Traveling in Kenya

Traveling in Kenya
Kids at Samro School and Empowering Lives International play baseball in the mud.

Kids at Samro School and Empowering Lives International play baseball in the mud.

For World Storytelling Day on Thrusday, and as a way of officially announcing my trip to Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda this July, I wrote down a story from my last trip in 2011.

We visited Eldoret in the rainy season of August 2011. The rain falls almost every day and the dirt roads, once they can no longer absorb any more water, become mud pits, with trenches of water flowing on either side and rivers crossing the path. 

With this reality it is best to learn early on that there can be no rush when traveling in Kenya.

Birthday party! Kiprop with his wife and her brother.

Birthday party! Kiprop with his wife and her brother.

One afternoon, Dennis Kiprop, took us to visit his wife and family. Dennis, who is one of SIA’s Small Business Fund coordinators, had just organized and led our 4-day Coordinator’s Conference, which gathered SIA partners from Uganda, DR Congo, Rwanda, and Malawi together in Eldoret. He has an energetic personality and likes to see the world as a glass half-full with blessings abounding around him.

After the party – he hadn’t told us it was his wife and brother-in-law’s birthday that day – Laban, Boyd, and I climbed into the Jeep from Samuel Teimuge’s Ukweli Training Centre, where Dennis works as a host and event manager, to head back to our lodgings. We set off without a care in the world, thinking not about the drive, but the moment we’d be back at the Centre.

Before there was really time to react or think, we found that the left side of the vehicle was sliding off the muddy road into the river that was the road shoulder. Laban tried going forward and back to get back up the embankment. We were able to go forward a bit, but we soon found ourselves in a river running across the road. We would just have to push forward until we reached the other side of the river.

Boyd and the road of water.

Boyd and the road of water.

Skidding forward and back.
No traction.
Water right up to the exhaust pipe.
Mud sludge seeping under the side doors to meet our feet.

To get across would require more than machine power. Boyd got out of the car to push. But there was still not enough for the tires to grip. There was a woman and two teenage boys walking down the road and Laban called out to them. They dropped their bundles and came over. Now all four were pushing, rocking, dragging the jeep. I held up my feet and prayed.

Soon (actually, it wasn’t very soon – it was at least half-hour later), by sheer force they managed to get the jeep to where it could gain traction and drive on. We shouted with joy and called our thanks to the helpers! Boyd was wet up to his waist and drained from the experience.

 

The jeep getting packed up the next day. It still works!

The jeep getting packed up the next day. It still works!

It is a classic travel story: at the time of the event I only noticed the stress and it was only with time that it became a story to tell. But even right after we were safe I realized how amazing it was to meet people who were willing to drop what they were doing to help us out.

I came to depend on that kindness of strangers when traveling in Kenya and Malawi. There were plenty of hiccups along the way – broken down buses, missed connections, roadblocks – but just as often there were people to help. 

This July, I will return to meet SIA partners in Kenya and Malawi (and Uganda this time). And I’m sure I’ll have many more moments when I’ll be reminded that travel is a practice of going with the flow and expecting angels along the way.

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A transformative education

Learning computer skills on the computers purchased with a SIA Community Grant

Learning computer skills on the computers purchased with a SIA Community Grant

I saw an inspiring film last month. It wasn’t one that won an Oscar. Rather, it was a documentary about a pair of architects who taught high school students in rural North Carolina about how to design and build things.

With the motto “Design. Build. Transform,” If You Build It wasn’t about a regular ol’ shop class. The “shop class +”  introduced the students to concepts like design, creative solutions, model-building, incorporating feedback, and using their hands to make the final product. Students who weren’t comfortable drawing stick-figures at the beginning were amazed at what they could design and build together.

Together they made a beautiful, functional farmer’s market space for their town and it was so exciting to see the town embrace the finished project.

What was really inspiring, though, was to see the transformation in the students and the newly-felt  sense of pride, accomplishment, and confidence.

So what does this have to do with Spirit in Action? Halfway across the world from North Carolina, Samro Polytechnic School is also providing technical training – with a blend of creativity and craftsmanship – in Eldoret, Kenya.

Samro Poly students in front of a classroom.

Samro Poly students in front of a classroom.

