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

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