Children  Kenya Project #8204

Helping young Kenyans survive and thrive in Kisumu

Paluoc students enjoying their meal
Paluoc students enjoying their meal

HATW sent a small sum of money to Paluoc carpentry workshop so that its staff, trainees, helpers and other invited guests could enjoy a little celebratory get together just before Christmas. From the attached photos it would certainly seem that they enjoyed it very much.

As HATW co-ordinator for Paluoc, I'm going to visit the workshop at the end of next month. The plan is to review the current situation and discuss the way forward.  There is every reason to believe that will be very enjoyable too.  It will also generate lots of up to date information and pictures about Paluoc, and some enthusiasm to keep on improving what’s on offer there.

Maureeen receives her student certificate
Maureeen receives her student certificate
The guest of honour speaks to the group
The guest of honour speaks to the group
Posters and fliers for publicity are shown
Posters and fliers for publicity are shown
Children's school chairs

Things are moving along at Paluoc. With help from Ouma Melchizedek, a friendly and experienced adviser with good administration skills, Paluoc have drawn up plans which they hope will see the workshop being largely self-sufficient by 2020.  It’s a big ask.

A range of issues are being reviewed.  More effort is being put into recruitment via a range of vibrant local churches.  An attempt is being made to further expand their product range; the photos show some small chairs (not school benches) and a wardrobe.

They are also using their bandsaw to make life much easier for the trainees as long as they are respectful of the health and safety issues.

The way that they obtain work from e.g. schools, by tender, is also being reviewed.  The use of a middleman previously, though obtaining work, has not always worked out well financially. It is essential for the workshop to obtain work so that the trainees can get some experience of “real” work as well of course for the income generated.

I am planning a visit to Kisumu early in the New Year but not until the shenanigans over the election results have died down. It will be good to see Paluoc in action, to meet the new trainees, and to admire the new paint job that has been done internally.


Recent developments at Paluoc Carpentry workshop

Some of the trainees have come quite a long way since joining the workshop as you can see from some of the work being completed in the photo above. They are trying to diversify so that they are not so dependent on school desks and lockers. The problem with those is that, though the need is great, the schools’ ability to buy them is very limited and very seasonal. The schools do not buy ahead of a bulge in numbers, they make do until they have a bit of spare cash and buy them then. This is usually at the start of the school year. Sometimes the work is done and payment only follows much later, or not at all.

The aim is to produce a quality of work that is better than most, so here the inside and outside of the workshop are being given a new coat of paint. You only get one chance to create a first impression. The plan is to turn the ground floor into a showroom and teaching area with the bulk of the carpentry work being carried out upstairs.

Bonaventure is one of Paluoc’s real success stories. He has developed a lot of skills and self-confidence. Here he is making a small table. He helps with the instruction of the newer recruits too.

Kennedy has made good progress despite missing time due to mental health issues at the end of last year and the beginning of this. His work is now improving and he is a candidate for the Government exam at the end of this year. Paluoc is the sort of supportive community that can help a lad like him to succeed.

Here is Stephen with the new band saw. As far as possible we want to move the trainees away from laborious jobs and train them to use more modern equipment. It’s good for the trainees to know how to use a hand saw properly but when the job can be done much more swiftly and generally better by machine then there lies the future. They also need to understand that band saws are very good at removing the fingers of careless users! Health and safety issues can be very real in a carpentry workshop.

Martin is an irregular attender. All of the skills needed to make a competent carpenter take quite a while to learn. Some of the youngsters get lured away by the prospect of quicker money driving a boda-boda bike (that’s a pushbike with a spare seat for a passenger). In the short term it may pay better, and if a motorbike is involved it’s a lot 'sexier' too. He has been told that if his attendance doesn’t improve he’ll no longer be welcome at the workshop. Recruitment and retention are an issue especially since many of the trainees who turn up have failed elsewhere and have no confidence that they can succeed.

Paul is a very good and patient teacher. Those who do stick it out do well, and feel much better about themselves. The trainees get their lunch paid for each day and sometimes they get a small amount of spending money when some of the workshop’s output is sold. It’s not a lot but enough to drink a bottle of soda whilst watching a Premier League game on the TV somewhere.

