Monday, December 7, 2009

More from Makindu and Nairobi . . .

More from previous blog . . . Winnie Academy is our "pre-school" at MCC. It is set up for ages 3 - 6 or 7 and currently has one teacher. Most of the children are sponsored by MCC but we also take in self-pay children for 2,000 shillings per term, a very reasonable price. Currently we ahve 10 children who were eliglble to more on to Primary School - of the 10, 8 tested very well and will be moving on, that speaks very highly of the academy and we will use that information for marketing purposes. One of the students didn't test because of the fee and hopefully will test in January - the other student is a slow learner and will have to be placed in another environment for further learning. I hope we are able to attract many new self-paying students during the intake period in December and early January.

I am still working on IGA's (income generating activities) with the guardians of MCC. We have certainly provided a lot of training and 2010 will be or should be the year of implementation - I remain hopeful. We have two groups and some individuals doing liquid soapmaking and they have been very successful so far. It is a WINNER!!! There is a good market for liquid soap to sell and if they also make it for themselves, it lowers their monthly expenses. All groups have been trained some are slower to embrace the opportunity - that's OK, they will see other's success and that will motivate them. We have also sourced wonderful trainings in goat keeping, poultry keeping both as a business and currently we are doing our third of four sessions on Food Security (production, utilization, nutrition, preservation. Oour multistory garden training went well - a few guardians have constructed their own and we are on our third harvest of kales from the 3 we used for demonstration purposes at MCC. We are also working with WACAL (another PC volunteer's site - Erin) to bring camels in for plowing - due to a funding snag - that project will happen next year sometime. We have chosen three sites in another community called Twaandu also an area served by MCC. They are anxious to see how the project will go. They will use the camels to plow their own fields then contract them out to others. Our guardians will be trained on "camel handling", feeding etc. prior to their arrival. Should be very interesting!!! Camels will survive well in our semi-arid region . . . drought often!!

Erin and I have been doing some great walks - trying our best to stay in reasonable shape living with no gym and in a VERY flat area. We have been hiking on Sunday for 5,6, 7 hours to the next town of Kibwezi (20-25 kilometres). There is a little "hill" on our way so we climb it to the summit!!! It is a small hill but it is all we have, great view - we visit with the guards who watch the cell towers, have a break with a banana or mango some water and trek on!!! Erin is training to climb Mt. Kenya - I considered it but I am going to donate the fee to climb to KISMA in Loitokitok sponsor a child to secondary school for a year - it is about the same amount. I'll do it some time.

Currently (December 6-10) we are in Nairobi for our mid-service medical checks. We get our teeth cleaned - boy did that feel great!!!! Then they just check vital stuff to make sure we are OK. I have a funny not serious fungus that liked my left hand fingernails exited there and went to my left big and little toe . . . so . . . I have an appointment with a doc to figure out what that is all about. It could be related to the fact that I volunteer with two community groups twice a week to pick up garbage. I wear gloves but one never knows. Otherwise I have been in perfect health - I feel lucky, although I have tried to do all the right things with food and water - and it is not hard. It sure beats being sick, I know that from others.

I think that is it for me . . . I am pretty settled so life goes on here about the same everyday. I am trying to help where I can and be a good citizen, friend and volunteer. I have met so many wonderful people here and have tried to embrace the differences and share what I have. Mostly that is just a greeting or a smile everyday to everyone. I do get teased by some because I greet everyone but I like that!!

I miss you all and think of you frequently. It is hard to believe that we have been here a year already . . . it really has gone fast!! I hope to blog again before Christmas but just in case . . . Merry Christmas and the BEST to all in 2010!!!

Love to all, Paula

Happy Holidays!!!!

It has been a while . . . I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving. A few of us volunteers celebrated in Nairobi. We cooked ALL the traditional foods and ate a lot!! It was fun to share the cooking and the day with other volunteers. AND you really can thaw a frozen 15 pound turkey the same day you cook it!!! Thankfully!!!

We have been busy at MCC. The children are now out for the December break so many of them come to the centre for lunch everyday. It is good to see all of them. They have a great time together, playing and assisting with the cooking and cleaning. We think we finally have the good rains - I hope they last. Some people planted to early and lost their first seeds because we had too long a break in the rains but lately we have had rain about every two to three days so I hope that lasts through January. EVERYTHING is so much greener and beautiful. I am working on a project to do water harvesting (catchment) from the roof of our buildings a MCC - we are just waiting for the costs and everytime it rains I "cry" because so much water is "lost" that could be harvested and used later. The estimate we have is that we easily could harvest 90,000 litres from our roof - that is a lot!!!

I am in Nairobi for our mid-service medical check up and have to leave now . . . so more later!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

LET THE RAINS BEGIN . . .

It is raining . . . more about that later. September 23rd - transportation to and from Makindu was a challenge this day as a new police chief decided to enforce the laws pertaining to matatus (taxi vans that carry 14 (ha ha) passsengers) i.e. seatbelts installed and working and used (I guess), speed governors, rearview mirrors and ACTUALLY only carrying 14 passengers on board . . . a rarity. So . . . there was about one matatu that qualified as OK and that one decided to hike the fare since all others were temporarily out of commission so we postponed our trip out of Makindu for another day. Matatus are famous for skirting the rules and it is the #1 mode of transport here. Things will be fine and back to normal in a few days or maybe even in a few hours.

One Makindu MCC guardian group has built 3 multi-story gardens (Dad try this one) and planted kales (sukuma. They planted them at the centre, NOW, we would like them to all plant one (or more)at home. They take very little space and are very water efficient and easy to build and require little investment. Each family would then have a nice green vegetable to supplement their diet everyday . . . spinach also works well. You need a gunnie sack, compost and dirk, small stones for the center and seedlings, that's it!! One Kiboko (MCC) guardian group is doing well with soapmaking. They are on their third batch of 20 litres. It is a strong IGA (income generating activity) IF they will stay with it. It is easy to make, the profit is 100% of the original chemical investment and EVERYBODY uses soap. I hope they are successful it would help their lives so much.

We lost one MCC caregiver in September. She had been battling HIV/Aids and opportunistic infections for over 10 years (before ARV's). Her daughter is an MCC sponsored vocational graduate and is now working successfully in dressmaking and tailoring here in Makindu with support from MCC for the short term until they are established - which will be soon. Two additional vocational graduates have set up hairdressing and beauty therapy salons (pronounced saloons in Kenya so we have some fun with that difference). MANY women get their hair woven in Kenya so there is lots of room for salons.

I just finished reading the popular book DEAD AID - get it, read it then send it to your Congressman because she is "dead" on right about the subject. I would also recommend The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson, from a historical perspective it is relly good, the story is also interesting although grim. Also jusy finished a conspiracy theory . . . Alice In Wonderland and the World Trade Center Disaster by David Icke, makes you wonder . . . we have "pass around books" among PVC's so there are some interesting opportunities.

October 10 - RAIN!!! It finally rained this p.m. HARD . . . It tried to make up for two years in one afternoon; not really, when it rains it really rains HARD. There is more to come, we hope. Those that planted are very happy, most are waiting to make sure the rain is really serious.

October 19 - We (MCC staff and community stakeholders) had a 2 1/2 day strategic plannning session with MCC's major donor AED (Academy for Educational Development)under US AID as the facilitator. It was a very productive meeting providing valuable, actionable input for MCC to develop a way forward. It's their first strategic plan, a very necessary step.

So far it has continued to rain almost everyday so people, including MCC, have started to plant. Most wait until they know or believe tht the rains are serious. They appear serious to me but I am far from a local. Even though the rains are coming we will continue to focus on trainings related to drought issues, i.e. food preservation, water harvesting (catchment) draught resistent crops development, etc.