“We are going to make a difference in Kenya by producing professionals out of Grade 8 graduates,” announces Director Samuel Teimuge. So far there are twelve students (9 girls and 3 boys), many who graduated from 8th grade and were unable to attend a traditional high school, because of their grades or inability to pay the fees. The technical school gives these students an opportunity to continue their education and to transform their lives and communities.

Students will take classes for one full year, learning tailoring, sewing, and/or computer skills. Each of these skills are marketable and valuable. Already, there is high demand for Samro Poly-made school uniforms for schools in the area!

Those students who come from other villages, or who don’t have family, can live in dorms onsite. The dorms are ready for use but students will use their design and building skills to help construct kitchen building.

Kennedy Onyango, future  tailor

Kennedy Onyango, future tailor

One new student is Kennedy Onyango. Kennedy is 20 years old and he traveled from Lake Victoria, which is six hours away, to get to Eldoret. Both his parents died before he was 10 and his grandmother, who was caring for him, died in 2012. His goal is to start tailoring business and become self-employed.

A SIA grant, and the strong, nurturing leadership of Samuel and the other Samro Poly teachers is helping to make this goal a reality. 

For more about Samro Polytechnic students, read about Gladys, a Kenyan woman who gave up her illegal brewing business to learn how to sew

Watch the If You Build Ittrailer. 

Samro Poly students play volleyball after classes are done for the day.

Samro Poly students play volleyball after classes are done for the day.

Education and a New Job for Gladys

Five classic sewing machines and one high-tech machines are available for students.

Five classic sewing machines and one high-tech machines are available for students.

Jobs, jobs, jobs. Even more than in the US, people in Kenya are desperately seeking jobs that pay the bills and help their families thrive. Also like the US, people in Kenya turn to education to increase their job opportunities.

Samro Polytechnic school in Eldoret Kenya, supported in part by a SIA grant, is focused on providing training in marketable skills, like tailoring, sewing, and computer skills, to help people transition to more steady jobs.

Gladys is learning to sew dresses, shirts, and blazers. Machines and cloth are provided at the school.

Gladys is learning to sew dresses, shirts, and blazers. Machines and cloth are provided at the school.

 

One student at Samro Poly is Gladys.

Gladys is a single mother of four children: one son and three daughters. Until recently, she was renowned for making the best (illegal) brew in the area. But too much drinking by her husband led her to separate from her husband and go to live with her parents. Last month, Gladys was one of some 80 brewers who were invited to Samuel Teimuge’s Ukweli Training Centre for a workshop in alternative business skills and development.

Ukweli and Samro Polytechnic are on the same site and there is lodging as well as a supportive community for people wanting to change their lives. Gladys started classes in tailoring. She was even able to bring her daughter Irene, who had been doing housework away from home, to join her in training at Samro Polytechnic.

Gladys' daughter Irene is also learning about sewing and alterations at Samro Polytechnic school.

Gladys’ daughter Irene is also learning about sewing and alterations at Samro Polytechnic school.

Samuel Teimuge, who is head of centre and school shares his gratitude, “Thank you SIA for helping us purchase these items. We hope many like these two ladies will find their way to Samro Poly.”

Gladys does not know what will happen after the three-week training is over. However, she is grateful to be on her new path toward being a tailor; on her path to a job that is respectable, stable, and enjoyable. Isn’t that what most of us are looking for in life?

For more from Samuel Teimuge read my post “Leading with Honesty and Integrity” here: http://godsspiritinaction.org/leading-with-honesty-and-integrity

Grants that keep giving!

Today is about giving back! After Black Friday and Cyber Monday Giving Tuesday invites us to put our thanksgiving gratitude into action by helping others. 

Spirit in Action giving happens everyday. Giving between neighbors in rural Malawi. Giving between grandparents and children in Meru, Kenya. Giving between students and teachers at schools in Eldoret, Kenya. Giving between donors and families ready to start businesses in Uganda.

In this season of giving, here are just 3 of many generous acts happening now!

Bricks are fired to last through the rainy season. A big investment that Nancy and Lastina acn now make.

Bricks are fired to last through the rainy season. A big investment that Nancy and Lastina can now make.

