Visits to the beach are extremely rare for children from Mtwapa; since, despite being just a few miles away, they are mostly owned by hotels and therefore completely out of bounds for local people and children. However there is one public beach about 15 minutes drive away, so whilst out on our trip to Kenya we arranged for two buses to take the whole Milele group plus all their brothers and sisters out on a trip to the beach, in total 32 people.
The children were extremely excited and had an absolutely amazing time. It was a great fun day out for all of us and of course they were all absolutely perfectly behaved!
We played and splashed in the sea (some of the littler people went skinny dipping and others wore spare t-shirts and shorts because of lack of swim kit) and had a wonderful time! Even our co-ordinator Rieder joined in, splashing all the children and having great fun!
After a couple of hours I was keen to get everyone out and dry, so suggested that they might all like to have a camel ride (a very popular pastime on the beaches in Kenya… perhaps the kenyan version of the english donkey ride…) and never have I seen children move so fast! They raced back to the beach at lightening speed and we all enjoyed a fab picnic with juice and biscuits all round – a real treat. Little Emmanuel (who isn’t actually that little anymore) was allowed to take charge of taking back the leftover biscuits to the children in New Light Children’s Home (where he lives) which he was absolutely THRILLED about. Regular readers of this blog will know Emmanuel as the child who can never be given quite enough biscuits!!
After the beach everyone had a go on the camels and shrieksof nervousness and excited delight rang out all afternoon(the camel holding Tamira, Linet, Peris and Pendo’s younger sister Faith was particularly noisy!!) and I’m sure the children will be talking about it for years to come! When we dropped off some of the children that evening and stayed for a brief chat, Shakeel, who is just four years old just kept exclaiming “mummy, we went on a camel…. we went on a camel mummy… It was really big!!” every few minutes!
The whole thing came in at less than £40… camel rides, picnic, beach, private buses and iced lollies for 32 people! Unbelievable! We finished up a trip back to Mtwapa with some very sleepy and happy children. A huge success all round. Enjoy the photos!
Another crucially important thing we did while out in Kenya this time was distribute mosquito nets to families in the area who had babies or children less than five years old.
Malaria is one of the biggest killers of children and babies under five in Kenya, so it is crucially important for them to all be sleeping under nets at night. It really is a lifesaver and at just £5 each there is absolutely no reason why every single child should not have one. Last time we did a mosquito net distribution and we went around afterwards to visit the families we were told by one mother that she had been really worried about Malaria that year, because of all the heavy monsoon rains and huge prevalence of mosquitos in the village, but since receiving the net none of her children had contracted malaria at all. A huge achievement.
The nets were donated mostly by students and staff at John Cleveland College, Hinckley who did lots of fundraising and raised £500 to buy 100 nets for families in Mtwapa and Mtomondoni. We also had 64 nets to distribute from our christmas packages programme – so if you bought a net at Christmas, this is what happened to it!
We identified the families to receive nets through projects we already had links with and through some outreach work in a remote village. We came across the village while doing home visits as it is home to Musa, Ann and Mary who all attend Royal Academy, one of the schools we are linked with in Mtwapa. We were shocked by the poor standard of living for almost everyone in this village. Every house was a dilapidated, single-roomed mud hut in a bad state of disrepair. Very few had any household objects to speak of and no mattress to sleep on. Whilst we are familiar with these types of houses as they are very common in Kenya, to see so many families living in these conditions all in one remote village was something of a shock. As a result we tried to stretch out the nets to include some of the poorest families in this village too and they were extremely popular and well received. There is clearly a very great need for mosquito nets in this area.
Every family who received a net had at least one small child under the age of five (and many had more than one), none had a net that they were already using and we felt that none of them would have been unable to purchase a net of their own. I wanted to introduce some of the families who received nets to you and show you their photos.
If you bought a christmas mosquito net, or you are a student or a teacher at JCC and you raised the money or donated to help buy these nets, be truely proud of yourself. You really have saved lives.
We are now back in the UK and wanted to fill you all in on the rest of our news from the trip.
