|It is strange to be right on the equator and to be pulling on sweaters, long
pants and socks in the evening. We are in the period of the short rains
which runs from October to the beginning of December. Every afternoon without fail the black storm clouds gather and sometime around two o'clock
we receive the deluge. During the short rains the storm passes in a couple of hours, but the air remains cool. The red dirt, which forms most of the
roads and pathways, becomes a gluey mess and driving can be like steering on ice. We are glad of our four wheel drive.
The mornings are a gift. The air is washed sparkling clean, and the hot sun dries out the ground-sucking up the moisture for the next cloudburst! The
As we travel around, we often see the same matatus (minibuses) that ply certain routes. Each bus only lasts a couple of years (because of the overloading and rough roads), so some of our 'old friends' have disappeared. How do we know? Because each bus has a name chosen, I suppose, by the owner. "Arafat Junior" has gone, although "George Bush" is still around. Thankfully they were not competitors on the same route. The bus with a twisted axle and a huge pile of goods on the roof proclaims "Trust in Jesus" as it crabs along. The other day we saw a funeral car called "The Last Resort." Is it deliberate or unknowingly appropriate? Hard to say. Although there is a pub called "Bwana bring beer" and one matatu is now called "Baby Nice".
We have been very busy since we arrived. My leadership seminar for head teachers went well and I have another session planned for the middle of November. This time it will be on the "Virtues Project" which promotes positive discipline and character building. We have sent two of our protegées to business school and they are both working hard and doing well. Our technician is proving his worth in keeping our computers running well in the school and we are training a new instructor. We have dug three wells for the rotary clean water project in nearby villages and will be using rope and washer pumps, which are much cheaper and easier to maintain than the mechanical variety.
At my model school I am pleased with the teachers' initiative in HIV/AIDS awareness, which was their special project for this year. I shall go back in a couple of weeks and work some more with them on teaching modules for each level. At my last visit I met the "Health Club" which meets after school for sponsor teachers to answer questions on HIV/AIDS. The children sang for me a couple of their songs: "Kenya's Burning with a virus" and "Abstain!"
I took some letters with me from a school in Canada and there was great excitement at the words of friendship from children so far away. They have over a hundred children in each of the lower primary classes, so they are 'organizing' to send replies. I was most impressed at the way they will make sure that every child sees the letters and has a chance for input into the answers.
We have unpacked the boxes that arrived for us in the Rotary container while we were in Canada. Several boxes of books went to the theological college and I will take three more to Ebusyubi, the model school, for their fledgling library. We have enough computers now to send some to High Schools that want to start the curriculum.
Statistics were released today on poverty levels throughout the country. It's no surprise to learn that in Western province, where we are, 60% are below the poverty line. Twelve hundred shillings a month (about $200C) is the cut off above which people can buy enough food and provide shelter. We know that many are fortunate to have one meal a day. Our diocese is trying to organize to feed orphans. There are 44 parishes and the feeding program is established in six. But that accounts for 2,500 orphans who are receiving just one meal a week, which includes eggs and milk. It costs $10 Canadian ($8 US) a year to provide this for each child. Such a small amount-more than most of us spend on coffee in a week- yet the numbers in need are overwhelming.
The news article on poverty also mentions the increased chances of employment and good health for those with education. And that the poorest families are often those with a single mother. That is no surprise and is why I so firmly believe in educating as many as we can and empowering women. One new project is a micro financing scheme for single parents at the model school. The head master is of great help to me and will bring together a small group of single mothers for my next visit. I hope to plan with them how we can start a small micro financing scheme to enable them to earn a small income.
In other news, Kenya is going through troubled times right now. The new government promised a new Constitution when they came to power three years ago. One of the aims was to severely limit the power of the president, so as to avoid another one man rule. It has been a costly and contentious process. A draft was produced at last and there will be a referendum on Nov 21. Already there have been unruly meetings, riots, many injuries and some dead. In our own town of Kakamega last week the local MP's car was set on fire and he had to run for his life. In Kisumu, our nearest large town, four people were shot by police at a rally, some just going about their business at the market.
We plan to lie low during the voting, stock up on essentials and only go into town when it is all over. Hopefully there will a be a decisive mandate for one side or the other, although all predictions say it will be very close. That doesn't promise well for the next few months.
Keep us and our Kenyan friends in your thoughts and prayers.