Children in the bush

Newsletter November 2019

Photo above – children outside their hut. It is impossible to go for a walk in the bush without children rushing up to us. Many in the area go to our school so they are used to our white faces. They say to us ‘please go and greet my sponsor’ not realising just how spread out the sponsors are in the UK, USA, Europe & Australia. Greeting someone is very important in Maasai culture.

Joseph at the front, 2 days before he fell ill. Sadly he died 4 days later.

Sadly, one of the boys (Joseph at the front of the photo) staying in our orphanage died a few days ago. Initially, he was diagnosed with meningitis but eventually the diagnosis was changed to rabies. Joseph was bitten by a cat in August when he returned to his relatives during the school holidays. After the bite, the family took him to a clinic but they only had enough money to pay for one injection – a full anti-rabies treatment is a course of 4 or 5 injections. When he fell ill, our school took him to hospital and then a further 3 hospitals for his treatment. Sadly he died after 4 days in hospital. The total hospital bill came to  £4100 – enough to bankrupt most Kenyan families. Just to put £4100 into perspective, it is about 2 years salary for a junior teacher. The hospital will not release the body until the bill is paid. The community are organising a fundraising to try to collect enough money for his hospital bills and funeral costs.

Because of the high cost of medical care, treatments tends to be a mix of Western medicine and traditional methods. A Maasai new mother is given a large cup of liquid sheep fat, one month after birth, to help her rebuild her strength. This is often mixed with pumpkin seeds or a little salt to help – and I quote from Lemaiyian “to stop her puking it up”.

The older girls' toilet block.
The older girls’ toilet block.

The girls are getting older and this brings its own challenges. Last year we built a new toilet block for the older girls and this includes a sanitary pad changing area. We have recently built an incinerator for the used sanitary products, visible on the right of the photo. Sanitary pads are expensive. A sponsor recently donated some reusable sanitary towels so we will trial them soon.

Reusable sanitary towels
Reusable sanitary towels

Next year (November 2020) is the first year that the school will sit the official end of primary school exams. Up to now, our children have been too young to go to high school. We are expecting some good marks – remarkable when you consider the backgrounds of most of the children. They are unable to do any school work at home due to a lack of light and evening chores. To help the exam class, the entire class will be boarding for their final year (January to October 2020). We have tested boarding for one term and have seen some good improvements in the children’s marks.

The school library
The school library

Kenya has recently introduced a new curriculum. The old curriculum was based on learning facts; the new curriculum is based on learning skills. We currently have a mixture of both curriculums at school, the older children on the old curriculum and the younger children on the new. It does mean extra work for the teachers and we are having to buy subject books for the older classes that we know will be obsolete in a few years time. Although Kenya has introduced the new curriculum, it has given minimal training to the teachers about how to teach skills. Scottish head teacher Margaret has spent about 2 months this year in Kenya helping with the transition from old to new. She has also built and equipped the library shown in the photo above and has helped the youngest classes adapt to children learning through play as this short video shows.

Dr. Martin Hine, an Ipswich based head teacher, spent a week in Kenya training the teachers on how best to use the school’s 54 Chromebook laptops. The use of computers in Kenyan school is new so even newly qualified teachers have had little instruction in how best to use computers in lessons. The new curriculum relies heavily on computers. Our computer system is very slow by Western standards but it is vastly superior to other Kenyan schools. To access the internet in this rural location we have had to build a solar powered satellite link.

Enjoying the school lunch
Enjoying the school lunch

The school lunch is the highlight of the day for most children due to little food at home. We try to grow as much as we can at school to stretch the budget. Greens are a nutritional part of the diet and grow easily with sufficient water. In the photo above, the greens are eaten with ugali – a traditional African staple made from maize flour.

Collecting the greens
Collecting the greens from one of the school’s gardens.

Another day, another pump repaired. Many of these pumps have been broken and abandoned for 10+ years. So far this year, Eric and his team have repaired more than 190 broken pumps. We aim for 200 repairs per year but this year we should easily exceed our target. The average cost of a repair is £250-£300 each, so much cheaper than a new pump and well. The Eagle Foundation kindly funded this year’s repair costs.

Finally, a few videos about the school (just click on them to view)

A short video about the inside of the school
Class 7 girls spontaneously dancing
The school’s solar powered water system

There are additional videos about the 2019 school closing ceremony here.

You are welcome to leave a comment below. Thanks everyone for your support as without you, this work would not be possible.

Helen & Roger November 2019

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29 thoughts on “Newsletter November 2019”

  1. Thank you once again Helen and Roger for your inspiring and dedicated work. The tragic story of Joseph is heartbreaking, yet in the UK parents refuse the offer of free vaccinations for their children! Lovely to see the girls dancing and laughing together, a happy sight. Let’s hope the November rains arrive soon to bring new life and growth to the earth.

    1. Thanks Elaine. The November rains started early this year in mid October bringing much needed grass for the animals.

  2. Roger & Helen, thank you for all your hard work in running the charity. Whenever we receive an update it is always so pleasing to see the real difference that all your efforts are maki g to the Masai community.

