Many thanks to Will Hammond for producing this introductory video to explain just why your help is so important in Mutundu.
At our AGM today we announced our plans to begin work in a third Ruiru school, Mutundu Primary School. Clearly how and when that happens is up in the air now while the schools are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic but we are excited to be able to make a positive difference for more children and families soon.
Many thanks to Will Hammond for producing this introductory video to explain just why your help is so important in Mutundu.
Kirsty reports on her first full day in Kenya - she's certainly packed a lot in...
Having arrived at Macheo on Wednesday night after a long journey, our first meeting of the day on Thursday morning was with Marnix, the founder of Macheo our partner organisation in Kenya, and we spent some time reflecting on how much has changed since my last visit in 2013. We benefit from their continued focus on improvement and how to best address the needs of the children and families they support.
We then met with some of the key personnel at Macheo, starting with the Monitoring & Evaluation team which is a perfect example of something that has changed. They now they now collect and collate all the Key Performance Indicators that are used to measure the different programmes. Using mobile apps and technology they have made identifying, referring and evaluating what we do so much quicker and simpler. James and his new colleague Joyce seem to be delivering great insight back into the Macheo organisation which we also benefit from. KPIs from the various programs are regularly monitored and used to flag and bring about actions. Similarly, the communications team at Macheo has grown and Edna talked us through how they’ve spent this year simplifying the process ensuring we will now hear about the the projects, budgets and people in a more holistic way.
We took the 40 minute journey to Mukuyu Primary School with Faith, one of the program coordinators, and our visit began meeting the Headmaster Daniel and my first meeting with Mary and Winny the social workers who deliver most of Kipawa’s programmes. During the meeting the headmaster informed us the school roll is about to exceed 800 kids and it certainly felt a busier school than when I last visited.
Feeding the children is still at the core of what we do and some parents are already worried about how they will cope over the holidays when schools break up on 26th October. There is good cooperation between the supportive staff who refer cases to Mary & Winny and highlight any concerns they have about attendance, behaviour or vulnerability.
Following the meeting we went for a wander around the school as the children ate lunch and we saw the building of an additional nursery classroom funded by Kipawa which is underway. It’s expected to be complete in late October which will allow the teachers to split the current 65 children into 2 rooms - the Teachers, Joyce and Mary, are very much looking forward to having more space for teaching and I don’t blame them! With a growing school roll I can already see that the toilets which we had built in previous years are not enough to cope with 800 kids.
Following our tour, the whole school assembled for a presentation, and after we introduced ourselves I was delighted to hand out the underwear and shoes that had been paid for by our appeal. There was a lot of excitement and laughter when we handed out the pants!
I made a special visit to Class 1 to hand out the letters I had taken from Leith Primary School and received some letters and a lovely song from them in return. They were very keen to see the letters and pictures that had come from Scotland.
After lunch, we left the school and headed to Ruiru (many thanks to our intrepid driver Paul!) to meet a mother who was first referred to Mary by teachers who were concerned about her 3 children. Her story is very complex and harrowing. She had been badly burned in an attack by her ex-husband, leaving her hospitalised and in recovery for 2 years. When she was discharged she received no support and was effectively housebound until our social workers intervened. She was given counselling and support and responded so well that she has now set up her own shop selling groceries. She works 7 days a week, sometimes from 5am-10pm, determined to support her family. I always find my trips to Kenya humbling but in her case I simply can’t imagine having the strength to cope with life so admirably after such an experience.
Our last visit of the day was to a grandmother that had been referred to the social workers via one of the secondary school teachers we work with. She had been bed-ridden due to an infected leg and had spent all of her savings on medicine which had not resolved the problem, leaving her penniless, unable to work or even do simple tasks for herself. After assessing her, the team were able to get her the correct medical support and, having supported her back to good health, helped her to set up her own business. With a small loan she has established a small kiosk with a basic seating area (strangely called a hotel!) selling vegetables and hot food which she prepares and is financially stable and supporting her grandchildren. Within 6 months her life has been entirely changed and she is not only healthy but has a sustainable future.
After a jam packed day we headed back to Madaraka to have dinner and reflect on our day. Another busy day ahead tomorrow!
