Thursday, August 13, 2009

Arguments Baseball and Roofing in Kenya

8th Aug
Today was a mixed day... and for those that know me well, it will be no surprise to hear that I don't always have the best delivery. [Ed: LOL]
We met the widows and children at the CWOSUP Niawara centre. I was surprised to see only 20 kids were members, but they put on a lovely display of singing, dancing and poems and as usual, they were all happy and smiling.

They meet every Saturday to play and have some food via the feeding program provided by CWOSUP. The widows also meet and are part of a micro finance scheme ran by CWOSUP, which basically funds loans as a reward for saving a little money. So the kids did their little display and we got to chat to the widows, we heard from the chief of the area who seems to be a very wise man and also very charitable, we met him at KOBAT yesterday and he came today in full regalia, which is quite similar to regimental army dress, very smart.

He has actually donated the land the buildings that this group use. We also heard from the chief of the group, another older gentleman. As standard, we were told what funding was needed. I was really surprised that the most important thing needed was uniforms?? This group just meets on a Saturday. Kids have to have them to go to school and it's a cost that has to be covered by the carers and this is hard enough, but I can't think that it is necessary for this group before other much (IMHO) more needed things. The reason given was that if something happens to the child on the way to the centre, then they will be easily identifiable. ... in a lot of cases, not just here, there is a mentality that your organization must look successful on the outside for it to be deemed as successful and I
believe that this is the case... We listened to each of the widow’s talk about themselves and their circumstances. Almost all added at the end that "we need uniforms".
I was asked to comment at the end.
I asked out of the 10 widows here, how many had rooves that leaked?
8 hands went up.
I asked, if CWOSUP received funds, would they rather it go to uniforms or to widow’s rooves?
A lot of chatter debate and nodding of heads followed.
The chief of the group was raising his voice at a few of the women; the women with solid rooves were arguing the uniform case still.
We suggested wrist bands for the kids, which seemed acceptable ...but more raised voices. I asked to go and see some of the houses that were leaking and was told next week.
I asked why not now, most places we go to are very ready for us and I wanted to see how
it really was. So we found out who was near and arranged to go to the houses after playtime with the kids, which incidentally we'd already eaten into.
Alec had made a sharp exit at probably the raised voices point, I also decided I'd leave the widows chatting and being shouted at by the chief, and I'd go to play with the kids.

This was great fun.
Alec and I had bought a plastic baseball kit and a football (soccer ball for you Americans) Baseball was really funny, we ended up with 10 kids all just running around the posts having no idea where or when to stop, but they all had a bat and we laughed a lot. We had a penalty shoot out for lollies and then a game. We then ate with the children, we had rice and beans, then handed out some balloons.
Much fun was had, but I was feeling quite bad about causing such a debate with the widows. We went to see actually only 1 of the widows whose roof was leaking and it really was in a bad way. She had tried her best with carrier bags and bits of plastic and sticks to try and stop the leaks, but some areas were just falling apart. She has been saving bit by bit and has actually bought 3 iron sheets as she plans to build a new house when she can afford to. You can see she is really making an effort by herself planting vegetables and expanding her banana trees. Alec had a look around the place and has devised a plan
to do a quick cheap fix which will hopefully hold up for her until she can save enough to get her new home. We will be going there on the 14th, with tarpaulin and some other bits and pieces to see what we can do.
Hopefully some of the others will take a look and will be able to repeat what we do. 
I know this is so small a thing to do in the big picture, especially if no one else tries it, but at least this widow and her children will be dry.
[Deb Cartwright]

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Update from Deb

We travelled to the family home of our host Edward and met a widow who was actually his carer when he was a child, as he himself is an orphan. She had been helped with a new roof. Most of the buildings in this area are made from mud. Posts are driven into the ground and sticks are weaved between, then mud from the ground surrounding is mixed with water and added to the sticks. A grass roof is then added.
As you can imagine, the rooves don't last too long before they need repairing.

Granted a lot of the ladies I have met here are too old or frail or sick to repair their own rooves, but even for those that might be physically able, it's not within the culture to do this and often there is no other help from the people around them. Added to this the grass, which used to be readily available, is no longer being grown. Almost all agricultural land is being used to grow things like maize, bananas, sugarcane and vegetables. It's not even available to buy in all areas and the transportation is more expensive than the grass itself. The modern replacement for the roofs is corrugated iron sheets which are relatively expensive, but can last for several years and have been adopted by almost all that can afford.
Unfortunately many of the widows cannot afford them and many have very badly leaking rooves. The rain then seeps down into the mud and the house will eventually fall.

