All posts by Richard

Location, Location, Location!

Last year, some of you may remember that we helped both Saidi’s mum and Steven’s mum to start new businesses; so we were excited to find out how they were getting on.

Mama Steven, after some initial help from Rieder, is now up and running with her charcoal business and is regularly making enough money to support herself and Steven with their essentials such as food and household items. But the best thing of all is Mama Steven’s new attitude towards the business. A recent ban on plastic bags, which she uses to package the charcoal, could have caused her to loose customers but she quickly worked out an alternative solution and has started to put it into place BEFORE running out of plastic bags! This showed us that her understanding of how to run a business has really grown over the last year – she now knows the importance of customers being able to rely on her stocks. Not content with resting on her laurels, Mama Steven is also very keen to expand the business and thinks she might be able to double the amount she sells with a better location.

Mama Saidi and Mama Steven working together
Mama Saidi and Mama Steven working together

Mama Saidi has also made some excellent progress with the solar panel business. She has definitely mastered the equipment (which is no mean feat for someone who has never had electricity at home!) and has got the hang of charging people and keeping records. At times, her business has been booming – such as when the next-door house was being built and there were tradesmen there all day needing their phones charging. She also makes some good sales at the weekends and when the power is out. However, she told us that recently new electricity lines to the local area have meant that many of her neighbours now have power to their homes. Of course this is great progress for the community as a whole, but it does mean they now no longer need to pay for phone charging, so she relies mostly on passing trade from people whose phone batteries have died whilst out and about.

Mama Saidi with Simon and her solar panels
Mama Saidi with Simon and her solar panels

Recently, their landlord has made some changes to the neighbouring properties and they feel it is no longer such a great place to live. We think this presents a good opportunity for the families to relocate to a slightly different area, which could be better for their businesses. Currently their location is not ideal as they are tucked away behind the main road and no one passing would know they were there and open for trade. A move could mean both families have better visibility from the road and would be able to maximise their sales.

Watch this space – we will keep you updated with any new location developments!

When it Rains it Pours…

When I think about the Kenyan climate the first thing that comes to mind is the sunshine and the accompanying heat. Starting everyday by smothering myself in factor 50 sun cream and trying to cover up where possible to avoid the impending doom of sun burnt skin. The sun can also have the power to sap your energy and even make you ill but if prepared, it is perfectly manageable.

Rain on the other hand can be completely overwhelming. In Kenya it is dry for the vast majority of the time, which means the land becomes dry and dusty. A light smattering of rain is hugely beneficial as it clears the air and reduces the dust; but more often than not rain comes in gigantic waves. It feels like all of the water in Kenya is stored up for several weeks before being dropped over the space of a few hours. The water is deposited so quickly that the dry land is unable to absorb it effectively and the sparse drainage systems are quickly overwhelmed meaning impromptu streams appear as if from nowhere and cut off frequently used roads and paths. What was once a maze of a town suddenly becomes even more difficult to navigate and it is all too common to hit a dead end and be forced to make the choice between waterlogged shoes or trying your luck with another route.

Its a river - not a road!
Its a river – not a road!

Alas, when packing for a trip to the equatorial country of Kenya I seldom remember to pack my raincoat and waders. Which means that when my patience is exhausted and I attempt to venture out I become soaked through in 5 minutes flat and often end up having to apologise for leaving damp patches wherever I go.

In all likelihood this is just a consequence of being unprepared and I should be as diligent in my preparations for the rain as I am for the sun…

but perhaps I’m just an optimist.

 

Mastering Kindergarten

Last year Riziki started at Mtwapa Elite in KG2, as an 8 year old she was already much older than her classmates but her inconsistent schooling meant that she was unable to manage the work for a higher class. At the time, her teacher even expressed some doubt that she would be able to progress into KG3 at the end of the year.

Prior to 2017 Isaac had been studying at Victory academy – a community school close to where he lives with his mother and brother. Once Isaac completed all of the classes Victory had to offer he took the entrance exam for Mtwapa Elite and was accepted into KG3 at the start of 2017.

We are now a year on from when Riziki joined the school and 9 months in to Isaac’s first year and I’m pleased to say both are doing so well.

Riziki’s confidence and ability has grown leaps and bounds and in her most recent exams she was top of the class – something which we absolutely did not expect and something which she should be very proud of. Mtwapa Elite is a huge school compared to Victory Academy and this seemed to overwhelm Isaac at first but he has now settled in and he is also right at the top of the class.

We would like to say a big thank you to their class teacher Madam Margaret who has provided all of the support they needed to make this fantastic progress. Riziki also received some extra tuition from Madam Emma at the end of 2016 which gave her the best start to her school life and helped her progress into KG3.

Madam Margaret with Isaac and Riziki
Madam Margaret might look serious here but moments before the photo she was smiling away, tucking in Isaac’s shirt and wiping their noses!

