Monday, August 01, 2011

Rastas and beads

Photojournalist and volunteer Anu is currently in the idyllic community of Uhundha, on the shores of Lake Victoria, western Kenya, far far away from the hustle and bustle of Nairobi. Before she left the metropolis, however, she met with many other travelers, one of whom introduced her to the Shiriki  organisation.
Her wonderful blog describes the visit. I've already contacted Ras Githaka to ask about helping them in their mission, since its founding 10 years ago by Ras Lojuron, an adherent of Ethiopian-borne Rastafarianism, to unite the youth in Kibera to realise the resoures in their own environment, to understand conservation and to learn how to earn a decent living rather than waiting for handouts.
Over the past decade, young people from the slum have been taught how to plant trees to provide wood, produce organic vegetables using indigenous seeds, make jewellery ans shoes from seeds, bamboo, clay & have helped transform the workspace into a bright colourful studio, covered in plants and trees, where they are encouraged to paint, make beads, drums, shoes and bags, and make music.
Ras Githaka says "What is important is that African countries, as a unity, utilise the resources they have and provide for themselves. Until Africa becomes a truly sustainable continent, it would continually be indebted to the Western world and the children born in Africa would continue to struggle with poverty."
After a donation of land in Kitui by a volunteer, the Shiriki Charity Organization now produce organic vegetables and crops which they bring back to Kibera to live on, and sell the surplus. They encourage further organic farming from the youth in Kibera, assisting them to go back to their rural villages and make use of the land ... "we have everything we need here, we just need the energy of the youth and education”, says Ras Githaka. "Kibera is surrounded by disease, rot, dirt in the gutters and crime.... the youth need practical education so they can sustain themselves and better their environment."
People talk of poverty and helplessness here but what they don’t talk about is the positive change that we are seeing.
Within the Kenyan youth there is a class of educated people and an energy, which is slowly being diverted into improving Kenyan society and working towards liberating Africa from the shackles of colonialism....Everyone has a pureness and goodness in them but they are contaminated with illusion and confusion. It is our role to educate the youth and guide them to helping Africa become environmentally sustainable.”
Ras Githaka came from his home in Mount Kenya to Nairobi to work as a human resources officer. One day he was walking along Kibera road and saw the centre. He was welcomed in and from that moment on he never left, he had found his calling in life.
The foundation currently works with schools in rural areas as well as in Kibera. They also plan to put up tree nurseries in every single primary school in Nairobi. We're hoping you can visit the foundation and help in their cause.
Back in Uhundha, Anu is already settled in and doing amazing work; installing trash bins in every classroom, and in the orphanage & yard and encouraging composting as a first step to the community garden project, something already well underway in the Tumaini Centre, near Bungoma, thanks to volunteers. Uniforms are seen as essential for "ownership and pride" for children in the orphanage and Anu will be helping to find the small amount of funding required to have one of the teachers, a tailor, make the uniforms. The community garden will involve the children from the outset, starting with small squares of land being cleared and showing the children how to plant vegetables and tend the land.
This was the kindergarten in IUhundha early 2010 when I visited.
I agree with Ras Githaka when he said "There is nothing more satisfying than working for the benefit of others. There is nothing in the world I would rather do”. I'd also recommend reading Anu's other posts, especially the visit to Tahrir Square just prior to arriving in Kenya.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Diary of a volunteer

