April 2017 Update
Dear friends and supporters,
We at KCC are doing well. The kids had a nice long Easter holiday during which time Andrew and I hope to touch up the paint on the school house. Believe it or not if we were to put our name on the building we would be fined - possibly for up to $6000. The machinations of this 'city council' are beyond me.
As you may remember I brought 8 laptops here to replenish our school supply. The plan is to have the teachers bring their personal laptops in for thrice a week classes for the sixth grade and twice a week classes for the seventh grade. The 8th grade is cramming for the nationwide exams that define the rest of their life so they are too stressed out to worry about IT this year. We have 11 teachers and about 20 in each of the two classes so this should offer each student a study buddy for now. We still don't have electricity in our school yet but we have now got computers that have a battery life of at least an hour so the teachers can charge at home and carry to school every day for classroom instructions. In the past computers have been stolen from our school as well so I feel better about our teachers being each individually responsible for one computer.
We had to give four computers to four teachers whose previous ones weren't working. So we took their old ones into a friendly IT shop with whom we have been doing business for over ten years now and they gave us a discount on the mass purchase of batteries to render these laptops fine again. Now I hope to bring these to one of the secondary schools we send kids to (Green Valley is improving their computer lab) and trade them for our student's fees coming term.
Despite a glitch towards the end of last when the road to our campus was so torn up (by much needed repairs now that the election is coming up) that the Hari Krishna truck couldn't bring food up to our school; the kids are alright. We had to buy lunch ourselves for a couple of days - a few days the kids went home for lunch and then Andrew got the local employees to finish the road work faster than they may have done without begging.
We are trying to get the Kenya Wildlife Service to let our orphans into the Animal orphanage for free. This would make a really memorable outing for the students who haven't had an outing for two years now, as the Museum did some stuff in the past for the older classes. I also hope to borrow the International School bus like we have done in the past to drive us all out of the slum and into one of the beautiful gardens that grace this city. Transportation is expensive (distances are long) so many of our kids have never been out of the ugly sheet metal and raw sewage, jungle that they call home.
We are continuing the slow process with the local NGO called LVCT whose mission is to keep AIDS away from Kenya. They have rightfully figured out that keeping teenaged girls in school really lowers their HIV prevalence and is therefore VERY good for the whole country. So they want to sponsor some of our neediest girls - meaning pay school fees for them. Ironically, these are the very girls that we don't ask school fees of but we are working out how to charge LVCT to help us keep the school running.
LVCT gave us a bunch of text books at the end of last term which will save us a lot of money this coming term when we usually update our stock. The Kenyan government updates its textbooks, jails 'counterfeiters' and tests straight from the new text books in their very clever plan to make lots of money from school children (naive me - I thought elementary school was to broaden people’s minds - turns out that it is most to make money). 80% of Kenyans go to private schools because government school are abysmal but aren't cheap. So the exams are the only way the government can still make a lot of money - two years ago they sold the exams (early for study) to a few special schools but they were happily slapped down there. The Kenyan education system is SLOWLY getting better but in the meantime "our kids" are growing up fast and need to be taught how to be responsible, creative, kind adults to help pull this country out of its corrupt mess.
Bad news it that we don't have enough money now to send our individually sponsored kids back to their boarding schools. The double digit inflation that has been going on for the last ten years has rendered your kind sponsorship monthly donations insufficient to cover the rising costs. Sometimes it looks to me like the secondary school business in this country is mostly teaching kids how to be covetous consumers more than anything else. Every time you hear from them it is that teacher X says we need to bring a Y. I have seen kids kicked out of school for not buying a bible (nice Christians eh?). I am proud that we have been able to keep our kids in school without being publically humiliated by being sent home - like so many kids are. We are nearly $2000 short this month.
So this email is to say that we are well. The kids are enjoying a stress free education BUT for any of you who donate annually in lump sums (rather than the monthly donations that we hope will lead us to sustainability), now would be a very good time for some financial backing.
