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.
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.
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.
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!”
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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’.
It has become something of a tradition for us to hold an event to welcome new children on to the Milele programme and celebrate the achievements of the children who have been working hard all year. In the early days these tended to be small events held at school with a few sodas and a pile of sweets but as we have grown, so have the events. This year we wanted to add in something a little bit special.
Every child has made amazing progress this year whether it be academically or socially so we decided to hold a prize giving celebration to let the children and their parents know just how proud we are of them and their hard work. Rieder called each child up and spoke a little about the progress they have made throughout the year and presented them with a certificate commending their hard work and a celebratory cake.
Emmanuel received a special award for being so exceptionally hardworking all year and in Rieder’s words ‘being perfect’. He has really focused on his studies and is showing great progress but he has also made a special effort to look after his books, uniform and school bag and has an impeccable attendance record.
We were also really lucky to also have Emmanuel Kai attending the event so he was able to speak to the rest of the sponsored children and share some of his experiences of University. We are so proud that he is being such an amazing role model for the other students and doing amazingly well at university! I’ll post an update about his university life in a separate post.
Once everyone had received their award and a big round of applause, we celebrated with a huge amount of Pilau, Kachumbari and sweets before jumping into the swimming pool! There was so much Pilau left over that each family were able to take a zip lock bag home with them! (Thanks for packing the zip locks Jan!)
Thanks to the sponsors who donated so we could run this event!
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!
Today Charo in his role of elder brother (which he fulfils perfectly) escorted us around his and his brothers classrooms for a version of an English parents evening. You sit and talk through your child’s mark with the teacher, then receive their school report. We were very pleased to find that all four of our children had glowing reports in all areas.
Charo proudly showed us to his classroom where his teacher went through his marks with us. Overall he has done exceptionally well, getting 740 marks out of 800 and rising to position 2 in class. He only needs to rise one more position and he will achieve the coveted rank of first in class, meaning his name will go on the board in the school courtyard for everyone to see! Charo has achieved more than 80% in every single subject this term, in English and Swahili reading and in English writing he received 100%; and in maths he received a 96% score. These are clearly impeccable marks and he is justifiably very proud, showing us each piece of class-work bound together in his folder. Charo’s teacher reported to us that she is very happy to have him in her class, that he is a polite and extremely responsible boy and that he has the best handwriting in the whole class! She also told us that this term Charo has been given the honour of class monitor- someone the teachers select to be responsible for their classmates; he is (of course) carrying out this role perfectly!
Kaingu and Safari’s teacher was also very pleased with them. Both are achieving very high marks. Kaingu this term achieved a total of 709 marks out of 800, making him position 6 in class out of 24. In English and Swahili reading he received full marks, 100%. The teacher informed us that she will be working with him during tuition over the holidays to improve his spoken English (in which he got 76%) and social studies (74%), which are his lowest subjects since he prefers to talk in Kiswahili all the time!! We discussed his weakness in social studies, suggesting that this might be because it includes CRE (Christianity). The boys did not learn CRE in their previous home, so now approaching this subject in school is challenging for them. However overall she said he is a very hardworking boy, though a little shy, and very bright, always looking up to his brother Safari!
Safari’s report was just as positive, overall he managed to get 724 marks out of 800 in his first term in Standard 2, and got into the top three being position 3 out of 24 students in his class. Once again Safari managed 100% in English and Swahili reading, and English writing, and very high marks in maths (96%). It would seem that he takes after his big brother Charo in these things! Safari’s weakest subjects are Kiswahili (80%) and Social Studies (80%). He seems to have a specific problem in understanding ‘opposites’, within the Kiswahili exam and so the teacher is going to work on this with him during tuition over the holidays.
