 'before' pictures of the three remaining springs that we protected, there is little wonder that the people are very happy.


Here is their new water supply:

Thank you to the Rotary Club of Victoria, Canada

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Youth Empowerment

Wednesday was a holiday- Jamhuri (independence) Day- but despite that we were asked to do a training session 'Virtues for Youth Empowerment' in a rural home. We were told to expect 30 young people, thought it would maybe bring in 20 and 57 turned up. They formed a group: Responsible Virtues Pioneer Group. Pioneer because they are the first all-youth group we have talked to.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gun shots in Kakamega

It was 'only' tear gas, but sounded like frequent volleys. A couple of months ago, public university professors and lecturers went on strike for more pay. After a short disruption they were promised a hefty pay increase and returned to work. They received only 50% of the amounts promised. Today was the first day of exams. Students were in the examination rooms. The profs announced they would not give exams and the students rioted. The university was closed, Piki piki (motorbike) drivers started to beat up on the students in the streets because they were disrupting the traffic flow. The police fired tear gas to clear the roads. So someone in the Ministry made the promise. It was not kept. The teachers decided on a course of action that punishes 10,000 students. It is not clear when they will take their exams. The worst case scenario is that they have to pay another year's fees and re-sit next December. We hope someone will see sense and organise examination sessions for January, although this is doubtful, raising issues of accommodation and the new year's intake.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Before I came to you I had no hope...

This is what one of our job training students said as we took marks for those continuing another year. Although with little formal education (most finished after elementary school) they are doing extremely well at carpentry, tailoring, secretarial skills and motor mechanics. The two women doing motor mechanics are ready for 'internship' (practicum).   We have felt for a while that these people are a neglected segment of society. In the West we can grasp the needs for clean water, for scholarships for needy girls, for specialist medical care. What we don't see as easily are the hundreds (thousands) of capable, intelligent people who have no hope of meaningful employment because they could not continue to learn even at the small cost of trade school.

We have a number of young men and women who take short courses  and require fees for only one year or less.

Here are our latest 'stars' who are continuing for another year:
Bernard is learning carpentry and is first in his class. He left school after gr 8.Already he is getting small jobs. His course costs $100 per year

Jackline, a single mother who went to Form 2, is studying motor mechanics and is looking for internshop. She is in the first half of her class. Her two year course costs $300 per year.

Keister has an extraordinary talent for garment making. She is married with children and is finding some contract jobs already. Her course costs $300 per year

Lucy is proud of her achievements in secretarial and computer studies. She wanted us to notice the big change in her appearance since she was selling second hand clothes in the market. 'I am professional' she says.

Phylis was left with two children when her husband was murdered five years ago. She has no high school education. She is in the top part of her class and going for internship in motor mechanics. Her two year course costs $300 per year.

In talking to them we also realise what courage and determination it takes to tackle the working world with few skills and little experience. Tembo pays fees and course expenses, but they are responsible for their living costs. We salute them and wish them success in their final year. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

The school with the eco-san toilets saved about 30,000 K Sh per month (close to $400) by not buying vegetables for student lunch. They grow many more and better quality veg by using the processed urea from the toilet installation.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Providing clean water



We visited the two sites yesterday where the Rotary Club of Victoria has protected the springs, changing dirty pools into clean water with easy access. Here are the 'before' and 'after' shots with one other taken during construction.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Jacaranda blossom on the Kakamega golf course

Eco san

new set of eco san (composting) toilets completed today. The picture was taken at 9 am so the sun will stay on that side until noon, then travel to the back where feces are stored behind the larger doors.
There is a lot of interest in these sanitary installations. They work well. One improvement we could make is building with interlocking bricks. We are seriously considering buying a machine to make such bricks of a small amount of cement and earth and training a few people. These bricks require no mortar, which is used in great quantities with the hand made fired bricks, all of uneven size.  .

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


New traffic rules came into force on Dec 1 and the matatu (public service vehicles which run between towns) promptly went on strike forcing people to walk to work or use piki-pikis (motorbikes). The rules are basically enforcement of the Highway Code and making motor bike drivers wear helmets, not pass on the inside and have a licence. It was really quite calm driving in town today and the majority of the motorbike drivers wore helmets & reflective vests. (No helmets for passengers, however.) There were over 300 people arrested for violations in Western Province over the last two days and many more than that nationwide.Let's hope it lasts. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Threats of unrest

There was a thought-provoking article today in the newspaper. Many are apparently predicting worse violence at the time of the March election than happened in 2007-8. Kenyatta and Ruto are both indicted at the Hague for crimes against humanity and have formed a coalition to run as President and Vice-President. They are talking up the anti-West sentiments, maintaining that the 'West' wants certain people in power in Kenya and is using the ICC to accomplish this goal. If they are allowed to run (there is a court case to pronounce on their integrity) and lose, the winner will of course hand them over, probably provoking extreme reactions from their two powerful communities. (The Hague court opens April 11) If they win, they are likely to refuse to attend the ICC as did Bashir and Kenya will suffer from donor fund withdrawal, the loss of the UN in Nairobi and the glee of surrounding countries who will reap any donor windfall.

