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 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.
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!
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’.
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!
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.