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Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum

by Mustard Seed Project (Kenya)
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Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Build a school for 300 children in Mombasa slum
Seif outside the school
Seif outside the school

Exciting times for Mustard Seed Project with lots of good news. Firstly, we have raised all the money needed to complete six new classrooms on the upper storey of our school and construction has started. In December we raised £19,000 on the Big Give and a charitable trust gave us a donation of £15,000. We plan to go out to Kenya next week and can't wait to see what has been done. It's so wonderful to know that we just need to raise the funds for another two classrooms and the hall and the school will be finished. Yay!

And of course, we all know that it is what goes on in a school that counts and for a second year running our oldest children achieved a mean score of B- in their KCPE Exams (Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education) where the national average is in fact a C. It fact our mean score was almost a B because of Seif. Seif has been with us for 10 years and he managed to get an A with a score that put him in the top 1% in the country. Dad said,'We are so thankful for what you have done for Seif. This will make such a difference to his life. He has been accepted into a National school (the very highest level of government school).'  

Equally amazing is the grade achieved by Beatrice. She has also been with us for 10 years and has received special needs support throughout so we were all so pleased when she achieved a C. Grades go from A+ to E-. Bearice is cared for by her grandmother as dad died of AIDS and mum works as a residential maid in someone else's house. Both these children come from the very poorest in our community and were unable to make any contribution towards their education.

We never fail to be amazed and grateful to the many people who have helped us to reach this point. We obviously could not have done this without your support. And most recently support has started to come from an unlikely source, Jude Bellingham. If you follow football (which I didn't) you may quite possibly have heard of him. He is just 16 and plays football for Birmingham City in their first team. He's considered to be a 'Wonder boy' in football and he is supporting us. Jude has already raised £2,000 for us which is pretty amazing for a 16 year old. Hopefully he will be able to come out to Kenya one day to meet the football team we support in the community and the teachers and children at our school. Everyone is just so excited at the prospect. Football is a big thing in Kenya.

Thank you so much for your continued support. You are making such a difference.

Construction underway
Construction underway
Jude with three trustees of Mustard Seed
Jude with three trustees of Mustard Seed

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Happy winners of 10th Anniversary Games Day
Happy winners of 10th Anniversary Games Day

We arrived in Kenya with great news for the contractors building our school. We have half the money needed for six classrooms on the upper storey and they can start building as soon as school closes on 25th October. We are all so excited. When completed all the children will be in the same building and we shall save £5,000 a year in rent.

Some good news for the children too as due to the sad death of a friend we had money to spend on PE equipment which was long overdue. We had put the equipment in the school office and one class of children had to walk past it to go our to play. Before long the secret was out and hoards of children took equipment outside to play. We quickly went outside to retrieve it but not until a couple of photographs had been taken. Next day I bought some equipment for playtime too!

Other great news was a meeting with the parent class representatives. They had requested the meeting because they had issues of course. Their biggest one was about succession as they realised that I would not last forever! They were hugely relieved to discover that we had three young trustees on our board. The best thing was that they wanted to raise money for the school. It will be a small amount but so great that the parents want be involved.

As we were in Kenya at the time and it is our tenth anniversary we decided to support the parents in a fundraising event. Together we organised a games afternoon which was attended by all the parents and some of the community. 1,500 games were played in total and if we had not rung the bell to show that it was over I can imagine it might have gone on all night. I think I can safely say that it was enjoyed by all and even better was the skills learnt by the teachers. Last year I did a training session on organisation at which the teachers clearly learnt little. When asked the next day what had made this event so successful they were able to list all the organisation strategies used. Amazing!!

The Kenyan government have introduced a new curriculum but more importantly they have changed teaching methods to make it much more like the way children learn in most western countries. They did it very rapidly however and many teachers are struggling. Our teachers have been able to embrace it enthusiastically though and are making great progress. There have now been many training days and at the first ones teacher Sophie said to teacher Noelina, 'It's just the way that Rita told us'. Probably the best thing to come out of it is the support the parents are giving us. Many of our mothers did not go to school and have been nervous about coming into school even though they all attend the parents' meetings. Because the teachers have needed practical help to produce resources such as wooden frames for weaving, parents have been able to see how they can support the school. 

Our greatest worry is the long holiday which is about to start. It is nine weeks long and for many this means nine weeks on starvation rations. They lose weight in the three week holidays but nine weeks is just too much. Last year we had to provide basic food to some of our families and we shall have to do so again this year. A very expensive thing to do but without this these families would starve. We have raised half the money needed but have to hope we can find the rest before the next month.