Emmanuel is in Standard 1 now and so it is his first year in the lower primary classes! Since he is such a big boy now this has meant a change in his uniform and he struts proudly around wearing exactly the same clothes as his big brothers, which he is extremely happy about! Emmanuel has achieved 3rd place in class this term, showing how well he has settled into proper primary classes. This move also means he has started computer classes, a subject he is throwing himself into and really enjoying. We have been told that if the teacher overruns in any subject and it is time for computer lessons, all the students in the class immediately let her know! Teacher, Teacher, it is computer time now!!
We are very proud of all of them and how hard they are clearly working to have achieved such high marks. After only four terms in school all the children have improved hugely. When they started at Mtwapa Academy, Safari was getting 640 marks out of 800, and was position 5 in class, after 12 months worth of schooling he is now getting 724 marks and has risen to position 3. Kaingu began in position 7, with 530 marks and since then has risen to 709 marks. Charo 12 months ago was position 14 in class, receiving 680 marks, and has since shot all the way up to position 2, with 740 marks. We are very pleased with how quickly the boys have caught up with their classmates despite their shaky start in life.
All the children’s sponsors will receive their full end of term reports in the post immediately after we return back from Kenya next week. Keep your eyes peeled, let’s hope Charo manages to get top place in class next term!!
The four sponsored boys Charo, Safari, Kaingu and Emmanuel received their letters and presents from their sponsors yesterday. Rarely has there ever been a more excited and happy group of children! They felt truly special and the attention was all on them for the first time ever!
We gave each boy a bag with all their presents and letters inside it, and they meandered calmly to the door to open them all up…then as soon as they thought they were out of sight ran and jumped all the way to the table!
Each of them was thrilled and opened their presents in their own way; Charo smiling to himself and carefully examining each item individually. Taking in every detail of the letter slowly; taking the lids off each and every pen to get a better look at them!
Safari ripped open the bag, grinning excitedly then quickly got everything out and spread it all out to see, picking up first one thing then the next; then sitting down to read his letters carefully.
Kaingu sat quietly on the chair to open his package, smiling secretly to himself, his face splitting into the occasional grin; then becoming super-cool again as soon he caught sight of you looking!
Emmanuel opened his blackboard first and just played with that, forgetting there was anything else! Then going back to the bag as if remembering that there was more, taking out another thing and once again getting carried away playing with that!!
By the time they had all opened their presents and read their letters they were proud as punch to have all these people wanting to sponsor them… I got the impression Charo couldn’t quite believe it!!!! We took lots of photos to try to capture the moments for you, and we really hope you enjoy them.
Once again thank-you so, so much to everyone who sent letters or presents to the boys. It was so lovely to be able to show them how much other people care about them; an experience they have not been very familiar with so far in their lives.
I am sure your replies will be really nice, we are hoping to help them write all their letters sometime next week so we can bring them all back to you.
On our last day in Kenya we took the four sponsored boys Charo, Safari, Kaingu and Emmanuel to visit their family in their rural hometown of Takaungu.This is a coastal town, but it is very sprawling and much more spread out than many of the more urban areas closer towards Mombasa. Poverty is extremely prevalent here and there are many fundamental issues and challenges faced in normal daily life for all the families living here. For our part, the determination and cheerful optimism of everyone you meet inspires and deserves the utmost respect and admiration.
This was also our opportunity to say hello to the family, for Rich and Fai to become more familiar with the background and tribal culture of our boys and for us to let the family know all the details of their sponsorship.
They were very pleased to see us all and very proud of the boys when we told them how well they were all doing in class and how hard they are working. Charo settled into his role of photographer yet again and lots of funny photos with fingers over the lens ensued, just as at Riziki!
The boys rural home is still dilapidated, although the walls of the house have been partially repaired. There is still no furniture to speak of but there appears to be slightly more food with less mouths to feed and the boys’ older sisters, Mariam, Mpenzi and Kadzo, all seem healthy and strong. They are also all attending school, which is some improvement, although we got the impression their attendance is not very consistent and that the school is far from ideal.