Embassies and church groups are making plans to keep people safe or to evacuate nationals. We are regsitered with the Canadian High Commission and will watch the news. The week before the election schools will be clsoed for preparation, so we plan to use that time to pack just in case.

Plus we are booked for Egypt at Christmas! There is no travel advisory as yet, and we shall be on the Nile & hopefully far from unrest.

Virtues in government

Master Faciltator Richard and I did a Virtues training for a group from the government offices. We had people from Intelligence Service, Tax Collection, Child Welfare, Education and more, plus the Director of the branch of Jomo Kenyatta University in Kakamega. They were given a day off work to attend, and asked for follow-up. They went away so enthused that I am sure we will have some requests for other groups.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

School programme delayed

Earlier this year there was a teacher strike of three weeks. It was of course somewhat disruptive to the curriculum review since it occurred shortly before the scheduled National exams, but most schools finsih the syllabus by term 2 and term 3 is revision. Nonetheless these exams were postponed for a couple of weeks, throwing off the centralised marking schedule during December. The secondary results will come out as usual in February, but the grade 8 has not yet been written. These results normally are sent out at the end of December, but this year they will be delayed until the end of January. So the selection of students to attend various secondary schools will be done a month late in February. Then the election (& school closure) is expected early in March, so the new high school intake will not happen until March 11. Six weeks delay for a three week strike, which need not have impacted greatly in the first place!

Mark taking

We met our secondary students at the beginning of the week, helped by our Kenyan Adisory Committee. We took in their marks and had them write letters to their sponsors as well as a new photo to send to Canada. They are growing enormously (not only physically) and are turning into delightful young men and women with determination and self confidence. A couple of them are struggling at school but are willing to put in big efforts. Just the fact of having the opportunity of a high school education is a source of pride and gratitude.


Big problem with power recently. We are used to the 'rationing' that goes on most evenings when the lights go out any time between 6.30 and 7 and usually come back 30 to 60 minutes later. But Friday night the power was off all evening, Saturday back to the usual hour or so, then Sunday there was no power all day. We figure there was a part to be replaced that had to be sent from Nairobi or the technicians had to be brought in. But the good news is that the power stayed on all day on Monday during the Virtues community training which alllowed us to use the Powerpoint presentations.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

GMO food ban

After the controversial report out of France, the Minister for Public Health in Kenya has just announced a ban on all GMO imports. No one knows what this means for the relief agencies who have permits from The National Biosafety Authority to bring in foodstuffs to help feed the 2.2 million assessed to be starving and on relief food supplies. WFP supports 100,000 malnourished children and pregant women, provides enriched food to 85,000 children and school meals to 630,000. 78,000 living with HIV are on a nutrition program.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Eco-san toilets

The composting toilet for the girls' secondary school is progressing and should be finished next week. The locally made bricks are so irregular in size and shape they require a lot of mortar. We would like to invest in a machine to make interlocking bricks from earth for future projects.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Violence growing

This is a  society with underlying violence and with many instances of vigilante justice and irresponsible reactions by police who often seem to shoot first and ask questions later. Then there are the tribal skirmishes in the north over cattle rustling
About ten days ago a contingent of police was ambushed as they moved north to track animals stolen earlier. Reports give the dead as 40 with others injured. The saddest thing is that most of the police officers killed were new recruits with little experience.
Add to this the threat of terrorists passing through the porous borders, mainly with Somalia. Three days ago a bomb exploded in a matatu (public bus) in Nairobi, killing ten and injuring many others. Many locals attacked Somalis in their community and street chaos ensued. It is believed that this attack was terrorist inspired and instigated. According to the newspaper '10 women had been raped as a result of Monday’s skirmishes, which was concentrated in Eastleigh Section I.
At least nine people were injured and property worth millions of shillings destroyed when angry mobs went on the rampage in the wake of the matatu explosion....Business premises closed for most of yesterday as police battled rioting youth who were targeting residents from the Somali community. ...The running battles entered the second day despite the heavy presence of officers led by Nairobi Provincial Police Officer Moses Ombati. ...The mostly young men were attacking and looting business premises. They also stoned motorists along the busy Juja Road. Police used tear gas and fired into the air to contain the violence.'
Last night three policemen were shot in Garissa and a woman and children were killed in the ensuing street battle. The violence continued today.
A politician was stabbed at a rally yesterday.
There are many fears about the situation leading up to the election. Things are quiet where we are and we are safe, but we will be vigilant and careful as we were before. We still believe in the innate goodness of the people and are thankful for our donors who have enabled us to offer training in conflict resolution and mediation through the Virtues Project.

