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, December 6, 2015

Meet and Greet for Math

On Saturday we held a 'meet and greet' for parents and student s of Math-E-Zee tutoring centre. Feedback was very positive from children and parents, all of whom said the Math scorers had improved. Some, of course have a way to go. But one Mom, a teacher, told us her boy went from 30% to 68% . A boy who has just finished HS spoke eloquently of his work in Math and said he thinks it will have made a difference of 20 marks in his National exam. I don't think they would have bothered to attend if they did not see value in the program. We are still not quite breaking even but think that word of mouth will boost our numbers.

After the meeting and a quick soda, the instructors went right back to work.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Always a study in contrasts

From a rural area where people are desperate for clean water, we then spent a day at the university (Masinde Muliro Uni of Sc & Technology) and were honoured to sit on the main platform (under the shade!) just behind ex President Kibaki who is the Chancellor. Many speeches, delightful entertainment and things moving along like clockwork, with only about a 90 min delay, which is wonderful for Africa!.

It took us 90 minutes to drive from home to the University (no more than 2 km away) Traffic was horrendous and we saw the lineups of people waiting to enter the university grounds. Hawkers were selling sparkling garlands and cards, buses full of friends and relatives crawled along with many passengers opting to do the last part on foot. I am posting just a few shots, including those of Dorcas who waited at home for 4 years, refusing early marriage,  before we were able to find her a sponsor. She has just graduated in Electrical Engineering.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Water project

 A change of pace today as we visited a secondary school where we can install water for the students and the community. We had a great chat with the school committee and the representatives of the neighbours. They were all there to greet us by 9 am and have everything in place. Nixon will start digging this weekend and it should be ready for handover at the start of the new school year in January. We plan to run a pipe to the kitchen area behind the school buildings. It never fails to touch me at how much the gift of clean water can mean to people. Yes, they still have to carry it and it's a far cry from turning on the tap in the kitchen, but it will mean so much in terms of time and health.
Kitchen and dining area

Full committee of parents and neighbours

Water committee executive. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Virtues refresher

Virtues Connection Kakamega put on the second Virtues refresher on Saturday. The Virtue we studied was Tolerance and the strategy Teachable Moments. This was so very relevant because of the President's recent message about corruption (and the replacement of many in Cabinet and senior government) as well as the three day visit of the Pope. The Pope's message touched many deeply.
The discussion conducted by Virtues facilitators , trained Virtues practitioners and interested guests was very focused and intense.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

the random act of kindness

Thank you for the donations to this baby girl. Although the mother is in the process of divorce, her husband still has control, so as a Muslim, she cannot travel alone. So her departure for Nairobi has been delayed  until next Monday when her brother-in-law will accompany her. Here are the pictures of her, the baby and Johnstone the Clinical Officer.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Hospitals are in constant turmoil

A lot of noise this morning from the streets. Over the last week to 10 days two women have died at the local hospital allegedly from neglect. One pregnant woman was left for 14 hours after her near term baby died in the womb. The other had given birth and been sent home, but returned with an infection. Students from Masinde Muliro University demonstrated through the town in protest. They had requested police presence (which was very visible) and it was all orderly and peaceful, if rather loud.

A Virtues school

Earlier this year a secondary school close to Kakamega took Virtues training for their staff and students. The school wholeheartedly embraced the five strategies and saw improvement in discipline and performance. It is a very happy school to visit. This is what the compound  looks like. As you approach the office you see 'accountability' and as you leave you see 'service'.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A random act of kindness?

Johnstone, our former student, who is a Clinical Officer (doctor) in Northern Kenya near the Somali border, meets many challenges. He told us yesterday of a sad case of a one-year old baby girl who has no vaginal opening. The mother has been divorced by her husband because of this. The baby could be referred to Nairobi where there are agencies who can provide the operation needed. However, the mother has no means of paying the fare. We have promised fare for her (about $120) but she will also need some support.. I also dread to think of what will happen to the child in future if she stays in the community which routinely  practices FGM. I would hope the agency in Nairobi would provide support and advice. If you can find it in your heart to give a little for this mother and child whom you will never know, click the 'donate' button on www.tembokenya.org and indicate your gift is for 'baby'. Thank you.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Almost the last

Two more schools completed Read for the Top in Vihiga District.  The teachers have worked hard with them, but even so they also are astonished at how well the children perform. We have two more schools to complete (one in January) and will have reached nearly 900 children with story books.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Ebwali Primary

Sixty five children exploded in excitement when we arrived on Friday morning. They were so well prepared by dedicated teachers that we had a fast-paced, exciting contest.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

More wonderful children

Emutsuru Primary for Read for the Top yesterday. In a town where it was market day and we couldn't drive through the lane leading to the school because vendors were everywhere selling charcoal, chips, used tools, fruit and veg out of wheelbarrows, clothing ... and on and on. We took the long way round!
As in other schools the teachers had done a wonderful job and the children were a delight. So well prepared and so competitive. In our last school they sang "If you're happy and you know it, wave your bag!" Unfortunately I had forgotten my camera that day but the head teacher took a lot of video.In this school the children were just as overcome by the school bags reading 'Read for the Top.'

Hope you can take another few pictures of the competition.


never a dull moment

Combined with reports of a wild dog attack in Kakamega county, a man who beheaded his wife after an argument, news of the election in Tanzania and various editorials, here are some headlines from today’s newspaper.

