Things are now progressing quite well at the workshop. There are currently 8 full-time trainees and the trustees are continuing to seek more in the longer term. They have had success with their examination entries and attendance has improved.
The extra floor that has been added to the workshop will enable work to be carried out literally on two levels. Closely supervised will be the newish trainees on the ground floor. They will be looking to master basic skills. On the upper floor will be the trainees who have already successfully completed level 3 Government exams in Carpentry and Joinery. The more experienced trainees will also, on occasions, help with the training of the inexperienced ones downstairs.
We would not expect trainees to produce much in the way of real, paid for work during their training but we are hoping to do just that at Paluoc. The trainees have always been able to carry out very basic tasks like sanding wood by hand but this is a very slow, arduous and not very productive occupation, though sometimes necessary. We are trying to introduce more in the way of power tools to increase skill levels, job satisfaction and productivity.
The workshop has been able, through financial assistance via Global Giving, and from Hands Around The World and others, to purchase some electric drills and routers. This adds kudos to the tasks to be undertaken and helps bring these unskilled trainees into the 21st century. It greatly increases the range of tasks that they can learn to undertake. However the most important issue is their understanding of the absolute necessity of using the tools properly and above all safely. This is one of the current priorities for the workshop.
There is quite a lot of competition for carpentry products both from other local carpenters and from Chinese mass produced imports. Paluoc is managing to obtain some real work tasks, eg making desks, repairing lockers etc for schools but the flow of such work is intermittent. On the one hand this means that the workshop can concentrate on its primary purpose; getting these trainees to develop their basic skills, but it is also a loss of potential income for the workshop and for the trainees. A small financial incentive is useful for these trainees who all come from very needy backgrounds. It’s also good for their self-esteem and in some cases helps to feed their wider family.
I have been looking with Paul Ochieng, our Centre Manager and chief instructor, at the possibility of a little diversification of their product range.
We are looking at the possibility of producing chairs inspired by local Luo design but aimed at tourists and locally wealthy parents and grandparents. The painted ones are the finished article and would have to be sold locally. The unpainted ones can be flat packed and fit into a tourist’s suitcase. I am going to visit Paluoc in January next year to explore this and any other ideas that Paul may come up with in the meantime. I have sent Paul my drawings for the chairs to ask him to assess how easily they can be made by the trainees, and then whether they could be sold at the local tourist market, or elsewhere.
To help finance itself and to continue to move on and learn new skills such projects are essential for Paluoc.
Thank you very much for your interest and continuing support!
The workshop has had its first successful trainees in the Government Grade 3 carpentry & Joinery Exam. The young men concerned are staying at the workshop to continue to practice and improve their skills, and also to learn important new skills like “How to price a job”.
The workshop now has 9 trainees and is gradually earning a good reputation in the local area. Sadly, even this can prove to be a potential pitfall. All of the trainees are living in difficult financial circumstances but when their carers, it could be an uncle, aunt grandparents or in some instances a single parent, see how busy the workshop is and how well-equipped they are becoming, they don’t believe that the trainees are not being paid! This can cause a lot of aggravation at home. It would be great if they could be paid but that is just not a realistic possibility. They do get a very small amount of money sometimes when they have planed wood using the planning/finishing machine, but this is infrequent, and in other respects they are not skilled enough to work on paid tasks, not yet anyway. The trainees do get money for lunch about 45c (30p) per day, otherwise they would have none. This money comes through Hand in Hand Sponsorship – we are always on the lookout for new sponsors!
The trainees have some smart new uniforms of which they are very proud. They have also got some new power tools – a router and a sanding machine. They are taught the basic hand tool tasks but there is a lot of kudos, and effort saved, by using powered tools. It also will allow them to extend the range and style of their work, and of course are very useful new skills. These are exciting developments coming soon, once they have been trained! They have been helped to purchase this new equipment by donations through GlobalGiving. Thank you for your support!
Some Encouraging Progress!
Paul Ochieng has done a great job with the three trainees who passed their Government Grade 3 Examinations in Carpentry. These youngsters have all opted to stay at the centre to help train the new intake whilst expanding their own practical experience, gaining confidence and improving their own skills in a sheltered environment.
It is possible for them to stay on because of the expansion of the Paluoc workshop through the addition of a second floor which has recently been completed.
They are currently planning on obtaining some power tools; this would make work easier, more interesting, bring trainees up to date, and make it easier to retain trainees. They have also recently been supplied with overalls to help protect their own clothing and make them feel smart and to aim for high standards of work. But you can tell from the photo that many have low self-esteem and are not used to having their photo taken...