Read for the Top training

We trained teachers from five new schools yesterday for Read for the Top. The teachers had great fun 'practising' with newspaper stories. The winning team had an extra soda! They are excited and heard from two colleagues who were able to tell them first hand of the benefits they had seen in their students. I will buy the books in a week or so, ready for delivery when school reopens in January.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Virtues training

The Virtues Project promotes positive discipline and restorative justice, without the use of the cane. The teachers at Ebusakami Pri School completed their two day training on Saturday, proudly wearing their 'Virtues for Kenya' badges

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Kakamega update

The Sports Club has a whole new look and some road repairs (potholes) are taking place.

The termites are flying!

The winged insects are thick in the air and settle on the grass. Two caddies on the golf course squatted with the marabou storks to pick the delicacy. Children scoop them up to feast and along the road side people with any kind of container are busy taking their fill.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

More good news! A couple of years ago we put in a water harvesting system & rehabilitated a dug well in Imulama village. The water was very important for the small rural clinic with one nurse, but serving at least 4-500 patients a month. Now they have water, they have been upgraded to a maternity centre with a new building and two more nurses. Another wing is under construction for living quarters so that a nurse can be on site at all times. They are also hoping for a Clincal Officer (rural doctor)

A volatile political scene

It's probably time to give you something of an update on the political situation. I wish I could make things clear, but as the days go by it seems more and more confusing. The well-known leaders are all jockeying for alliances and guaranteed high level positions in a new government (should their alliance win!) The biometric voter registation machines arrived after a bit of a scandal about funds. Some think it was an attempt to defer the election. Add the fact that two prominent politicians face hearings at the ICC in the Hague in April. What happens to the country if the Pres and V-Pres are both on trial out of Kenya? There is an attempt to have them declared inelegible to stand, but I don't think it's going very far. Despite the fact that the current Pres and PM tried very hard to set up a local court, the MPs voted it down and wanted the Hague. Now there are cries of 'foreign interference'. This does not affect us too much, except that the schools are likely to be closed for the week of the election (Mar 4). This will impact the heats and finals of Read for the Top and we are considering putting off our departure for a week. Always assuming there is no second vote (run off) and the country stays peaceful

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Success stories

One of the things we have tried to do is job training for those with no skills for earning income. We learned today that all the young women who trained in tailoring have been successful in their exams and are working. The young men who trained as drivers are also doing well. Two are in Nairobi and one in Eldoret, all working as drivers. The others have jobs as piki piki drivers (passenger motorbikes) and are making good money, possibly as much as 2,000 shillings per week. Consider that labouring jobs in Nairobi pay 200 shillings per day.

We called in at Mwiyenga Primary, one of our pilot schools for Read for the Top with a grade 6 class. The teacher thinks they will have at least 10 girls with over 360 marks in the national exams, thus making them eligile to apply for scholarships with Canadian Harambee Education Society (CHES). Unfortunately they will not all be accepted. Kennedy, the teacher, says one of the most disappointing things is to see them stay home, marry early and never realise their potential. We think there is a need for small bursaries so that these high achieveing students (boys too) can go to the nearby secondary school which is a day school.

A gift of $60 will send a child to school for a year. Think about it as Christmas approaches.

Making sure the toilets are oriented correctly

We were out at the school early this morning & ferried the contractor and two of his ‘fundis’ (workmen) to the site to begin construction. Rod was involved with the orientation so the sun falls full on the composting areas.

So many people are interested in this system which does not pollute the water table,never fills up like pit latrines which must be relocated quite often, and whose by-products can be used for agriculture (urea and manure)

Friday, November 9, 2012

Eco-San toilets

We have received a gift of funds from a Salvation Army men's group in Victoria (Canada) to provide composting toilets for a new Salvation Army girls' secondary school. The contractor visited the sitethis past week and construction will begin next week after delivery of the materials.

The Eco San toilets will last many years if well maintained, and the by products can be used for agriculture. Pit latrines cost almost as much to install and must be replaced (pulled down & re-dug) after two to three years.