Fake marathoner in Nairobi ( joined the race 5 km from the end)

MAC (member county assembly) on the spot over 3M Sh raised for India (health) treatment (donors say she used the money to buy cars and take a long holiday)

Revealed: how National Youth Service money is stolen (791 M Sh - nearly $8 million US)

Jubilee’s (government ruling party) spending... is.. mind-boggling (country is in a major cash crunch)

Police accused of role in exam leaks

Cabinet Secretary’s trial to go on (accused of involvement in road construction leading to massive embezzlement of funds through a phantom contractor)

Why top (police) officers were sent home (alleged negligence and colluding to frustrate cases)

Sunday school teacher held over abuse of boys.

Counties strike deal to end cattle rustling

Court told report on guns...was altered

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Two more Read for the Top schools

Two more schools this past week, one with a population of 700+ situated in a populated area on a tarmac road. The second way out in the bush on dirt roads and with a population of 400+. Our rule of thumb criterion on relative prosperity is to see if the children have shoes (even flipflops) In the first school very few were barefoot whereas in the second most had nothing on their feet. Both schools have a feeding program at lunch which makes a huge difference to the children. The first school has parents who will pay. The second had a well wisher who gave them seed and fertilizer on condition that all the produce goes to the children. (Most schools have enough land to cultivate some kind of vegetable, but in some the teachers harvest for themselves.) The very caring head teacher was proud of the fact that his children are healthy and happy. In a rural area there is little danger of starvation, although some might go hungry at times and not get a good all round diet. There is always a banana, a papaya, a mango, an avocado.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The missing picture

I accidentally deleted this group picture of Kayila winning teams from my camera card, but after much frustration I was able to recover it. So here are the three winning teams with their big smiles, books and school bags.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Kayila Primary

Kayila is  off the main road in the bush (although not as far as Ebumbayi where we go later next week.)

Everyone was ready for us and as soon as the first trepidation and shyness wore off, we progressed well.  Look at the serious expressions while listening to the questions  The three teams received inscribed books but all the participants had a school bag saying Read for the Top. Thanks to Better World Books for making this possible.

We have now visited all the upcoming schools and there is only one with an unsolvable problem stopping their participation on the scheduled date. We have managed to work around stolen books, teachers assigned to invigilate secondary exams and changes in staff. The teachers and administrators have been wonderfully cooperative and resourceful.

Friday, October 9, 2015

More Read for the Top

Our second school and first primary had 135 children in two classes at grade 6. We spent two days and had a wonderful time with them. One of the most delightful things is to see how the teachers take in what their children are capable of when challenged. Often they want to baby them through the rules and make exceptions for them. These kids shine when put to the test. Again, it is heartbreaking to see the waste of potential and brain power since probably 50% of these children will not go on to secondary school.
We gave all participants a locally made school bag and the three winning teams also received books. This again is part of the LEAP grant from Better World Books. In all we played 24 games with 20 teams.
The children put on two skits for us, drawn from the story books they had read. The picture shows the lioness that invaded the community in "A Scare in the Village'.

We shall meet three schools next week with a total of about 220 children.


with their school bags

A Scare in the Village

Winning teams

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First Read for the Top

Monday saw the first session of Read for the Top, now that schools are back. We were at Shichinji secondary. The students here have done Read for the Top in Form 2 and are well versed in how it proceeds. However, the four week hiatus out of school during the strike seemed to have taken its toll on some who struggled with the questions on the set books. We were happy to see  a lot of good team work now. We decided to postpone this year's session for Form 2 until early in the new year since the exam schedule will make it difficult for us to be in schools.

Teachers and students concentrate hard

and listen intently to the questions

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Schools re open

The strike has been called off! The teachers who did not report to work were not paid for Sept. The govt did not remit the deductions taken from the last 2 months salaries for loan payments. The banks froze everything in sight. So teachers were hurting (they are usually paid even if on strike!!) Then a move was on to recruit 70,000 'relief teachers' on a 3 month contract (that would have covered invigilation of exams and of course some teaching). Is that scab labour to break a strike??  It seems 10,000 have been hired, but their status is now uncertain. I am glad the teachers have taken the high ground and obeyed the court order, leaving the wrangling to a committee & conciliator to be set up. But I also hope the govt will act honourably. We shall see if schools open peacefully in January. But this means we start Read for the Top. Form 4 on Monday and a large elementary school on Wed, Thurs, Fri.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Winfred wrote her high school leaving exams last November (2014) and received her results in Feb 2015. She did quite poorly in her elementary leaving exams, and in many cases those results would not have allowed her to go on to secondary. But she was accepted at a day school and completed her four years. Her parents must have struggled to pay her fees. She received an average of B- which is a very acceptable result. She was fifth in her class of 80 or so and the top girl. Quite an achievement!.

The grades are somehow translated to a mark and she was awarded 57 points. The cut off for a highly subsidized place at university was 58. Missing the needed score by one mark means she will not go on to further training, has no access to education loans, and will probably be married off to a man in the village with little or no income and she will struggle to feed and educate her children.

We were given some funding from generous donors this year for job training. We shall certainly include Winfred for consideration for polytechnic courses, even though what we can offer will be below her potential.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Math Tutoring Centre celebrates

Our Math Tutoring Centre has reached its first anniversary. Our results have been excellent, thanks to our great and faithful instructors, but we are actively seeking more students. Still not quite breaking even, although our aim is to improve math results, not to make money

A busy weekend

Saturday afternoon we attended the installation of officers of the Rotoract Club of Masinde Muliro University
A speech from the outgoing Rotoract President
Kakamega Rotary Club President administers the oath to the new executive

The new president receives the badge of office

Rotary pins for new member

Rotary pins for new member

Rotary pins for new member