I have met two English guys on stay in Fiji. They said to me that they taught the small children in Africa. I got so interesting in and one year after I decide to do it. It was not so easy to find some organization to go with. Almost all organizations take some fees. I think that is so crazy. I want to help with children in Africa and I must pay for it?! Fortunately I found the small organization from UK. It looked very nice. I send e-mail to Alison about information. I got information from her and decided to go with AVIF. I was so happy that the destination of this organization is Kenya. It was my dream to go there and see amazing nature. And now I can help the people there as well. I was so interesting in and I was looking forward to go. It is true that I was little bit aware, a lot of people say that Africa is dangerous but Alison sent me information about staying in Nairobi. She contacted guys for pick up me from the airport to go to Upper Hills Camp. It is great that Alison have friends in Kenya and she made all connection to our staying in Nairobi and Enkito as well.
I arrived to Nairobi in the evening and it was time to go to the bed. In the morning I met the 2 girls from UK, which I could stay in Enkito. We did small session about staying in Kenya and then we have been picked-up with two guys from village. Took all baggage with us and let us go for bus. The journey was so long and we arrived to Namanga in the evening. We still had like three hours before us. We visited “supermarket” and bought meat for 4 week. After three hours we arrived to first village and met people in. Unfortunately it was so dark and we saw only faces. Then we approached to our accommodation for next 4 weeks. We were so tired and just go to the bed. I was so excited what I will see in the morning. Nobody wanted to wake up first therefore I did. I took a “shower” and had a look around. There were 3 beds and 2 tables in our hut. But it was more luxury that I expected.
Each bed have got mosquito net therefore my own could leave in bag. The name of the warrior which pick-up us yesterday was Jackson. He was a little bit nervous and sad yesterday. But he was smiling today. I could recognize that he is happy, because he is home. The main contact with the people from village went through him. He introduced to us all the children and people in village. They welcomed us with dance and some gifts. It was amazing and everyone was happy that we arrived. The people in villages were so kind and great to us. But the best were smiles on children faces. We gave them some gifts like pens, balls, etc. It was amazing that they played with the tennis ball for 3 hours. I was so happy that I took it because it lay in my room in the corner all year.
The school started on Monday. In the morning the children caught our hands and we went to the school. Actually they did this every school day and I was so happy for that. There were children from 3 to 8 years at school. The children were separated into two groups. Ones which know write letters and numbers and second which try to learnt it. It is true that almost no one can speak English. It was big job before us.
Usually there is only one teacher for all 60 children and that is almost impossible to teach them. He was so happy that he have help from three people now. It was math for me and I was so happy. I didn’t need to know a lot of English for it. But it was more difficult than I expected. Actually not a lot of children knew the numbers. I needed to separate the children to two groups. I did difficult exercises with one group. I had to teach how to write numbers and count right with the second group. The girls began to teach how to read and write sample letters. It was difficult job but I think that we did it well. It was great to see how the children can recognize the letters and write after. I tried to give children homework. Unfortunately it was not easy, because the children haven’t got the pens and paper at home. I gave them the paper and one pencil home and they had to make the homework and bring it back. For some of them it was so difficult because the parents couldn’t help them with.
Every day the school started from 8 o’clock. There was the prayer before school. It was great that the children went better and better every day. The best thing was to sign with them or show them the images. Then we tried to write the numbers and letters on the ground with chalk as well. The time in the school went quite quick and it was the test in third week. It was funny that we could not use a copier like at home and had to write the test for every child. The results were not so bad and we were so happy. We made some improvements for the school as well. The girls draw some pictures on the wall. I helped them as well. I decided to make the soccer field. It was quite hard work and the result was very nice. The children helped me to bring the stones to make the borders. I made with the Jackson the goals from the trees as well. The children could play the soccer over there now. Jackson wrote me that they do and I am so happy for it now. We brought a lot of pens, notebooks, books and etc. But still the children need more and more. There is the job for you…
The school finishes every day around 12 o’clock and therefore we had a lot of time in the afternoon/evening. The first thing there was the lunch. We used the kerosene stove for it. It was not so easy and we had to prepare simple food. It was quite funny because we ate only two small biscuits in the morning and the lunch in the noon. But it was not so bad for me, I want to lose some weight. I found that around 4 kilometers from village is fresh water after two weeks. I went every third day for the fresh water after and I was happy. I spend almost 2 hours on the way but I like walking. It was amazing nature around the village and after I did some work for the school I went for the walk every day. I could see a lot of animals around. I could see the zebra, antelope and wild beast every day. It was quite common to see giraffes, ostrich as well. I loved the walking and the Jackson as well. I miss it so much now. The living in the village was so quiet and without worries. It was so great for 4 weeks. I could recommend to everyone. I almost forget about the tea from the people. We got the tea every morning and every evening. It was interesting because we don’t drink the tea with milk in Czech Republic. But I like it now. The tea was so sweet and it gave as a lot of strength. Sometimes we spend evenings in the hut with the villagers. A liked it. It was a little bit small and smoky but I liked the smell there and spend the time with children and people from village. Therefore the last day in the village was a little bit sad. We met all children and the parents in the school. They thank us for the job and we told them that we are so happy to come. I promised that I will come back. And I will…
I want to say that I am so happy that I decided to go volunteering with AVIF. I spend amazing time In Enkito and met a lot of great people. We are still friends with Jackson now and I miss him a lot. We are in contact almost every week. I have to say that the people in Kenya are so kind and they want to help you every time. I will come back to Enkito this year and I am looking forward to…
[Ashi oleng Petr, Czech Republic, Aug 2010]

Monday, May 23, 2011

When you tuck yourself into bed tonight ....