Tomorrow, Erin (PCV) and I are going to Tsava East National Park with 60 other mostly government employees and their families. Tsavo is promoting local tourism since you guys are coming . . . anyway, they asked us to go so we are. It will be fun making new friends and seeing the park. The price was very reasonable for locals, which we are considered since we are volunteers in their country. It's called a PERK!!! Then I am traveling to Nairobi for 4 days to attend a site exchange visit with Beacon of Hope. They are a model school and other things that the direcgtor of MCC wants me to see so we can duplicate any good things happening there at MCC. I am traveling with the pre-school teacher from MCC. It will be a very worthwhile visit I am sure.

That's the update from here . . . the MCC children continue to do well. Primary and secondary students are getting ready for their final exams. School ends again in late November and start the new year in January. We will be "advertising" for new MCC children next month. We want to get more self-pay students into the pre-school to help sustain and expand our program. I think we can take on 7 or 10 new MCC sponsored OVC's (orphans and vulnerable children)also. We are also focusing on ways to be self sustainable . . . more on that later.

Take good care!!! I greet you all and hope all are healthy and happy!!! HAPPY HALLOWEEN BIRTHDAY to my brother John and Sister Paige. Happy November Birthdays to my family; Shelli, Pamela, Tori!!!!

Love to all! Paula

Saturday, September 19, 2009

On we go . . .

Here we still are in Makindu, again jua kali na kauka (hot sun and dry. Food shortages continue and animals die. Large tree branches are being cut down for animal feed if they have a hint of green left on them. Most animals that are alive are very skinny and scavenging for food and eating "stuff" they really don't like normally. All are praying, hoping and waiting for the rains to come . . . soon we hope!!
The MCC children are GOOD!! They returned to school after a one month August break. Those in pre-primary (Winnie Academy) who don't come for lunch at the center during the breaks often return thinner, sick and unhappy. After one week, they are well fed and happy again. They LOVE school and their teacher, Peninah. Thank goodness for MCC in their lives. Their home lives are good because MCC social workers monitor that they are,they just don't compare with the life and feeding opportunities at the center. All 444 MCC sponsored children are doing well.
Winnie Barron, MCC founder, arrived on the 17th for a two week visit. She always brightens faces, everyone loves to see her. She is kept very busy while she is here attending to children's needs and administrative concerns . . . on going and future funding is always on the agenda.
Earlier in the month I attended a day long event, themed, International Adult Literacy Day, not a "Hallmark card holiday", yet. It was interesting and very well attended by the community and MANY political dignataries. The literacy rate in Makindu is 69%, in our Province (Eastern) it is 54.7%. Machakos, a larger town, halfway to Nairobi from us is 75%. While the government says it is important, it remains underfunded. Most teachers are unpaid volunteers or poorly paid part-time. But, there are success stories in some adults improving their literacy. Hopefully more focus from government leadership on funding for ALL education will come soon.
We have a new DC (District Commissioner) in Makindu. I liked what he had to say when we met, we will see if his words are matched by actions. Makindu needs a lot of help. One of his projects is tree planting which we desperately need. People continue to cut down trees to make charcoal to make money to buy food to eat with no thought about replacing the trees. People show me where there used to be large forests, now it is bare land and dust. SAD . . .
The income generating activities and food security activities with the
MCC guardians are a slow go but we have now shown them better goat keeping methods, soapmaking, value addition for food products and food security ideas and how to build a multistory garden to grow spinach, onions and kales (sukuma) at home, so again . . . it is up to them to move forward with these ideas for their own livlihood. We continue to encourage them and we'll now start asking more questions about why they don't all take advantage of the trainings we provide.
I'm now working with 2, sometimes 3, groups on my takataka (trash) clean up project. 2 are community groups on Friday mornings and 1 is an MCC guardian group on Thursday morning. We haven't had a response back to our trash bin and equipment proposal that we sent to Safaricom Foundation in Nairobi in June but we remain hopeful. Nothing happens quickly here. We do know that it has been forwarded to the Foundation Board of Trustees for approval.
I was able to pay a short visit, in August before school resumed,to my first PCV project in Loitokitok. KISMA and friends are doing OK. The addition of Fredrick and William to the KISMA volunteer staff will only help strengthen the cause of funding secondary school fees for children to help bridge the huge gap between primary and secondary school attendance. As of this writing we have 17 sponsored children and over 200 on the list (the list needed to stop here so as not to disappoint, I remain hopeful). I loved meeting the students and their families. They are all very appreciative. Loitokitok was also very HOT AND DUSTY!! Thanks to David, Susan, Joseph (just diagnosed with TB unfortunately)Fredrick, William and many others for your tireless work for the KISMA-Angels in Kenya children.
My good friend, Joshua Kilonzo, my Kiswahili teacher and a model primary school teacher and father of four, just passed the certification as a Senior Examiner for the Kenya National Exam (KCPE). That is a big deal here. He qualified 3 to 4 years earlier than he anticipated!! Kilonzo (many here go by their last name)teachs Class 7and 8 at Kiambani Primary School. Kiambani has nearly 1500 students in pre-primary through Class 8. I visit there often and try to provide the teachers with posters and information I obtain that might be helpful to them. The school is currently involved in a tree planting project on their grounds . . . over 1,000 trees is their goal. They also are trying a "shamba" small farm currently growing vegtables to supplement the school feeding program. This Sunday the 20th, we are building a multistory garden at Kilonzo's home so he can use it as a model for others in addition to feeding his family.
That's some of what is happening here . . .
Happy Birthday to my family members for September (some a little late, sorry) and October; Trenton, Vince, Clayton, Corbin, Gene, John and Paige, Zoey, Cole, Kerry and Jason!!!
Have a wonderful Fall season, treasure your cooler weather. Stay safe, healthy and happy and know that I miss you all, family and friends. Thank you each for all of your support for the children, my life and work here in Kenya!
Love to all, Paula; PCV

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Back In Action . . . MCC; Makindu

We (some PCV's) have been away (Nanyuki and Mombasa; Kenya) for the last 2 1/2 weeks in Permaculture Training and HIV/AIDS - PEPFAR funded program - this one with our counterparts. So . . . late July and early August were great in the "treat" department for MCC children. Our friends from the Sikh Temple passing through on their way to either Nairobi or Mombasa stopped to provide milk, juice, snack foods, clothing, new serving dishes and candy for the children. ALL is greatly appreciated and it is fun to watch the children enjoy these special gifts so much.

Due to the drought, we had a zebra friend have a bad experience next door to our school. At about 9:00 a.m. one morning we observed a zebra in the "water district" compound, he apparently had jumped the fence looking for greener pastures and water. Next thing we knew, he jumped into a shallow well, a dry shallow well, and got stuck. Several men came to pull him out, successfully, but he was very weak and couldn't stand after his atruggle to free himself. Later the Kenyan Wildlife Service came on the scene to assess the situation. They had a hard time believing our story but eventually they did. The zebra was allowed to rest for a while but wasn't recovering very rapidly. The KWS returned after a couple of hours and loaded our weak zebra into the truck. We all believe he was nursed back to health but . . . we won't know. The animals we see everyday, mostly cows and goats are very skinny as we still have had no rain so there is little or NO food for them to graze on. Most are seaching for water. I hope the National Park's animals are in better shape. We have had no further wild animal sightings.

