And we think our lives are stressful!
I rang our manager/trainer at Paluoc carpentry workshop a few days ago. I wanted to say hello and get an update on how things were going. I also wanted to chase up the accounts for the last 12 months which are now well overdue.
How’s the training going? Have you plenty of work? Any new product ideas to help diversify and find more work? Those were the questions uppermost in my mind. As the conversation progressed it transpired that Paul was feeling the pressure a bit. His wife, and mother of their 6 children, Lucy, who helps with the admin for the centre and who is more IT literate than Paul, is not at home. Normally she helps with the accounts of the workshop and of course the running of their home. She is a qualified nurse and the only work that she has been able to obtain is at a hospital over 50 miles from home. That means that travel home on a daily basis is not an option for her. It leaves Paul under a lot of pressure. Paul is left looking after the 4 children still at home, the twins he ferries to school every day on his motorbike. He is currently looking for work to keep the workshop trainees who have already obtained some qualifications active. However, at the moment little or no work is available. Much of their work is school-related and this work is very seasonal. The economy in Kisumu is experiencing some hiccups like much of the rest of the world.
He has managed to gain another new recruit, his name is Martin. I’ll have more information about his background and a photo “soon”.
So his daily task is to provide the training at the workshop, seek new recruits and more work, as well as keep his sponsors happy with accounts and regular updates which he will have to email, something he’s not very good at, whilst also keeping the family home running as smoothly as possible without the help of his wife.
Quite a few of the improvements planned for the workshop have not yet been achieved. However the top priority of providing free training for a group of youngsters who would otherwise be on the scrapheap does continue. The more experienced trainees help Paul to help the newcomers. So Martin is in good hands.
I’m still waiting for the accounts. They will come eventually.
As I was about to put the phone down at the end of our conversation Paul said “Thank you for lifting my heart again” and somehow receiving the accounts didn’t seem quite so important or urgent!
A child who had lost both parents was found by a young man, whilst visiting his parents at a fishing village a long way from town. The boy caught fish in order to survive, because he had no one to look after him. Fortunately the young man brought him to PIZZ School asking if they would allow him to enrol. He is joining many other children with their own stories at the school, where now at last there will be people keeping an eye on him, and he will get a meal each day.
I am just coming to the end of a two month visit here in Zambia. I have been so impressed by the way every child is given individual attention at the school and any issues are followed up with the guardians. This care is rewarded with good attendance at school and excellent academic results.
Some who haven't necessarily been very successful academically are now employed as builders, shop assistants and one is even now a vicar.
Thank you for your continued support, you can be assured that there are many children benefiting from your donations. You couldn't use your money in a better way!
My trip to see family in Nairobi recently allowed me to visit the DCC and Athi school in order to see how the HATW projects are progressing. The last time I visited Maua was in January 2015 when the DCC director Oliver K was relatively new in his post. It was very good to see him again, now married and living locally. Oliver seems to be well established in his job but some other members of staff at the DCC have changed.
I had a good talk with Oliver about the DCC generally, including about who else supports them apart from HATW. The main donors are the Methodist Church and German NGO Kindernothilfe, with others including a Dutch NGO who focus on helping children in different projects across Kenya. I also talked to Francis G the government educational welfare officer who visits twice a week. He says that in the North Meru area awareness among parents and families of the importance for disabled children attending schools and therapy sessions has increased significantly over the last 5 years. Overall the DCC has quite a positive feeling about it.
HATW has provided skill-sharing short-term volunteer occupational and physiotherapists, Speech and Language Therapists and others, as well as funds for alterations to the therapy room, for extending the orthopaedic workshop and purchasing some new machinery including a plastic moulding kiln. The therapy room alterations are completed with a new doorway into the back of the workshop and fully decorated with fresh murals on the wall. It had looked a very cluttered space when we visited in 2015 but is now much improved. The new workshop machinery is all in use and a new 3 phase electricity supply has recently been installed. The storage area is much tidier. The one thing that has not progressed so far however is the workshop extension.
I asked Oliver what other things were needed at the DCC for the future and he mentioned a back-up generator as they have so many power cuts. It would need to be large enough to power the workshop machinery. He also suggested 2-3 laptops for the staff, as they only have one means of internet access. Oliver felt it would be very helpful for the web site and crowd funding applications. There is talk of creating a sub-office with therapy room at Miathene (?) half way from Maua to Meru, in order to reduce travelling time for the therapists to that area. This would involve purchasing land and putting up new buildings, which could include a larger workshop replacing the existing one in Maua.
The DCC has recently been donated 50 boxes of wheelchairs by Bristol-based UK charity Motivation for distribution among their clients. These are in a range of sizes and include conventional push type and manually operated cycle chairs. The cycle type are efficient and very much lighter than a timber model the DCC showed us last year.
I spent one day out with Oliver and the orthopaedic technician on visits. First stop was a home visit to deliver artificial limbs and a walking frame for a 2 year old with both legs amputated above the knee.
Then on to Irindiro Primary School located in a hilly area surrounded by tea plantations. We were welcomed and shown round by the friendly and caring headmaster. The school has a special unit for disabled children, staffed by 2 teachers. They have around 45 children officially on the register, but on our visit only 23 were in school. The unit occupies a single building divided into dormitories for girls and boys and with one quarter partitioned off for a classroom. There are only about 5 beds for the boys and 4 for the girls so these have to be shared by the children and the foam mattresses are extremely thin. Very basic facilities and an obvious need for more resources in the unit. We brought a sack of maize and another of beans with us for the children’s meals - these were very gratefully received as the unit was just running out of food and would have been forced to send everybody home in a couple of days time.
We then went on to Athi Special School where the great news is that a permanent water supply has finally been connected to the storage tank and two outside stand pipes. The therapy room has been completed and painted and is being used - the OT and physio were due to make their regular visit the following day. The recent builder seems to have done a good job. Work was also in progress during our visit on the base for the new classrooms.
Esther the headmistress has recently purchased a calf so that they can have a source of milk, and intends to replace the pig she had bought and which sadly died. She is looking for more funds for this and for getting chickens. Generally, everything seems to be going well at the school.
Thank you for your help and support for these lovely children, carers and families!