Good News: We plan to graduate five girls from secondary school this year and two boys, so our tri-annual panic will be greatly lessoned next year. Andrew is working with another USA-Kenyan NGO to fund our best graduates from 8th grade onto secondary school next year. That would (will?) truly be a blessing.
Here's a picture of the kids getting fed that I hope will lighten your day.
Asante Sana (Thank you),
January 2017 Update
We have given 8 teachers new gas cookers, and next month we will give the rest theirs. Then the following month our teachers will borrow the money to buy a back-up gas cylinder, paying us back over about six months. In this part of Kenya, once you own the cylinders, cooking with gas costs about the same as cooking with three stones and wood. Replacing the propane in the stove is the same price as buying enough wood to do your cooking for the two weeks it lasts. Typically poor people cannot scrap together enough money to buy the cylinders and gas stove in the first place, or to have a back-up cylinder to keep full, in case they run out of gas while making their morning tea.
Here is a thank you note from Teacher Edwin. A thank you note was also received from Teacher Sheilah who has asthma (which was of course exacerbated by an open fire in her house).
Hallo, I hope you are doing well. Am very thankful for the gas cylinder and the cooker that I have received today through Mr. Andrew.
May you be blessed more.
Tr. Edwin Musoka.🙏🙏
October 2016 Update
Greetings from Kawangware, where “The Kids Are Alright.”
The December 2015 graduating school class did excellently well in their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and - thanks to you individual sponsors – we were able to send a couple of them out to Green Valley boarding school to start their secondary education like good middle class Kenyans. We have warned everybody that this was the last year we will be able to take new students to secondary school however. We don’t have enough budget for any more graduate scholarships, since we still struggle to maintain the elementary school - at $18 per child - month to month.
But in better news: March saw our students win many prizes in their local sports leagues. We had a school wide celebration – with tea, cookies and song for our champions. They even did a parade through the (unpaved) streets of Kawangware. We couldn’t let them continue competing past their departmental victory though because we couldn’t afford bus fare and lunch (not to mention sports shoes and uniforms) for our team to go regional. Still our students were rightfully very proud of their local victories, and because they didn’t expect to go regional, they weren’t disappointed. Here are some proud pictures even if they played barefoot sometimes, they still won.
We have had our share of campus drama however this year: neighbors stole our rain water collection tank just before the rains came to fill it. Luckily our landlord went out the very next day and brought it home again. We then added chains to the cement to hold it down better and it hasn’t wandered off since. It remains in the middle of our campus collecting rain water run off.
Next the sanitary latrine caved in during a heavy rain in April. Luckily school was closed for mid-term break but we had to keep it closed for a couple of weeks afterwards while we put together a temporary solution. Then we negotiated with One Child’s Village and our landlord for a really big capital investment to finally build our outhouse safely and hygienically for our school and all the neighbors who have to use it. [Kawangware has no city services because Nairobi does not provide anything like police, water, electricity, plumbing or roads – which is why it is officially called a slum – the 7 families who own the land on which 700,000 people live refuse to pay taxes; so the city refuses services – though I know of many taxpaying neighborhoods without services as well]. This time around we – thank you Todd Lorentz and One Child’s Village - are building a ‘5 holer’ with two holes set aside for our students exclusively. I trust this big capital improvement to finally provide sustainable sanitary latrines, for several more years anyway. So while our campus is not as nice to look at as your kids’ schools here in ‘the west’ it is hygienic again.
As many of you can remember, I have always argued that a school is only as good as its teachers. In our case our teachers are getting even better while they continue to be supported by you. They got a much needed raise at the start of this year and are also enjoying the matched savings plan Andrew put into action last year. They really are a great team. Nowadays they work as well on their own Plan Kenya Table Top Banking scheme that they started last year. KCC does ‘community based health insurance’ for each other that I supervise with Andrew’s hands-on accounts. Our policy is to pay the teacher’s or their immediate family’s medical bills as they happen and then the teachers pay back 50% over the next year or so. We had one crisis this year, when our asthmatic teacher was rushed to the hospital to find out that her asthma was acting up partly because she was pregnant. We gave her a loan to cover the costs and she is well now (for years now we have provided her with preventative inhalers.)
