All posts by Richard

Defining Success

Hi All,

As we approach Milele’s 10th anniversary we have been thinking about what Milele has achieved so far and how we define success.

The most obvious measure of success is academic achievement. When the children sponsored by Milele get top grades in a school or university that they would not have been able to attend without sponsorship then we know that Milele is making a big difference in that child’s life.  We are endlessly proud of the children sponsored by Milele and they consistently surpass our initial expectations but Milele is not an academic scholarship. We do not consider aptitude for education when children are sponsored so it seems unrealistic that every child will be top of their class in every subject.

Emmanuel Kai’s view from his University lecture theatre.

The Milele mission statement talks about ‘facilitating choice’ and perhaps this is more what we are really aiming for. Enabling children to have some level of control over their lives and the ability to make real choices about what they want to do. For so many children across the world their path in life can seem predetermined, reliving their parent’s struggles and perpetuating the cycle of poverty.

Milele Mission Statement
Milele Mission Statement

For the children on the Milele programme, we hope that they are able to see beyond their immediate situation and imagine themselves having alternative lives. When they are able to do this we feel that they will be able to make an informed decision about their future and make active choices about what they want to do in life. It is perfectly possible that they make the decision to continue living in the family village and work in the family trade but the important point is that they had alternative options and they chose that life.

As Emmanuel Kai approaches the end of his university degree he is starting to think about what he wants to do in life. Having lived in Nairobi for the past few years he may have got a taste for big city life and choose to stay living in Nairobi, or perhaps he will want to go and explore other cities across the world or maybe he will want to move back towards his family and use the skills he has learnt at university on a project closer to home. The point is that whatever he chooses to do he has been able to make an active choice about his life.

I’m proud of all of our children and know that by being part of Milele they are all exposed to more options in life and that the choice of where they go will be in their hands!

Richard

10 Years of Milele – Celebration Ball

Hi All,

Back in 2008 Amy and I founded Milele as a way to help children from difficult backgrounds in Kenya to access high quality education. We were young, naive and optimistic; with the help of our family and friends we managed to scrape together the money we needed to get Milele started and began sponsoring the first 4 boys.

Over time, Milele has grown from our original group of 4 boys to 19 children and whilst our family and friends are still being just as amazing as ever, we have added a wonderful group of new sponsors and supporters who help us to keep Milele going.

We have also been incredibly fortunate to be able to employ Rieder as a full time sponsorship coordinator to manage sponsorship on a day to day basis, provide support to more vulnerable families and make sure we are always doing the best for our sponsored children.

Milele will officially be 10 years old in September 2018 and we would love to get together will all of the people who have helped us over the years to celebrate our collective achievements and raise some money for the exciting years ahead.

Milele 10 year ball invitations
Milele 10 year ball invitations

We have sent out invites to all of our sponsors and supporters (so if you haven’t received one please get in touch and we’ll arrange for a replacement to be sent) and we would now like to extend the invitation out to anyone who is interested in finding out a little more about Milele and helping us raise some money for future children.

The event is being held at Dixie Pavilion in Market Bosworth on the 7th of July 2018, tickets are £60 each and can be bought directly from Amy or myself. We would love to have a room full of people so please consider bringing friends and family with you so we can celebrate together.

Thanks for your support!

Richard

Onwards and Upwards

Hi All,

The KCPEs are the set of examinations which are taken by every student in Kenya once they get to the end of primary school.  Despite ‘only’ being the end of primary school exams they are a very big deal in Kenya and can make a huge difference to the trajectory of a child’s life. The KCPE result is used to decide which level of secondary schools you will have access to (National, Provincial or District) and which specific schools will offer you a place!

This is obviously a huge amount of stress in a child’s life but we are pleased to say that Mtwapa Elite (where most of our children attend primary school) seem to get the balance right between encouraging the children to get good grades and not piling on too much pressure. They are able to do this by treating each child as an individual and setting achievable goals which stretch the child a little but give them a realistic target which they can work towards. If you ask any child in Standard 8 at Mtwapa Elite, they will be able to tell you what their target result is and how they plan to achieve that result – usually by ensuing that they score highly in the subjects in which they excel and being pragmatic about those where they struggle.

At the end of 2017 both Thomas and Emmanuel took their KCPE exams and completed their time at Mtwapa Elite. Both of the boys did incredibly well scoring well over 70% across all subjects and being given places at prestigious Provincial level schools.

Emmanuel is staying within coast province and has taken up a place at Emmanuel Kai’s old secondary school – Malindi High School. Thomas has opted to move across to the other side of Kenya and attend Orero High School, another well respected provincial level school.

Thomas on his first day at his new school
Thomas on his first day at his new school

We are obviously very proud of them both and I hope you’ll join me in wishing them the best of luck at their new schools.

Richard

Delivering Christmas Food Parcels

Hi All,

For Christmas 2017 we once again ran the ‘Save a Life this Christmas’ programme to raise money for food parcels and mosquito nets which we give out in and around Mtwapa.

We had a fantastic response and managed to raise money for 17 food parcels and 20 mosquito nets. What is even more fantastic is that just before Christmas the exchange rate improved which meant that we were able to stretch the money even further than expected.

Rieder did a fantastic job and provided lots of families with a very welcome gift of food and / or mosquito nets just in time for Christmas. Here are a few photos of the food parcels being put together and some of the happy recipients.

Family receiving a food parcel
Family receiving a food parcel
Food Parcels ready for distribution
Food Parcels ready for distribution
Food Parcels being handed out
Food Parcels being handed out

Once again, thanks so much for your support!

Richard

Save a Life This Christmas

Christmas must be close because the Milele Christmas Gifts are back!

Instead of a bottle of wine or a box of chocolates this christmas, give a gift that could save a life.

Milele christmas gifts are either mosquito nets (£7.50) or food parcels (£15). You simply email us at milele@live.co.uk to place your order, put the payment through and we will deliver your gift to a family in Kenya who really need it. You will receive a gift certificate explaining exactly how vital your gift has been, this can then be wrapped up for someone here in the UK to open on christmas morning.

Food Parcels: No family should be hungry this christmas
Food Parcels: No family should be hungry this christmas
Food Parcels and mosquito nets can be a lifeline to families who need them.
Food Parcels and mosquito nets can be a lifeline to families who need them.
Food Parcels - Donate £15 for a family
Food Parcels – Donate £15 for a family
Mosquito Net in use (2013). One mother told her that none of her children had been sick with Malaria that rainy season, thanks to her mosquito net. Donate £7.50 to buy one for another family.
Mosquito Net in use (2013). One mother told her that none of her children had been sick with Malaria that rainy season, thanks to her mosquito net. Donate £7.50 to buy one for another family.
All children should be sleeping under a net to protect them from Malaria
All children should be sleeping under a net to protect them from Malaria

Our best ever year for Milele Christmas Gifts was 2013 – many of you may remember these epic photos of the food ready to distribute to families in Mtwapa:

lots of food ready to distribute (2013)
overflowing bags of rice (2013)

Let’s make 2017 even better!

Place your order by SATURDAY 16TH DECEMBER to have it ready for Santa (AKA Rieder!) to deliver!

Many thanks to all of you for your support and love this year.

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!