The boys really enjoyed meeting with their Aunts, Uncles and sisters again and we encouraged the family to be visiting them in New Light Childrens’ Home as regularly as they possibly can. It was a wonderful way to spend our last day and gave us some true perspective on the trip before we returned to England. I really hope some of the brilliant atmosphere and the pure honesty of Takaungu itself has been translated in these photos.
We gave Charo and Kaingu bags of boys and clothes to distribute among their sisters and cousins. They clearly adored this responsibility and we hope you enjoy the photos of it as much as we have!
Thanks again, congratulations to those of you who can spot the toys and clothes you have donated personally among the chaos! Im sure you can tell how well used they will be!
Hello everyone! We are now updating the website on the super fast computors and using wonderful internet connections of England, which means you will doubtless be inundated with news of the trip!!
So, on the final Saturday of the trip, we took the four sponsored boys to meet their younger sisters Dama, Karembo, Amina and Agnes at another children’s home called Riziki. Riziki is situated further up the coastline in a rural area near Kilifi town. The journey there only took around half an hour since we were lucky and managed to find a large bus which didn’t stop too often! The boys were pretending it was all perfectly normal and that they were just too cool for words…but were clearly secretly thrilled by the big bus and the speed they were moving at; craning their necks to look out of the window and pointing and chattering excitedly as we passed recognisable places near their homeland.
We arrived at the stop and walked down the track to Riziki, the boys exclaiming at the size of the place! Its a very large children’s home with more than 80 children staying there and a large farm and a nursery school on site. The boys met with their sisters and I got my first chance to see the girls again since i took them to Riziki a year ago! I must say all of us developed very watery eyes to see the family meeting up again and the excitement of the children to swap stories about their new home.
The boys had been given some sweets before we left for Riziki, and without our knowledge had quietly slipped them into their pockets, so when we arrived they pulled them out and immediately began to share them out among the girls, bringing yet another tear to my eye!
Charo, being the eldest and quite a thoughtful sort of child was a bit apprehensive at first, but once Rich had given him a digital camera and the title of official photographer he was in his element, showing his sisters photos of themselves and feeling extremely important in his role in ‘teacher’ of how to use a camera!! This means that many of our photos of Riziki are complete with added extras such as small fingers over the lens and lots of shots of the floor, but we did manage to take a few sneaky ones of our own for you to look at.
The girls are all doing really well, being in the kindergarten classes at home at the minute and clearly get on brilliantly with their teacher, whom they called over excitedly to meet their brothers. The manager of the home knew the boys immediately as she recognised the resemblance between the family straight away, and seemed to know the girls very well indeed.
We left many of the clothes which had been donated and were left over from Mtopanga School there with the manager to distribute to the children who needed them most at the time in the home, all of the items will be shared fairly amongst the girls and boys there, adding another 80 children to our running total of children touched by your gifts while we were out there!
It was a wonderful day. An absolute joy to bring them together again after so long, and to encourage a regular link between the homes which should allow them to be in contact with each other all the time.
Thanks once again for your support and enjoy the photos!
Yesterday we spent some time in the boys childrens home in Mtomondoni where the four sponsored boys live. Rich really amazed them all with his camera and photo printer, and we all had fun taking photos and looking at ourselves. Many of the children in this area have never seen photos of anyone, let alone themselves and many more don’t know what they look like, since there are very few mirrors in mtwapa!! All the boys at the home were extremely excited to be able to have a photo to keep and we all had a wonderful time with such simple things!
We spoke to Mr Samwel; the guardian and manager of New Light Children’s Home and his wife Beth; father and mother to all the boys there. They were very pleased to hear that Milele were able to sponsor the four boys Charo, Safari, Kaingu and Emmanuel and we planned with the boys and Mr Samwell to take them to get their uniforms after school on monday! Busy busy busy!
We have posted some photos here of the boys at New Light enjoying the camera and of the four sponsored boys, and there will be more detail about each of them individually soon too.
Thanks again everyone for your interest and support! We could never have sponsored these boys without you.