(Above photo – one of the local Maasai puts his cow into the school grounds during the day to keep her separated from her calf. We have learnt to expect the unexpected at the school)
The Charity is only 5 years old, but we have already seen some great improvements around Olepolos Kenya through working with our partners in the Maasai community. Now, 155 of the poorest children are receiving an excellent education at the school we built, there are 2 sources of clean water, a health clinic, and we have repaired 7 broken hand pumps. During 2015, we are launching 2 new programmes: an orphanage come safe house and a project to turn sunlight into food.
Our school meals are looking a whole lot greener. We are growing enough onions, kale, spinach, beetroot and peppers to feed 165 children and staff twice a week. That’s no mean achievement for novice gardeners. The success of the school project plus some money from a donor for agriculture and water projects has started what might turn out to be a life saving new venture – the turning of sunlight into food (via electricity and water).
Local land owners are donating 5 separate plots of 1 acre. On each plot, we will supply a solar powered borehole and split the 1 acre into 50 allotments for use by the poorest in the community. The water will irrigate the allotments and be sold to the local community. The money raised will pay for the bore-hole maintenance. The mothers will be able to feed their families with what they grow and maybe even sell the surplus at the market. It is potentially lifesaving because drought (happening so often) means there is often no food here whatsoever.
The Clinic is up and running. Over 1000 school children have been de-wormed. Two community health workers aged 21 have been walking long distances to evaluate health. Men are often out or away with their animals so it’s the women and children who are checked. They have diagnosed 3 cases of diabetes, now being treated and have dressed a serious dog bite. Ringworm next please! Every child at school seems to have it as we see when their hair is shaved. School rule: hair must be plaited close to the head or shaved.
Picture a teacher straddling a pit toilet, showing 25 new four year olds how to use a toilet. Starting school is always scary but even more so when the school is so different from your mud hut home. Around 60% of the huts have no access to a toilet so the children come to school not knowing what to do. Oh the joys of being a teacher. We cannot remember writing that in the job description.
We are often asked about FGM (female genital mutilation), a pre-marriage ritual across Africa from around age 13. Until now we have not needed a policy because all our school girls have been young. Since Kenyan law banned FGM it has ceased in many urban areas and it has diminished in rural areas. At our school, we are aiming for zero FGM. To protect our girls we will be using a multi-pronged approach:
- We will be teaching girls to know their rights and to give them confidence.
- We will ask AMREF, a charity with much experience and success of working with the Maasai, to hold a forum for parents to educate them on the risks and the law.
- We will tell parents that if any girl undergoes FGM, the school will inform the police.
- We will tell parents that if any girl is subject to FGM we will expel their son from school. This is tough but anyone wanting early marriage for their daughters is not serious about education.
- Finally we will build a safe house and orphanage at the school for any girl in our care at risk. We will start fundraising for this project soon to have it built before next year. Our oldest girl is aged 11.
We want zero FGM at our school and hope that the spin-off will be greatly diminished FGM in the wider community.
Our solar powered bore-hole is under siege. We built it for the school and the surrounding community. However, the 2 bore-holes in the closest town of Kisamis are both broken due to bad maintenance and poor management, so people come to us by foot, bike, bring donkeys or send a motorbike taxi to collect water. We sell water for about 3p for 20 litres. This covers the maintenance cost of the bore-hole.
We are always happy when a sponsor meets their sponsor child. Eric had a wonderful visit meeting Siamanta. We don’t know who was most lost for words or most shy but they soon got on like a house on fire. She invited Eric to her hut to meet the family and share tea.
Eric will be taking some of the burden off Roger by managing the pump repairs project. We hope to repair around 50 broken hand pumps over the next 12 months.
If any sponsor would like to visit their child, there is now some good ‘Western style’ accommodation close to the school. Just speak with us.
Helen and Roger March 2015