Dec 6, 2016

We are so proud

Granddaughter Sophie with teacher Sophie
Granddaughter Sophie with teacher Sophie

I can't tell you how proud we felt at the start of our six week visit to the school at the end of September. The school is so successful now. Irene is an excellent head teacher, respected by all and extremely competent. As I said in the last email our exam results are fantastic but of course exam results are not everything. The commitment shown by all the teachers was exceptional and I could tell that this was not just because we were there but because they wanted to do their very best for the children.

It was an exciting visit for a number of reasons. Not least because my own children and grandchildren came for the first time and one of my daughters, Nicki, has just become a trustee of the charity. The children and staff were delighted to meet our family and the feeling was mutual. Our grandchildren took part in lessons and played with the children at playtime. Irene was particularly pleased to meet Nicki, 'Now I see the future of the project. I can be content'.

Hope, our first deaf child has reached a turning point. She can sign to read but does not sign to communicate and we realised that the time has come for her to move on. But to where? There is a government school for the deaf in Mombasa and Irene and Joyce (Hope's mother as well as being our teaching assistant) went to visit. They were happy enough with the standards of education but there was grave concern over the pastoral care. The head teacher said that Hope would have to board and could not go home at all for the first term. When Joyce said that Hope would not understand and would unhappy he replied, 'She's a big girl. She'll be fine!' She's a very protected 9 year old! Luckily, one of the sponsors who has contributed towards Hope's education so far, agreed to continue to sponsor her in a small private school for the deaf run by Grace the teacher who gives sign language lessons to our teachers. Irene and Joyce visited the school and instantly felt this was the place for Hope who will be starting there in January 2017.

I was also able to tell some of our parents that a sponsor will be paying for their child's school fees for the next year. Siti, a single parent was one of these people and she broke down and sobbed. 'I can't tell you how good that makes me feel. I was so desperate'. But it turned out that as well as Leila she had two other children who were not in our school. One is Halima who is four years old and has cerebral palsy. In Kenya, most disabled children are hidden under the bed when visitors come so that they cannot be seen but this was not true of Halima. Her mother had sought all the available help and Halima is a smiley, engaging little girl who has made very good progress. Thanks to a sponsor, she will go to a school for children with cerebral palsy in Mombasa in January. But Siti also has a third child of two years. I could not understand why someone in her situation would have another child to add to her burden. Then I heard that this was in fact her sister's child. Her sister already had three and did not want another so she was going to throw her away! Siti stepped in and with no money, no breast milk and no powdered formula she managed to raise the child on cow's milk! It's very humbling working in a community like this and meeting people like Siti.

The day before school closed was graduation day. In Kenya children graduate at age 6 from KG3 to Primary one following a graduation ceremony. We have never done this before but parents and teachers were keen so… The whole thing was organised by the teachers and they did a splendid job. After certificates there were speeches and then the children from each class performed. The older children did group poetry which is hardly surprising when you hear that on their first attempt at a national competition this year they reached the semi-finals. One poem, in Swahili, got tremendous applause from the audience. Apparently it was written by their poetry teacher telling what a great school Miche Bora (Mustard Seed’s school) is. It told how the children are not taught by rote but are taught to think. Then there was a line explaining how good their exam results were, WITHOUT CHEATING! Sadly, that cannot be said for many schools in the area.

In January there will be 125 children in the new school with only three toilets. (the other 125 will remain in the rented building). We desperately need your help to complete the toilet block. If another 50 people donate to the Christmas appeal on Global Giving we can access most, if not all, of the £4,500 prize money on offer AND have the opportunity to bid for further funding. Please pass this email on to your friends and family and tell them what a difference their donation can make to our children, teachers and parents this Christmas time.

Have a good Christmas.

Best wishes,

Rita

Head teacher Irene
Head teacher Irene
Two proud graduates
Two proud graduates
Siti and Halima
Siti and Halima
Hope and sponsor Clive
Hope and sponsor Clive
Sep 13, 2016

Our exam results are fantastic

You have to think hard
You have to think hard

Yes, it's true. Our exam results are not just good, they are amazing. Of the 150 children who took the exams (the others are too young) only four failed to meet government expectations for their age and those four have very special needs. Many of the other children have special needs and have been receiving extra support AND they have all met government expections. The majority of our children achieved grades high enough to get them into the top secondary schools if they maintain the current level. My teachers are not just pleased they are elated and so are we. When you live in an urban area quality education is essential if your future is to change. Our teachers have worked so hard and have adapted their teaching strategies (with the help of in-service training from me) and now we are seeing the results.