Permaculture Training (permaculture is integration of beneficial relationships/use what you have at hand) was great!! It was held in Nanyuki, a view of Mt. Kenya everyday that the clouds allow; I hope to climb it before leaving Kenya. Our training was focused on how to make life better for PLWH (People Living With HIV). We learned how to make compost for shamba (farm) use using indigenous materials, soapmaking, how to make beet root juice, aloe juice, sack gardens,along with various cultivation and planting methods (I'll fit right in back in the US if I can find a farmer who needs help!!) Seriously, it was all very useful information that we can pass on in our work at our individual sites. In fact, we had a soapmaking training just yesterday for 17 guardians in the Kiboko area for MCC.

Then . . . we traveled to Mombasa, on the COAST of the Indian Ocean. Our training facility was right on the water, tough to concentrate but the sessions were interesting and helpful. We focused 2 days on more language training and then on HIV/Aids issues and information. We were asked to bring one of our counterparts with us. One of the social workers from MCC, Mumbe, accompanied me. She has been at MCC since late last year, a recent graduate of Kenyetta University in Nairobi. She had a great time, learned a lot and it gave us a chance to get to know each other better. Our interactions with the other Kenyan counterparts was very valuable. We are different in our approaches and cultures and the exchanges were enlightening and valuable for better communication. I stayed with a few PCV's one extra day to do some siteseeing. Mombasa is a large port city and very diverse in culture and people. The people are very nice and take life at a slower pace. I think because it is SO hot and humid most of the time. It felt very much like Florida in the summer and this was their winter. The summer is supposed to be almost unbearable.

I plan to travel to Loitokitok next week to "check on" our KISMA project there. I will meet and talk to the sponsored children before they return for their final term of school for 2009. They have been off for much of the month of August except those who stay for special/extra help.

We have more income generating activity trainings scheduled for the guardians at MCC during the next few months. My hope is that they will really take hold and make a different in their lives. It is frustrating when we have to cancel a training because they would rather (or are forced to because they have no food)stand in line for Red Cross food relief than learn about an activity they could do that could earn them income and they wouldn't need food relief. That happened today - we had a training scheduled to teach them how to make donuts and crisps (potato chips made from cassava and sweet potatoes) both are popular and could generate good income but the Red Cross is doing food relief and no one would come so we cancelled and rescheduled for the 3rd. They admittedly have a culture of dependency,we are trying to break that but the task is not easy. Day by day we work to change it . . . my belief is that there are those who want to change and those that will never change, we focus on those who want to change, you can't force it. We are all waiting for a copy of the book Dead Aid, which has been sold out here, but it might be better to read it when our service is complete.

Tomorrow, Friday,I am headed to a three day meeting in a town close by called Kibwezi. The staff of MCC is getting together to discuss policies and procedures and develop some new ones for the organization. It will be time well spent.

The children are doing well. I am anxious for the small ones to come back to MCC in total in September. They also have been "off" for August although we continue to offer lunch for them every day, not all of them come and it is quiet.

Thanks to my friend, Lyzette, in Winter Park, you can see some photos on the blog!! Thanks Lyzette!!! Thanks to each of you who write and send "stuff", it is a delight to get mail. I'm good and continuing to do what I can to make a small difference, one never knows. The only small issue . . . I think I may have broken my toe in April and it healed kind of crooked but adhesive tape works wonders . . . repair before I leave Kenya . . . maybe. It is not a big deal!!! Love to all and the best in whatever is keeping you busy these days. Be safe and healthy!!

Paula

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Photos are finally up

Lyzette here for Paula, I've finally got all the photos up and captioned.
Cut and paste this link to access:
http://picasaweb.google.com/LyzetteSG/PaulaSAfrica?feat=directlink

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Winter Here . . . Summer There!! Greetings from Makindu

June 16th was the Day of the African Child . . . typical Kenya . . . start two hours late, finish even later!! Oh well . . . we are getting used to the “time” thing. The day was good once we got started. We paraded with hundreds of children from one venue to another most of the day then we settled at the District Offices so the dignitaries and others could be entertained by the children and a few adults with songs and poems and dramas. Our friends from the Sikh Temple among others provide snacks along the way for the children and others (tag a longs for free food).

I have organized several training sessions for the MCC guardians and between rescheduled ones and cancellations they all happened in one week – but they happened that is the good news!! They received trainings on goat keeping improvement, food preservation and value addition using locally produced vegetables and seeds which are dried, thrashed and milled into flour. The women’s group we visited in another town makes snacks, varieties of flour, handicrafts, dehydrated vegetables & fruits, they weave, make purses, ropes and handicrafts in addition they farm their own shamba and own their own mill. They are awesome and a wonderful model for others in Kenya. I hope my MCC guardians will be motivated to follow in their footsteps. They also received training in soapmaking, water catchment and sorghum planting and small farming (thanks to the Erin’s organization WACAL). Erin is the other PCV in Makindu.

We have three (at least) MCC children excelling at Kiambani Primary School. Juliet Ndunge Mutiya, Class 8; Fidel Muisyo, Class 7, and Ingina Mulwa, Class 8. Juliet, since 2005, has participated in individual and group Kiswahili poetry competitions. Each year she has excelled. This year I was lucky to see their competition at the District Level here in Makindu. As of this writing, they have now qualified through the Provincial Level and are going to the National Competition in Mombasa August 1-7, 2009. Juliet will participate in four group poems and one poem as an individual. Ingina is competing in the choir. They qualified with three songs. Fidel, is an academic star. In his class of 210 students, he is always ranked in the top 3, most often #1. Kiambani teachers recognized the potential in Fidel and the school assists MCC in sponsorship by providing his boarding free of charge. This removed Fidel from an undesirable home environment and allows him to focus on his studies in a disciplined, supportive and healthy environment. I think I may have mentioned Kiambani Primary School before – it is the top school in a very big area and also where my Kiswahili teacher teaches. It has almost 1500 students now I believe and is in such demand that they have to keep building classrooms. They just have a real nurturing attitude about their students and their education. Every chance I get I help them where I can – posters, books, anything. I know they will use it and they are always very appreciative

It is Winter here now (this month) so it is 85 instead of 105 degrees during the day, I think, who knows. No flashing neon temp signs and no clocks!! Dry, no rain of course and windy. It cools off at night but that’s it for cool. We are anxiously waiting for the rains – October/November we hope.

Erin, the other Peace Corps Volunteer in Makindu, is an avid reader and has been keeping me stocked up with every book ever written that mentions Africa – I read a lot before I left the States but I really read a lot now. She is wonderful to share. I am old enough to be her mother, in fact I think her mother is younger than I am so we have fun with that with the locals – teasing isn’t really part of their culture so they just believe everything we tell them without sorting through the teasing/kidding parts. It is harmless entertainment for us. Just finished three good books – The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch, The Bottom Billion and The Zanzibar Chest

We have Peace Corps trainings for two weeks in August – so we will be traveling July 29th and returning to Makindu August 16th. We are taking a couple of days to do some hiking in the hills about 3 hours north of Nairobi in the area where our training is being held. It will be fun to the hills and the coast and Indian Ocean – I haven’t seen either yet. We are going to Nairobi on the 29th to welcome the new volunteers in Public Health. They will be sworn in on the 30th.

All else is good. Still working on a variety of things every day – resting on Sunday – sometimes we hike!!! I sent the proposal into Safaricom Foundation for my trash project (Tupa Takataka Hapa). The group I am working with heard back this week that the proposal is being forwarded to their Board of Trustees for consideration. That’s great news – I am hopeful for full funding – we will wait and see

Erin’s parents shared better dialing/calling options, if you care to call me. You can go to http://www.therichcom.com to select Kenya cellular type cards for calling. Dial the access # (usually 1-800#, when prompted enter PIN, when prompted again dial 011-254-722-370-165 (that’s my cell #) Apparently international calling cards have problems connecting with cellular service in Kenya – so maybe this is an alternative to anyone who cares to pursue and call me.