In addition the water table will not risk pollution and there is no unpleasant odour or insect infestation. Many other sites are interested, especially those on rocky ground where they cannot dig.

I seem to be having some difficulty posting a picture, so will try later

This morning in the compound

Took this shot this morning from our living room window of drying maize in the compound. The young man is walking through the kernels to turn them. The fellow behind is slashing the grass with a panga (machete). And our laundry is on the line! It started to thunder half an hour ago, so the maize was quickly bundled and removed. It's now raining hard.

Clergy seminar: child sexual abuse

Three days this past week in a seminar for Anglican clergy. They requested this topic after last year's workshop on Domestic Violence and we were able to receive with gratitude funding from the Anglican Church Women on Vancouver Island and from supporters at Christ Church Cathedral.

As usual, trying to organise something here is like herding cats, but once I had the huge pile of construction timber moved from the meeting room, and the generator set up for the power outages, I was good to go. There were still a few glitches around notification and attendance, but I feel we reached an important core group.

I adapted materials from the Faith Institute (Dr Marie Fortune), made a power point & some interesting videos from E African sources. Most of the clergy  cope well with English and those who have a little more difficulty get help from their colleagues. The Bishop attended most sessions and we were glad to have him with us.
The stronger laws on child abuse have only just got some teeth in the new Constitution; there has been a big conspiracy of silence for a number of reasons. One of the E African video clips that  really stirred them was the report on 11 little girls harassed by their teacher. The clergy all seemed to be shocked at the traps the teacher set for the girls. After this, they began telling tragic stories of what is happening in their own communities, where they estimate incestuous abuse at over 25 %.

I was sent an article on Vicarious Trauma and used it in the final day. Everyone nodded seriously when I talked about looking after themselves, but they did not include it in their goal setting. The Bishop was in the session & I did indicate to him that there should be some thought to support for the clergy for when the disclosures start to come, as come they will if they follow through on passing on the information, preaching and educating.

Their big concern was largely informing their people and educating the girls on their rights and on protecting themselves. One urban church has asked me to follow up with their Parish Council, where I can use the English materials I have. I think my assistance in the coming months will be to individual churches and priests.

A greater concern for the rural churches is funding. I am hoping that they can use current meetings of youth groups and Mothers Union, at least to start things going.
I also passed around the Anglican Communion Safe Church charter. The information had not yet come to the Bishop, but I felt it politic to leave it with him to follow up either in the Diocese or the Province.
I have now looked through the evaluations and am deeply touched by the comments. (A couple expressed concern for me leading the whole 3 days and wished I had had some help . So do I !)
I tried to emphasise taking ‘baby steps’ and feeding their communities first with milk before the meat. We did quite a lot of Bible study, especially looking at the promises for abundant life and considering scripture as a roadblock or a resource. I was constantly amazed and humbled by the insightful comments from the group work.
Some of the most telling comments expressed how they now looked at the issue with new eyes. From an acceptance of the situation as ‘normal’ and part of the culture, they now feel God’s call to protect the vulnerable and innocent.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Virtues for Kenya

Yesterday was the first Virtues Project training since we returned to Africa. Thirty parents and four young teachers participated in a community workshop in a Secondary school. Although some had a little difficulty with English, their evaluations showed that the message went through loud and clear. The regular teachers are all trained and they use a Virtue of the week and Peace Keepers. Now the parents are on board, we expect great things.
Our next session will be in a couple of weeks in an elementary school of 26 staff members. We have a full schedule after Christmas of schools asking for presentations.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Read for the Top and power

Yesterday (Monday) was a long day visiting rural schools to confirm their participation in the new Read for the Top session.
First we called on the new County Education Director (there are no more Provinces under the Constitution) who received the information about Virtues and Read for the Top with great enthusiasm. he is himself an educator, not a bureaucrat, which makes for easy communication. He will allow us to take a non-teaching day for Virtues in the schools in his district and wants us to run a session for new secondary teachers recently assigned.
Five new schools will run the Read for the Top contest, thanks to a new Rotary District Grant. One school in Kakamega will likely join us, but will provide their own books. We went to Ebusakami which hosted the teacher seminars for the last two years and where they did Read for the Top in gr 6 two years ago. The head teacher tells us these pupils are now in their last year and they are the best class he has seen, thanks to their English and reading skills. We were also able to confirm that the teachers here will train in Virtues in the new year.
The clergy seminars on child sexual abuse will take place over three days next week. I want to show a powerpoint and videos, so we're hoping for power to stay on all day. We have had one full evening without power on Sunday and intermittent breaks most days.
Thursday we shall be training the PTA in Virtues at the secondary school I've mentioned before. Fingers crossed for power there!