Catching up – Kenya 2017 (Part 3)

In the third installment of the catching up series we have been seeing how Linet, Peris and Tamira are doing at boarding school.

Tamira started boarding school around a year ago; she was the first of the Milele children to join the school which must have been a little daunting for her but she quickly made friends with the matron of the school and settled in well. Tamira has really started to hit her stride over the last few months, she seems very much at home in the school environment and her confidence is improving everyday.

When we met Tamira this week we were very lucky to be able to give her some truly lovely gifts that her sponsors has sent. Tamira is such a wonderful girl and instead of hastily rummaging through her goodies (something I would have done at her age) she really took the time to appreciate everything which has been sent and carefully write replies to the letters included. We will dutifully be delivering the letters once we are back in October.

Tamira with her smart new bag
Tamira with her smart new bag

Linet and Peris joined the same boarding school as Tamira at the start of 2017. When they arrived they were greeted by Tamira who showed them the ropes and helped them settle in to life at boarding school. The three girls were always quite close as they are similar in age but living together at school seems to have really cemented their friendships.

When we arrived, Linet was her usual smiley self. She has always been one to wear her heart on her sleeve and she is clearly enjoying being at her now school and has even taken on the role of school bell ringer. Amy gave Linet a gift from one of her sponsors which she absolutely loved and following Tamira’s lead, wrote a lovely reply to the letter she received.

Peris has always been a bit quieter than Linet (although it would be hard for anyone to match Linet’s boundless energy) but she too seemed settled and contented in the school and seems to be coming out of her shell more and more. Amy gave Peris some reading books which were very well received. Peris told us that she has been borrowing reading books from children in Standard 7 and 8 because they are more interesting than the one she gets to read in Standard 5 so she clearly has a talent for English.

Linet (left) and Peris (right) at their school.
Linet (left) and Peris (right) at their school.

It was great to catch up with the girls and wonderful to see them all so happy in their new surroundings.

Stay tuned for the fourth and final installment, with news updates of the last few children on our programme!

Catching up – Kenya 2017 (Part 2)

In our last post we caught up with Amina, Isaac, Riziki, Saidi, Steven, Edward, Emmanuel and Josephine who all live in Mtwapa. Over the years some of the children Milele supports have started to attend boarding schools (this is the norm for Kenyan Secondary schools) which means the past few days have been spent travelling across coast province tracking down sponsored children and finding out how they have been getting on.

The eldest sponsored child in boarding school is Charo who is coming towards the end of Form 3 (of 4) at Chasimba high school. Charo is doing well at school and has really thrown himself into school life being an active member of both the student council and the Christian Union. As head of the Christian Union he often leads prayers in school assembly and holds services with the other students showing his natural aptitude for being a great leader. He is also now a prefect, which apparently means he gets to wear a special blue shirt instead of the normal white uniform!

Charo
Charo

We got to experience Charo’s confidence and leadership when visiting Chasimba. Charo was excited to have use visit his school and was keen to show us his classroom. He strode confidently into the classroom which to our surprise was still full of students (the lesson having finished a few minutes ago). When Amy asked about the swahili words on the board Charo immediately instructed a class mate to give Amy a summary of what they had been learning and to our even greater surprise all his classmates happily went along with this!

Chasimba High School
Chasimba High School

As well as seeing Chasimba, we also visited Kilifi Township Secondary School, which is where Safari and Kaingu have been attending. We were so pleased when they got into the same school – these brothers have been in classes together since they were 7 and 8 years old and it is lovely to see them continuing to support and look after one another through high school too.

Kilifi Township Secondary School
Kilifi Township Secondary School

Kaingu and Safari were both very smart in their uniform, albeit with Safari’s shirt slightly more untucked and his tie slightly more lopsided than Kaingu’s! Both boys appear to be settling into Kilifi Township well. They are now coming to the end of their first year there in Form 1 and have had a big transition from primary to secondary school. The first thing for them to get used to is the very strict rules and regulations which secondary schools in Kenya typically have. I’m sure you can all imagine how this can be a bit of a shock to the system coming from a small, nurturing primary school – I have to say I can remember my first days as a new year 10 student in a vast college, feeling like a very small fish in a very big pond!

Safari and Kaingu
Safari and Kaingu

Despite this, both Kaingu and Safari have made lots of friends and are getting to grips with their new school – learning the rules of the dormitories or ‘pods’ and the new canteen. They are taking Biology, Chemistry and Physics separately now as well as some new subjects such as History and Geography. The sciences seem to be causing them some difficulty, but we are confident this is just the new experience of learning them separately. We are going to try to get hold of some subject specific resources which Rieder could use to help scaffold their learning over the long December break. Kaingu is particularly good at maths and we feel he is likely to have a natural aptitude for physics too when he gets used to the subject.