I miss you all and hope everyone is healthy and happy. HAPPY AUGUST BIRTHDAY to Amanda, Peri and, Lori.

Love to all; Paula

Saturday, June 13, 2009

All for today . . . Third try

That is all for today - the computer keep posting for me before I am finished so I am finished. The last of the previous post was . . . we are hopeful that our proposal will be approved. We will see. I am sure I made some mistakes having never done this in Kenya and the group hasn't either but I tried to ask as many questions as I could think of to make a go. When I shared it with the DC (District Commissioner) he said it was a good start but modest in shillings requested, wished me good luck and went on to tell me that I should focus on emergency preparedness for Makindu along with trash and MCC - a little large for me and beyond my scope I thought but I told him I would consider it . . .

Have a great weekend all!!! Next week we are celebrating Day of the African Child - that is Tuesday. Lots of activities planned at least we have planned them in the meeting - we will see what happens on the ground. Sometimes these celebrations are more focused on the politicians and their speeches that they are on the real meaning of the celebration . . . we will see.

Love and good health to all! Paula

OOPS . . . continued from previous post . . .

We mailed our proposal for our TupaTakataka Hapa project yesterday . . . I am working with a community group called Kazi Kwa Wote on the project - their name means We Work For All. Part of what they do is volunteer to do trash clean up in various needy areas - there are a lot of them. I met them as I was doing clean up all by myself each week in the district office compund area - sometimes it is better to just let people fiure out what you are doing and volunteer to help rather than recruit them. Volunteering is a new concept for Kenyans. Our proposal is for 20 trash/dust bins for the village and associated work tools, the proposed budget is 302,450 Kenyan Shillings about $3,877 USD. The DC (boss of the district) thought that was modest . . . but it is a start. We are asking Safaricom Foundation for funding. They are the largest telecommunications company here; cellphones plus airtime

YEAH PHOTOS!!! and Other Info from Makindu

Many thanks to my friend Lyzette in Winter Park, FL for posting photos to my blog . . . I sent her the chip which obviously arrived OK, I hope you enjoy them.


Today is Saturday . . . another "work" day . . . the children come a little later on Saturday as there is no school. Most of the older sponsored children in the area come for lunch and then play together inthe afternoon . . . a little football (soccer) and sometimes now video watching as our videa player has now been installed in the dining hall. They play very creatively as they do not have all the interesting plastic vehicles and toys that US children toys. In fact, any toys they have are hand crafted from whatever available materials there are . . . wire, wood, plastic lids and cartons.


My friend Barbara Verchot in Winter Park has been very nice to assist my project in Loitokitok (KISMA) with funding through her organization - Wings of Peace International; if you are interested in donating to that project please visit their website at www.wingsofpeaceinternational.org and/or email Barbara at bverchot@gmail.com. They also have projects in Thailand and Peru that I am aware of - I am grateful to Barbara and her organization for embracing the KISMA-Angels in Kenya Project. This project helps fund secondary school fees for children whose parent(s) or guardians are not able to afford these fees due to HIV/Aids related factors. Her organization has offered to match part of the funds donated for KISMA - please visit their website or email Barbara if you need further details. Thanks in advance for any help you choose to send us. Thanks already and again to those of you who have already contributed either directly or through Wings of Peace. Currently we have 17 children sponsored and in school who would not be attending except for your generosity. THANKS!!!


Our young boy, Nyamai is doing well. We continue to practice speech with him daily. Progress is slow but it will come. His attention span for practice is of course that of a 5 and 1/2 year old!!


Our visit to the HURUMA Community Group in Kibwezi ( a 20 minute matatu ride) was beyond wonderful and a real eye opener to many of our guardians at MCC. The women in this group are doing so many income generating activities it it hard to count them all. They are lead by Rehema who is becoming famous for all she has done. She is not a young women but has the motivation and enthusiasm for so many projects and she has motivated her group to success. I plan to take another group of MCC guardians there again in July. The first group came back motivated and I have already seen some good signs - I hope these signs turn into income generating realities. I have planned a soap making training for some of them for next week. This is a good startup project as it is relatively inexpensive to start and the market is already there for buyers; everybody uses liquid soap for everything!!! One of our groups is considering the rental of a shamba to grow drought resistent crops and we are planning a water catchment training for July (when it rains again, we can capture the water if we build water catchment retaining "ponds"). Rain has failed us for now but we are hoping for the December rains - when rain comes we hope to be ready to capture it and make it last!!


Yesterday, we mailed our Tupa Takataka Hapa trash/clean up Makindu project proposal to Safaricom Foundation in Nairobi. We

Sunday, May 31, 2009

It's MADARAKA DAY in Kenya

Happy Madaraka Day . . . it is independence day in Kenya . . . a holiday for most but not for us. MCC is "open" and working everyday except Sunday and some of us are here others are celebrating the holiday. The children will have no school but they will get lunch. I am going to see if it is possible for me to take some of them to the celebration . . . some is not possible, it will be all or none, I suspect. I an not sure yet how many will come today. The celebration starts at 10:00, Kenya time that is anywhere from 10 until noon. I say this from past experience here although I am seeing more and more that people are getting better about being on time!!! That is a good change. This past week we (MCC) has distributed "relief" food to the guardians for the children in our three areas - Makindu, Kiboko and Twaandu. They received beans, sugar and maize flour. It is probably enough for a few meals. They seemed appreciate, or most were, however; in this culture, please and thank you are not common.

I received a message from David Kioko from KISMA in Loitokitok last week and he informed me that your generosity has now sponsored 17 children to school. THANKS again!! Barbara (Wings of Peace International) tells me that $600 plus is targeted for November. David and Susan, the fund coordinators, are thrilled. Thank you again . . . only through education of the youth in Kenya will life ever change here. It is so important and they deserve the opportunity to go to school and it is NOT free!!

Tomorrow I am taking 10 MCC guardians on a "field trip" to see a very successful women's group oin a nearby town. Their group is called HURUMA. They are 30 plus women who work together on MANY income generating activities to help better their lives. They own their own thrashing and grinding machine and it is located in a building which they also own. They make many, many different types of flour from every grain you can think of and many that you don't even know in the US. They also weave, sew and cultivate a shamba (farm) which they are currently renting. I am hopeful that this group of guardians from MCC will learn from this group and take their ideas back to Makindu and put them into action to better their own lives and the lives of the MCC children. It is my "job" to provide them with information, it is their job to turn that information into income generating activities. I cannot give them the motivation, that has to come from them. I can only hope that this group, chosen by them, is the right group to lead others to "do something". Many just wait for something to be given to them while others go out and "get" and "do" for themselves.

Yesterday my Kiswahili teacher (Kilonzo) and I visited (for the second time) a VERY successful shamba. The owner and his wife, Pascale and Christine are wonderful people with a nice "big" family. Their shamba is so productive and beautiful because he dug a 40 foot well to irrigate - what a difference!!! It is all about water and people wanting to work hard. They grow virtually everything you can imagine; maize (corn) 3 types, bananas, papaya (the trees must have 50 plus on every tree), sweet potatoes, onions, beans, tomatoes, cassava, mangos, sugarcane, watermelon, pumpkin, kale, kunde(like kale). That is all I can think of at the moment. They are also very generous, they give the first harvest to the church, then they eat then they give and sell to others. They gave me a watermelon, papaya and corn. I regifted the watermelon and the corn to my neighbors. It is so good to see some people doing so well. They also have a dairy cow and chickens. They are few (the ones doing well) here but the ones that there are, are GREAT MODELS for others.

