Monday, December 20, 2010

Bittersweet Days . . .

Greetings from Nairobi;

December 18th was my last "official" day with MCC. The two years really did fly by and now it is time to think about returning to the US. I have tried to book a ticket three times and I am on my third failure, maybe there is a message there.

I will be in Makindu through most of January finishing up a few secondary project issues and saying good-byes. While I an anxious to see all of you . . . it is not that easy to leave. I really have enjoyed all the people I have met here.

MCC was a wonderful experience and I am sure that I am taking more away than I could ever give to them. Living and working with people of a different culture is the best experience I could ever have imagined. While you really cannot walk in their shoes, the Peace Corps experience lets you get as close as I believe is possible. I had an experience more rewarding, challenging and fulfilling than I could have wished.

I leave MCC at a time when they are moving forward to self sustainability under the leadership of Michael,a director with great vision and motivation to make MCC all it can be for the orphans and vulnerable children it currently supports. The indigenous poultry keeping project, the dairy cow project together with our new rainwater catchment system and a "master plan" for shamba (farm) planting and a promise from well-wishers from the Sikh Temple to construct two classrooms . . . the future is bright for Makindu Children's Centre!!! The new staff and volunteers are motivated and active in making all projects move forward to benefit the guardians and children of the Centre. I really enjoyed working with them and will miss them greatly. They hosted a wonderful going away party for me last Saturday. Many wonderful and kind words were spoken and of course, I cried . . . they gifted me with a beautiful wooden bowl, carved with a thank you message, their name and logo. I will treasure it, surely!!!

We are in Nairobi this week, signing out . . . all the Peace Corps paperwork is being completed for our Close of Service. A few of us are traveling to Oloitokitok to spend Christmas with our original Kenyan families. I will also have an opportunity to meet with the KISMA - Angels in Kenya groups (caregivers and children)on our school sponsorship program. I will gift them with a nice donation from my family members to help with the start of the 2011 school year. THANK YOU!!!

Thanks to each of you who supported me during my Peace Corps service I will be forever thankful to you. You truly made a difference in my life while I was away.

Think about Peace Corps if you want a wonderful fulfilling challenge no matter your age. It is the best decision I have made to date.

Reminder . . . donations are always welcome to support these two wonderful project for children . . . Makindu Children's Centre through Makindu Children's Program, Eugene, OR; USA and KISMA - Angels in Kenya through WOPI, Wings of Peace International, Winter Springs, FL; USA.

Thanks again to all!!! Merry Christmas and the very best to ALL in the coming year!

Happy Birthday to my family members in December; Mindy and Mindy and Noreen.

See most of you very soon. Love, hugs, peace and good health!!! Paula

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thankgiving!! A few of us PCV's are getting together to celebrate with turkey and most of the trimmings. We have no oven this year so . . . we are trying to compromise and cook with a combo of boiling and grilling - should be an adventure!! We have a VERY fresh turkey however . . . in fact I believe it is currently still running around in Matuu, Kenya before it lands on our plates. We will prematurely celebrate thoughts of a bountiful harvest that we hope will come in Kenya this year, if the rains cooperate. Enjoy family and friends at this joyous time. Think of us as we will be thinking of you!! This will be my last Thanksgiving in Kenya as I hope to join you in the US for the next one. Love to all!! Paula

Saturday, November 6, 2010

P.S. To Yesterday's Blog . . . Family Birthdays

HAPPY BIRTHDAY wishes to my family members celebrating in November and December . . .
Tori, Pamela, Steven, Shelli, Noreen, Mindy (Idaho), Bailee and Mindy. Have FUN!!!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Things are "Happening" at MCC

Hey ALL!!!

Exciting things are happening at Makindu Children's Centre. Our Director, Michael, has lead us through the process which has allowed for two good income generating activities with a lot of potential for our Centre and its beneficiaries. Our dairy project is coming along well - we have 3 full grown milk cows and one calf; we are selling around 25 plus litres a day with more volume anticipated. One of our cows should calf within the next few weeks. We lost one calf due to a birthing problem but the mother is doing fine. We also have around 960 indigenous chicks (a few didn't make it; expected mortality rate 5%) which will be sold in approximately four months for a nice profit. Delivery of an additional 1000 is expected soon. The program for the chicken enabled a few groups of our MCC guardians to participate as investors then with the profit (forced savings plan) from their investment they will be able and encouraged to start their own businesses. This is a project that can and will improve the livelihoods of our orphans and guardians. It is sustainable and requires a fairly minimal investment.

Rainwater catchment gutters and tanks are also now installed on one building at the Centre so we can capture the rainwater from our roof. This happened just in time for the short rains that have just now started. Rainwater catchment was something I really wanted to see for the Centre. Piped water is very expensive and the salt content is so high that it isn't very good for animals or for crops. This will help all around. Some generous friends from the Sikh Temple in Makindu and other friends from the US made this dream happen. The water engineer estimated that we can harvest 90,000 litres from our all of our roofs. We have another Sikh friend considering some financial assistance so we can do the guttering on the other roof and capture even more rainwater.

