Leah Ambwaya visited this project as part of a GlobalGiving evaluation. She said:
On the 8th of May 2009, we met Stella Amajong; she picked us from the hotel to Gemini offices at Siro house in central business district of Eldoret town. As we drove around through the town, I asked, what inspired you at your very young age to start this organization? Looking quite apprehensive she responded, “I am the first born in a family of 5, my father died when I was 17 years and my mother when I was 20, I had to take up the responsibility of being the head of the family. She did not want to get into the details, so we skipped the interview at that level. After building a rapport with her, she again opened up and quipped, “Leah, do I look so young?” to which I carefully responded in the affirmative. “Yes am young, but am a mother of three” This was great because she was now warming up to our visit. This young woman has a mission to help young girls and the grannies that are suffering the effects of HIV/AIDs. I could see a humble young woman, who has stepped up an initiative to serve, looking into her eyes; she was full of inner strength. As we approached the building; we were welcomed by a big banner hanging on the rooftop with the words GEMINI VCT.
She led us into the second floor of the building into a room 207, here we met the receptionist and she spotted such a huge smile, next to her a television screen and some beautiful coaches. For once we thought we had entered someone’s residence, too welcoming and too comfortable. What we learnt later was that the clients need to work in a homely environment.
I asked her if she is a counselor, and true she was. We sat in her little office that was well furnished with just a few files in the shelves on the wall behind her. She informed us to be a little patient as we waited for the arrival of her communications officer, who works for the organization on voluntary basis. “He has most of the information and he is better placed to respond to your questions” she says. This was very true, because this young lady, is more conversant with the issues on the ground where she spends most of her time, but feeds in data to Joe, a man who offers such invaluable services to this organization in terms of packaging information and sending to donors present and potential.
We asked for information on the level of funding from Global Giving, she again did not have this, “we have a volunteer accountant, who works as an accountant in one of the schools around and she maintains and keeps all our financial records at a small fee of KSH 5000.”
She listed members of the project advisory board, which is very well constituted with very high ranking professionals in the region. There are doctors and social workers represented. “They bring a lot of value to the project and we are happy to have them around, we consult them very regularly”.
We have a governing council that constituted by beneficiaries both girls and the grannies. This council acts as monitoring tool to ensure that our services reach the beneficiaries as per the project objectives.
We sought to know why all organizational documents and records are in the hands of the volunteers, but not the office, in her innocence, she says. “I did not realize, that it was not ok, but I now I see the logic behind keeping all office documentations with the office”. We asked her if the organization has ever been audited since inception, we realize that she did not even understand what a financial audit was. “we have received a reasonable amount of money both from Global Giving and other donors like MAMA CASH, we are glad that you have seen some gaps in the way we do our accounting, and keep our records, we take that very positively as an organization and promise to hit the road running to put in perspective some of this recommendations that you are making”
We left for the field to meet some of the beneficiaries, and our first stop was the bakery at Moi’s bridge, we could see the baking ovens, the room was filled with the smell of fresh bread, but we only found one student, the recruitment was ongoing, we learnt this from Stella. We bought some scones for kids that were hanging around and left for the next project site.
Just as we were entering the car, a man screamed “Mayii” meaning mum, we ask her who that guy was, “he is one of our beneficiaries from the OVC programme”, we request to have an interview with him, but he declines, though he mentions that he receives food stuffs form the programme and school uniforms for his five children, we learn from Stella that the guy is a widower and is also HIV/AIDS positive. His legs were all covered with mad, and he tells Stella that he came to say thank you after receiving the fertilizer and seeds. He had come all the way form his farm to thank Mayii (Stella). We then left for the next site, where the tailoring school is, we found a group of eight girls busy working on sewing machines, each one of them was deeply engrossed in what they were doing under the keep eye of their teacher that they did not even notice that we had walked in.
We did not want to interrupt them; we checked the records in the field officer. The office some records, but they needed regular updates, so much had been done i.e distribution of food, uniforms and fertilizers according to local purchase orders, but the disbursements had not been updated since July 2008. “We are ready to learn and do things better for the sake of this community” says Stella. Meanwhile an old lady approaches her calling out Mayii (mum) she was referring to Stella, the community hold her in high esteem, she is their silent hero, they talk in low tones then she introduces her to us as one of the grannies the project supports.
Leah said she would tell her friends that this project is great: They are making a difference.
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