One of the major achievements was the distribution of the food parcels to families who needed them in the area. As I mentioned in a previous post, we visited more than 100 families and encountered some very severe situations of families in desperate need. With 55 food parcels to distribute we couldn’t possibly make them stretch out to help all the families, so we squeezed a little here and there and managed to scrape together 87 parcels in total.
Each food parcel was worth 1100 Kenya Shillings (roughly £10) and contained 8kg of flour; 2kg of beans; 2kg of sugar; 1 litre of cooking oil and 2kg of rice, enough for an average sized family for around one week. I would like to introduce you to some of the children and their families who received food parcels.
Juma – 13 years old
Juma is a child who currently attends Mtwapa Academy. He contracted HIV at birth and is fighting to prevent this virus developing into AIDs. As is common with many children in his situation he is now an orphan since both his parents passed away. He currently lives with his elder brother and his wife, neither of whom have a stable job. Since taking in Juma, the whole family have suffered a huge amount of discrimination rooted in a lack of understanding and knowledge of the disease. They have been chased away from jobs by people who thought that now they must also be ‘infected’ and Juma is struggling to see himself as normal or to imagine a future life for himself.
One of the largest problems Juma faces is food. Such a simple thing yet it is causing him huge problems. As HIV positive, Juma is entitled to free anti-retroviral drugs to control the virus, which he is receiving, however the tablets are prescribed three times a day, to be taken with a big meal. As with many children in his situation, Juma is lucky to receive three large meals a week, so the medicine is unable to work effectively.
Loice (2 years), Saumu (4 years), Amir (9 years), Musa (10 years), Ishmal (11 years) & Swabrina (13 years)
This family have a total of six children living with their single mother together in one room. Their father abandoned the family some years ago and their mother, without any formal education or qualifications of her own, is struggling to make ends meet. Some of the children attend Rescue Foundation, a local community group providing free or very cheap education and day care for the youngest children, others attend the local government school which is overcrowded, poorly resourced and badly managed.
Without any regular income, the family struggle on a daily basis to put food on the table.
After their mother passed away due to HIV these nine children were left alone. Their care was discussed by village members and in the end they were divided amongst neighbours, extended family and well wishers in the area. Mohammed (around 5 years – pictured) is living in a single-roomed mud hut with his aunt, who is herself a widow with three children and no stable job. His brother and sister, Richard and Madiha, (around 7 years and 3 years – pictured) are staying with another aunt in a mud and iron sheet construction in serious disrepair. In this house are a total of nine children, the eldest of whom now has an 8 month old baby boy of her own.
Brian is a little boy attending New Life Kindergarten. Neither his mother or father are around, leaving Brian in the care of his grandmother, who is blind. In the same home, also under the sole care of the grandmother are Emily (aged 4) and Charity (aged 7). The girls are currently not attending school after being sent home to fetch school fees. This family is a very large one, with many children and grandchildren who have been left to the care of this elderly lady. Without a job of her own, and with very few people around to support her, she struggles to feed and care for the children, let alone send them to school.
As I said, there are 87 families who received food parcels. I could tell you 87 stories just like these ones here. But I think that’s probably enough for now. I cannot tell you how important this food was to these families. If you are reading this knowing you donated a parcel, please know that it has truely gone to a family who need it.
Clearly these parcels are a short term fix and most certainly do not even begin to address the depth of the problems for many of these families. However, it does give them a head start for the next week or so and a reprieve to get on top of other costs such as rent or school fees which have been outstanding and building up over time. To help families like these ones find a long term solution we would love to be able to assist them in starting small businesses to create a sustainable income over time. We have done this already with some of the families on our sponsorship programme who have started businesses such as charcoal sales and chicken rearing, and have found it to cost roughly £85 per family, depending on the type of business they start. If you think you could help any of these families to find a sustainable income by donating that amount of money, please contact me today and we can get started. My mobile number is 07950329398 or my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to hear from you.
Old Mac-Donald has been very busy in kindergartens in Mtomondoni and Mtwapa. Kids at Victory Academy and Royal Academy aged between 18 months and 10 years have had a fantastic time singing about it all!