This week (Wed-Fri) I am attending a workshop in Wote - a town not too far from Makindu. It is sponsored by the group that the other PCV (Erin) works with in Makindu. They were gracious to invite me. It is a training for farmers who do "collective marketing" of indiginous chickens so they might train others. I never knew when I was assigned to Kenya I might return to the US trained as a farmer . . . one never knows what opportunities lie ahead in one's life.

I also plan to work with our MCC boy, Nyamai, on his speech. That will take some time but he will come around in time.

We are also making plans in Makindu for a BIG celebration called Day of the African Child, that takes place on June 16th. It is a busy month . . . that is all good.

I hope everyone is doing well and all are healthy. I think I gave the wrong info to you in case you want to call me. I believe you dial a + then 254-722-370-165. Don't be shy, you can call me anytime, I would love to hear from you. The phone service is FAR superior to the internet service. Take good care!!

Love always!! Paula

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Second Post Attempt on DAD's Birthday!!!!

This must be a lucky day . . . continued from last post.  I don't think I have mentioned this before, if I did, sorry!!  There must be around 25 to30 children (growing by the day) that I see and greet on my way to work and home again.  I have taught them to greet me with a high-five hand slap then I say "watcha" which is hello in Kikamba to young people and they respond "ah",  then we do the Obama fist bump and we say "Obama"!!  This is so much fun and the word is spreading fast - so now instead of greeting me with "mazungu" meaning foreigner or "how are you?" we greet the NEW way, I love it!!  I also taught the kids in Loitokitok the same.  I wonder if our President knows how often his name is spoken with love and respect EVERYDAY? I  for one am glad Obama is taking a harsh stand on the government corruption here, it has to improve before the people of Kenya will benefit from the decisions of their elected officials.   I want to THANK!!! so very much Lyzette and Barbara for all they have done to help with donations and understanding of our work with the children here is Kenya.  So little goes so far and as I keep saying to all, the future of Kenya is the youth and children, change will not happen without them.  So all we are doing to make their lives better is ALL GOOD!!!
I have sent my camera chip to Lyzette who will try to give my blog some spice wth a few photos . . . I hope all goes well in this regard.  I really believe is is hard for you to believe that internet access and reliability is hard here in Makindu - a lot of it is probably me too.
I hope you are all well and happy . . . all is good here!!! Happy Birthday to my relatives in June; Broke and Lilly!!  Thanks to those who write to me . . . I love getting your letters and cards.  Sorry about those who email - those responses from me are less frequent and will continue to be.  I love what I am doing and can only hope I am making a little difference to some.  Bye for now.  Love to all, Paula

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Frustration . . . Patience . . . HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!

Hello . . . it has been a while . . . I tried to publish this blog on May 16th and the internet failed as I was attempting to send, so here goes again, I hope it is successful this time.  It is now the 28th of May;  HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD!!!
I had a good first success this week (May 11th). I was successful in securing a surgical procedure for one of our MCC children, Nyamai (5 1/2 years old).  This was a follow up request from Winnie Barron, MCC's founder.  She visited us in April for a couple of weeks from Oregon.  After a few blunders trying to navigate the hospital system, the doctor agreed to do the procedure on Wednesday, May 20th.  Nyamai cannot speak at all clearly because he is "tongue tied".  We have to go thru one more appointment to reconfirm but I am hopeful all will go well.  Now this is the 28th, I can tell you that all went WELL!!  The doctor agreed to do the procedure free of charge.  Otherwise we would have had to wait until AMREF sent a doctor in June.  The procedure is normally done when children are very little.  I have no idea why Nyamia fell thru the cracks for so long but he was scheduled last year and "they" scratched him off the list and told him to go home and eat sugarcane . . . that obviously was not the answer.  He has now returned to school and I and the teacher will work with him to improve his speak by teaching him how to use his tongue.  His father is very happy and I hope in time Nyamai will be too.  I am not too sure he understands what happened, it will take time. It was supposed to be a simple procedure but he ended up spending 4 nights in the hospital, I'm still not sure why about that either.
The MCC guardians finished up 5 sessions of goat keeping training that I arranged thru the Ministry of Livestock.  The trainers were very good.  All was in the Kikamba language, but I benefited as well.  The guardians seem very appreciate and have already made changes in feed, housing, grazing and they have used medicines to improve the health of their stock.  I just hope this improvement continues.  They are reporting that their goats are much healthier.  YEAH!!! I am hoping that some will be interested in dairy goat keeping.  This milk would be very good for the children and the milk production is much greater than in meat goats.  I am going to send this blog now and continue with a new one so I don't lose this one again!!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Back "Home" In Makindu

This is my second try, I completed a long blog and it disappeared . . . who knows, quite frustrating . . . anyway, here goes again. I have just returned from Nairobi after nearly 2 weeks of Peace Corps training (IST) inservice training. It was good to see our volunteer group again, share 3 months of varied stories, have a hot shower and experience rainfall and cooler weather. We had good speakers and learned more and more about our jobs here and resources available. ALL GOOD! I finally passed the required Kiswahili language test . . . a relief to say the least. I am anxious to use more of the language, I like it a lot and it helps so much with communication in my rural areas even though they speak Kikamba, some Kiswahili is similar enough that you can get by. Many thanks to all for the wonderful cards, letters and a couple of care packages, all is appreciated. It is always great to get mail. The customs charges are beyond my PCV salary but they are worth it!!!

Winnie Barron, the founder of MCC, has been in town from Oregon for the past 2 weeks and I have had an opportunity to meet, chat and work with her briefly. She is medically trained so her primary concern is for the health and welfare of the children, of course, she was very busy. I am going to do some follow up for her on a few hospital tests for the children and I am happy to do so. She and her friend, Pat, are headed back to the states tomorrow. Pat has painted some beautiful murals on the walls of the center and the children are delighted with her work.
There work here is doing so much for the children - currently 450!!

A little on current events - there is a new pension scheme (plan) for government civil servants, teachers and police. It will involve 400,000 people in job classes A - L with monthly salaries from $100.37 to $421.46 USD. 15% of each worker's salary will be contributed by the government - people are not confident about this part. The employee contribution will be 2% in 2009, 5% in 2010 and 7.5% in 2011. You are required to work for 5 years to qualify for a share. There is a teacher shortage of 64,000 teachers, a 4 years degree is required, starting salary $166.67 USD; any takers?

You may have read or heard about the gang of Mungiki in Kenya. They are not in my province (Eastern) they have caused some real problems and death. Peace Corps is very astute about security so no worries.

The guardian goat training continued in my absence ( we have had around 60 or more at each session) and I understand that they are excited and motivated about it. That makes me feel great. I hope I can continue to find the same in other areas as my time here progresses.

Our water bill at MCC has quadrupled and our budget is now gone for the year so sadly we may have to let most of our shamba die . . . our bills went from 3 - 4,000 KSH per month to well over 20,000 . . . ouch . . . water is now unaffordable for most. I am not sure what will happen.

Happy Birthday to my wonderful dad and my cousin Scott in May . . . a little early I know but I am never sure about internet access.

Health report . . . I have been very lucky and very healthy . . . I currently have a little fungus problem under six of my fingernails caused by wearing latex gloves underneath my leather work gloved while picking up trash. Peace Corps has given me some cream and I hope it will heal soon. I also stepped on a sharp rock and bruised the ball of my right foot - limping a bit and feeling a little old temporarily!!! ALL will heal soon.