Mama's house now has the iron sheet roofing and she is much more comfortable and things are kept dry at home. We also met one of the youths who has been trained in keeping
chickens. He started with 2 chickens and now has lots of them. He has learned how they need to be kept to breed and successfully hatch chicks. There were several ages of chicks running around. He was even building a new chicken coop on the side of his house because his business was growing so successfully. These are the kind of things the organization targets directly and it is most definitely showing success.

We then went to meet a group, a youth group, that is going to provide vocational training to the youth of the area. The chicken-keeping project is ran from here and we saw a latrine built under the scheme earlier in the day. We met in their office with around 10 young people and were told about what they are doing and, of course, what they needed funding for. The main concern was that they were being kicked out of the office in December. They already had some land but needed several thousand Kenyan shillings to start a centre on it. They also told us they were lacking skills but we established that several of the youths had built their own homes on their family land so pointed out to them they were actually a lot more skilled than most.
We asked, "why not build your own office on the land you already own?"
There were some half hearted excuses, like "we need a brick and mortar building".
"Why?" we asked .. No answer.
Another cultural problem is that each man will build his own house differently and they couldn't possibly work together so we laid the challenge, "build your own office, we will work with you too!"

The challenge was taken and we were told "next time you come back to Kenya you may see".......
So part 2 of the challenge was "build it by next week"!
Silence for a few seconds and then "it's possible"

So, next Saturday, the 15th August, Alec, Edward, Moses and I, and whoever else we can rope in, will all pull together to build this office in a day. We are providing the iron sheet as there is literally no funding available. Alec and I have a bet since Alec has the construction knowledge but I have faith in this community and believe that if they will just start working together, anything can be achieved.

We left the group in high spirits and tracked off to meet the widows of this region, they were meeting together at one of the widows houses. A very old lady stood up and asked; "Why are you so different to me? Why are your people succeeding and mine not?" she asked.

After seeing many things and having many late night discussions, a big influence on things not moving forward in this region are the cultural restraints;
- women not being allowed to do things for them selves
- others not being able to help for fear of back luck or death
- the beliefs that God will somehow bring them everything they pray for.

I can really only hope that people will soon start to believe hard work and working together can only improve things.

[Deb Cartwright, Yala]

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Monday, August 10, 2009

Volunteering journal from Yala and photos from Nakuru

Deb's managed to write a few words down without losing everything by either the power going down, or losing the connection!! Truthful and shocking at the same time but exactly why things need to change.

If you can't get access here's a few parts:

"The head mistress here is something special. The school also has a feeding program which is sponsored 70% by the Millenium Project. Millennium have been here for 5 years which means that they are about to pull out. Assessments are being carried out in the area by Millennium, but the head mistress seems to think it is inevitable and is deeply concerned.
The reason why the help is only 70% here is because of the schemes run by the school itself to subsidize the food program and to try and sustain themselves, all lead by the head mistress. A poultry project has been started, there are now many chickens and they are continuing to grow in numbers, which can both be eaten and sold at market There are local breeds of chicken which also lay eggs for eating. The school now has 3 cows, 2 of which are pregnant, there is a very large vegetable farm, which again goes into the food program and is sold at market. There is a tree plantation as this is being encouraged by the government and trees can be sold to the government. There are fruit trees including quite a few banana trees. However there are 853 children at the school and they are not yet at a level to sustain themselves. The head mistress has lots of great plans for the future and truly is an inspiration to the future young adults of Kenya."

Deb & Alec are visiting Yala to see what needs to be done with Edward's organisation to help the local widows and children.
"CWOSUP is a fairly new organization and is yet to set up it’s centre or even acquire the land it needs to house the centre. There are groups scattered around the community which are receiving help, I’m glad to say in a sustainable way, but there is a long way to go for them. The schedule mainly comprised of us visiting these groups and also other established organizations which CWOSUP aspire to and are linked with in some way. Whilst we were in the meeting, one of the social workers received a report that a baby had been thrown into a toilet. The toilets in the area are of the hole in the ground type, which drop into 40 feet deep pits. The baby had been rescued by the police, he had apparently been there for a day and was found amongst snakes. We went to visit the baby in the children’s ward that afternoon. He seemed to be doing fine considering and has now been taken to one of the local children’s homes where we’ve received reports that he is doing well."

There are some fantastic photos from Christina, currently in Nakuru, assisting the LLK organisation and the kids of the Rhondda slum area. Click here and enjoy !