I haven't been in Makindu for a couple of weeks. I have had meetings then our Close of Service Medical review took a few days. I had a small medical problem (nothing serious) so I am still in Nairobi but will be returning to Makindu next week. In between, I will be in Loitokitok for a couple of days assisting with some training for the newest group of volunteers. I think we are up to around 150 in Kenya now.

These last few weeks will fly by . . . it is hard to believe that our service is almost complete and that it has been two years. I am Planless Paula at this moment but will most likely return to the USA sometime in January. It is difficult to leave all the people who have been in my life in many different ways for the last two years. In fact, some of the volunteers aren't leaving but are extending their service to a third year and many are looking for jobs here in Kenya - which may be an easier task than back in the US at the moment.

That's it on my end . . . I hope all are healthy and happy!!

Happy Birthday!!! to my family members celebrating in November. Sorry, I don't have my book with me to type all of your names and didn't want to leave anyone out.

Also, Happy Thanksgiving!! We are trying to do a little gathering, maybe even with a turkey, at a PCV's site outside of Nairobi. Enjoy your day!!

All the best, as always!! Paula

P.S. Please remember; Makindu Children's Program; in USA for Makindu Children's Centre; Kenya and Wings of Peace International in USA for Loitokitok, Kenya for donation opportunities. Every dollar makes a difference in the life of a child.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

What's New in Makindu . . .

Hi all!!!

All is good in Makindu. We are very dusty and windy and getting ready for the rains which are due within the next few weeks. The brickmaking season is ending and the planting season will begin soon. Some of us are looking hopefully forward to our farmers planting many other crops besides, or at least, in addition to, maize. We will see. Change happens very slowly. We are rooting for sorghum, millet and green grams and cow peas!!! Drought resistent. East African Breweries are encouraging farmers to plant sorgham as there is a ready market as an ingredient in beer. Some of our farmers are taking advantage of this idea so we will see their success, hopefully. If there is some success, others will surely follow next season.

MCC's dairy cow project is going on well. Our cow is giving more milk every day and we are looking forward to her projected volume of 15 litres a a day; currently she is just over 13. Her calf still "knows" her mother so the calf remains in a separate pen until she "forgets" her mother and is not running for her milk each time she sees her. Our other cow is due to give birth anytime now so we are waiting anxiously for that day. Our kuku kienyeji (indigenous chicken) project is getting underway, also. This is my personal favorite as it is something that all farmers in our area can easily do. The fencing and shelter is being constructed this next week and we expect delivery of 1,000 two day old chicks the first part of October. We are also working on a water catchment project at long last. I am hopeful that we will have that completed to take advantage of the rains that should come very soon. The children are also doing well. The new staff is very focused on what needs to be done to continue to make the program better and grow with the many needs of children. Currently we have 419 children under the care of 253 guardians in four sites. The program continues to provide valuable education, nutrition, medical and counseling support to children(most are orphaned)who would not otherwise have these opportunities. There are many success stories to be told about their lives. They are good friends and it will be difficult to leave them when my service is complete. Remember MCC children at and the Loitokitok children at Thanks!!!

At the moment (Wednesday) I am in the Peace Corps office in Nairobi taking advantage of computer time. Then I am going on leave for a few days. Erin and I are traveling to Chuka and Maua to visit other PCV's then to Nanyuki (Mt. Kenya!!) for a PC conference for a couple of days then back to Makindu on October 1st. It is nice to visit other volunteer's sites and see other parts of Kenya, particularly green parts that are not dusty and are getting some rain.

All else is good. Makindu has been a district for many months now and it is obvious by the fact that it is growing rapidly; lots of construction and there are many new jobs here - it is becoming less "rural" everyday. Unfortunately that means more trash and more traffic but I am sure the job market will improve for people so that is a plus. The rural parts of Kenya are my favorite as there is a stark difference between the villages and the cities. So we are leaving at a good time, I think.

I hope all who are reading this blog are well and happy. I hope you have enjoyed these and they have given you some insite into this experience. Although, I really think you have to live it to really "get it". It has been and continues to be an adventure. A very rewarding one.

Happy Birthday to my family members in September and October; Trenton, Vince, Clayton, Corbin, Gene, Paige, John, Zoey, Cole, Doug, Kerry, Jason - wow many!!!!

Take good care!! Love to all, Paula

Monday, September 13, 2010

Returning . . .

Well maybe . . . to what . . . hatred and intolerance? Who is this man in Gainsville, Florida? In one thoughtless or dare I say mindless threat, he dashes our hopes of the peaceful coexistence our President has tried so hard to restore in his brief time as the 'Leader of the Free World'.

We are U.S. PEACE Corps volunteers Mr . . . did you even consider how your actions and words might affect Americans trying to be peaceful, tolerant,respectful and helpful in other parts of our world?? Besides ALL else you should have considered before you spoke your 'threats'.

In the "practice" of your religion, be mindful of this quote published in The Nation newspaper in Kenya (where I am currently living and volunteering among MANY different people with many different beliefs including Muslims)on 9/11: "Your Christ was such an admirable figure. But you Christians are so unlike him . . . " Mahatma Ghandi.