We are Rotarians and Geoff has been going to Bahari Rotary Club in Mombasa for nine years. They came to visit the school about five years ago but of course a lot has happened since and they decided it was time to make a return visit. They were very impressed with what they saw and will continue to visit and support when we are in the UK, which is great news. Even better from the children's point of view they came bearing gifts of lollies, rubber mats and flip-flops which they call slippers. I just loved the look on the children's faces when they received their slipper.Getting something brand new is such a treat. 

All in all a very successful trip. So much more happened than I could ever put in this update but if you wish to know more and have not already signed up for my updates from Kenya then please do let me know and I shall add you to our circulation list. ritafowler@gmail.com

Thank you so much for all your support. Whoever would have thought when we started with just 17 children and 2 teachers 10 years ago that would have come so far. Certainly not us! 

The last time the building will look like this.
The last time the building will look like this.
Children investigating new slippers from Rotary
Children investigating new slippers from Rotary

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Jude Bellingam with Geoff and Rita
Jude Bellingam with Geoff and Rita

Our children are happy and healthy. They receive quality education and equally importantly, they are well fed. We have been so fortunate since 2011 to receive funding from a Swiss Charitable trust but this year it has closed down. We have just been awarded half the money we need from the Souter Foundation but have to hope that fundraisers or some of the other charitable trusts we have approached will come up with the rest. It costs just £60 a year to feed a child breakfast and a nutritious mid-day meal during term time but we have 270 children.

Good things are happening too of course. We are getting closer to our goal of six new classrooms for the upper storey of our school. When all the children are in the same building we shall need to raise £5,000 less next year for the feeding programme. Several groups of people are fundraising for us: Smith Eliot did a fundraising event and raised £2,000, Nigel Swepson ran the London Marathon and raised £2,500, Yarm Prep School is doing a colour run later this month and hopes to raise £10,000 towards this project and a number of other schools also plan to do a fundraiser for us before the end of the year. Perhaps the most amazing is that a talented young footballer, Jude Bellingham, is fundraising to build a classroom. Do check him out on our Instagram link below. He is also on the home page of our new website which I hope you have taken a look at. It took me two months to complete and whilst I'm not a web designer, I now know quite a bit about setting up a WordPress site! 

Our children are still making amazing progress including in extra-curricular activities. They have entered the National Music Festival again with performance poetry. Last time they came 2nd in their class for the whole of Kenya and so far this year they are through to county level, hopefully to come first! They are so proud of their achievements and so are we. Also, locally, three of our children have been chosen to join the cluster sports team. There are a lot of schools in the cluster so this is a great result for them. Such wonderful experiences for children who probably would not have otherwise attended school.

Other good news for us is that all the children have shoes at present! We took out lots of shoes in October which had been generously donated by the parents and children of Northborough School. After one of our children had received his shoes his mother came to Irene our head teacher completely overwhelmed. 'He was desperate for shoes and we had no money to buy any. These are beautiful shoes. Please thank the donors.' But, unfortunately there is a limit to how much we could carry so there were not enough for everyone who needed them. Fortunately a donor paid for shoes for those without and these were bought locally. Not the same quality but at least everyone now has shoes.  

And finally, from everyone at Mustard Seed, including those who work for us and those we work to support, a big thank you to all of you who support us and make this project possible. We really appreciate your help. 

Happy children with new shoes
Happy children with new shoes
Some of our sporting team
Some of our sporting team

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My grandaughter in Kenya
My grandaughter in Kenya

As I explained in my last report, our first group of children, many of whom were the first to join us, took their KCPE (Kenyan Certificate of Education). We have a complete cross section of ability as they are chosen by poverty not ability and the cohort includes children with special needs, however the mean score was B-. Absolutely brilliant. Even better news was the fact that two of our poorest but most able girls, Patience and Everline, got a donor to enable them to go to one of the best secondary school. Neither of these girls would have gone to any sort of secondary school which made it even better news. Both mothers, single parents, were completely overwhelmed by the news. Patience' father was killed in a road traffic accident when she was seven years leaving her mother with no money and four children. Patience' mum gave her heartfelt appreciation and said 'I thought my daughter's primary education would just be the final but now there is an unexpected green light which will change my daughter's life.' So heartwarming to see what the quality education we are providing is achieving. 

As you know we really hope to be able to build six classrooms on the upper storey of our building this year so that all the children can be in the same building enabling us to save £4,000 a year. We have raised the money for the first classroom and have two further fundraising events later in the year which should together raise enough for three classrooms. If determination alone is enough then we shall also raise the other £30,000. Everything counts towards our goal of course and I was so touched yesterday when my eight year old granddaughter arrived with £5.71. She has been to Kenya twice to see our school and was so moved by what she saw that she decided to fundraise herself by selling chocolates she received at Christmas for 50p each. Her mum paid 71p for hers!

