Project #8204

Helping young Kenyans survive and thrive in Kisumu

So, I'm sat beside the pool in our hotel in Zante. The conversation around me is all
about "globalisation" and its effects on trips to Greece. "All of the refugees have
ruined the tourist trade in Kos, lots of locals have gone bust as a result" . There was
also some slight sympathy for the plight of the refugees.
Meantime Paluoc continues in its efforts to provide invaluable training for youngsters
in Kisumu. Globalisation is having an effect there too. We are concerned about the long
term effects of cheap factory manufactured imports from China potentially displacing
the demand for school desks, lockers etc which are currently the mainstay of Paluoc's
workload. There is already an issue regarding carpentry training - it takes quite a long
time and its not particularly highly regarded. The work connected with buildings, roofs
etc is secure but beds, desks, cupboards less so. Our response is twofold: we are looking at more use of power tools. They already make
good use of a planing machine, maybe now is the time to add a band saw, maybe a lathe
and other similar equipment. It will make the training more technical, the work easier
and potentially the rewards greater. Hopefully this, if it happens, will help
recruitment and retention and also improve the quality of the work produced. There are
also issues like how effectively can they be used and the training be given. Paul, our
trainer says that he is confident and competent to do so. These improvements will need
to be funded and sustained at least for a couple of years. We are aso looking at the possibility of diversifying at the workshop: can we also
repair, refurbish, and sell bikes? We can supply an initial stock, if we can deal with
transportation, and if the import duties are not prohibitively high. Understandably
through Kenyans do not want a lot of cheap bikes dumped in Kisumu putting current
repair shops out of business. Do we have the space for the expansion? Yes. Do we have the expertise on hand?
Probably. Can we sort the transportation? Maybe. Is there a big and growing demand
for bicycles - as has happened in many other countries as they have developed their
economies? Not so sure. Has the globalisation of news and expectations led to a demand
for motorcycles instead and straight away. "Bikes are OK for schoolchildren" If only life was more simple. David Steiner, HATW's Chief Executive, is going to visit Paluoc later this month to
check all of these things out. With the help of Paul, our trainer and manager, and
with assistance from his trustees and some other locals, hopefully some more definite
plans can be put into place. The carpentry workshop is still getting on with the day to day business and is giving
youngsters a chance to learn and earn their way out of their current hardships.
Paul with one of the newer Trainees
Paul with one of the newer Trainees

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!

Water, water everywhere!

It’s been raining very heavily in Kisumu recently, 3 or 4 inches falling in a single day. The humidity afterwards is unbearable. However that’s not what has caused the flurry of activity in the photo.

The water supply to the workshop had stopped delivering any water and that was a real problem especially for two of our trainees who live on-site as nightwatchmen. So the Water Board were called into action. They managed to re-establish the water supply for the workshop but whilst doing so they fractured another nearby water pipe. The result was that free water was gushing out of the ground much to the delight of the local women! They are used to having to buy water to wash their family’s clothes and dishes so this plentiful free supply was a cause for much amusement and enjoyment. It was a case of taking advantage whilst the bonanza lasted.

Building their families a home

Meantime two of the trainees are beginning to use their newly learnt skills to build a home for themselves and other members of their families. That’s Bonaventure 3rd and Kennedy 2nd from the right in the photo. They have passed their initial exams, they have a bit of experience, and are now able to be loaned out on occasions to local builders to help install doorframes etc. They earn a few shillings, and Paul’s advice to them is to invest their earnings in building a small family home. It’ll be a long job but it’s a good start on becoming independent. It’s a struggle to get some of the trainees to smile, they often feel that they do not have a lot to smile about but the training at Paluoc, and the success that they have enjoyed has certainly begun to bring a smile to some of their faces. New recruits are always being sought.

When there is something more to be seen of their new homes we’ll post a photo. Meantime its back to training, and making more school desks and benches.

Thank you for your help and support!

Several of the Trainees with trainer Paul
Several of the Trainees with trainer Paul

At PALUOC workshop, we took some days off from 22nd December to 4th January. Most of the students are back and I am looking forward to receiving more students this year.

Last year was a good year. I worked very closely with the three candidates towards their exam that was done in December. It was nice to present two ladies in the government test as this is very rare. According to me, they did their best though all is now left in the hands of the examiner.

I am looking forward to this year as I now have four categories of trainees. Bonaventure’s group who can now do most things on their own, the group that has just done their exam, the group that joined towards the end of last year and finally the new recruits this year. I enjoy working with these students, starting from the level of identifying tools to the level which one is now able to make an item.

I would want to thank you very much for the support and encouragement which Hands Around The World sponsors have offered PALUOC carpentry training and made it possible for me to be able to transform the lives of these young people in Kisumu.

Thank you very much and pass my greetings to your family and supporters.


Some long time friends of HATW recently visited Paluoc training workshop. For this update I have included some extracts from their feedback;

“Our reunion with Paul was lovely – he was as we remembered him, quiet, sincere, knowledgeable. He is very committed to his training programme, his workshop and more especially, his trainees. He was pleased to show us around, to explain his policy and plans, to introduce the trainees and even teach Jeff a carpentry technique that was new to him!”

“There are currently 10 students on role; Bonaventure, Steven J, Kennedy, Maureen, Jacqueline, Walter, Charles, Steven, Daniel, Caleb…… Jacqueline has a child and is expecting another and in consequence is rather an unreliable student. Maureen, Jacqueline and Walter are entered for this year’s exams”

“Daniel and Steven J, who are orphans are living on site and are proving to be very responsible caretakers”

“Bonaventure has been at the centre 4 years and lives locally – he is very trustworthy and now acting as Paul’s assistant.”

“Paul gives the trainees dinner money on a daily basis as he finds this ensures they are fed, don’t take too long for lunch and use the money for it’s intended purpose!”

“All the hand tools are sharpened personally by Paul as he doesn’t want the students working with second grade tools. They have a well thought out security system whereby the students have all made their own tool boxes which live in one of three secure cupboards - once unlocked the students are responsible for the good order of their tool kit. Each student takes it in turns to be responsible for the workshop for a day – tidiness, security etc – but they seem reluctant to take this on!”

I hope that these extracts give a flavour of the workshop. Paul sets high standards and is giving these youngsters a good opportunity to gain experience and skills that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives. They continue to need a bit of support but are slowly working towards self-sufficiency.


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Organization Information


Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, United Kingdom
$4,914 raised of $8,500 goal
31 donations
$3,586 to go
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