Ouma and Paul - all smiles!
I was met at the airport in Kisumu by Paul and Lucy, with Ouma (a friend now living in Nairobi who I had encouraged to offer to help Paul with his book keeping). It was great to see them all again!
We had a look round Paluoc on Sunday afternoon and talked about vocational training and many other matters:
How to attract and retain more students.
Whether to diversify and in which direction.
How to provide outside work experience.
I was told that at some other project centres in the town they no longer have carpentry training, but masonry, hairdressing, food and beverage and hairdressing are popular. Many Kisumu teenagers are tempted to become boda-boda (motorbike taxi) riders where they can make a little cash in hand. It tempts them away from training programmes, but they are not keen to learn mechanics. IT is also of interest, and we all agreed that dangling some carrots whilst introducing a small tuition fee is a desirable way forward, although it will be hard to sell in the short term.
The following morning I met the students who mostly were soon relaxed and quite chatty, although some obviously have much baggage in their lives. They work happily together and the whole place has a supportive-family feel, the huge importance of which was emphasised by Paul at a graduation ceremony he had arranged. All received certificates, both from Paluoc (all) and those who had passed government exams.
Some had brought along a family member for support, which was very encouraging to see. Jacqueline the star carpentry student had brought her 2 young children. And Josephine, one of the board members, brought a cake (which didn't last long!)
I was then asked to plant a tree to join a line of saplings growing well. We visited past-student Evans at the small home he shares with his mother. He had a home-made work bench attached to a tree for stability, and an impressive tool kit he was keen to demonstrate.
So, what of the future for Paluoc?
The workshop looks a bit in need of a coat of paint and hopefully we can send some volunteers to help next year. The equipment looks well cared for and used, and the outdoor shed for the planer now has its security doors. A band saw and a small lathe have been requested and we have some funds available for this.
We talked again about dangling carrots – computer lessons, the possibility of sending some mountain bikes to loan to students not just for transport but as a way of encouraging them to attend regularly, and also the possibility of loaning out tools to take home, as well as providing tools as a reward on completing studies.
Overall, what struck me was how much they appreciate the working relationship and encouragement from HATW; they have a lively workshop, a positive attitude, a great ethos and lots of potential. And they recognise and embrace the need to become more and more self-sufficient.
Welcome to Paluoc!
Government certificates of achievement