Wake up Mr . . ., Gainsville, Florida is part of a much larger WORLD. One in which we would like PEACEFUL coexistence to someday be a reality. Please be mindful of your actions in that WORLD . . . PEACE to all!!!!

Have a peaceful day!! Yours in service, Paula

P.S. I published this only after my anger had subsided after many days. It makes me so very sad and ashamed when my country gets this kind of press in the WORLD!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Kenya Votes . . . Peace Please!!!

Hello All!!!

It is a big day in Kenya tomorrow as they vote on a new constitution for their country. It is a national holiday to allow people to travel to their original homes to vote. It is a controversial vote; there have been many rallies and campaign stops for both the YES (green) and NO (red) teams. We have, of course, been advised to remain neutral and away from the rally points. Last week the Vice President, Kalonzo, was here in Makindu for the YES camp. We have also been advised to stay away from the colors red and green also - not that easy for someone who likes the color red, for clothin that is. We just ALL is peaceful in the country no matter the outcome.

All is good at MCC - we have 3 new people, two Program Officers and a volunteer so the learning process is taken our time now but they are catching on very fast. They will help move the program to the next step - more sustainability and livelihood security for the beneficiaries (our GOAL!!) The Sikhs passing through Makindu to visit their temple have been very good to MCC recently (and always). We have had two wonderful lunches catered by the Temple Sikhs for the children and many donations; such as numerous and varied school supplies, waterproof washable mattress covers, shoes for some very rural children and uniforms for three pre-primary students. They are very generous people, as I have said before. They hope to start construction on our two promised pre-primary classrooms middle of this month. For the most part all children are healthy at the moment although the coldness (to Africans) brings on some colds and coughs but nothing too serious. In fact I have a cough also - I hope mostly due to the DUST!!!! but it has hung on for a month now, time for it to leave. August will bring more dust and hot weather before the rains come in November so a few more months of barely breathable air. Most roads are not paved thus DUST!! Our cows arrived and both are with calf. We expect them to give birth before the end of the year - following a little time with the mother's milk then we will have some for the MCC children - what a treat!! That is one thing we don't have due to the cost. Most of the children are coming to the Center now for lunch and play as school is out for the month of August.

The Proper Walk (MCP fundraiser) people and MCC founder, Winnie, will be here soon so everyone is excited for that event. I have a Peace Corp meeting in Kakamega (Western Kenya) and I am taking a few days leave to visit the national forest in that area so I will miss their arrival but I'll get to see Winnie when they return from the walk. I'll be away the 10th until the 22nd.

That's the update - still going on with every day programs trying to help where I can. We will be heavily focused on income generating activities and livelihood security from now until my departure. Our biggest challenge now is the monitoring and reporting part - measuring their IGA impacts on lives. Not as easy as it sounds. Still some frustration in how slowly change happens here so two years seems ever more a short time. But change will come in time . . .

I hope this blog finds all of you doing what you love with people you love and that your life is good; full of happiness and joy!! I hope all of your summer vacations and those to come are grand and safe. I miss you ALL very much.

Happy Birthday to my family members for August; Amanda, Peri, Lori and me!!!! Next year maybe we can celebrate together. Also a BIG Happy Birthday to Joye Brady who turns 90 years soon - way to go Joye!!!

Take care all . . . until next time. Yours truly from Kenya, Paula

P.S. Remember MCP (Makindu Children's Program) and WOPI (Wings Of Peace International) if you have monetary donations burning a hole in your pocket!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Nikotu . . . I'm just here!!!

Hello all - I hope this blog finds all in good health and happy!!!!

All is good here . . . we at MCC are continuing with trainings (although June is the end of training, now we are looking for IGA action)in water harvesting in preparation for the next rains!!! soil conservation, indigenous feed formulation for chicken (cheaper than store bought!)and again, poultry keeping as a BUSINESS. Some have taken up the business aspect of the trainings but it is a slow go. There is no hurry in Africa, they say . . . and it is true. It will happen if you have the patience to wait, I am learning. MCC is preparing silage and feeds for the dairy cow we are supposed to get. I am not in support of this project but I try to keep my opinion to myself. I am sure the Director knows better than I about the prospects of the dairy cow project. Our classrooms donated by the Sikh Temple have yet to start but I am hopeful that late July will the time. The Sikhs have been generous in other ways . . . the Makindu Temple Committee donated 12 mattresses for our pre-primary school children and a wonderful Sikh gentleman that I just met in March from Canada,Banwait and his wife, Surjit, donated another 18 . . . then Mideh, another Sikh and his wife who own an upholstery shop in Nairobi donated 30 mattress covers to us so as to extend the life of the mattresses. I am not good at raising money/donations but things are going well in that regard here. It is easier when they ask you what is needed and I tell them and they donate. WOW!! We are so grateful and lucky to have the Sikhs as generous friends of MCC. Banwait and his family have an NGO ( check it out, they are wonderful!!! I was invited to attend the dedication of a borehole (water) at Ngumano Secondary School in rural Kenya that they paid to dig and construct. The area MP, Dr. Philip Kaloki (schooled in Texas, USA)attended - that is a big deal in Kenya. The villagers of Kalii will now have water piped from the ground rather than having to walk many kilometers to fetch it from a dirty river. They were all smiles and very amazed.