A big investment by successful business women

Nancy and Lastina Nkosi (Malawi) started a grocery kiosk with a SIA Small Business Fund $150 grant. The business is still thriving after 18 months and they are ready to expand! “We were able to buy 10,000 bricks to renovate my shop,” writes Nancy.

These two women are proud to know how to run a business. As part of SIA’s pay-it-forward initiative, Sharing the Gift, they are training other women about marketing and record-keeping. A wonderful example of how a small pebble can ripple out to the whole pond!

You can see the joy in Chimwemwe and her sister's eyes as they proudly show off their new school supplies!

You can see the joy in Chimwemwe and her sister’s eyes as they proudly show off their new school supplies!

Making education a reality

Elementary education is free in Malawi, but high school can make a huge dent on the family budget. When I was in Malawi, I heard over and over about the importance of education for both girls and boys.

Before, a high school education was just a dream for Chimwemwe. Now, the success of Hasting and Mercy’s Shalom Fish Selling business has made their daughter’s dream a reality! SIA grants keep giving to the next generation!

Speaking of education…

Samro Polytechnic School in Eldoret, Kenya is open and classes are in session! Over 200 students are already beginning to learn valuable skills in tailoring and computer skills.

Sameul Teimuge is impressed by the students and the community support, “At the end of school term there were many pupils who did well in computer lessons. Both teachers and parents are motivated and they didn’t complain when fees the Kshs. 1,000 ($11) for computer was included in the school fees.

A SIA Community Grant bought 6 new computers for the school.

A SIA Community Grant bought 6 new computers for the school.

samro_computers_teacher

The computer teacher, Dalmas, giving guidance to students at Samro Polytechnic.

We are honored to be part of this wide web of generous giving! Will your giving this Christmas also include giving to people all across the world?

P.S. SIA Honor Cards are a way to honor friends and family this season while also supporting families in Kenya, Malawi, and Uganda. Donate online and then print off a card to let them know of the gift.

5 Non-Elections Related Things Crossing My Desk Today

1. Maize Machines – Bought and Delivered!

This is progress! Last spring’s SIA Silent Auction helped raise the funds for the Manyamula Savings and Loans Cooperative to purchase a maize mill in Malawi. I heard from Canaan over the weekend and the mill has been purchased – and as a bit of a silver lining – the devalued local currency meant that the SIA grant was enough to purchase two mills, instead of one!

MAVISALO members with the 2 new diesel engines!

MAVISALO members with the 2 new diesel engines!

“I am glad to inform you that the 2 sets of maize mills with diesel engines are procured and they are with us in office. There is a Milling Mill and a 2 Roller Milling Sheller. This week by Friday a technician will come to fix the mills in a rented house belonging to Red Cross, which is located at the center of our community market.”

 

2. Congratulations to the Trophy Winners!

In other exciting news from Malawi, the winners from the MAVISALO Soccer Trophy (mentioned in the Fall 2012 newsletter) have been announced!

Orchard Youth Soccer Team won the soccer tournament and received the $30 1st prize. The VISALO Youth Soccer Team, sponsored by the Manyamula Savings and Loans Cooperative, came in 2nd place, winning $20. Congratulations!

3. The Teimuge’s Samro School

Peter Ayum in High School Form 1

Peter Ayum graduated from Samro School and is now a freshman in High School (Form 1)

Following on last week’s post with some words of wisdom from Samuel Teimuge, this week I received an annual update on his and Rhoda Teimuge’s K-8 Samro School in Eldoret.

“Samro School is fourteen years old and has sent 80 students to high school. The report reaching us is that almost all of them are disciplined, honest, hard working, and they reference God in their lives.”

If you want to see their latest project or contribute to their school, visit Advancing Leaders International.

4. Supporting Women’s Organizations

There’s a great new crowd-funding platform, Catapult, which helps connect donors with women/girl-focused grassroots organizations around the world. I wrote a review of the website here, and I encourage you to check it out and see all the wonderful local organizations out there helping women and girls in their communities!

5. Encouraging Quote!

And when all the election coverage gets to be too much, keep this advice from Rumi in mind:

“Move to the edge and over. Fly with the wings
he gives, and if you get tired, lie down,
but keep opening inside your soul.”

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