.. take a moment - not for guilt - but just to consider whether you can make a difference to someone.
I've often thought how unfair it is to support one family and not the other but we have a special link with Christine and her family, the cook at the Tumaini Academy, set up by Canadian Amanda Flanagan. Christine is sole carer to her own 3 children and 4 orphaned grandchildren. She lost her daughter-in-law, Sylvia's mother, 5 years ago (to AIDS) just after Sylvia was born. Amanda had discovered Sylvia back in 2008 and had set up a sponsorship for a food program but it was all just too much for Christine. Mona took over, a volunteer staying in the area last year, after re-visiting Sylvia in very poor health. This was early 2010, before a nutrition programme was restarted by the Tumaini Community Development Centre, developed by Mona Bankhaug Sundli.
A report from March, 2011, showed immense improvement in Sylvia, now at the ripe old age of 5 years and weighing almost 11kg thanks to a sponsorship program managed by the volunteers.
Christine tends their maize field and cooks at the school as well as sharing out chores to keep the family 2-room mud-hut in order. They have been able to purchase a cow, for future sustained milk but, for a household of 8, there is only one bed. The children sleep on the floor. The blanket and sheets provided at the beginning of the program are now worn out and Sylvia, herself, has only three dresses but no underwear.
For only 500 Kenyan shillings (£3.60) food can be purchased fresh at the market and delivered to Christine once per week, with money over for two cups of milk per day for Sylvia. This is how little a balanced diet of fruits and vegetables, porridge of soya beans, ground nuts and millet will cost. With this nutrition, Sylvia can concentrate on learning to walk. Currently she knows her name and responds when it is spoken. While she is very afraid of adults, she will communicate with her family and can move herself around via crawling, walking along a wall, holding a person, table or using her homemade walking frame, shown in the picture.
It is also recommended that Sylvia be attending Tumaini Academy on a regular basis, in the baby class. For this we need to buy her a chair, along with her 6yr old sister, who can chaperone her across the grounds to the school. We would also like to purchase the following household items to just make life a little easier for the household:
Mattress x 2, sheets x 2, blankets x4, underwear & school uniform.
We'd also like to ensure the food program can continue for another 6 months, with extra fruit & vegetables for the other children.
If you'd like to help, we are happy to match any donation via our new Textgiving service. Simply text SYLV14 £10 [or any amount] to 70070.
The service is provided entirely free via Justgiving so 100% of your money goes into the food program & AVIF definitely don't take a cut !

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Texting water to Enkito

"Farmers are struggling after one of the hottest and driest months recorded have left entire crops parched and failed".
This is NORTH YORKSHIRE, near Wetherby.
Thousands of miles away in Enkito, Amboseli, SW Kenya, the ground is always parched. When the rains finally do arrive the ground soaks up as much as it can and then surface water washes away most of the remaining fertile topsoil, leaving only rock and sand. But its been like this for hundreds of years. The maasai have learnt to cope - but not to the extent that global warming has now reduced even the glacial cover on Kilimanjaro. Since 2000, the plateau's three remaining ice fields have shrunk by 26 percent. Scientists found that both the Northern and Southern ice fields atop Kilimanjaro have thinned dramatically in recent years, while the smaller Furtwangler Glacier shrank as much as 50 percent between 2000 and 2009. These glaciers feed the only rivers in the area, rivers that are running dry.
This is Ulla. She died recently after 2009's most severe drought yet in the area.
The maasai community of Enkito is one we are personally involved with. Volunteer interaction with the group have found that there is a tap outside the village which works for one day a week, flitering a private supply of water, which must be paid for but it is sporadic, unreliable and spared among many other communities.  The women tend to walk the long distance to the river to ensure adequate water is maintained in the community. Having a well similar to one recently put in at the Mercy Home in Maseno will ease the lives of these women and the community greatly and ensure that their reliance on the river itself does not cause hardship in years to come.
Recently Justgiving has started a FREE TextGiving service and we'd like to ask you to help us bring water to this community, by simply texting ENKI20 £xx (where xx is the amount you wish to give) to 70070; a donation allowing us to sink a borehole well which the community will own and maintain. Full training will be given alongside the communities involvement in drilling.
Anything you can give will help. "Ashi oleng"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Collaboration fun and results

Our latest volunteer, Wayne, has arrived safe and is settling in with Michael in Naivasha after a brief stay in Nairobi last Friday night to watch the team Michael coaches win at the city stadium, beating the top of the Premier League 2-0 !! After an incredible trip through the stunning southern Rift valley near Mai Mahiu town, Wayne will be visiting with youth in Gilgil presenting the equipment he brought over for the Youth Centres.
Stacey and Rachel are currently on R&R on Table Mountain, Cape Town after which Stacey returns to manage operations at the Tumaini Centre near Bungoma.
In Maseno the US sponsors have been visiting the girls at Mercy Home laden with gifts and a laptop for Leonidah to help her in pushing forward with business plan for our joint venture, a very ambitious plastics recycling operation in the area. Troy's fabulous album is here but you'll have to "Add him" to view on FB. The business project is being promoted by the Business in Development Network and as part of operations we needed collector-bikes which the local youth would use to collect waste plastics. The wonderfully inventive Colorado, US-based Movement Bikes then got in touch and offered us an incredible deal on their LONG bikes with :
  • High tensil steel lifetime guaranteed frame
  • Extra thick front fork
  • 48 spoke double wall thick rear wheel made to withstand the biggest loads
  • 36 spoke alloy double wall thick front rim
  • Extra low gear sprockets to make riding large loads even up hills possible
  • Long seat post with extra comfortable saddle for lnog rides
  • Reflectors
  • 3 piece cottarless crank
The most amazing thing is, made in Kenya, these bikes are available by Movement's German-born Marius Klee for only £70 each! A truly amazing company. If you'd like to offer your skills online microvolunteering in this project then please get in touch.