The above photo shows women helping to remove the pipes from a broken hand pump.
We normally write the Charity newsletters after returning from Kenya. Due to Covid-19, this has not been possible this time. Covid has had a number of affects on our projects including:
No flights from the UK to/from Kenya
The school closed since March
Restrictions on the movements of the volunteer engineers repairing hand pumps.
The school is currently closed so, we are devoting much of this newsletter to our project of repairing hand pumps. We have now passed 1000 repaired pumps. But first, some more information about the school.
In March, the Government ordered all schools to close. We also had to close our safe house. The Kenyan education department has proposed many re-opening dates for schools with the latest proposed date of January 2021. If they do reopen in January, the entire 2020 school year will be written off. So children will continue in their old class and leave school 1 year later than normal.
Most of the children at the school are from destitute families, so the school mid-day lunch is an important way for the children to remain healthy. This lunch has also had to stop. We applied to the Kenyan government to allow the lunches to continue, but they would not allow it.
Girls at home for a long time are at risk of pregnancy and early marriage. We have recently applied to the Kenyan government to allow some of the older girls to be moved to the school safe house. This is still under discussion with the government. If allowed into the safe-house, the girls will be safe and well fed. Whilst waiting for the Government’s decision, the teachers are inviting small groups of older girls into the school playground for guidance and counselling. The topics revolve around FGM, pregnancy and early marriage.
In most Western countries, children are continuing to learn through the internet. This poses challenges in the African Bush where there is no way of charging electrical devices and mobile internet signal is poor. Rich children in Nairobi are learning through the internet so this missed year is creating a rich/poor and urban/rural divide with our children being in the poor & rural group. Rather than writing off the school year, we are trying to find ways to allow the children to continue to learn but in a covid safe environment. As the photo above shows, the teachers are setting work and taking the school’s computers to small groups of children in their huts so that the children can continue to learn. We have had to buy modems and mobile data bundles so that the children can access the internet but we are saving on the cost of school food.
We have continued to pay staff salaries. Working staff are paid full salaries. Staff members who are not in school, receive 80% of their salary. Most other Private schools are paying no salaries but Government schools are paying full salaries.
It has been a challenging few months for the pump repair project. In March, there were very heavy rains that made reaching the rural pumps almost impossible. At the same time, Northern Kenya suffered its worst plague of locusts since 70 years. Added to this, Covid-19 hit the country in late March resulting in a night-time curfew and travel restrictions. In the early days of the curfew, it was reported that more people were killed by the police enforcing the curfew than were killed by the virus. Moving pumps across the country became very difficult and some of our pumps engineers were hurt in the unrest so we stopped the project for a few weeks.
The county governments then sent us letters requesting us to restart the pump repairs. After the governments issued us PPE and letters authorising night time travel, we restarted the project. This has allowed us to continue to repair pumps at around 15-20 per month. The clean water is desperately needed during Covid for hand washing and sanitation.
Another hand pump brought back to life. Last month, we passed 1000 repaired hand pumps. Collecting water is the job of women and girls. A broken pumps usually means a round trip of many miles to fetch water from an alternative source and girls who spend hours carrying water cannot go to school. At an average of 250 people using each pump, we have now helped 250,000 to have access to clean local water and have enabled numerous girls to attend school.
You are welcome to leave any thoughts and comments below
Helen & Roger August 2020