Still Kenya after all these years
Last month Turk and I made the trip to Kenya that has become such a part of our lives. Though Turk had been back in March 2020 (that was a close one on getting home) and June 2021, I hadn't been on a project tour for almost 3 years. It was time for me to go, visit new projects, and create some new program partners to continue to provide an educational ladder for the students in our network of schools.
First though, I had to meet the new babies! Our in-country program manager Gibson Githaiga and our Jumpstart Coordinator Beatrice Macharia both have new members of their families. I am proud to be in the honorary cũcũ category these days (pronounced "shosho" which is Kikuyu for Grandma)! Welcome to the world Braden and Jace!
It was heartening to see everyone back in school after nearly a year at home due to COVID-19. Kenya took the pandemic very seriously and has mostly avoided the extreme circumstances we've had here in the US. So with schools now fully reopened and testing ramped up to get back on schedule, kids are catching up best they can. There has been some attrition in the high schools but the principals are working hard to locate those students and encourage them to come back to their studies. We are in discussion on how to help support that so we don't have even more losses chalked up to COVID.
Our first stop was at Dedan Kimathi University to discuss establishing a scholarship fund to support our Jumpstart Scholars program for high scoring graduates of the high schools where we work in that area. We have supported over 50 students with college tuition grants since we began the program, and we are ready to take things to the next level by extending our school partnerships to a university.
We just missed Anne Wamucii Mutongu's graduation but you can see that these students are ready to take it on!
Another current partnership is with Ol Pejeta Conservancy near Mt. Kenya. The mission of Ol Pejeta includes community as well as conservation and we are working on several projects to support nearby schools. The new preschool at Yard Primary is open and I had a great time playing an ABC game with the little ones.
It always amazes me that all school children in Kenya speak multiple languages, including Kiswahili and English being taught even at this early age.
Thanks to Karen Kofod and Grant Richards for funding this preschool and the next phase of works for new primary classes so each grade level can quit splitting these spaces and have their own rooms.
After many years of Turk celebrating his July birthday while in Kenya, this November trip was the first time I had been there for mine! A very special visit to Olmoran Secondary was a great way to mark the passage of another year. Wonderful to see the progress with the addition of a boy's dorm (named Turk's house!), expanded kitchen and a growing number of kids enrolled and excelling. Principal John Kimathi has really made some great things happen in this remote Laikipia location. Many of the students are the first in their families to attend high school, with many of them now going on to advanced studies.
Our Jumpstart staff is tracking a pilot group from Olmoran that are receiving technical certificates to determine if we want to increase support for these skill training programs. The rapid pace of development throughout the country means there is employment opportunity in the areas of plumbing, electrical wiring, construction and computer technology. Olmoran also commits their time and hearts to learning and performing traditional dance works, for school competitions and to honor and preserve their heritage.
On to the Aberdares!
This is the area we have spent much of our time and toil since Turk's first trip to Kenya in 2004. From school project #1 at Mahiga to this brand new 3 story classroom building at Mwangaza, over 30 of the 50 partner schools where we work are in this region. Great to see many of them in the final stages of completion and local government building better, safer roads, installing electricity connections, and providing tablet technology to primary schools.
There will always be work that needs doing but with much of these infrastructure projects in place, these communities will be able to build on a firm foundation.
Finally we made a quick trip to the Maasai Mara to see our friends and partners at the Angama Foundation, Mara Safari Club, and the Mara Elephant Project https://maraelephantproject.org/. A visit to the Mara never fails to awe and is a reminder of how fragile these conservation eco-systems are becoming. We continue to partner with these organizations to make sure that communities in this area have the fundamental infrastructure for their children to receive an education and to learn about the unique and special place they live.
Seed Balls Kenya https://www.seedballskenya.com/ is also doing great work to help reforest great swaths of Kenya, where charcoaling and clearing for livestock is contributing to climate change. Turk and I got the chance to do a little Throw and Grow distribution with the Mara Elephant Project--more on this effort to come.
Our final school visit was to Ol Meoshi Primary to break ground on the new preschool (thanks once again to Thomas Giamboi). This will be our third building project at Ol Meoshi and I was touched by the gift of this khanga. They told me the Swahili saying printed on the bottom says "When friends come together the enemy has no chance". I said "That's why we're here." Thanks to you all for being those friends. Karibu Sana! Christy P.