|I have been back in Kenya for a month after our trip to
Ethiopia. Things have gone well are we are looking forward to our break in
This area of Kenya has embraced the Virtues Project with dedication and enthusiasm. This project aims to eliminate violence in schools and communities. We have now trained over one hundred people, mainly teachers, but including hospital staff, university students and even a prison officer. The word is spreading through individuals, because my original plan was to
encourage its use in schools, but others are growing interested.
I visited an elementary school last week where they have trained about three teachers and have a squad of Peace Keepers for the playground. They said that their behaviour and discipline has improved and so have their marks because the learning environment is better. They plan to do away with the cane entirely. I was happy to leave them with peace keeper sashes for their
volunteer students. In a local secondary school, a squad of Peace Keepers is able to handle two thirds of the 'relationship' problems and disputes around the school and the staff is in the process of deciding if they should continue with the system of prefects, where chosen students enforce discipline with sticks and are empowered to mete out punishments.
I was at a parish meeting yesterday with about thirty people anxious to learn better ways to relate to their families and communities. At this session I called upon two members of our Kenyan team who conducted the instruction both in Swahili and the local language. At a local hospital the staff have received an introduction and have asked for a full training
session. I learned that many people fear hospitals because of the unsympathetic 'rough' treatment they receive from doctors and nurses. I also did an introductory session for clergy and they have requested full training.
I am planning a training session for the HIV/AIDS awareness program that was drawn up and experimented at Ebusyubi, my Model School. Two of the teachers will facilitate the session for other schools in January. Also at Ebusyubi I am delighted to report that all the women in the micro loan scheme have repaid a good part of their loan. One has repaid it all and taken another larger sum. I rely on Rebecca, herself a scholarship girl and young woman with a couple of small businesses , who goes out to meet the women, collect their repayments and give advice. We are all excited about a new poultry project. With the support of the principal, we have constructed a hen house and plan to have about fifty African chickens. These birds are hardy, but lay fewer and smaller eggs than the European varieties. From fifty, we should have about thirty eggs per day. Males will be kept until they can be sold for the pot and there is always a demand for fresh eggs. The women in the original scheme will be the beneficiaries and their children will be responsible for keeping the henhouse clean. A part of the initial investment
is a loan that will be repaid out of profits.
Wilson, the grandson of the woman who has repaid all her loan, is extremely bright and in line for a scholarship to one of Kenya's best schools. If he doesn't make it, but still does very well, we will send him to school since he has no parents and his grandmother's only income is from selling bananas (and eventually eggs).
Last year we put in a well in Julius's village. He is the jeweller who makes the bead and brass necklaces and earrings so many of you have admired. The well was very deep and stopped working a few months ago. But we received some funding from friends, were able to make adjustments, and now the well is gushing water at every turn of the wheel, to the delight of the whole village, especially the women.
Julius has some beautiful new necklace designs. He can never stop creating! Unfortunately he is worried about his wife, who needs a hysterectomy and a possible gall bladder operation. The cost is estimated at around $500 or less, a small sum by our standards, but out of the reach of most people in this area. We have chosen to help with some of the cost from the money which
is so generously donated to us. I also hope to help his niece who will otherwise drop out of school for lack of funds. She is a bright girl, always first in her class and has one more year of High School left.
Yesterday we saw two of the boys we support in High School. They have grown so tall! Johnstone is still determined to be a doctor, but the competition is so fierce (only 60 places available per year for medicine) and I'm not sure his marks, although excellent, will get him in. He is entering his last year in school. Kevin will go into Form three and wants to be a lawyer. He stands a good chance of making it. Interestingly there was an expose a couple of weeks ago about the daughter of a member of staff of Nairobi Medical School who had not been accepted. Someone pulled some strings and she was admitted despite lack of marks. But like most of these stories, there is little follow up, so we don't know if she remained. Although
probably a bright and able girl, this kind of corruption is so wide spread and grossly unfair to the hard working, needy child.
We have done the ground work of establishing water committees and in the next couple of weeks we shall start digging wells at five more sites, funded either through Rotary or private donors. One is at a centre for handicapped children, one on the grounds of an elementary school with a special needs section, one at a chief's office across from a health centre, one at a
primary school and the last at a very needy school with mud walls and cow dung floors. Our project at Eshilkulu, the secondary school built on rock, is proving very difficult, but we are determined to hit water for this community which has to bring water from the river by donkey or by hand. Word spreads very quickly and we already have a list of requests for more
installations. We shall visit and assess the sites after Christmas.
The Computer School is still doing well, although there has been a lull for a couple of months. The classes will again be full in January. Together with CEDAR (who is providing funding for post secondary training for CHES girls) we have rented an apartment which can house eight girls. We will therefore be able to provide accommodation both for students and instructors who do not live in town. The success of the school has allowed us to increase salaries and benefits (giving a food allowance and a basic wage during lean months) and also to make a sizeable donation to the diocese that houses us.
On another topic, we are experiencing extremely heavy and unseasonable rain and we are wearing sweaters despite being on the equator. We should be edging into the dry season, but rain is falling every day and often all night. It is worrying for the locals who usually plant at this time of the year but at the moment risk seeing all their seeds washed away. The rural roads are terrible with ruts and treacherous mud surfaces. In other parts of the country, roads have been washed out and people and animals drowned.
Food, shelter and feed is being flown in and a state of emergency may be declared.
Kenya has a spectacular population of flamingos in the 'soda lakes' of Elementeita. Naivasha, and Nakuru. In contrast to the other story, these lakes are drying out because of deforestation and degradation of the environment. The lake bed is exposed with carcasses of flamingos and their under water nesting areas. From several hundred thousand birds, only a few thousand are managing to survive. These lakes and the magnificent pink birds have always been a major tourist attraction.
In human news, the lecturers at public universities (of which there are six) went on strike about a month ago asking for parity with western country professors. This amounted to about a 600% increase. The government refused to negotiate, so all students were sent home.
The President recalled the former Minister of Education who seems a good administrator, but who had resigned because he was implicated in Goldenberg, one of the most horrendous corruption scandals in Kenya's history (which is saying a lot). He has not been cleared since the investigation has not yet resulted in any prosecutions. Although evidence seems clear to most of us, the AG seems to have a strange reluctance to pursue the matter. The new Minister, still protesting his innocence, has arranged a meeting with the representatives of the lecturers, so we hope at least the students will return to their studies soon.
National exams for the end of elementary and secondary school are finishing. We had the usual scandals of 'leaks' of exam papers. A child's future is so dependent on these marks that some richer parents are willing to buy the exams to ensure their child will be eligible for university, either at home or abroad.
Our older son and his wife will arrive December 3 for a too short visit. We have arranged a couple of short safaris and are very much looking forward to it. When they leave in mid December, we shall fly to Cape Town for ten days, so we will likely be off line for a while. So I must take this opportunity of thanking all of you who keep us in your thoughts and prayers and who contribute so we can help so many needy people. May God bless you all and
grant you a Merry Christmas with your loved ones and a Happy New Year.