Congratulations to Steven and Saidi, who both graduated from Kindergarten in December! This week they will start in their new primary classes. They won’t be changing schools as Mtwapa Elite goes right through, but they do get a posh different coloured PE uniform!! Very grown up!
They are very excited – lets wish them luck in their new classes and all have a little nostalgic moment remembering how much they have grown!!
Last year I started writing a series of articles about businesses which were being setup in Mtwapa with help from Milele business grants. Having arrived back in Kenya a couple of weeks ago we went around to find out how things had been going.
The biggest success story has to be Fauzia (Mother to Ummy) who has been running her cookery business for the entire year and is still going really strong. She continues to cook three times a day and has been able to support her family with the profit she has been making. Fauzia is the perfect example of how a business grant can work, providing a small amount of money upfront enabled her to purchase the basics she needed to get started and then her skills and passion made it work!
Khadija (Mother to Saidi) got off to a great start and had been running a profitable charcoal business via a local shop for over a year. Unfortunately she started to pay into a ill-fated saving scheme which collapsed just before her pay out was due, this put her into a really difficult situation which meant she was unable to continue operating. We have spent some time talking to her about what happened, whilst we are here we will be working with her to improve her financial planning and try to find an alternative business for her to run in the near future.
The final story I have to tell is about Isaac’s Mother; we originally helped her to setup a cafe business which was going well until her landlord decided to redevelop the plot which she was using. This was a big set back and we were really disappointed to see all her hard work go to waste, but we needn’t have worried. Mama Isaac regrouped and adapted, she took the profits from her cafe and bought the ingredients needed to make soap and bleach which she now sells around Mtwapa. Building on this success, she has started to make pillows with recycled materials and foraged cotton pods which she plans to start selling (for a tidy profit) in the near future. Not content with 2 business plans, she also collects any small glass bottles she finds on her travels which she cleans (with her bleach) and sells. I have honestly not met a more dedicated business woman in Mtwapa and it just goes to show that if you have the will to succeed and a positive attitude there can be opportunities everywhere!
In the first of our Milele Business Grants series we are going to meet Khadija and her family. Khadija was one of the first to receive a Milele Business Grant and decided to set up a business focused on one of the most fundamental of human needs, Fire.
Khadija is the mother of Saidi who is one of the children on the sponsorship programme. You may remember that when we first met Saidi he was living in a very run down building and his whole family were severely malnourished. As well as providing emergency assistance we wanted to find a sustainable way for Khadija to support her family.
Khadija desperately wanted to find work but she suffers from a rare form of Polio which had left her unable to walk, this meant that the usual forms of employment were not open to her. After spending some time talking through the options it seemed that the best idea was to open a business which Khadija could run from home and Rieder proposed the idea of selling Charcoal.
Khadija buys large sacks of charcoal from a wholesaler; she then breaks up the bigger pieces of charcoal, packs it into small bags and sells to local families. The small bags of charcoal are really popular as they are they are the perfect size to cook one meal over a small stove called a Jiko.
Khadija and her family received a small start up grant to buy their first sack of charcoal back in 2013. With Rieder’s help, she has learnt how to run her own business and has started to make enough money to support her family. Over the years Khadija has built up a number of loyal customers and she can now sell a large sack of charcoal in as little as a week.
When we visited Khadija we asked her what she had been able to do with her money. As well as feeding and clothing her and her 5 children she has also been able to secure school places for her children and make some household purchases. Her home is now furnished with 3 plastic chairs and she has been able to invest in not only a new Jiko but a gas powered hob which she uses when it rains so she can safely cook inside.
Astonishingly, we have not got to the best part yet. When we visited Khadija a year or so after starting her business we found the family at their new home happily sitting outside on their new chairs. When Khadijha invited us inside we were amazed to see her stand and walk with the aid of a stick; being able to eat properly has given her enough strength to get around the house and immediate area. This is more than we could have hoped for and has transformed Khadija’s life for the better!
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!
Welcome to our monthly updates. I would like to appreciate the good work you have been doing so far and making everything run well. A big thank you to all as you have been doing a really good work towards Milele programme. We managed to complete the classes at Royal Academy and also made 12 chairs and 2 big tables for the kindergarten pupils at the school – donated by the TEAMS group.
The director of the school really appreciated your effort of supporting the school as most of the pupils are not capable of paying school fees regularly. He also wished to thank everyone through Milele program and the good work Milele directors are doing.