Our President, Kieran Hudson, and his brother, Paddy, visited Kenya last month to visit the various projects funded by Kipawa. Read all about the people they met and the work they saw there - all made possible by our generous donors.
"After a long day travelling on the Wednesday, Marnix (the Director of Macheo, our partner organisation in Kenya) collected Paddy and me from Nairobi and we arrived back at the volunteers' house at Macheo Children’s Home just before midnight.
We only had two full days with Macheo and lots of things we wanted to see and do, so we made an early start on Thursday morning and headed out to Mukuyu Primary School.
My last visit to Mukuyu was in 2011 when our project was in its first year and things have changed so much since then. The school looks much better thanks to the classroom refurbishments, the new toilet blocks and the pathways around the school grounds that have all been provided by Kipawa in the last few years. I had seen photos of these from previous Kipawa trustee visits but it was nice to be back and see everything for myself.
The children were excited, as always, to have Scottish visitors and were keen to say hello, exchange hand shakes or high-fives and have photos taken. They were also particularly keen to touch our hair, if they could reach!
It seemed we had brought some Scottish weather with us as it was damp and relatively cold, by Kenyan standards. The ground was very muddy so we did not witness a huge outdoor school assembly as is usually the case when we visit. Instead we dropped into each classroom individually to say hello and introduce ourselves. It was probably better this way as we were able to speak to the children more easily and see what they were learning in class. Many of the classes had prepared short poems or songs that they were eager to perform. It’s always great to see the kids singing and dancing so enthusiastically.
This year we had brought with us some handmade cards from Victoria Primary School in Edinburgh. The p4 children there had drawn pictures and written messages about their school and about Edinburgh too. It was really lovely to see how delighted the Mukuyu kids were to receive these and how interested they were to hear about life in Scotland. We had arranged in advance for the equivalent aged children at Mukuyu to do something similar for us and we were duly presented with a large bundle of drawings and messages to bring back with us and give to the kids at Victoria Primary. It was so simple to arrange but has been a really positive thing to do for the pupils at both schools. Now that the children have made a personal connection we can hopefully keep the link going between the schools and exchange photos and messages throughout the year.
In addition to these large items, we also purchased some building blocks and other toys for the nursery class. We took these into the classroom and helped the kids open boxes and start playing. While we concentrate the majority of our efforts on the essentials, such as food, education and health, it is great to be able to provide some toys and games for the children to enjoy. Thank you so much for making this happen by supporting us and donating to our fundraising effort in the build up to our trip.
One of the community projects funded by Kipawa away from the school is the Family Empowerment Programme. Families are given small amounts of seed capital as well as training to start their own small businesses. There is ongoing support and these businesses provide a more reliable source of income for the families involved, allowing them to pay rent, purchase food and pay school fees.
The second women we met was Joyce, who has three children at Mukuyu Primary School and just started in the Family Empowerment Programme one month ago. She said things were going well so far and told us that one added benefit of running a fruit and veg stall was that even if business was slow, any produce leftover at the end of the day could be used to feed her family.
We also visited the home of one vulnerable pupil from Mukuyu who Margaret (a Kipawa funded social worker) has been supporting in recent months. The mother was not home but we found a young boy called Christopher (around 4 years old) outside the house heating up some milk on a stove. The boy was looking after his baby sister, Joy, while their mother was working nearby. To see this tiny baby being cared for by such a young child really stopped us in our tracks. It is a sobering reminder of the harsh reality facing many families in Ruiru - parents being forced to leave young children at home so they can go to work to earn enough money to feed their family.
Throughout the day we had opportunities to speak with the head teacher, deputy head and class teachers who are very pleased with the support that Kipawa is providing and the difference it makes to their school. We spent most of our day with the social workers funded by Kipawa, Margaret and Moses. They are the people we rely upon day-to-day to oversee our projects and are the best people to speak to about what is working well and what other areas might need addressed.
After a full day at Mukuyu Primary School we returned to Macheo for a meeting with Julie, their head of Finance. She took us through the processes involved in running that side of the organisation and she was also able to show us receipts for all of the things that Kipawa has paid for over the past year. Our first full day in Kenya ended with a power-cut and an early night, which was probably not a bad idea as we had another busy day ahead!