    Over the years that we have been sponsoring Christine through school, it has been clear to see the real positive impact that the school is having for this community.

    1. Thanks Steve. Not too many years to go before Christine finished primary school. She is on the old curriculum so she will have 8 years at Primary, plus the 3 reception years so 11 years in total

  3. A wonderful newsletter outlining the progress being made. The tragic consequences of Joseph and the risks to young children. The happy faces and smiles of the children made possible by the teachers and their trainers.

  4. Thank you for these super videos and for all your hard work for the charity. Unfortunately I am too old to visit but your reports and pictures show how much you achieve with the small amount we give – it really does make a difference in so many aspects of the lives not only of the children but of whole communities. I was so humbled last year when Helen sent me a bead cuff bracelet from the mother of the girl I sponsor – from someone who has so little, yet we who are comparitively rich cannot send them anything. Thank you.

    1. Thanks Sheila for your support of your sponsor child. It makes a huge difference to the family so the beads was just a small gift of appreciation.

    1. Thanks Catherine for noticing! Actually I think it’s nearer to 9 years that we put the first hand pump into the area and now we have repaired close to 1000 hand pumps.

  5. Dear Helen and Roger,
    You must sometimes need to pinch yourselves when you see how much has been achieved at Osiligi. I wish I could visit and help. From reading the classroom reports it seems the girls are more ambitious than the boys and their desire for money must reflect the girls desire to break away from the traditions that diminished them in the past. Of course they no longer wish to carry out the back breaking labour that has been regarded as normal for African women. Struggling with heavy loads on their backs along with the latest baby.

    1. I think you are right about the different sexes. Life for a Maasai man is more comfortable than for a women. I guess that many women see education as their route to a better life.

  6. Dear Roger and Helen
    How very sad to hear about beautiful Joseph. Makes me appreciate the NHS that everyone is grumbling about here!
    As ever, my heart lifts to read your wonderful stories of challenge and achievement and joy and laughter and life and death.
    You continue to inspire me.
    Thank you xxxx
    PS hemp house finished and we are in Cornwall!

    1. As you say, a country wide insurance scheme or a NHS takes away the risk of bankruptcy if someone dear to you gets ill. Everyone want to give their child the best possible care regardless of the cost. However, in Kenya, few people trust the doctors to provide the best care as “it is the doctor’s business”.

  7. Hello Helen and Roger,

    Many thanks for the update on the school, and also the video., it is fantastic
    the amount of work that has been achieved. Well done, I do love receiving ,news,
    from the school, and seeing how have improved each year.
    Thank you, so sorry to hear about Joseph

    Mary West

  8. As so many people have and still do say, you do the most marvellous work out there. I find the videos very moving. They give a much clearer impression of what its like. Despite all their difficulties and hardships the people always seem to very cheerful.

  9. Hello Roger and Helen what amazing work you do I can’t say any more than that and when you see what happened to Joseph just makes you realise well done and thank you Mary Hall

  10. Hello Roger and Helen. What amazing work you do. I can’t say any more than that – and when you see what happened to Joseph, it just makes us realise. Well done and thank you!

  11. Thank you both for another informative update – it’s all looking great and your efforts are simply extra-ordinary. I’m so grateful to you both. So very heartbreaking to read about Joseph – so devastating in this day and age.
    However – your efforts to support these children will make a massive difference in the long-term – not just to the children at the school, but to those around them and eventually, their community as a whole. Thank you so much, once again.

  12. The school block looks terrific. Well done all who made this possible. May I remind you that the Union Jack flag in the photo represents the United Kingdom of Scotland, Ireland and Wales as well as England – at the moment anyway!!!

    1. Hi Eileen. Yes you are right of course about the flag. As soon as I said ‘English’ flag I realised my mistake. The joy’s of jet-lag!

  13. Thankyou to everyone involved in this project. Your newsletter is inspiring and a great way to see the progress everyone has made.
    Thankyou again Dave Thompson UK

  14. So sad about Joseph. Heart- warming to read the rest of your letter. You and Helen are doing such good work and all your sponsers thank you so much.

  15. Hello Roger & Hellen,
    It’s very sad to hear about Joseph, may his soul rest in peace. Eight years down the line and you’re still doing phenomenal work for the Maasai community.
    Thank you for all what you’ve done in changing the livelihood.

    Florence

  16. What a wonderful place the school has become and all the children look so happy. I’m very impressed with all the solar panels supplying all the needed energy. The school is ahead of the game there!

  17. Thank you Helen and Roger for all the school news and the wonderful videos. The school is now looking very impressive. It is so uplifting to see the children looking so happy and engaged.
    Thank you for all you amazing work and dedication.

  18. Thank you Roger and Helen for the latest newsletter and other information that we have received following your latest visit. It was wonderful to receive Alice’s drawing and to see the photograph of her holding the one we sent. The work that you both do for the Maasai people is awe-inspiring and we feel privileged to be able to give our support.

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