June 23, 2010; this day an airplane landed at our airport. This is the fourth one I have seem since January 2009. It normally means there has been a bad accident and the airplane is The Flying Doctors. Not sure about this one. The airport is directly behind MCC so ALL the children and adults run screaming to watch. It was the highlight of the day . . . second only to lunch. More Makindu events . . . on the 26th a Lorry runs through the front of one of the roadside hotelis, injuring several who were having their morning chai (that hoteli is not my chai place, glad for that!!) How that happened - who knows?? There were many onlookers, I was not among them. We also had a lost buffalo from one of the national parks, he injured a soldier who was trying to help him return - buffalo killed by Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) - no choice unfortunately for him. It doesn't happen often. We had a zebra and now this buffalo that all I have heard about. On Monday, early, early in the morning someone climbed over our compound wall (gate was locked) and helped themselves to one huge stalk of bananas (cut them right off the tree), all the chicken and one jacket off of the clothesline - I didn't have anything outside so I wasn't affected except it sucks that crime is getting worse here as the town grows. I felt very safe until then - not careless ever - just safe. Not so much now.

I have been introduced to a wonderful group of Makindu community leaders called the Makindu Elder's Society - although most are not elderly. They are non-political (that is possible here, I think) and really have a wonderful agenda for Makindu development. They are very new with an aggressive charter. I have been attending their meetings as I am interested how they can come together to get things done here. This town needs a lot of assistance from leaders like these. I hope they can get the necessary government support. Careful what I say here . . . best stop.

We will be on a restricted travel alert for awhile in late July and early August until after the vote on the new constitution, it has been very hot in the news and much campaigning is happening on all sides. You can't wear red or green as those are the Yes and No camp colors or someone claims you are being political. Anyway . . . I am trying to avoid those colors for now also. The vote takes place on August 4th (someone's birthday) I hope all is peaceful in the end.

Just an alert . . . of course there are scams, I understand there are a couple using Peace Corps volunteer contacts hacked thru email, they ask you to donate on a volunteer's behalf and the money goes to them not to where you intended. For the record, I am working on only two projects (MCC through Makindu Children's Program .org in the US; and KISMA through WOPI; Wings of Peace in the US). So if you get any requests from any other - it isn't me!!! Also there have been some ransom requests using PCV info - Peace Corps knows where I am all the time so don't respond to those either. Peace Corps will let you know if there is a problem and you can verify who they are. No worries I hope, just be aware there is some bad out there . . . bummer.

I guess that is it for the month! Happy July! Here it is winter, cool nights and hot days . . . pretty nice, but dusty and windy some days. Happy July Birthdays to the USA, family; Roger and Sondra and Breahna. Happy 4th of July!!! Enjoy!!!

Love and safe travels for the summer! Paula

P.S. Want news of Kenya online -

People cling to life and are not at the stage where they will fight for the quality of that life. They feel as long as they are surviving, that is enough. Bantu philosophy of past times, I hope.

Nikotu . . . I'm just here!!!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Sad News and Other News

Greetings to all!! We had some very sad news at MCC this last week. One of our sponsored orphans, Faith, passed away after complications from TB. Faith was living positively(HIV/AIDS)and on ARV's but the addition of TB was just too much for her system to handle. Faith was a lovely girl, age 12 in Standard 3 (primary school) here in Makindu. She was always friendly,playful and respectful. She is survived by her older brother who is also sponsored by MCC and her grandmother who was her guardian. The funeral is tomorrow (Saturday) and we will all attend. Faith will be missed by all. Kenyans are strong people and I saw few if any tears. I wonder if it is because they have dealt with the death of so many loved ones in the last few years because of the HIV/AIDS issue - I of course shed many tears and I am not sure what they think of that - but I couldn't help the emotions although I tried really hard to keep them inside.

All else is just going on - we continue to have trainings at MCC for the guardians in all locations, many are now accepting that donor funding has its limitations and may not go on forever - it is time for them to settle into to self sustaining income generating activities. I have talked about the choices here before, at least the ones we are focusing on; they are ropemaking, liquid soapmaking, goatkeeping, poultry keeping and weaving. My favorite is poultry keeping as many of them are currently doing that activity, they are just doing it more as a "hobby" rather than as a business. Many have now vaccinated their chicken, with our encouragement and assistance. They have not vaccinated in the past. They pay 5 shillings per bird and we have vaccinated well over 250 to date. They are now understanding that a 5 shilling investment will get them 350 - 500 shillings later at the market when they go to sell their chicken. It has been a slow educational process but once they see one of their neighbors vaccinating and then selling healthy (live) birds they are "sold" on the idea. So every one you get to vaccinate and then sell when the market is good is a success. It is really fun when they see poultry as a business and share with you their plans for the money. Three of the groups in our Twaandu location sold goats this year to help cater (buy) for the needs of their children as they sent them off to school - they and we were very proud of this accomplishment and I know it will continue. They have good leadership in their community and they have the desire for independence. I hope before I leave Kenya - we will have a model here at the centre for indigenous poultry keeping. It would be good income for MCC and make us less reliant upon donor funding.

