Report on visit to Kenya (July – Sept 2014)
Between July 14 and September 12 I spent more than 8 weeks in Kenya. Although the visit was mainly a private trip, independent from the Fund, I took the opportunity to pay a visit to a school in Nairobi, supported by the Fund, and to two rural settlements – Kowuor and Buter – where I delivered donations to the local people (primarily school supplies).
Nairobi (Boston schools)
I visited Boston schools twice: at the beginning of my stay in Kenya (middle of July) and on the day before my departure. I spent more or less 4 days at the school during which I mainly discussed daily, operative issues with the principal, Stephen Okwaro, e.g. the situation after the quit of the Finnish sponsor, plus I was collecting information to prepare the school’s budget plan. (The latter was decided jointly with the remaining sponsors – Australia and another group from Finland – so that we can assess long-term self-sustaining scenarios of operation in light of the school’s costs and revenue generating abilities.)
Besides discussing the above matters we also signed the amendment of the contract that we signed last year, I paid the tuition fee of children sponsored by Hungarian donators, I purchased and gave the children their sponsors’ gifts and in both cases delivered substantial amount of food to the children homes. Besides the usual non-perishable foodstuffs (flour, sugar, rice, tea, bean, lentils, pasta, etc.) my Kenyan aide and I bought some extra items as well, like bread, jam, peanut butter, margarine, cookies and apple, to give some spice to the children’s usual diet. On top of this we also bought them a soccer ball.
When meeting with the children they were – as usual – very reserved and shy that, I think, was owing to the fact that we met in the principal’s office. This always makes them shy because, as it turned out later, they normally go to the principal’s office when they do something wrong or something bad happens at home …
Anyway, they were much more relaxed and lively in the schoolyard, especially when they saw my camera. Practically everybody wanted to be in every picture and once I took the pics they were happily grinning at themselves on the screen … 🙂
During my visit to Kenya I paid a visit to Buter, the Western Kenyan settlement, where Stephen, principal of the school in Nairobi, was born and where he just launched another “Boston school” from foreign and Kenyan donations. The community school’s advantage to public schools is that they provide higher quality education and – owing to sponsors – collect less tuition fee. As it was holiday during my visit we did not meet children at school, nevertheless, we took a tour in the building. Currently there is no “adoption” program in this school, however, there is much need for one-off donations to finish the construction of the building (e.g. they decorated and equipped as many classrooms as many grades they have but as time passes by they will need more and more classrooms).
Still, we met many children outside the school (practically half of the population was helping Stephen and his family with corn peeling) whom we gave “top goodies”, i.e. lollypops as well as other small gifts, like toys, pencils, cookies, exercise books, etc. We gave gifts only to them as we were not prepared for so many children and unfortunately we could not give enough even for this single family. 🙁
Kowuor is a Western Kenyan settlement where we hope to carry out many future projects. I spent a whole week in the village to get acquainted with local families, to see how they live and find out which projects would be most welcome and feasible here.
My hosts were the members of the family that we gave a one-off donation to survive their actual financial problems. While being there I was ascertained that the donations were spent partly on school books and school supplies for the older girl who went to a boarding school and partly on farming equipment (chicken coops) and fruit trees (mango and papaya) for their own consumption and for selling as well. The fruit trees will need a couple of years to yield but there are already many chicken running around the yard. 🙂
In the morning – until it got unbearably hot – I helped the family with farming. We mainly planted kasava – local vegetable consumed instead of bread – corn and beans.
Visits to families
In the afternoons (when the heat was tolerable again and there was no rain yet) we visited families. It was raining almost every afternoon which was very good both for vegetables and rainwater harvesting (although it was not much fun for me to get soaking wet while going around the village :-)). During the week we visited several local families, we discussed their daily life and checked the water containers (if any) – and naturally gave them gifts. We gave second hand clothes to adults and school supplies to children. The afternoon walks were very eye-opening in terms of seeing how these people live and also showed that it might not be the most effective way of distributing donations as are doing so. The plan was to visit only certain families but as soon as we got there all neighbors turned up hoping that the “mzungu” will give them gifts too. Unfortunately we did not have either clothes or school supplies for everybody and the main objective was not to give random gifts to everybody, rather, to provide targeted help, but the situation got very soon uncomfortable. … Although our long-term objective is to replace donations by tools for self-support, on future gift distributing occasions we will have to take into account the lessons learned here.
On Sunday we took an excursion with 23 local children (and 5 adults) to Victoria lake, next to Homa mountain. The mountain is approx. 20 km from the village and is visible from almost all houses there, still, none of the children had ever been there and not many of the adults either.
We planned to have an all-day excursion so we planned to set off around half past 9 a.m., however, we only managed to start an hour later – in good Kenyan fashion – carrying our picnic lunch baskets. The classic picnic lunch – i.e. one buttered toast and another with jam stuck together Jplus white or mixed tea with milk (being an essential part of every meal here) with some fruit – in our case bananas and water melon. We also bought some muffins and soft drinks – which was a royal meal for these children. (First I was worried that this was not much but I was assured that jam and water melon is a real and rare treat for many of them …)
Our first stop was “Abundu springs” where we visited hot water springs. We even boiled eggs in one of them – that took only 15 minutes. After this we had lunch at Victoria lake then climbed to a spot where we could wonder at the endlessly huge Victoria lake.
The majority of the children have never been to such excursion (they seldom take excursions from local schools) so they enjoyed the program very much and were filled with great memories by the end of the day. (They were not even disheartened by the sudden downpour that caught us on the way back. :-))
(More detailed information on the excursion here.)
I met a local self-organized group the was established to set up development projects to create jobs, improve the local living standards, the people’s health and/or help to protect/preserve the environment. They do not just rely on external financial support but want to operate a project that is sustainable on the long-term and offers a more liveable life to the local community. For the launch of the project they seek external help and partners. The main focus of the project is on the expansion of agricultural efforts (gardening, animal breeding) for which they need water (e.g. they plan to build a small dam on a nearby river), but they also plan to plant trees and build healthcare facilities. They already built some energy saving stoves in the village that use less wood and emit less smoke which is better for their health. (A stove like that was in use at my host family and based on their experience it would be worth considering the potential future support of this initiative.)
As a preparation for a future potential solar energy project (as a pilot) we installed a small solar panel at the host family – partly from our Fund’s support and partly from our private resources – with the necessary battery, inverter, bulbs, etc. Based on some weeks’ experience (maybe one or two months) we may take further steps and decide on the implementation of the project.
We spent some time in Kitale due to other errands and once being there we visited a family that lives in very hard circumstances and gave them some school supplies for the children and some food too. The children had never seen any mzungu (white person) before so they were very excited and – based on their father’s feedback next day – tremendously enjoyed the chocolate chip cookie that they had never had before. 🙂
My trip to Kenya this year was very positive and useful. Afroho helped local families with HUF 287,588 and their children were enriched with great memories of the excursion while I accumulated much experience that can be used in future projects.