Friday started with a meeting, before heading out to visit our other Primary school. We met with James who is the head of the Monitoring and Evaluation team. He explained the new processes in place for assessing the needs of the communities in which we operate. An extensive data collection exercise has taken place in Ruiru and analysis is ongoing to identify what areas should be prioritised in future. This is a new way of working for Macheo and for Kipawa and we will keep you informed of how this shapes our plans for 2017 and beyond.
James also showed us the new software that is used to log the activity of the social workers and other employees in the field. The system has reduced the amount of time spent on administration and allows better data reporting and analysis to take place.
After our meeting we visited Oaklands Primary School, arriving just in time to see the porridge feeding programme in action. This year we decided to expand our projects to a new school and this is the first time that a Kipawa trustee has visited Oaklands since the programme began.
The school is within the Ruiru district but a bit further out from the main town. It is situated in a rural area, in the middle of a coffee plantation. Alasdair visited the school on the last Kipawa trustee visit in 2015 and following that visit we decided to put in place a breakfast feeding programme initially. As this has gone well so far we are confident that a lunch programme will be added in due course and that in the long term we will see similar positive outcomes as those witnessed at Mukuyu.
As Oaklands is a bit more isolated and this was our first visit since the feeding programme started, having foreign visitors caused even more excitement here than we are used to at Mukuyu. There was a real buzz about the place.
As we had done at Mukuyu, we visited each classroom to introduce ourselves and spend some time with the children. Even when were running out of time, the deputy head insisted that we still visit every class as the children would have been disappointed if they had missed out! I think that we are usually so focused on what we want to see and what we want to learn from visiting the schools that it is easy to forget that the students and teachers are also keen to learn from us. We can bring a bit of the outside world into the classroom. Bringing the cards from Victoria Primary to Mukuyu yesterday was a great example of this but we definitely plan on being even better prepared on our next trustee visit!
We enjoyed lots more singing and other performances but one of the classes missed their chance to perform for some reason when we initially went round each classroom. As we were leaving they called us over and gave us a great rendition of a song along with some dancing. I don’t know whether they had practiced this for our visit or had just decided on the spur of the moment to do something, but it was not prompted by a teacher and their enthusiasm was genuine and wonderful.
While it was a very positive visit and the children were definitely in high spirits, the school is noticeably more run down than Mukuyu. The main area of need are the crumbling toilet facilities. We knew beforehand that the toilet block was not really fit for purpose but in recent weeks a section of the building had collapsed and it was no longer safe to use. So children were having to go to the toilet in the trees surrounding the school grounds, or some were choosing to walk a short distance to make use of staff toilets in the coffee plantation. As well as the obvious sanitation issues with the current situation and higher risk of disease and illness, there is a significant safety issue if children, particularly girls, are having to leave the school grounds to find a toilet. (Since we returned, the Kipawa trustees have discussed this issue and agreed to fund the construction of a new toilet block as soon as possible).
We were also able to see the new playground equipment at Oaklands (the same set as provided at Mukuyu) and we brought with us some toys, balloons and skipping ropes for the nursery class. Again, all of this was funded by Kipawa donors in our fundraising campaign before the trip so thank you for all of your contributions.
Following our time at the school we visited the homes of two Oaklands pupils. The issues for many of the families here are different to those at Mukuyu. Most Oaklands families have work on the coffee plantation, although it is poorly paid casual labour which is seasonal and therefore, irregular (the average daily wage is 280 Kenyan Shillings which is equal to just £2). Most families here also have houses within the plantation grounds, provided by their employers. These are generally more substantial than the makeshift homes found in some of the areas around Mukuyu. They are also less densely packed together and from the outside appear to be relatively nice. However, on the inside they are often in disrepair, they are small so very cramped for large families and they have no running water, poor sanitation etc. Families here are in a difficult situation as they earn so little but are somewhat trapped as their homes are linked to their employment. Expanding our feeding programme at Oaklands Primary School to include lunch will lift some of the pressure on these families who have very little money to buy food at the moment.