One of the trainees with some small chairs that have been produced. Behind him is the home of one of the trainees, Stephen, who is also the nightwatchman on site. Without Paluoc he’d have no job, no home.

You've helped us get this far. Thank you!


Painting the inside
Painting the inside
The outside now looks very smart!
The outside now looks very smart!
Bonaventure at work
Bonaventure at work
Stephen with the band saw
Stephen with the band saw
Some small chairs for little people
Some small chairs for little people
Sofa and armchair
Sofa and armchair

Diversifying and improving the quality of the product made at Paluoc.

Paul our trainer at Paluoc carpentry workshop has always aimed at producing a better-than-average product so that the items that are made can readily be sold; the better quality gives pride to the trainee producing it and to the purchaser.

It is very difficult to produce good quality work with raw trainees. However some of the trainees are now at a stage where they can produce good quality work. Look at the sofa and armchair, and the church book cupboard and small chairs.

They have also produced this very smart bedframe and bedside cupboards, compared to their earlier efforts and their more standard school lockers and seats. The problem with working for schools is that, like many other countries currently and especially in Kenya, the funding is unreliable even though the need is great.

I am not certain that it happens all of the time, but they are taking more note of Health and Safety issues, and making an effort to keep the place tidy by dealing with the woodshavings .

A pride in their workplace, a pride in their work, but most of all a pride in themselves is what we are working towards.

I am currently working on a friend, who is a very good carpenter and a bit of a perfectionist, to help advise Paluoc on how to achieve top quality, and how to extend their product range further both for domestic purposes e.g. maybe bee-hives, or chicken arks or something else, and also for the potentially more lucrative tourist market (which is not huge in Kisumu but does exist). Tourism is not going to be a major factor in the next few months during the forthcoming election period. We’re looking to the longer term. The best idea would be for him to travel there and see for himself. Watch this space.

Thank you for your interest and support as we seek to make a difference in the lives of these young people...

Book Cupboard and small Chairs
Book Cupboard and small Chairs
Bedframe and Cupboards
Bedframe and Cupboards
Bonaventure's House

 Getting more sophisticated

One of the trainees at Paluoc has progressed to the point where he has been able to build a new house for himself and his parents. It isn’t sophisticated by western standards but it’s a lot better than the one they had, and it is a testament to the skills that Bonaventure has developed and the self confidence that it has given him. He is very proud of it and justifiably so. The woodworking involved he did himself.

The primary goal of the workshop isn’t image. They are all about providing needy youngsters with the skills and self- esteem to earn themselves a living. However even in Kisumu, Kenya, image matters. If you want to persuade customers that you are capable of a good job. You want them to place orders that will give trainees valuable experience. You are trying to encourage trainees to think that they are worth something; then projecting a smart initial image is still necessary. Paluoc has painted a mural on the outside of the workshop. That gives a very good first impression.

The inside of the workshop is also going to be given a smart lick of paint in the next few weeks . Visitors and trainees can see that the workshop is aiming to produce better than average products and trainees with better than average skills. The actual skills and certificates are important but so too is the image that youngsters and customers have of the workshop.

Meantime the youngsters are getting on with their training inside the building. One of the HATW trainees who helped to build and fund Paluoc is going out to visit the workshop in the beginning of March.

A new helper, Ouma Melchizedek, who is originally from Kisumu but now living in Nairobi, is also going to visit the centre to help Paul upgrade some of his accounts and list the assets. It’s all becoming a bit more sophisticated and we hope will soon be able to carry on independently.

That doesn’t mean that we are cutting them adrift and that they may not need a bit of help for some specific purposes occasionally. For example; one of the trainees has recently had quite serious health issues. There are still plenty of youngsters in the area in need of a sympathetic and free helping hand to give them a bit of a leg up. However, the plan is that long term they will be self-sustaining. We think they are gradually getting there.

Nigel Sampson

Feb 2017

Paluoc Skills Centre
Paluoc Skills Centre

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Organization Information


Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, United Kingdom
$5,095 raised of $8,500 goal
38 donations
$3,405 to go
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