MCC's founder, Winnie Barron, visited earlier this month - she was a bit delayed (a week or so) due to the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic eruption but finally made it. The eruption(s) have really had a major negative effect on the economy in Kenya, billions of losses. Winnie visited for about 10 days and of course the children and the entire community love to see her. Winnie continues to work tirelessly in funding raising for the centre. Thanks to those of you who have supported MCC. Donations are always welcome at As I always have said, this is a well run centre doing a lot of good things for the orphans in this area. Winnie will return to Makindu in August with several folks who have raised funds for MCC. MCC is the starting point for The Proper Walk adventure. Their main fundraiser that happens every two years.

Several fun and good books read in the past weeks - The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J Maarten Troost; Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux (Peace Corps Volunteer 1963); Down Under by Bill Bryson and many more of his books and also Our Turn to Eat by Michale Wrong (about corruption in Kenya)there are more but it is probably not very interesting to you what I am reading but maybe it is?? Currently finishing up (again) short stories by Joseph Conrad.

That's it for now. Thanks for your continued support and thanks to those who write and email, a word from the States is always welcome. Stay healthy and happy!!!

May birthday wishes, again to DAD, Scott. Brooke and Lilly in June.

Love to all, Paula

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Latest From MCC and Makindu . . .

Hello from Nairobi, I hope this blog find you all well and happy!! I am currently attending a planning meeting for upcoming new volunteer training with other Peace Corps Volunteers and Peace Corps Staff. It is always flattering to be included in planning. It is time consuming and long days but I hope what we are doing will make a positive difference to other volunteers that follow us. Peace Corps really focuses on making sure the volunteer gets the most of out this experience.

We have had some good Food Security trainings in Makindu with our MCC guardians since I wrote last. They have taken one day and learned to make cassava (local vegetable)fritters, pumpkin chapati, sorghum pilau, donuts and cake . . . ALL very tasty. They seem appreciative and excited to learn new things. This lesson will provide them with better nutrition options using locally produced food and I hope some will choose to cook for others and sell their wares. Many will try it on their own - my hope is all will but we will see. Our new DC (District Commissioner) in Makindu is on an environmental platform and lots of tree planting (much needed) is happening currently. It is a youth project which is good as they are often idle with no local work. In March a local (Nairobi) radio station MUSYI FM paid a planned visit to MCC and donated clothing, blankets, t-shirts and bread. It was a grand event with their LARGE caravan of vehicles - the event brought out a lot of interested spectators from the community. It was great exposure for MCC. One of our guardian groups had a honey harvest - that is always exciting as the honey is wonderful. That's the good news, the bad news is the harvest was small because they did not harvest all hives at the right time, i.e. late, so the bees had already consumed the honey. BUT, it is a learning experience for them and we will do a refresher course in beekeeping to help increase the harvest for the next time. We have had good rains this time around so the flowering is good which means the honey should be plentiful. MCC has been blessed with a donation of two new classrooms for the Educational Development Center (Winnie Academy Pre-School). We hope that the classrooms will be completed for the new school year in January. Marketing the school for paying children will help the ongoing support of the orphans and vulnerable children who cannot pay school fees.

Recently we received donor funding to help suport the purchase of chicken and goats for some of our MCC guardian groups to help support them in making poultry raising and goat keeping into IGA's - income generating activities - profit making businesses!!! We had an interesting time at the chicken market choosing the initial chicken stock for our first project. We were fortunate to have the assistance of the Division Livestock and Fisheries Officer - he really helped them make the right choices and pay fair prices. I am hopeful of this project as a good business opportunity for them. We have also had success in mobilizing many households in the area to vaccinate their chicken - we have to date vaccinated well over 200 in 12 households. It costs 5 shillings to vaccinate a chick that can be sold at maturity for 350 shillings each minimum some for 450 to 500 - they are learning it is a small investment for a large return. Our goal - independent living vs dependent living.

Mt. Kilimanjaro has provided us with spectacular views of late - it has lots of visible snow as we have had rain. It is visible to us in the early morning before the clouds cover it and again sometimes just before sunset. We are a long way away from it so we really appreciate how large a mountain it truly is. Beautiful too!!

Good books read lately; The Lunatic Express by Charles Miller; Standing In The Rainbow by Fanny Flagg; The End of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs and Down Under; all entertaining in their own way.

May birthday wishes to my DAD!!! and Scott. Happy, happy days!!

Personal update . . . healthy and happy!! Missing you all! Thanks for staying in touch of thinking of me. Love from Paula; PCV, Makindu

P.S. Also in March I was asked to speak at an event in a nearby town, Kibwezi, for Internatinal Women's Day - I was flattered that they asked. The "speech" went OK. I focused on how important women are to the future success of Kenya - they are the backbone of a measurable amount of business success that happens in this country. It was well attended and I met a lot of powerful, successful women that are making a difference.