All our teachers have teaching certificates from the Kenyan government but some of them would like to continue higher education (notably our head teacher, who had started a university program in which he attended classes during our school mid-term breaks – but I was unable to continue funding when I personally lost my day job here in California). Joseph would be very appreciative if any of you would be kind enough to sponsor his continued education - at about $55 a month (he will match this from his own income – of about $140 a month – and we can save up enough to pay at the start of each term) This way Joseph could complete his bachelor’s degree in Education. He is a good, kind, but very strict and ambitious young man – father of a 2 year old girl now, and the man standing on the right in the pink shirt here. One example of his discipline is that he kept the students and teachers working Saturdays all through our last term to make up the time for their “latrine holiday” from classes. He really cares about KCC level of academic achievement.
In other good news our Hare Krishna lunches continue to arrive daily even after a corrupt arrangement that developed between a neighbor and the Hare Krishna delivery drivers. Thank goodness we found out about it relatively early on and we were able to nip it in the bud. Now we supervise the feeding of our children directly each day (with no skimming from local shops who saved the drivers the last bit of the sometimes almost impassable road; in exchange for some lunches to sell at their stalls). But thanks to the charity and discipline of our Hare Krishna sponsors we are still receiving healthy lunches for our students, teachers and a few indigent graduates and neighbors every single day of the week. Here’s our teacher serving the kids their lunch.
AND – in a very positive trend towards more local involvement - a Nairobi health care provider is coming on board to sponsor some of our students’ needs. Liverpool Voluntary Counseling and Testing was set up a long time ago to fight AIDS in Kenya and now they rightly see poor teen girls as primary targets for the disease. LVCT – who has been testing our students for years - wisely decided to sponsor some of our girls because they have noticed that ignorance is much more expensive to our society than education is. Thanks Kathy Thueri for spearheading this engagement.
The Lanterns Project is transferring money to Kenya now so that Andrew can buy our kids nice new T-shirts as soon as possible. Pictures of these will be added soon.
We do have a pet project as well: Literally a pet dog that the school adopted when she was a baby. The baby came to our class as a puppy and Sadie helped adopt her – but when Sadie brought puppy biscuits by to feed her the next day all our children ate them. And loved them. Life is not easy in Kawangware for carnivores. Actually when I do the math this could well be the grandchild of our first adopted puppy. But our Kawangware kids are helping one less fortunate than themselves, even if she needs to eat meat. It clearly does them good to play with Scobi (pictured here).
Our individually sponsored high school kids are doing very well in their boarding schools. And one last thing – Oscar Brookins started a micro-finance fund for our first high school graduating class of 6 young men. He and Andrew Omondi are supervising the start-up of a micro-enterprise that these young men have developed. A secondhand shoe and clothing business has started – though not easily – in a small town between Nairobi and Mombasa. We will keep you posted as this rolling fund hopefully grows enough to employ this class and be able to roll to next year’s high school graduates as well.
So - bottom line - our students are actually thriving despite their slum homes! They have a good healthy diet, loving community and a positive outlook despite their many challenges.
Our teachers are a great nurturing team. And Andrew and I are keeping them focused in their mentoring roles so that we can all learn, and laugh and grow together. I am frankly very proud of the institution we have built and continue to maintain THANKS TO YOU our global village of caregivers.
For more information please check out our facebook page: Kawangware Children’s Centre, Nairobi, Kenya. I am even starting to use our twitter handle a little bit: #MamaLili @ Elisabeth Fulton. Obviously I still use my good old faithful email as well so replies are very welcome. If you never trusted PayPal before, now would be a good time for you to set up a "subscription" account at 18 dollars a month for an elementary school kid, or about $60 a month for a secondary school kid.
Asante Sana (Thank You),
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