The other thing arising from our last visit before Christmas was our discovery that so many of our children would actually starve during the nine week long school holidays. We managed to get some emergency funding from two donors which fed twenty families during those holidays but of course that is just putting a very important plaster on a wound but we could not heal it. However, for three of those families life is now improving. We needed to employ another cook and another cleaner which helped two families and a donor very kindly gave a donation to a third to enable them to set up a business again which had failed when they had an enormous medical bill. They are also getting practical support from our school secretary who is doing a part-time business degree, paid for by Mustard Seed Project. We just hope that this will help to alleviate the problem for next time for at least a few.

And a big thank you to all of you for your support which is very much appreciated. You are making a big difference to all the families involved with our school. 

My grandaughter raising money for our school
My grandaughter raising money for our school

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Such a lot to report after five weeks in Kenya. It was so great to see everyone enjoying the new facilities. The cooks with their lovely kitchen and the children continue to be thrilled with their new toilets! The teachers are still doing a fantastic job and this time we have our first set of candidates. This is the name given to the children who take their Kenyan Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE). We just have to hope that they do as well as we are hoping. I know for certain that they will all be offered a school, you need 40% for that, but it would be great if some of them got the marks to go to the highest level of secondary school which requires in excess of 75%. The government moves the goal post on that one as there are only so many places. Unfortunately, whatever their grades most of them will end up in the local secondary school because they will be not be able to afford the fees at the others. Such a pity. Irene, our headteacher and I went to visit that secondary school and there were 80+ in a class, not enough seats or desks and they taught to the highest achievers. Fortunately, our brightest girl, from a single parent family, has a donor to enable her to go to one of the better secondary schools.

As usual we have our gripe about the Kenyan government and this time it opened a whole can of worms. The government decreed that all primary schools, including private schools, (which ours is), to close on 26th October until 2nd January. A disaster academically but an even worse disaster nutritionally. We knew that many of our children only ate the food they received in our school and we knew that children lost weight during the holidays but we hadn't taken the further step of thinking that nine weeks holiday could spell disaster. Then, emaciated parents started coming to Irene (the head teacher) in desperation to see if we could help. A donor gave us £250 to help with this problem but once we started investigating we realised that those we had first seen were just the tip of the iceberg. I try not to get closely involved with individual families because we need to be focussed and build the school but I was there when one of the fathers came. An educated man speaking very good English whose business had collapsed. He was so grateful for the food we were giving, not in a gushing way, more a relieved way, but I just wanted to give him a hug. I could barely stop the tears. 

But on a more positive note our family came out to Kenya for a couple of weeks in the middle the stay and all volunteered their services at the school including my young grandchildren. Some did creative activities whilst others helped improve the teacher’s and children’s Lego skills. Four teachers were taught how to follow a plan for one of the kits and found it quite challenging but ultimately rewarding. The young adults also had a great time playing with the children at playtime. There would be a photograph but the camera went missing!

The teachers then had a week with no children and no me. I had set homework for them and they did it brilliantly. The teachers of children from 3 - 9 years now have the new Kenyan curriculum. Very wordy and understandably they were hoping we would just pay for new curriculum text  books to save them the effort of working it all out. However, they worked in pairs on one subject per pair and did a brilliant job and were very clear about what was needed. It would appear that the curriculum really is now very similar to the British curriculum at this level, which is what we thought. The exception being Swahili and not just for the obvious reason. They will definitely need curriculum books for Kiswahili because they now realise that the Swahili they had been teaching was a language cobbled together from English, Arabic, tribal languages and Swahili.

Then another problem arose. Apparently cooks cannot clean in Kenya. It does not matter if they wear separate aprons or do the work at a different time you simply cannot employ the same person to cook and clean. Our cooks were both cooks and cleaners so we have had to resolve the situation. When all the children are in the same building it will not be a problem but at present it is not possible for one cook to cook alone and so we need four cooks and two cleaners. Two new staff to pay for. 

This all reinforced quite how desperately we need to build six classrooms on the upper storey to bring all the children under the same roof. It will save the salary of two cooks and a night-watchman plus rent, utilities etc and save us more than £4,000 a year! This will make us so much closer to sustainability. We have lots of fund-raising activities coming up as we so hope that next year, in our tenth anniversary, we shall be able to make this happen. Do keep an eye out for news of how you can help.

Thank you so much all of you who have helped us to reach this stage. We could not have done it without you.

Completed ground floor
Completed ground floor
Older girls have separate toilets
Older girls have separate toilets
Teachers learning to follow a Lego plan
Teachers learning to follow a Lego plan
Collecting school lunch
Collecting school lunch
Craft session with our family
Craft session with our family
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Organization Information

Mustard Seed Project (Kenya)

Location: Peterborough - United Kingdom
Website:
Project Leader:
Rita Fowler
Peterborough, Lincolnshire United Kingdom

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