I better close and send now - I am afraid this connection will disappear on me again. Love to all!!! Stay healthy and happy!! Sorry about no pictures yet - it is too hard. But I do have some!!

Paula

Friday, March 20, 2009

Greetings from Hot, Dry and Dusty Makindu . . .

The long rains are due to start any day . . . they say. They are unpredictable so people do not plant until actually see the rain.

I have scheduled some goat raising training for 54 guardians at MCC. They have never had any formal training and our hope is that the training will help them be more aware of how they need to improve feed, disease control and housing in order to gain increased production from healthier animals. I made a site visit day before yesterday with the District Vet Officer to the best goat raising site out of the guardian group (their choice). We found 7 goats and 4 sheep sharing the same small pen, the goats were visibly infested with fleas and tics and the pen was heavy with animal droppings . . . all not a good environment. They have been raising all livestock the same way "forever" according to Chege, the vet officer, so culture change is our major hurdle. Our role is to provide the information and training, the guardian's role is to make the necessary changes. I can only be hopeful. As happens more often than not here, we have had to reschedule the training at least once. We are now scheduled to start on April 2nd, we have scheduled nine sessions of two hours each. The guardians seem very interested as they all showed up early the day we were supposed to start . . . that is unusual . . . meetings sometimes start here up to two hours late. If the rains do come, we may have to reschedule again as the guardians will be planting their shambas (farms). We will wait and see . . . Livestock ownership, mostly cows and goats, is a sign of wealth in Kenya so that is why everyone has or wants them. They may have no money but they have goats. Goats are also their savings account. The problem with this cultural norm is that they sell the goats only when "times are tough" and tough times normally happen to a large percentage of Kenyans at the same time so the market price for goats or any livestock drops significantly and their "wealth" is diminished often twofold. Changing this cultural personal financial practice will take much education and time. Language is a bit of a barrier but I am working with and through the MCC social workers who speak Kikamba (the mother tongue here) they also speak Kiswahili and English! Some communication gets lost in translation I am sure but I can only hope it isn't a lot. The social workers are young, just out of college, so they understand the cultural barriers but are not tied up in them.

Our shamba at MCC is currently producing sackfuls of tomatoes so it is a great treat to have them with lunch now right off the vine, virtually, with hot chilis and onions!!!

I had one large (30) community group join my "tupa taka taka hapa" trash, clean up project this morning. We will work together every week now. One other group is supposed to join us next week. I am excited to see if we can make a difference. I need to contact the Marketing Directors for some major companies here to see if they want to donate trash bins, I think I mentioned that before. I think people might respond better if they had a place to dump their trash besides on the streets.

The community is currently having a major outrage over the water company billing rates. They have had one community baraza (meeting) and have now scheduled another after they drafted a letter to the local officials and the water company. People's bills are four to five times what they should be . . . MCC just received a bill for 23,000 shillings, our normal bill is around 5,000 and the pattern of water usage here has not changed. People cannot afford this and most are not paying . . . so we will wait to see the outcome of this. You cannot live without water so the situation is getting desperate.

Yahoo has been very unreliable here for the last month, so if you have emailed me and I have not responded, please be patient. I still only have access about once a week. Thanks to those who write, it is always great to get a letter. It sometimes gets a little lonely but I am happy and working hard.

My best wishes to all!!!

Paula

Saturday, March 7, 2009

It's Saturday . . .

I'm working at the center today, as I do every Saturday, and have access to the computer today - so I'll do a little update. This week I had the experience of working with one of the social workers in the field to try and locate two (twins - boy and girl) of our sponsored children who have been attending school rather irregularly. The way we find that out is due to the neighbors who noticed that the kids would leave for school, stash their uniforms in a bag, then head for who knows where, but not for school. Then they would change back into their uniforms to come to the center for lunch so we were none the wiser. Thank goodness for good neighbors. We tracked both children down, on foot, eventually, one was actually at home preparing food and the other was miles away at her sister's house (a 16 year old, pregnant, primary school drop out!! nice example) watching the house while her sister did who knows what. The kids have reported back to school with the promise to attend regularly - we'll see. We spent half a day walking to find them both then speaking with the deputy at the school they are supposed to attend. They avoided the usual discipline of caning - I said how about giving them a break just this once. They are orphans (mother died of aids) father is not responsible, so they are cared for by an elderly grandmother who can barely see - not a good situation. The shelter they have is poor at best and I would guess the best and maybe only meal they get is the one from the center every day. They are beautiful kids, smart and I hope they make it. Education is their only hope. They are both in Class 4 - primary school. You really have to pay attention because the school has so many kids (1400) they really cannot help track down the ones who choose not to attend so they get lost in the shuffle. I hope these kids do not continue to be influenced by their older sister, she is a very BAD example for them. Anyway . . . there are lots of cases like this.

Water . . . there was a community meeting this week about the cost of water. My Kiswahili teacher gave me an example of his escalating bill - it has gone from 1300 shillings per month to 16,000 - unaffordable even for someone with a good teaching job. One grandmother said her bill has gone from 300 shillings per month to 13,000 she stopped watering her banana trees so they died and the children (orphans again) have no fruit to eat. The District Commissioner has also been affected so there will be something done - he says. We will see. Something has to happen because no one can afford to pay their water bill. The water company in Makindu, at least, is a government/private partnership - it started two years ago. The managing director, I am told, drives a big fancy new truck, while his customers cannot afford to pay the escalating rates . . . where is that money going? People just aren't paying or they are paying a portion so their water won't be shut off. I hope some relief will come soon. Fortunately, my water is included in the rent . . . so far!! But I am very conservative with usage - it is a prestious commodity here.

We have a gang of bad "young" men in Nairobi called the Mungiki . . . I am not sure that they get any press in the US but they are disrupting public transport this week. They are enforcers or something like that . . . they force duca (store) owners to pay or they decapitate them, I am told. Sorry for that graphic . . . this week the matatu (public van transport) drivers refused to drive because of their threat. Not a good situation but they are not in Makindu and I hope they never are!!! I am not a fan of travel to Nairobi so I go only when Peace Corps calls a meeting - the next one is in April for a few days. Everything will be OK - you just go your way and mind your own business.

I have been working in the shamba (farm) at the center - we grow a lot of our own food. They cannot believe that I actually enjoy it but I do. I have my own rake and I borrow a jembe (hoe) from the "guys". I weed and water. It really is "relaxing" but it is a lot of work and I get very dirty. Hauling water is heavy and tedious but good for the biceps!!! We grow bananas, avocados, mangos, kale and 4 other green Kenyan vegetables, oranges, tomatoes, onions. I suspect their are 5 acres or so. The maize crop failed because of no rain so we are also growing "grass" for cow feed - I think we are planning to get a dairy cow eventually. But for now we can sell the grass to other farmers.

Tomorrow is National Women's Day in Kenya - not sure if that is a world event or not. I think they have to have it on Sunday in Kenya because that is the ONLY day the woman don't work from sun up to sun down - they get a break to attend church. I will attend the event after church with Erin (the other PCV in Makindu) and see "what's up". It should be a good one.

I am continuing my Kiswahili lessons . . . I hope someday I can actually speak some fluent sentences. I know a lot of words but their sentence structure is so different from English that I struggle a bit with putting it all together. But I study 2 to 3 hours everyday and am putting forth great effort. It will be great to speak Kiswahil then I can learn Kikamba which is similar and the language that the people I work with actually speak most often. Kiswahili is the national language but each of the tribes have their own tribal language and I am in Kamba land.