Kaingu
Kaingu
Safari
Safari

Thank-you to sponsors who sent gifts for all three of the boys (Charo has started carrying his torch around in his shirt top pocket already… he will be the king of the school when the power cuts out!)

Stay tuned for more updates including the next child to join the Milele family!

 

Catching Up – Kenya 2017 (Part 1)

Hi All,

Amy and I arrived in Kenya early on Saturday morning after a pretty speedy set of flights from London to Mombasa.

When we arrive in Mtwapa our first job is always to have a catch up with Rieder (Milele’s sponsorship coordinator). We obviously try our best to keep in touch when in England via WhatApp, email and phone calls but nothing is quite as good as a chat over a cup of tea for really understanding what is going on.

Our next (and very fun) job is to visit some of the children at home and distribute the packages and letters sponsors had sent. Throughout the course of the day we managed to see Amina, Issac, Riziki, Saidi, Steven, Edward, Emmanuel and Josephine. Phew!

Amina and her family are doing well, when we got to their home her family were busy preparing and cooking prices of fish to be sold that morning. Amina herself seemed to be very happy out playing with her younger siblings and cousins and she is (as always) doing very well in school.

Amina receiving a gift from her sponsor – Thank-you Chloe!

We also visited Isaac and his family. He is growing by the day and has thoroughly enjoyed his first year at Mtwapa Elite. He will be graduating the kindergarten this year and we are all absolutely thrilled with him. His success is not least attributable to his incredible mother, who takes him to school every day, communicates really well with the teachers and supports him in learning in every way. She manages to shower both her children with love and unconditional support as well as working incredibly hard to make money from her three home-grown businesses! While visiting Isaac we gave out some little dinosaur toys and Isaac loved playing with them with his little brother Anthony. Our co-ordinator Rieder saw a moment to get an insight into their minds and started playing with them, asking Isaac to choose a character for each member of his family. He loved the game, choosing dinosaurs for himself and Anthony and then a figure of some palm trees to represent his mother. When Rieder asked him why the the palm trees, he was quick to reply “because they’re beautiful!”

Isaac (in blue) and little brother Anthony
Isaac (in blue) and little brother Anthony

The next family we visited was Riziki. When Riziki started in KG2 last year the teachers were unsure if she would be able to progress into KG3 as, given the fact that she had never before attended school, her grasp of written and spoken English was understandably poor. One of her teachers offered to provide some extra tuition and with this help she was not only able to progress into KG3 but she is now, quite literally, top of the class! We also gave Riziki a letter and gift from one of her new sponsors (Paula, Lucas and Imi). The parcel was filled with lovely, thoughtful things which Riziki loved, Amy spent some time showing Riziki what the new and exciting things were but being a clever little girl Riziki needed very little help working everything out!

Riziki looking very excited after receiving her parcel.

After seeing Riziki’s family, we took a short walk across to Saidi’s place. He is growing taller by the minute it seems and is doing really well at school. He has now settled into life in Standard 1 at Mtwapa Elite after graduating kindergarten last year. When giving him his letter and gifts from his sponsors, we were really impressed by how much his reading has come along – he read the letter aloud to us confidently (although he needed a bit of help with the word ‘Dorchester’!) Thanks to Janet, Tim and Jason for their lovely gift and letter.

Saidi with his gift from his sponsors
Saidi with his gift from his sponsors

Next on the list was Steven, who lives next door to Saidi. Still the best of friends, they graduated together into Standard 1 this year. Steven has also settled in well and his teacher is pleased with how he is doing in school. He loved his pen-torch and postcards from his sponsor Angela, it was a really nice way of showing Steven where she comes from – although Rieder did clarify that Angela didn’t live in the castle herself!

Steven with his gift from his sponsor
Steven with his gift from his sponsor

Next was Edward’s family. He is cheeky and lively as ever! Edward is wonderfully full of energy – everything is so exciting to him. This has been slightly challenging in the classroom environment in recent years. However, since moving up into the next class he appears to have managed to settle down a little and contain himself. His mum is very involved with his learning and education, always communicating with his teachers about his progress. She was proud to show us his school record file and tell us how well he is doing now he is a ‘big boy’ in Standard 4. Edward was keen to tell us about how he learned about money in maths – demonstrating his skill in calculating change! His twin baby siblings, Edith and Elliot, are due to start kindergarten themselves in January – regular readers will remember them coming along and be astonished to hear how big they are now!

Within 10 minutes of entering the house, Edward was modelling Amy's sunglasses!
Within 10 minutes of entering the house, Edward was modelling Amy’s sunglasses!