That said we haven't been to Kenya for 10 months for health reasons but shall be going for six weeks at the end of September. Such a lot to do but very exciting. Last year Sonal raised funds for us by climbing Kilimanjaro and we are going out to spend it! Furniture for the staff room and and the new classroom and also some new laptops and a projector.We also hope to get the electricity supply connected and a bore hole dug. Our greatest need is to get a classroom completed for next January.The basic structure is there and my nephew managed to raise over half the money needed for finishing so we are urgently trying to raise the necessary £1,500.

The school is not our only project of course. We support women and the youth through sport. Results here, particularly with the youth, are not generally so tangible. You might imagine our delight to receive an email, part of which is below.

'I wish to sincerely pass my gratitude to you for the kindness and generosity you’ve been showing us and our club (Kos Boxing Club, Mombasa- Kenya).  ... the club has been flourishing so much that we‘ve been receiving recognition not only in Mombasa... but worldwide through social media! . friends in South Africa, Argentina and USA ..keenly following our progress online.'

'We would only have dreamt ... but when you came, you made those ...dreams a reality! Boxers are so enthusiastic and so motivated ...look at themselves from a different perspective: playing top rank boxing sir! The juniors are really sharpening their claws! We’ve also incorporated a football team of young boys of under 14 years training at the same venue (grounds) with boxers.'

There was lots more but you get the drift. Such a change from the begging emails we often get!

Should be lots to tell in the next update. Until then a big thank you to everyone who has supported us in the past. You can see what a huge difference you have made.

Kind regards,

Rita

And have fun
And have fun
You can learn through play
You can learn through play
Shame they don't smile!
Shame they don't smile!
Jun 14, 2016

Clinic is open

one of the German volunteers
one of the German volunteers

Normally when I write a report I am bursting with ideas, but health issues, now resolved, prevented us from making our Feb/March visit to the project so I thought I had nothing to tell. A lie of course. Such a lot of exciting things have happened.

Firstly the brickwork for the entire downstairs is now complete. Half of it still  needs finishing of course, the toilets, kitchen, a classroom and the office but at least we can imagine what it will look like.  We had a Skype call last week from the contractors. Two really nice guys who are incredibly honest and patient with us. Equally important is the quality of their workmanship.We feel really lucky to have found them. Herman has young children of his own and is very keen for them to come to our school. When I told him that he was too rich he said that I was being unfair to his children by not allowing them to have the quality of education the poor children were getting!

I think I mentioned in the last report that I was worried about financing the feeding programme for the next year, but that worry has now gone. A second charitable trust has met the shortfall and we now have the £12,000 we need for yet another year. It is always a worry but at least our children will get a healthy diet for another year.

Then there are the volunteers. Our teachers love to have volunteers from Europe in the school especially when we were unable to go out there ourselves. In April two young women from Germany went over for two weeks. I'm not sure who had most fun the children or the volunteers judging by the photographs. They did lots of creative stuff like making crowns and decorating them. Our children are getting a great education but craft resources cost the same in Kenya as they do in the UK and our money is generally spent on more basic things like books, salaries, food and water. Craft equipment would cost a much greater percentage of our running costs than it would in England.

And as I write, Alice is spending four weeks in Kenya. She has just finished training as a children's nurse and is doing her elective in our clinic. This was arranged several months ago but it was touch and go whether the clinic would be finished in time. Fortunately it was and so she is working with two experienced nurses and our children. So far one report has been sent back and she is clearly enjoying herself. She had worked in Ghana before which meant that it was not the culture shock it might have been otherwise. Normally our volunteers stay with Joyce who lives fairly close to Mgongeni but Alice chose to stay with Flora who is one of our nurses and really lovely. She actually lives much closer to the community. It will be interesting to see how it works out.

Recently, I was talking to my nephew about the need to complete another classroom for January for a new intake of children. We don't need to raise a huge amount of money because of course the structure already exists but we do need to raise it urgently. 'No problem,' he said 'I'll get it for you.' So, he is cycling around the highlands of Scotland this week and asking people to sponsor him. So far he has raised half the £2,500 needed which is pretty good. Just keeping my fingers crossed for the rest of the week.

I'm really excited about our October visit to Kenya as my children and their families are coming out too. Ostensibly it is to celebrate my 70th birthday but they will also be visiting the school and the community. My grandchildren will spend a day in the school and they are really looking forward to the experience.

Thanks to everyone for their support

German volunteers
German volunteers
Ground floor brickwork
Ground floor brickwork
Three little girls hoping for a new classroom
Three little girls hoping for a new classroom

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