At one of the homes we visited we were confronted by a particularly bleak situation. One boy (around eight years old) was home alone, he had not attended school as he was not feeling well but his three brothers were all at Oaklands. He told us that they had not seen their parents for several weeks and were struggling to find enough food to get by. Some neighbours appeared to be looking out for them but they had nobody caring for them and the porridge provided by Kipawa at their school was the only guaranteed meal they had each day. Margaret, Kipawa’s social worker who had been working with the family, was making efforts to trace the parents and put in place some other temporary measures to assist the boys. A desperate situation but a reminder of how vital the school feeding programme is for those most in need of help.
In the afternoon we visited the secondary school attended by the majority of our 19 sponsored children. Today was a mid-term holiday but we had arranged to meet with 8 of the students, as well as one of their teachers who showed us around and gave us a bit more information about the school. It has grown significantly in the three years we have been involved there. As well as a new block of classrooms to accommodate their increasing school roll, they have also a new science block and school office.
We met with Marnix (the Director of Macheo) in the evening and he explained some more about Macheo’s plans for the coming year, including the new methods being used to identify and prioritise the different areas of needs in the communities we support. This will have an impact on Kipawa later this year and will shape our plans for 2017 and beyond.
Saturday morning was spent with some of the children who live at the Macheo Children's home. In particular we were delighted to see Idris who I first met eight years ago on my first trip to Kenya in 2008. Idris has learning difficulties and some physical disabilities and for years did not attend school. Thankfully Kipawa sponsorship means that he now attends a school that can meet his needs and he has a safe and nurturing home environment at Macheo.
On Saturday afternoon we travelled to Nairobi where we stayed overnight before a very early flight home on Sunday. Our visit was far too brief but thanks to our friends at Macheo we managed to pack everything in. They did a great job of organising everything for us and putting together our busy schedule.
I returned to Scotland happy with the progree we had seen but recognising the huge challenges that remain. We are determined to do more where we can, optimistic that we can continue to make a significant difference to those we seek to help and full of pride at what Kipawa supporters have achieved over the last five years.
A heartfelt thank you to each and every one of you.
"Kenya: mothers and children scratching a living on Eldoret dump" - Guardian article explains the importance of feeding programmes for children living in poverty in Kenya
This article by Zoe Flood and Louis Quail in the Guardian newspaper today describes the desperate situations some people in Kenya find themselves and their families in. Kipawa works in a different part of Kenya, but this article explains how important feeding programmes in schools and other health and social work interventions are for getting children to attend school, allowing them to concentrate when they are there and helping their families to escape the extreme poverty they are living in.
Thanks to Kipawa's generous donors, we are able to provide breakfast and lunch to all the children in Mukuya school in Kenya. We also provide, among other help, deworming medication, sanitary towels, counselling services, family empowerment assistance and, for some, sponsorship to attend secondary school. We have also helped to improve the school environment by improving several classrooms and building new toilet blocks. With your help, we are really making a difference to the lives of the children we work with. Thank you.
Read the full Guardian article here:http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/sep/01/kenya-mothers-children-eldoret-dump
This article from the BBC shows how vital the work that Kipawa is doing in Kenya is. The report shows that Kenya is in the bottom 10, worldwide, for the number of children attending school.
The feeding programme established by Kipawa in Mukuya school means that the school roll there is now well over 600. The counselling, family empowerment and other health programmes mean that children who might have dropped out of school are helped to stay in school and benefit from their education.
Read the full BBC story here:
If you can give anything, however small, to help this vital work, please donate here through Virgin Money Giving.
Kipawa founder and trustee Kirsty Welsh describes her recent visit to Mukuya school to see first hand how our donor's money is helping the children of Riuru:
"After a pretty hectic run up to our trip, my brother and I were dropped off at Edinburgh Airport at 4.30am with 150kg of bags full of all the donations and supplies so generously provided by Kipawa donors. A friend had arranged for KLM to give us extra baggage allowance but we exceeded even that!
After a brief stop in Amsterdam and an 8 hour flight we arrived in Nairobi at 9pm to a remarkably organised Kenyatta airport considering the summer fire had impacted most of the airport. Maaike and Chenge from Macheo had kindly come to collect us and before long we were on our way to Thika. After a good night’s sleep we set off for Mukuya School accompanied by the Macheo team, Maaike and Faith, who told us that the school were very excited about our visit and likened it to Christmas – I’m not sure we were going to live up to this expectation! As we drove along the dirt road to the school I was surprisingly emotional returning to Mukuya, as the school we talk about so much came into view.
