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.