Friday, March 5, 2010

On Leave In Kenya . . .

This was my first leave since arriving in Kenya. It was nice to have a little vacation and see some more of this beautiful country. I traveled to Pat Novak's site on the 26th of February. She is in Nguluni about 1 1/2 hours northeast of Nairobi. We toured around her small town and met her friends and work counterparts. It is so much greener than Makindu and unlike us, they have had good rains and a nice harvest. The next morning we traveled the back way north and west through Thika, the countryside was beautiful, lush and green with tea plantations and other crops. The road was a little rough but passable, the heavy rains would make it impossible to go that way, but we had good weather. Then on to our destination, Naivasha. This larger "city" sits on a large lake, Lake Naivasha. Unfortunately the lake has been in the news lately due to pollution from flower farms and others around the lake. So we did not try the fish for any meal. Sad, but they are focused on the problem and they will fix it. We stayed outside Naivasha, about a 30 minute matatu ride, at The Fish Eagle Inn - they offer dorms, hotel rooms and campsites. It was a great place. We stayed in a 4 person dorm. They had hot showers, what a TREAT!!! It was quiet and cool, good sleeping weather. The hippos come to the lake shore to eat very early each morning and each night. Birds are also plentiful - one large one with a wing span of 3 meters. We awoke early the next morning and headed off to climb Mt. Longonot, 2776 meters, in a National Park. It is a dormant volcano with a large steep crater rim. You climb to the crater rim then around the crater - there are some very steep and narrower places and we were very glad for no rain or the climb would have been impossible. Erosion is not the mountain's friend and you could see in some places where they are losing the battle. The climb was about 5 hours with beautiful views all around. The British Army was training on the crater and of course they were running as Pat and I were walking!! They were getting ready to return to Afghanistan, some for their third or fourth tour. We thanked them for their service. We could also see the IDP "refugee" camps (internally displaced persons)from the mountain - these are the Kenyans that were relocated after the political violence in 2007. We had great weather this day as it poured rain the night before . . . we were lucky with weather the whole trip. The next day we headed by matatu north thru Gilgil, O'Kalou to Nyahururu to see Thomson's Falls named after its founder. We stopped for chai and met Charles, a retired teacher and avid environmentalist whose son owns the restaurant. Charles was kind enough to act as a gracious and informative tour guide. It drizzled all day so we picked a good day to go here as much of the day was travel in matatus. The scenery was magnificent - Charles asked the driver to stop at the Rift Valley viewpoint for us on the way to Nakuru and he did - Charles was right, it is the BEST view of the Great Rift Valley - 50 miles wide. We traveled back through Nakuru for new and beautiful scenery then on to Naivasha and our dorm room. The next day we set off early again but as we were leaving the inn we were approached by a small, thin, aging, delightful, gray haired man named Peter. Peter is the chef at a small restaurant owned by a Tanzanian women just 100 meters up the road. He invited us to have dinner at his restaurant that night, asked us to choose what we wanted to eat then so he could be ready with the proper ingredients at dinner. We chose vegetables and told him we would come around 6 p.m. after our trip to Hell's Gate National Park. Off we journeyed to Hell's Gate. We walked and walked in Hell's Gate, we estimated around 27 kilometers, I think. The walk also included a steep gorge which is not passable when it rains - it didn't rain so the gorge was magnificent. It is Masai land - our guide was a nice young man hoping to earn enough money from guiding to go to the University to study medicine. It was a beautiful day and the scenery was great. It reminded us of the areas in Utah and Arizona - large beautiful rocks, trees and shrubs. We saw giraffe, warthogs, zebra, gazelles, many butterflies and birds - you know there are 900 species of butterflies in Africa!! We ran into the British Army again, this time repelling on the rocks. We befriended a couple of young female medical students from Holland staying next to us in the dorm and invited them to join us at Peter's place for dinner. They did and we had a nice time chatting together. Since they were a surprise to Peter, he fixed what he had for them. That being omelets with spicy potatoes - we shared the vegetables and omelets family style - the food was great. Pat and I had breakfast there the next morning. We were a little early and caught Peter in his bathrobe. The breakfast omelets were different but equally delicious. Then we headed back to Nairobi - I stayed in Nairobi (where I am writing this blog) for three nights, Pat went back to site then returned on Friday for a meeting. While in Nairobi I had a chance to spend many hours in the National Museum and botanical garden, which I had not seen. Pat and I toured the Kenyan Archives on Friday. Both were wonderful and I learned so much more about the history of Kenya. It was a good leave packed with good adventure, good company, new friends and lots of new learning.

Today is Saturday and I am headed back to Makindu. Refreshed and enthusiastic about what is to come next . . .

Have a great day and love to all!!


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A Little Update . . .

It has been a while so I'll let you know what I have been up to of late. I participated in a Monitoring, Reporting and Evaluation Workshop at Peace Corps' request . . . sounds dull but it was very good. It will turn our activities as Peace Corps Volunteers into the numbers that Washington needs to "help our cause" i.e. MONEY!! The reporting formats are new so a few of the existing volunteers representing all sectors (secondary education - math and science, deaf education, public health and Small Enterprise Development (me) and ICT (techology) were asked to help make them more understandable. I hope we helped a little. This reporting is due three times a year and is all completed on the computer which can be a little challenging for some of us. Anyway, it will give the "powers that be" the information they need to evaluate the job we do in the field. Money well spent is our goal and hope.