Check out the video, it’s well worth a watch if you think you can stand three million verses of this song!!! Popular animals at Victory include kangaroos and rabbits… basically anything that jumps! My personal favourite are the lions!
Next this brave farmer visited Royal Academy where his farm continued to be a huge success, they even decided to add in some extra spontaneous clapping too! I love the elephants (especially one tall elephant on the back row who got a bit carried away and nearly caused an elephant-related concussion!) Keep your eyes peeled for the little girl on the front row, far left who is looking around her at everyone like they are extremely strange… I’ll have no part in this chaos…!
A huge thank-you especially goes to one sponsor for the special ‘Old MacDonald’ hand puppet that we have donated to Victory Academy, it was so exciting for the kids.
On Saturday we distributed lots of clothes and shoes to the children at Royal Academy, their brothers and sisters and some of the local children in the area. We managed to give out to at least 100 children over the day, many of whom had very few clothes and were dressed just in rags or cloth tied around them.
They were so excited to receive them and I hope you will enjoy looking at these photos just as much – see if you can spot your donation!
When we went back to Royal the following day to hand out some of the food parcels and saw so many of the clothes being worn in the village – it was really lovely! Clearly they are favourite items already!
Thanks once again to everyone who has donated something!
As many of you know, over the Christmas period this year we ran a Christmas gifts appeal and many of you bought mosquito nets or food parcels to distribute in Kenya. We were really pleased with the response we had and we were really excited to distribute them while we were out here.
We had 55 food parcels donated, so we set about visiting many families in the area to ascertain which families were most in need of food and research each individual case thoroughly. We were expecting to encounter lots of families who were desperately in need of help and indeed that is exactly what happened. Every single family identified was in real need of food. In the end we decided to find some more money, using a donation from ‘Coterie Creative’ and an individual donation from Tina and Michael Wright to help us close the gap between the money we needed and the money we had. I am thrilled to tell you that we finally bought enough food for 87 food parcels. 87 different spread across all our projects – Mtwapa Academy; Victory Kindergarten; Rescue Foundation; Royal Academy and New Life School will receive food this week. Each parcel costs £10 and contains 2kg of beans; 2kg of rice; 4kg of wheat flour; 4kg of maize flour; 2kg of sugar and 2 litres of cooking oil – all basic essentials for most Kenyan dishes.
I am looking forward to showing you the photos and telling you a little about a few of the families but for now let me share with you the images of the food packed and ready to go! The sight of so much food in one place was truly incredible. It’s going to make a huge difference, so anyone who is reading this who has bought a food parcel should be really proud of themselves! Thank-you so much for your support, all across Mtwapa kids will be eating good, solid meals this week thanks to you.
We have been very busy over the last few days, but we have particularly enjoyed being able to spend some time at Shanzu village with Pendo and her family. Pendo is one of our sponsored girls, she and her younger sister Faith are both currently studying at Mtwapa Academy. This sponsorship arrangement works well for the family, since Faith inherits Pendo’s textbooks and uniform as she grows into it and they share the bus fare to school and back each day. The sisters are very close indeed and recently they have also welcomed into the family a new baby boy. His name is Omari and he is absolutely gorgeous – I’m sure you will agree. Pendo is absolutely fantastic with babies and young children and she is having a wonderful time looking after him just as she does Faith.
The last 6 months or so have been a bit of a struggle for Pendo and her family, her mum has been unable to provide food at home most evenings and weekends, meaning Pendo and Faith have been going hungry often. We were able to help them with some kind donations of food parcels from their sponsors in the short term and in the long term we have been working on building a business for her mum to manage from home. She settled on a chicken business raising and selling chickens and eggs. We have now managed to fully arrange everything and the family are now the proud owners of a cockerel, two hens and twelve young chickens! They have moved into their new chicken house and Pendo, Faith and their mum are really excited and looking forward to being able to raise them and make money from the business.
All in all I think it has been a huge success and I would like to say a special thank-you to their sponsors Lesley and Sue (with all the Gartree Against Poverty group) for their donation which has made the launch of this project possible. It is going to make a big difference to the family and will help Pendo’s mum to have a sense of independence and pride in her ability to provide for her family. Thank-you.