That's the update . . . good health and continued good happiness to all!!!

Love from Paula

Monday, March 2, 2009

Here's What's Up!!

Currently we are experiencing fewer days with water and electricity. The government has increased the price of water to discourage use. It has become unaffordable for some. The water and electricity so off and on irregularly now; you just never know so you always have to plan for no water. Electricity is easy to live without - rise with the sun and retire with it (kind of). The weather here has been extremely HOT and DUSTY. We do get a little breeze in the late afternoon which helps.

Things are good at the children's center, money is very tight due to the world financial crisis, donors are fewer and money flow slows. Currently school exam fees (yes they charge you to take a test!!) are due so money appears to be a daily challenge. It is ow even more important that the guardian groups I am working with become more self-sustaining. Food is becoming more of an issue every day.

February 25th I did a flip chart presentation on pig farming as a business for a group of guardians in a rural area. Pig farming could be a very good business for them if they can get over the initial investment hurdle. Unfortunately, they are more concerned with feeding themsleves and the children currently vs growing pig feed. But I am giving them ideas to help them think about the future focusing on less water dependent income generating activities. Water is always an issue regardless of what you are doing. We are also focused on more drought resistent crops.

I am expanding my trash project (Tupa Taka Taka Hapa) AKA put your trash here! We worked
today 2/27/09 with a group from the County Council. We (3 volunteers) picked up trash, they lit the fires to burn it. It's a dirty project but one that can make a difference. I hope to get funding for dust bins (trash receptacles) eventually. It will be a complete culture reversal to make Kenyans in Makindu believe they are responsible for disposing of their trash in a receptacle other than the road or ditch. I commited myself to trash pick up volunteer duty every Friday at 10:00 a.m. Nairobi has big fines for littering and their streets are better so it can work here in time, I hope.

Today, March 3, I am sending 22; 11 by 17 poster entires to PEPFAR (HIV/AIDS)in Nairobi. The U.S. President's Council on HIV/AIDS Relief is having a contest with the theme Celebrate Life. 36 of our children (some in groups and some individually) drew posters based upon this theme following an educational presentation on HIV/AIDS prevention. HIV/AIDS information is presented here at a very young age usually in their second year of primary school if not before. Their school system here is nursery, class 1 - 8 then form 1 - 4. Most children finish 1 - 8 a very small percentage move on to form 1 - 4 (basically high school) mostly due to cost. Secondary schools (form 1-4) bid for the best students. Schools send out letters inviting students to atend, you must receive a letter in order to atend secondary school.

I am scheduled to attend a 3 day language emersion workshop this month. It will be a great learning experience.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ALL MARCH FAMILY BIRTHDAYS !!! Lewis, Duston, Luke, Tyler, Carter and Chase.

More soon, I hope . . . love and good health to ALL!

Paula

Friday, February 6, 2009

More News from Kenya . . .

Hey everyone!!

This week I witnessed my first famine feed relief gathering. This is the second one in our area. The people (mostly the mamas) gather near the Chief's Office - that is where the storage warehouse is located - although there is nothing to store at the moment. I saw two medium sized trucks unload large bags of maise and a few boxes of cookng oil. The leaders from each village receive heir allotment then they distribute to their village people. This time people will receive 2 to 5 Kg's of maize (which they will take to the mill to grin for about 4 shillings) and 1/2 litre of cookng oil. I am told that this is about enough for one meal for a family. I asked the Chief where the food was from, he only knew it was from the government. The bags were not marked so I couldn't tell either - usually relief food is well marked on the bags so maybe this as from a Kenyan Cereal Board warehouse. The people are so patient - they gather, talk and wait then received their food and leave; sometimes this takes many hours as they are not sure what time the food will arrive or even if it will. Each person carries their own bag for the maize and a small plastic jog for the cookng oil. Prices are still high here and food is scarce. The children I work with are lucky that they get a good nutritious lunch 6 days a week and I get to eat it also. For some; however, that is their only meal of the day but it is big, nutritious and good.

I have met many of the guardian groups for MCC (Makindu Children's Centre) now and I am researching possible IGA's (income generating projects) for them. Ones that do NOT require rain. We are lookng at chicken raising, dairy goat raising and pig farming. Also beekeeping, if the rains come again in March or April. I am also looking at interest in dedydrated fruit if I can get someone from the US to send me some mango and papaya - they have no idea what dehydrated fruit is because they eat it all fresh but we may be able to creat a market - they definitely have the inventory of fruit.

A mention about dress, the African women dress wonderfully elegant. Their clothes are blouses and skirts or suits. They are always very colorful. I love the patterns. Their headwrap most always matches their skirt aka leso. Whatever they don't have, they are always clean and well dressed. The men look very western, a few suits/ties but mostly just shirts and trousers as it is very hot here. The women are always cleaning, sweeping or washing. There are many tailors to make whatever clothing you require for a very reasonable price. Where I live they don't have racks of clothing to choose from. There are some small shops with a very limited selection. Shoe repair is plentiful also. I have had my shoes and boots repaired a few times as I walk everywhere. They usually will repair while you wait. Shoe shines are also popular but they only last about five minutes with all the dust. A shine runs sbout .25 US and repair between .06 and .63 US depending on the complexity of the repair.

Thanks to those of you who have written. It is great to get mail and feel somewhat connected to home. It is only taking about a week for mail to arrive here. The internet remains a mystery, yahoo is up and down in terms of connectivity - it lets me respond to about one email every now and then and even then I am never sure if the "sent" really gets to you. Having said that - please email me and let me know what other information may interest you about this adventure/project and I will try to include it in the blog. I'll also try to do photos soon - it is a challenge here . . . sorry!

CONGRATS!! to my sister, Patricia, on her upcoming wedding. I am sorry to miss the celebration but will be thinking of her and Ted! The very best to you both.

That's it from here for now . . . good health and happiness to all!

Yours in love, friendship and peace!! Paula

Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Friday . . . again!! Time Flies!!

Greetings All!

I have started a neighborhood trash cleanup project - it happens every Sunday after church. There is so much , it will be a forever task. Plastic bags are everywhere! They are the worst offender. I am looking for a community group to help - I met with the County Council and a member of a youth group, we'll see what happens - everything moves more slowly here.

The food and water situation is deteriorating here . . . food security situation is a alarm stage as of Janaury 15, 2009. The population in my district has experienced 100% crop failure, rationing is ongoing, one bag (40 lbs) per person of maize per month. People are consuming boiled maize without beans due to low purchasing power. Food prices are high, livestock (goats and cows) prices are low (they sell in bad times for oney for food) and school fees are due now. Water availability too has deteriorated; the average trek for water has increased from 3 miles to 6 miles. We are lucky so far and have water about 4 to 5 days per week, some are not so fortunate.

If you would like to know more about where I am working here is the website address www.makindu.org. It is a wonderful story, it will help you better understand how hard things are here to accomplish and how great the need. I am currently researching project potentials in village poultry raising, dairy goat keeping and beekeeping . . . who would have thought! I am also doing some counselng for the older school children about hopeful futures with an education . . . this one is the real challenge.

The teacher's strike was settled last night . . . that is a wonderful event! The teachers accepted the government's offer to pay a raise in three installments. The first promised installment is for July it represents a 40% pay increase, the highest paid teacher will now take home $1001 per month, the lowest $251 per month.

Times up . . . more later. I hope everyone is well and happy!!