We have been also giving out mosquito nets to a certain village around Royal Academy most of the families had no mosquito nets. Through your donations these needy families were able to receive a mosquito net each. Around 61 families got the nets.
We all know how the mosquito nets are important mostly to the infants and the younger kids below the age of 5yrs. As for the coming month we are expecting long rains thus you did save some lives and saved the next leader in the society. We really appreciate your effort towards this program.
We have been also monitoring our chicken project at Shanzu and charcoal business at Mtomondoni (new businesses for two of the families on the sponsorship program) and they are all doing well and they are looking forward to starting to make a living using the projects. We also say thanks a lot for making it happen.
We have our elder girl Josephine she managed to complete her primary education and secured a place at secondary school very soon she will be at school. All our sponsored kids are doing well and for now they have started their end of month exam. Thanks a lot for your support towards us may almighty bless you all.
I will of course give you a much more detailed update about Saidi and his family when I have a little more time, but I know there are many of you who were worried about him, as was I, and will be waiting anxiously to hear his news.
I think the comparison in these two photos says it all. I am obviously overjoyed at the incredible progress he has made and would like to say a truly heartfelt thanks to all those who chipped in to help out in this emergency. Look at these pictures and be proud of yourselves! You have really achieved something incredible in just five months.
The most recent new child to be sponsored is called Saidi. He is a three year old little boy who lives with his mum, 6 month old baby brother Simon and three elder sisters Aisha, Pili and Riziki in a mud hut in Mtomondoni.
Saidi’s case is by far the most extreme I have ever seen. I am not exaggerating when I say that just witnessing the hell this family were forced to live on a daily basis was incredibly difficult and emotional.
She currently lives in an extremely run down one room mud shack which is in serious disrepair, but she is currently not being charged any rent by the owner of the land (a distant relative of her step mother). The lady who runs the food programme for our children at school at lunchtime helps her and gives her leftover food when she can. Without her help I suspect the family would not have been able to survive this long. Regularly they do not eat and the first time I visited them I discovered they had not been able to eat a single thing for two and a half days. When they do eat they often can only afford sima or ugali (which is flour mixed with water) and they drink only salt water. The three older girls have been admitted for free to a local school run by an English sponsor, and receive free school lunches there during term time monday to friday, however food at home is a severe problem and Saidi is severely malnourished as a result. With the mother unable to eat on a regular basis her breast milk was drying up, leaving her unable to feed her six-month old baby.
The first priority when I met this family was to get them an emergency food parcel within hours. I soon realised how desperate this family really was when I discovered that although they now had food, they had no plates to eat it off. It was like starting from scratch completely; they had absolutely nothing. Nowhere to store water, nowhere to sleep, nothing to eat from or to prepare food in, no clothes – nothing.
I was also seriously concerned about Saidi’s health. Although he was almost 3 and a half years old, we fitted him for some new clothes and he needed age 12-18 months. He weighed next to nothing and had no energy at all, falling asleep every couple of hours and unable to support his own head or to sit up because of a lack of energy. I carried him everywhere because he just simply did not have the energy to walk, and his muscles were all floppy and weak. I was extremely scared, knowing that death from malnutrition is common in this area of Kenya. Before we met her, one of our sponsored children lost a sister at a similar age to Saidi due to lack of appropriate food.
We were lucky to have an expert on hand since one of the staff members on a school exchange trip taking place at the same time as our trip had been a midwife for more than 20 years. She shared my concern and was kind enough to accompany me to the supermarket to help me find the best possible way of getting as many nutrients and vitamins into Saidi as quickly as possible. She and one of the other staff members were also kind enough to pay for the powdered toddler follow on milk we bought. This milk is designed for children from 1 year old and is rich in iron, vitamins and minerals to increase his weight and strength. That alongside an enriched diet im sure will have him running around fit and healthy in no time.
From there it was a simple matter of getting him into school. The transformation in such a short period of time was quite incredible. Within days the formula milk was beginning to show some effects and seeing him all smart in his uniform was very emotional. Even though I have only known Saidi for a couple of weeks, I already feel extemely protective towards him and can’t wait to see him grow and go from strength to strength. His class teacher at school is a close friend of mine, and with her supervision and lots of love and care from our sponsorship co-ordinator Rieder, i’m certain he will come on in leaps and bounds!
We are looking for sponsors for all three of our new sponsored children, Linet, Peris and Saidi. Sponsorship costs just £75 per year and you can become a sponsor at any time. Get in touch now to start helping them along on their exciting new journey.