We met with Mr Peter the Headmaster in his office and discussed the good progress that’s been made, before beginning our visit by checking in on the nursery classroom block which we funded the refurbishment of earlier in the year. By any Kenyan standards this is now a bright, lively classroom full of kids sitting at their tables keen to learn and play. I had been shocked to see young kids trying to play and learn in rooms with piles of rubble and crumbling walls so it was great to see such a transformation. We also gave out some of the smaller shoes that were generously donated by folks from Broomfield House and Marshgate Primary schools in Surrey, Lilypad Retail in Biggar and others.
It was great to meet Margaret, the new social worker funded by Kipawa, and Karen, our counsellor, and talk to them first hand to understand what they do day-to-day. When they showed us into a small, dark, bare room, which had been a storeroom, furnished with 2 plastic chairs, they told us how grateful they were to have a space to work in. The thought of Karen counselling vulnerable kids in this space immediately showed us that whilst we had made progress this year there is lots still to do and we must make sure that in 2014 there is a safe, warm, light place for the kids to go for counselling and support. A lot of the classrooms aren’t in much better shape with crumbling floors, no windows and 4 or 5 kids sharing a 2 person desk while trying to study for end of year exams.
We briefly popped our heads into each classroom to say hi and were greeted warmly; again it was particularly nice to see both Class 4s in a much better environment than before, in their newly renovated classrooms.
In true Kenyan style, the school had planned a presentation for us and as we walked out towards the garden in the middle of the school the 600 kids started singing. No matter how many times I experience this I don’t think it will stop taking my breath away as we were led to sit at the front with the headmaster. After the children had sung some songs and made some lovely speeches about how grateful they were for Kipawa’s support we presented a few of them with gifts for the school – books, stationery and sports equipment. One pair of football boots went to a boy who had had a poor attendance record at school. Since involving him in the school football team he has turned into a great role model with perfect attendance and is encouraging his friends to do the same. This has also sparked an idea that we can use sports and other activities to incentivise the children to attend school and inspire them to do well. Following the presentation it was great to see all the kids line up and enjoy their lunch, after all that’s the foundation of what we do – the feeding programme is what brings the children to school and allows us and the school to really start helping them.
As we were leaving, Margaret introduced us to Morgan, a boy in the nursery class who she had tracked down after he had stopped attending school due to ill health. After his parents separated, Morgan's mother could not afford to take him for ongoing treatment. Thanks to Margaret’s support, he has now resumed treatment and is being referred to Kenyatta National Hospital for an operation in January. Whilst the family still faces a lot of problems, at least we have been able to ensure he accesses the treatment he needs and is restored to good health. In 2014 we hope to fund Margaret to go beyond the school grounds and help pupils and vulnerable families by supporting them in whatever form that takes – accessing medical treatment, supporting parents or referring them to appropriate organisations.
We left Mukuya happy to see so much progress and full of new ideas and made the short trip to Ruiru Township Secondary School where five of Mukuya’s former pupils are now studying thanks to Kipawa sponsorship. After meeting with them and their teachers it’s clear that they value their education as it’s not something that they thought they would be able to carry on with. As we were interrupting the school day, we stayed for just a short visit but long enough to hear what our sponsorship means to them. We would love to help more children like these fulfil their potential by sponsoring them through secondary school.
My trips to Kenya will always give me a great perspective on our problems in the UK and make me more committed to supporting the children we work with in as many ways as I can. It certainly has given me the drive to undertake the next phase of planning and fundraising knowing its having so much impact."
Hear from Mr Peter, the headteacher, about some of the challenges in Mukuya school and see how Kipawa is helping children like 9 year-old Odongo.
A day in the life of Mwangi - Meet 11 year old Mwangi and see the difference Kipawa's work is making to his life
Kipawa's work with Muykuya school in Ruiru, providing breakfast and lunch for the pupils there, makes a real difference to the lives of children like 11 year old Mwangi.
Meet Mwangi and experience a typical day in his life.
Click here to read the article about Kipawa in today's Daily Record (pages 2 & 3).
A new study shows that literacy is 'hit by malnourishment'.
A group of top authors, including England's children's laureate, has highlighted how extreme hunger leaves children struggling to read.