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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
Before school closed
Before school closed

We returned from a successful month in Kenya to 'Lockdown' both in the UK and Kenya. Kenya had just three cases at the time but the president closed all schools on the day we flew back. Whilst in Kenya we were able to sort out various issues that had been preventing progression of the school building and it was exciting to be able to see the upper storey of the school really get underway. It was going to be difficult to make a lot of progress whilst the children were in school but of course with the schools closed there has been great progress, especially now the rains are easing up. We don't know when the children will be allowed to return to school but hopefully they will return to six completed classrooms and we shall be able to move all children into this building.

Needless to say the above is the good news. The bad news is also that the children are not in school. Just as in the UK it is the underprivileged who suffer most. The government have ensured that there are lessons on WhatsApp for all children, or should I say all children who have access to WhatsApp. That is not true for most of our children. Teachers have been preparing work for children or parents to collect but not all have come. This is going to be such a disadvantage for our children who are already disadvantaged. The amazing B- that we have been able to achieve for our 14 year olds in their KCPE exams in the last two years cannot happen this year and will probably disadvantage them for much longer. 

The next is a mixture of good and bad news. Thanks to a number of people who have made generous donations and some wonderful people who have done fundraising for us we have been able to feed the very poorest of our families and provide all our families with soap. People come once a week to collect soap and homework and the families we are feeding also collect dried beans and maizemeal. At least they will not starve. It cost £5 per week to provide food and soap to a poor family and we have 80 such families and additionally we provide soap to another 120 families costing us an additional 50p per family. We have used most of our reserves paying teachers salaries and they will now be going onto half salary. We shall be able to continue as we are for another month, but... so very worrying for every one.

I'm in regular contact via WhatsApp with Irene our headteacher and Collins our secretary and hear news from them. If any of you are wondering whether your efforts are appreciated the parents are absolutely overwhelmed by what they are receiving. I'm told that comments are, 'Rita is wonderful, we don't know what we would have done. We are praying for her to keep well. Tell her we are so grateful that we can feed our children.' I realise that the comments are directed at me but I know that this has come from you and I want to pass them on with my thanks to you all.  

Such a difficult time for everyone, and so easy for people to look closer to home for their charity giving. And who could blame them? Unless you have seen first hand what it is like for our parents and children and know them personally and can see what a difference these donations are making it must be difficult to appreciate how important this is. I feel very humbled by their gratitude and even more grateful that you are allowing me to make this difference. We cannot do this without your help. 

If you know of anyone who would like to support us please do forward this email. Although this project is about building a school, at this moment in time we need to ensure that healthy children return to us when school opens. As a result donations are going towards food, soap and salaries. 

washing hands before eating
washing hands before eating
food during lockdown
food during lockdown
Building will soon have a roof
Building will soon have a roof
collecting soap
collecting soap

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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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Organization Information

Mustard Seed Project (Kenya)

Location: Peterborough - United Kingdom
Website:
Project Leader:
Rita Fowler
Peterborough, Lincolnshire United Kingdom
$28,196 raised of $90,000 goal
 
199 donations
$61,804 to go
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