From Edward we went to see Emmanuel. Emmanuel was one of our first sponsored children and I think many of us still see him as that slightly nervous, giggly six-year old. No more. Now Emmanuel is a polite young man of sixteen and is preparing to sit his final primary examinations, the KCPEs, in just a few short weeks. We can’t overstate how proud we are of Emmanuel – he is so studious and dedicated to his work but still finds time to care for the younger children in the children’s home. Emmanuel has a high target for the KCPEs and judging by his recent performance it is not unlikely that he could make it. We wish him all the luck in the world. He is excited to finish his exams and have some well deserved time off in December when he can visit his family in Takaungu. We have no doubt he will be demonstrating his newly acquired football skills – thanks to his gift from sponsor David.

Emmanuel with his gift and letters from his sponsors
Emmanuel with his gift and letters from his sponsors

Last but by no means least was Josephine, who welcomed us to her beautiful new home which she shares with her two cousins. She is currently halfway through a course at Mombasa College in Secretarial Studies and is developing her skills in filing, computers and administration. Josephine’s home looks exactly as you would imagine for a chic young adult – modern patterned rug and reality TV on in the background! Josephine has always been a fashionista and enjoyed posing for her photo with her new necklace from sponsor Michelle. When we asked her what her expression was, she replied, ‘It’s Style’.

Style!
Style!

 

Josephine - I can't keep a straight face!
Josephine – I can’t keep a straight face!

Linet the Bell Ringer!

This month Linet takes on new responsibilities as the school bell ringer!

Only a few months ago we moved Linet to a new boarding school some distance from home in Malindi. She settled in really well and school has provided an excellent, stable home environment for her.

She has clearly made an impression already as she has been given a new responsibility as the school ‘bell-ringer’! This means it is her job to ring the large bell that signifies the beginning and end of each school period, the start and end of break-time and lunch-time too.

Never one to miss an opportunity, Linet (somewhat cheekily) suggested to Rieder that really, to make sure she is accurate with the timings, she should have a new watch!!

Linet, Peris and Tamira have all moved school this year and have settled into their new school remarkably well. Their discipline and attention to their school work has really improved this term especially so Rich, Rieder and I decided to treat them all to posh new watches (each one cost around £2.50).

They were pretty chuffed with their prize! Now there’s no excuse for being late to class either!

The girls with their new watches - Left to right - Tamira, Linet, Peris.
The girls with their new watches – Left to right – Tamira, Linet, Peris.

Josephine starts Secretarial Studies

Our second eldest sponsored child, Josephine, has recently finished her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Examinations (KCSE), successfully gaining a D- as her overall final grade. Well done Josephine! Read our earlier blog post on the KCPE and KCSE exams here.

Josephine has undertaken a short computer literacy course in Mtwapa and has now moved on to study for a Certificate in Secretarial Studies at a college in Mombasa, living in a rented apartment in Mtwapa which she will be sharing with her cousin.

She is an exceptionally hardworking and organised young lady and we are sure she will be very well suited to this environment and her chosen career path.

Josephine looking very studious!
Josephine looking very studious!

Every cloud… Mama Saidi makes the most of power cuts!

Recently Mtwapa has been hit by lots of power cuts regularly throughout the day and night… this sounds like bad news doesn’t it?

Not if you run the only Solar Powered mobile phone charging stop in Mtomondoni!

Mama Saidi is making the most of the power cuts by charging extra when there is no power elsewhere in the town!

Her fledgling business is growing steadily and Rieder is supporting her to continue managing the savings to provide for her family. He is also looking into other locations for the family to live at her request, so that she has more passing trade.

We hope that soon she will make enough to pay kindergarten school fees for Simon, Saidi’s younger brother. Stay tuned for more updates soon!

Mama Saidi with Simon and her solar panels
Mama Saidi with Simon and her solar panels

 

Taking the Plunge: Triathlete in Training!

Rich took the plunge today in his first ever open water swim! Some would say he left it rather late with a mere 2 weeks to the big event… gossip speculates that this was an avoidance tactic or perhaps that he was hoping he could back out at the last minute? No chance Rich. We have your number.

Open air swimming... looks inviting doesn't it?!
Open air swimming… looks inviting doesn’t it?!

The water temperature was a brisk 12.4 degrees but he didn’t let that put him off, warming up with 800 metres in his new wetsuit!

Triathlon training - 1 (1)

In fact, Rich is now a big fan of wetsuits, in a post-training interview he sung their praise saying “Yes. The wetsuit look is amazing. I’m about to start wearing it out and about – who doesn’t want clothing that smells of rubber, makes noises as you walk and feels like you’re wearing full body spanx? Get on board guys!”

That's enough for today!
That’s enough for today!

 

Triathlon training - 1 (3)

 

CLICK TO DONATE HERE to make Rich’s painful training this morning worthwhile and keep him motivated as we lead into the big event on Sunday 15th May 2017!