I continue to work with the Ministrey of Agriculture and Livestock to organize relevant trainings for the Makindu Children's Centre caregivers. We are currently focused on Food Security. That is a BIG topic with lots of training needed and available. We should have around 8 trainings at each site to get through the curriculum. The last one we had was in Makindu and 66 caregivers participated in learning the process of drying vegetables. They learned some "theory" then did a pratical session on drying kunde (cowpea leaves) VERY nutritious and good. The finished product was great. I now hope they do this one their own in their homes . . . we will follow up to gauge results. Feed Security training is essential if we are to move the culture from maize growing to agriculture more likely to survive in this semi-arid land . . . 4 years of failed maize harvest should send a clear message but the culture of planting maize is a hard one to change - slowly by slowly we are trying to help. We are encouraging drought resistent crops and more livestock keeping, as a business rather than just for home use. Livestock like goatkeeping (including dairy) and indigenous chicken keeping for egg and meat sales. The market is good for both, it is quite simply a matter of treating both like a business . . . buy low, sell high (at the right time) keep good records and save a little for a rainy day along the way. The rainy day being primarily school fees - that is the BIG expense. There are a handful of caregivers that "get it" they are beginning to see that goats and chickens sold at the right time and cared for properly can yield may pesa (money) when the need arises and the market is right. They are good role models and will teach others about their success - others will try it then, I hope. Liquid soapmaking and its sale continues to be a good income generating activity for at least two groups. It is easy to do and easy to sell - the market is there for its success also. The challenge has been to get these caregivers to tell us how these income generating activities have changed their lives, if indeed they have. Some fear that we will recognize their success and "take away" a benefit they currently receive That belief is helping them or the children, who are our main focus. Time will tell . . .

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a Child Protection workshop with MCC staff and other stakeholders in the MCC community. It was a great workshop I learned a lot. The genesis of focus on Child Rights began with the UNCRC - UN Child's Right Convention adopted in 1990. As of November 2009, 194 countries have adopted the UNCRC, all UN members have signed except Somalia and the USA. I believe the USA didn't sign because our government believes we already have sufficient laws in place for the protection of children and Somalia didn't have a government to sign apparently. Having never focused on Child Rights specifically in my career, the workshop was very interesting to me. I learned about some chilren issues unique to Kenya but we share many of the same issues. Those unique to Kenya and some places elsewhere in Africa, there is FGM (female genital mutilation) and witchcraft and medicinemen predictions (beliefs so strong that predictions do come true). There are now safehouses available in parts of the country where FGM is still practiced so girls can escape this abuse if they are able . . . that is a good start along with it now being illegal to practice. The workshop content sparked enthusiastic conversation, opened eyes about important issues involving children and most importantly provided Community Owned Resource Persons (CORPS) with valuable iinformation to enable them to create awareness in their communities about the Right of a Child.

Life is going on at MCC. The children have all returned to school. We have inducted 7 new children into the pre-school academy. All very needy and happy to be a part of this great organization. A wonder supporter of MCC, Lochab, a Sikh man from Nairobi, has commited to build classrooms for MCC in our compound. This is must needed so the academy children can attend classes in their own age group. Right now we have only one classroom (that is really conference room) and every age group learns together - that is a real challenge for the teacher. So we are hopeful the classrooms will come this year. Recently we learned that AMREF is commiting to funding for programs at MCC for the next 12 months. That is a real WIN for MCC. It also is a show of confidence in the integrity and "make a difference" operation here. So many children are benefiting with excellent care and protection. Plans are aggressive and on-going to use the money to improve the lives of these now 432 children and their caregivers. We are busy!!

My other project, KISMA, in Loitokitok, is doing well. We have 30 sponsored children in secondary school. Thanks to all who are helping in that effort. Sponsorships for children going to secondary are not easy to obtain and are much needed. The community group has really embraced this project and they are running it efficiently and well. That is what is supposed to happen - it is THEIR project. You cannot be successful without the support of the community. Thank you WOPI, Wings of Peace International.

NOW . . . wow lots to report, sorry. I am going on leave, that's vacation, for the first time since I arrived. I leave Friday for Naivasha, Kenya, for a week. Another PCV, Pat (also a member of PCV/AARP) and I are going to do some hiking in a couple of the national parks; Mt. Longonot, Hell's Gate, Laker Naivasha and the Buffalo Circuit. I am looking forward to a few vacation days in a beautiful location.

Family birthday wishes; January belated to Mackenzie, sorry. February 29th (sorry no 29th this year) to Sister Patricia; that's why she never ages. March birthday wishes to Lucas, Lewis, Tyler, Carter and Duston - an all boys month!! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOU!!! Safe travels to my friends Lyzette and Larry as they dash off to live in New Zealand for 6 months . . . wow!!! AND . . . everyone else, thanks for all of your support. I appreciate the letters and calls so much. I hope some of you send me some good news soon from the USA or I may consider staying but if you are all healthy and happy that is what is important.