Paul is also trying to set up a library area in which they will put teaching materials. There are currently very few books or training materials – but you have to start somewhere and aim high if you are going to be successful!
Having had their first successful trainees, we are hoping that the message will spread, they will find it easier to recruit in future, and the trainees will believe it possible for them to succeed, and earn an income which can help other members of their family too.
Thank you for your interest, support and encouragement.
Work on expanding the workshop by adding an upper storey has progressed well. The walls and roof are now completed, the next step is to install the windows. This should be starting this week We are still awaiting photos and will post them as soon as we have them. The trainees themselves were able to help with the timberwork for the roof, good practical experience. Paluoc also has its first female trainee so we are interested to see how that develops.
We are waiting for the exam results of the first 4 trainees who have taken their Grade 3 Carpentry Tests. They should be available in February. Things are moving along nicely and we hope that success in the exams will help promote Paluoc in the community.
We are aiming to supply the trainees, who have finished their training, with a basic toolkit. This is important in the obvious sense of providing tools for the job, it is also an incentive to attend well and stay the course – a big issue with many of the trainees. We don’t want to give them the tools too early in case they decide to sell them for a bit of ready cash, but those that do comply do need to actually collect.
A pen picture of some of our trainees:
Bonaventure is aged 19. He is the sixth of seven children. His two older brothers can only find casual work. His three older sisters are all married and have moved away from home. Both his parents are alive and he lives with them. His father is a catechist (teacher of the Christian faith), his mother has no outside work.
He says he could earn a little money each week driving a boda-boda (bicycle taxi) but sees that there is no future in it. He wants to learn a trade so that he can earn a proper wage in the future. He wants to help his family financially.
He has been entered for the Grade 3 Government exam in carpentry. We are awaiting his results – they should arrive back in February 2014.
Samson: (no relation to Paul the instructor, just born at the same time of day)
Samson is 16, the second born in a family of 3 boys and 3 girls (one of whom works in a hair salon). Both of his parents have died and he lives with his grandparents. He is a very quiet young man, hardworking and keen to please. He likes church music and unlike a lot of his contemporaries has no interest in Premier League football.
He is lacking in self-confidence but hopes to have passed his Grade 3 exam which he took last year. We hope so too, it will do him a power of good.
Kenneddy is 17 years old. He finished formal school in 2012 after taking Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (Like old 11+ in UK). There was no money for him to continue in education.
His father only finds casual work, his birth mother has died and he has a step mother who has two children of her own. Kenneddy walks 5 miles each way each day to the workshop and is always punctual. His route is along dusty paths that are sometimes flooded. He sleeps in a building used as a kitchen by the family. His father's small house is built from cow dung and has only two rooms with a mud floor. He started at Paluoc in March 2013. Paul says he is very disciplined, his attendance is very good, and Paul thinks he will do well. We are awaiting his results too. We wish him success.
It’s good to see some good quality work being produced. There are many carpenters in Kisumu, though as the population continues to grow rapidly there is plenty of scope for more. Our plan at Paluoc workshop and trainingcentre is to produce really proficient carpenters; capable of careful, precise work that will mean they are sure of future employment.
Two of the trainees are bringing in a bed and some chairs that they have made and put outside the workshop whilst waiting for the varnish to dry.
Notice in the background the good use being made of the barbed wire fence. The fence is really there to keep the neighbours’ goats out of the small vegetable patch that the night-watchman’s wife is cultivating, and a small mango tree which we hope will eventually bear fruit for the trainees’ lunches.
Storage of completed work is an issue and training and working areas are also needed, plus a small office to store progress reports, training materials, invoices etc. So the workshop is being given an upper floor. The pile of sand shows the scale of the task. The work has started and is planned to be completed well before the rainy season starts. Three HATW volunteers are visiting this month to help with the work and to report back on progress. They are also looking at ways to recruit and retain more trainees when the extra space is available.
Another important issue is the safety of tools. At Paluoc this problem has been resolved with a very solid storage room, with heavy duty locks should any potential thieves penetrate the metal doors and window frames. In an ideal world that wouldn’t be necessary but the tools of their trade are very valuable and have to be protected. The photoshows some of the individual toolboxes that the trainees make to hold their tools. Our aim is to provide each trainee with a basic set of tools once they know how to look after them.
Thank you for your support and interest!
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