Children
 Kenya
Project #8204

Helping young Kenyans survive and thrive in Kisumu

by HANDS AROUND THE WORLD
Vetted
Bonaventure
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

Mural
Mural
Paluoc Skills Centre
Paluoc Skills Centre
Ouma and Paul - all smiles!
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!
Welcome to Paluoc!
Government certificates of achievement
Government certificates of achievement
Graduation ceremony
Graduation ceremony

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 school children" If only life was more simple.

David Steiner, HATW's Executive Officer, 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.

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!

 

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Organization Information

HANDS AROUND THE WORLD

Location: MONMOUTH, MONMOUTHSHIRE - United Kingdom
Website: http:/​/​www.hatw.org.uk
Project Leader:
David Steiner
Executive Officer
Monmouth, United Kingdom
$5,268 raised of $8,500 goal
 
36 donations
$3,232 to go
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