Thanks again!!! Love to all, Paula

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A New Year Always Brings Hope . . .

Here we are in 2010!!! I celebrated Christmas Eve with PCV Erin and her visiting parents, sister and other Kenyan friends. We ate traditional goat (we witnessed the slaughter that morning) with a variety of side dishes, ALL fresh and good. Garlic mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and beans, very traditional ugali (Kenyan cake) and greens, all wonderfully prepared and fun. We had a follow up dinner the day after Christmas at the rural home of MCC's new chairman, Joseph Kithome and his wife Mary.
New Year's Day I did community trash clean up - the group said they would be there but were not, I wondered about that when they said they would be there,then the next week they told mee they had forgotten that it was a holiday. Oh well!!! It kept me busy anyway - good way to start the new year - clean up!

During December, 25 new PCV's (education) came to visit MCC from PC's training site in Loitokitok. They toured MCC, met our staff and a few of the children. I gave them a briefing on our mission, vision and program content, as well as, my opinion and experience regarding the importance and manner of community integration. Our Winnie Academy (pre-school) children sang songs and recited portry. One of our MCC "graduates", Babu, who is now attending Moi University in law, told them about his life and the role MCC has played in it. Juliet, who is just moving from primary to secondary school, and has been in MANY poetry competitions and always does well,recited a beautiful poem in Kiswahili for the group. Recently (August) Juliet competed for her school, Kiambani Primary, in the Nationals in Mombasa (coast). The PCV's seem to enjoy themselves. 15 PC staff and trainers also accompanied them. MCC has many stars! Another is our academic star, Fidel. He recently completed Class 7 (primary) as the number 1 student in his class, again!! Fidel always finshes the year in the top 1, 2 or 3 spot. He loves to read which thrills me as I rarely see that in Makindu children or adults. Probably because their access to books including school books is limited. We have no public library of any kind and often school textbooks must be shared.

The holidays have been celebrated and the children of MCC are returning to school. MCC was closed for a few days, staff is now back renewed and refreshed and ready for a year of challenges, some new, some not so new, coupled with ambitious goals for improving the lives of more and more OVC's (orphans and vulnerable children) through program improvements . . . like a permanent classroom for our younger students in pre-school. Our 2010 goal amoung others!! Raising funds will be a 2010 focus to meet this goal.

The rain continues to pour all around Makindu but little, or more like none, in Makindu. Our crops look dwarfed compared to the areas around us. The green is a wonderful change, however, from the brown and dust that will return here too soon. But hope rings eternal . . . so we continue to hope for rain. I like that about Kenyans. All is lost without hope. They are predicting more famine - I hope "they" are wrong!!!

MCC has a new finance person, Ruth, a welcome and valuable addition to the team here. Cathy, a board member of Makindu Children's Program (MCP)in the US, who works for NYU paid us a visit in December. It was good meeting her. The children always enjoy visitors!! Her goodwill and enthusiasm are what helps the continued success of MCC in Makindu. She is currently working in Abu Dhabi setting up a new campus for NYU. MCP coordinates a major fundraising event evry two years called the Proper Walk . . . through areas in the Rift Valley of Kenya so Cathy; MCC's founder, Winnie Barron and others will return in August to Makindu to kick off that event - Winnie and other board members do the walk as well as donors who are tough,don't whine and can raise, I think $10,000 USD. It sounds like a great challenge and FUN!!

This week we were without water for four days . . . who knows why but rumor has it that the water company didn't pay their electric bill to run the pumps - anyway, whatever, it was a little inconvenient but you just adjust and today all is OK with water again. The mama's with young children have the hardest time as they wash (by hand of course) almost every day!!

As I told you, I read a lot. That's my night life . . . EVERY night and Sunday (my day off). So I have a couple of books to recommend, Richard Branson's (Virgin Companies) autobiography is a good read - what a full life he leads. Also, 2 books by Nobel Peace Prize winner, Muhammad Yumus - Banker to the Poor and Creating a World Without Poverty - I should have been HIS kind of banker, it fits me better . . . maybe there is still time? Erin (PCV Makindu) and I visited a similar banking operation in Nairobi, Jamii Bora, check out their website; if you have an interest, our friend there is Gabriel Kadidi. He is their communications "guy"; born and raised in the Kibera slums in Nairboi - a great success story. He has a weekly radio program also. The company appears awesome from what we saw and learned. My kind of banking . . .

A quote came in our monthly PC newsletter as a reminder to us from our Country Director, Steve. I know you have heard it before but it always a good reminder . . .
"The world is a great mirror. It reflects back to you what you are. If you are loving, if you are friendly, if you are helpful, the world will prove loving, friendly and helpful to you. The world is what you are." Thomas Dreier. It's a good reminder to all.

That's it for now. All is good here. The BEST to all in 2010. May you have a year of hopeful dreams that you assist to make come true!!! Love to all my family and friends. Paula