Pole pole diomuendo! Paula

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Current Events

Teachers strike in Kenya; teachers are demanding a salary increase the lowest paid 183 USD per month the highest pais 1600 USD per month. The government has offered to pay the increase in 3 installments - union said no. The increase amounts to 152 USD per month for the lowest paid and 951 USD per month for the highest paid. An average Kenyan lives on less than 2 USD per day - 730 USD per year. Teachers have not had an increase since 1997. Primary teachers currently earn 120 USD per month secondary teachers earn 240 - 335 USD per month. The members of parliament in Kenya earn 10,256 USD per month and pay no taxes!!
The primary teachers as of this writing have not settled, the secondary teachers have settled but are out on a sympathy strike for the primary teachers. The children are surely the ones who are hurt by this - hopefully it will be settled soon.

Famine issues: the government must feed one million even with a good harvest year. The government is currently working on an irrigation masterplan - Kenya is very rain dependent. Past plan have failed since 1980. Volunteer organizations try to help initiate sustainable ncome producing projects that are not rain dependent. But then the rains might come and all is forgotten. This is the second year of no rains so the harvests have failed - food is scarce and vry expensive.

Tourism issues: inefficient ferry service on the south coast, mechanical breakdowns etc. From the airport to the coats is 24 miles and it takes 4 hours to travel that distance. Tourists are forced to walk 5 miles to ferry services. Frequently the tourists miss their flight and must be reimbursed so they are going elsewhere more reliable like Tanzania. Investors are looking to expand potential of Mt. Kenya i.e. tourism circuit to include 33 lakes, trout sport fishing (John and Louis!!!), MauMau caves, traditional shrines and landscapes. Country needs diversification from wildlife attractions.

Sorry about any spelling errors - I am trying to hurry to get everything in before the internet goes south again - we still cannot get yahoo at all - so I apologize to those of you who have emailed, I'll get back to you when I can.

Thanks to those few who responded for child sponsorships for education. The need is great and every little bit helps. The Kenyan Government states that education is free - that is not a true statement. I personally know children who are at home because their parents cannot pay the fees. Every little bit helps even if it is an inkind donation of any amount. Thanks!!!!
The address again is: KISMA ANGELS IN KENYA C/O Loitokitok Lutheran Parish, P. O. Box 147, Loitokitok 00209 Kenya - email me if you want to sponsor an individual child and I will get you the form and photo.

Sorry about no photos yet - maybe in a couple of months - that's really hard!!

Love to all, Paula

My Work Life

I am working at Makindu Children's Center from 8 to 5 six days per week. The center supports 400 orphans and vulnerable children. The center has a nursery school for 15 currently, the balance are im primary and secondary schools in the district. Lunch is prepared 6 days, if the child is within an hour walking distance they come for lunch everyday. This insures one healthy meal everyday except Sunday. The children are in the care of a guardian. Due mostly to HIV/AIDS the children have no parents. Their lunch meal varies little everyday but is very nutritious. Sukumawiki everyday (kale,spinach, tomato,onion) then either corn and beans or rice and beans or ugali and beans (ugali - maize flour the consistency of thick mashed potatoes) sometimes we have fruit grown here - bananas or mango.

My typical day . . . up by 5:30 or 6 a.m., heat water for a bucket bath (I have a single burner paraffin jiko for cooking) bathe, dress, make chair (tea with diluted milk) or coffee (a luxury) and cereal with a banana; sweep house and fron "patio" and dirt yard - NO grass here, few trees and bushes (none) then wash breakfast dishes, clean outhouse then walk 20 to 30 minutes to the center for work. I eat lunch at the center. I'm currently focusing on learning Kiswahili, Kikamba and planning income generating projects for the guardians including dairy goat raising for milk, cheese (new to them) and yogurt ( almost non existent here) also poultry raising for eggs and meat, cotton for seed oil - focus needs to be on projects not rain dependent. I start for home sometime after 5 p.m., sometimes I stop for a cup of chai and talk with the cafe staff or stop by the Sikh Temple to rest and study in their shady oasis a cool spot - it is VERY hot here in the p.m. I'm always home by dark - a PC rule!! I prepare dinner, sometimes it is just fruit as lunch is very filling and I usually don't eat until 1:30 or 2 p.m.; sometimes I'll buy veggies on the way home and fix rice with them. If I can find raw peanuts (another luxury) I eat a few of those for protein. Without refrigeration your fruit and vegetables only last a day or two so you have to buy everyday at the market but that is pretty easy - the stands are everywhere. I study and write then go to bed. On Sunday, I try to attend the early "youth" service at church at 8 a.m. then return to home to wash clothes, that usually takes a couple of hours - all by hand of course. Then I take a walk to get some exercise - no mountains or hills here to climb - flat and desert! I am starting a garbage clean up project this weekend in my neighborhood - our compound is very clean but outside the gate is a bad scene. I am going to pick up the plastic, trash, dead batteries, etc. that are all around - they are supposed to go into a pit and be burned - yes, everything!!!! You name it, it goes in the pit for burning. Goats eat the fruit and vegtable scraps, in fact they roam free and eat about everything with a hint of green. I hope the project is successful and send a good message. Some people are really good about trash others not so. The African people are very clean - they are ALWAYS cleaning either themselves or something so the trash thing puzzles me. More later . . . just in case I lose you again.

Home In Makindu

Finally . . . the internet here has been unavailable and unreliable for days. I think it is hard for you all to even imagine that but it is VERY frustrating, but I am lucky to have it at all. I share a compound here with 3 other women and several children. I'm still unsure exactly how many. There are no fathers around that I have seen anyway, this is common. My space is big for here, I'm guessing just a little smaller than my Winter Park apt. maybe 800 SF. I have 2 bedrooms (one for storage??), small kitchen, bothing room and sitting room. I have puchased 2 hardwood chairs and a small table 3x2 and a mattress. The space is more than enough for one person. The outhouse is close by. Water is also near. I have electricity but no running water inside the house but the tap is nearby, I share this with the others. Water is available 5 days per week so you have to plan ahead a bit. I have a 100 liter storage tank that I bought for days with no water. Life is simple but everything is "hard" i.e. it takes much more time and effort for anything to happen. People move at a sloer pace but everything gets done in it own time. I'll post this now in case I lose the connection. More later . . .

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

New Contact Information In Makindu, Ke

Here is my new mailing address for the next 2 years:
Paula Dorney; PCV
c/o Makindu Children's Centre
P.O. Box 101 - 90138
Makindu, Kenya

My cell number from US; 011-254-722-370-165
Your calls and letters are welcome, please keep in mind the 10 hour time difference if you choose to call. I'll not call you, sorry!!! It is unaffordable . . . but you are all in my thoughts.

I am looking forward to my new assignment . . . I'll let you know how it is going as I go. I am gettng settled in to my "new" home. Keeping very busy . . . this will be a real challenge going forward, I hope I can make a difference. The cultural differences are remarkable and very interesting. I am working with a wonderful groups of Kenyans and over 400 children and their guardians ( due to parent deaths from HIV/AIDS). There are plenty of projects so the choices are varied and there are a lot of them. I am walking everywhere so far - maybe a bike purchase later. I am only about a 30 minute walk to the school where I work. I am close to town in a small little residential area with chickens, goats, cats, dogs and children all around. My place is spacious and so far has one stool for furniture, but I am working on that. There are many carpenters to make whatever you want for a reasonable price. I am on a borrowed mattress until one arrives on the next truck - February 1st. The floor was very hard the first night!!! Cooking on a small one burner gas stove is fun and challenging, it makes for a one course dinner with fruit as a second course - the fruit is VERY good, picked right off the tree probably yesterday!!! More later . . . love to all!!!

I hope you are all well and happy!!!