Yes I wilt! When even the palm trees are withering, you can imagine what the sun is doing to us!
Contrary to the opinion I had before arriving, everybody and everything works hard for a living here, whether it is a two-year-old starting school or a matatu taxi. I experienced my first matatu ride on Sunday the 13th (“black Sunday”!) For the uninitiated, these are Toyota Hiace vans with a driver and two passenger seats up front. Entry is via the sliding side door, there are four rows of three seats inside, very cosy. So, 14 passengers in all plus a conductor, although on Amy’s last trip she had a competition with her friend for the most crowded matatu ride. Amy smugly reported her entry of 32 passengers but was trumped by her friend with 36! In a Toyota Hiace! The truth needs no exaggeration in Kenya.
Now I bet you know some Swahili without realising. “Hakuna matata” (copyright Disney’s Lion King) hakuna = none; matata = worries. This must be where the name comes from, matatu – worry on wheels!
With so many people living in close proximity, one obvious problem is litter. There is no council refuse truck to clear streets so the locals sweep their own patch maybe twice every day and simply set fire to the pile, so the air is thick with the smell of burning, especially plastic. Just remind me of the smell the next time I complain about my council tax.
In spite of the circumstances the vast majority are very cheerful and completely honest. Once in a while you meet an exceptional individual like Madam Susan. She runs Victory Academy a daycare centre at her home for kindergarten aged kids. In theory parents pay and those that can do pay, but many can’t. Madam Susan draws no distinction, they are all loved, fed and taken care of. The parents are all doing their best to support her, as is Milele, thanks to your efforts.
Next time… ‘baby-faced robber’ and goats in the high street… no ‘kidding’!
This is only my second trip to Africa; I had a two-week holiday to Morocco in July 1980. The first thing that strikes you (after the heat) is the friendliness of the people. Not in a mercenary way – they just don’t seem to be stressed (although they have a right to be!). The young kids are thrilled to see a white face and yell “Jambo!” with a wave when they see you.
Central Mtwapa is full-on noise and bustle everywhere. The single-carriageway main road is busy with lorries, cars, matatus (minibuses) and boda-bodas (motor bikes) constantly striving to widen it. The boda-bodas are 125cc motor bikes. I read the make as Had-jin, and my advice is to take some before getting on! These little things carry heroic loads. It is not unusual to see a family of four – mum, dad & two kids – spread from petrol tank to rear parcel rack, more of these sights to follow.
We have been visiting schools, childrens’ homes, a feeding programme and also individual homes. These people are cheerful and hard-working.
I have never before seen for myself lives being improved and lives being saved. Milele is doing fantastic work out here and you should be proud of yourselves for playing your part.
Over the last few days, our main project has been to visit as many of the children in their homes as possible. This is useful in lots of different ways; firstly if they have already received a donation from us (many have received mosquito nets in the past), we can make sure that the family still have it and are using it rather than saving it for best; as well as taking some photos for you back home to see where your money has gone. Also, it gives us a really good insight into each child’s situation and how we can best go about helping them. It also invariably enables us to identify the families who are most in need of support and we have met some families who are really struggling in their daily life.
We have so far visited families with children at Victory Academy Kindergarten (kids aged 18months to 7years), Royal Academy Primary School (kids aged 18months to 13 years) and Rescue Foundation Mtomondoni (kids aged 18months to 15years).
One family we met today have a child named Munera who attends Royal Academy. She is currently living with her mother and two siblings, one of whom is severely disabled. In the same room live her aunt and her aunt’s two children as well has her grandparents. In total the family are nine and the room is roughly 2 by 3 metres.
At Rescue Foundation, we met children who are walking around 3km each way to school every day, without any shoes and at Victory we met many children who are orphans or from single parent families.
This is just a sample of the visits we have undertaken over the last few days, there are many more just like them.
After all the visits are complete, we will have the task of selecting families to receive the food parcels and mosquito nets which you have donated over the Christmas period. These will make a huge difference, so thank-you for your support.
On Monday we will be visiting children from New Life School in Mtomondoni, many of whom have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS. Keep checking the site for updates on everything we are up to.