Saturday, May 25, 2013

Akamba Wood carvers

Acomba Village wood carver doing a Masai Warrior.
We stopped at the acomba wood carvers and walked around the carving village. It is a series of small tin shacks where they sit and carve beautiful pieces of art from rosewood, ebony and other woods. They do incredible work each day.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Baby Blankets for the Clinic

Today we went to the clinic to start the day off. 
Naomi and I by the clinic water tank
Naomi met us there to receive the blankets that Nancy Littlefield had sent over. I was very excited to bring them. On Friday mornings they give immunizations to the babies that have recently been born. There were many mothers present with her newborn babies. We distributed a new blanket to each one of the mothers that was there with her new baby. We also stayed to talk to Naomi and Joyce,her assistant, about the challenges of working in Ethiopia. The two of them work 24/7. They will deliver about 50 babies/month plus handle all of the other issues.

Mother's with their new blankets for their babies
I ask Naomi about the goat milk for the mothers with AIDS she said that they had four mothers on the program for a while but now they do not have any mothers on the program. I followed up a little bit more about the situation. It appears that the mammary glands do filter out the AIDS or the HIV virus so mother can nurse the baby and not give her baby AIDS. However other bodily fluids can transmit the aids to the babies. So they recommend that the mothers do not nurse their babies for more than six months.

There is a great stigma in the culture if the mother isn't nursing her baby. So there is pressure for the mothers with AIDS to continue nursing their babies later on. So if we have the goat milk then the mothers don't feel quite so much pressure to nurse the babies after the six month time frame.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


I started the day off talking with my family and having family prayer. They are busy with end of school activities.Melissa and Steven were in the May festival at school doing their dances.

I contacted Bret to talk with him about our expedition so far. I was having problems with my computer so he contacted Alan and we talked together with him. The project has progressed very well and I was anxious to report to him.

We drove to Mkannyeni to work with the villagers and see their projects. They welcomed us with singing and dancing and escorted us to a small gathering area under a tree. They set up small folding chairs for us to sit on as we watched them perform for us. The first activity with them was to plant trees. The had seedlings of Mahogany and a couple of other varieties sitting next to holes. They gave each of us a partner to work with to plant our trees. The area had been heavily forested but now has very few large trees and can be very barren in the dry seasons.

There were half a dozen families that were planting rotational gardens and had built chicken coops. We heard several stories of how the influence of SRA had helped them improve or had helped them get new ideas. The people were very happy and extremely grateful for the help that they were receiving. One lady that we visited had built her chicken coop before she built her own house.

They were starting to dig water retention ponds so we jumped iin and helped them dig for a while. Their poor quality tools left a lot to be desired. Both Steve and I had problems bending the shovel handle as we were digging. The shovel was made out of sheet metal and the handle was thin like tin.We dug up the dirt and then filled buckets that were passed over to the edge and dumped to form a bank around the edge of the new pond.

The villagers then invited us over to the meeting tree again. Where they gave us Daruma names and Kikoys and Khangas. They sang and danced again for us. They gave us a rooster and a box of eggs. 

Gona School Celebration

We started today with our breakfast of scones and banana bread from mama Emily. Leah rounded us up and loaded us into the van for our trip to Gona. The recent rains have caused the roads to be deeply rutted so we bounced along as we drove to Gona.

We received a heroes welcome as we drove into the Gona school yard. Most of the children were gone to another school for their sports competitions but Eliud have saved back about 80 of the younger children to welcome us. They were singing at the top of their lungs, dancing, and waving. They had made a banner welcoming us to their school. The had built an archway over the road and woven flowers into it. We felt like celebrities coming in. Steve was in the front with the camera so he jumped out quickly to get it on film.

Leah introduced Eliud and he welcomed us and told us about Gona. He had six of the children do a question and answer skit about the need for good nutrition. It was fun to watch them sing their parts. Eliud gave us a tour of the facilities and bragged about the test scores of the students. They now have 38 goats and a very nice goat pen. A few of the goats have kidded but with the dry season they have not used any of the milk for the school children. They have had recent rains so they will be getting more feed now.

They have recently dug a deep pit for holding water for the rotational gardens. The gardens now have most of the plants up and growing so that a lot of the food from the school will come from their own gardens. The exciting thing to see is the variety of the vegetables that they have planted.

We walked over to the village where we met a farmer that had two fish ponds. He started them last August and has harvested many fish from them. As we approached the compound we saw that he had spread out a mat on the ground and his children were eating a "balanced diet". The ugali was the base with vegetables from his garden and fish from his pond for protein. It was very impressive to see what he was doing. He had two ponds situated so that the water from his roof ran into the ponds. The older fish were kept in a smaller pond to spawn and the fingerlings were then transferred to the bigger pond to grow. The ponds were about 1 meter deep and a meter square and a meter and a half square respectively.

We went over to another neighbor that had one fish pond and one pond for storing water for his garden. Marty and Angela climbed into the pond to net some fish. They caught about half a dozen fingerlings but nothing else. it was hard to tell if the fish were just not growing well or if they had just harvested most of the fish.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Orientation at the Koins Community Center and the SRA Agriculture Projects

The traffic coming out of Mombasa was horrific. It took us a couple of hours to make it to the Koins Community Center. At one point we were stopped and saw two motorcycles collide as they drove on the side of the road. One motorcycle was knocked to the side and hit a young lady knocking here into the ditch. Fortunately she was not seriously hurt. The roads are narrow and congested and the motorcycles often whiz along on the edge of the road instead of sitting in traffic. It really makes me appreciate the roads that we have in the US. At the same time, we could learn some lessons about good communication from the Kenyan drivers. They use proper hand signals, the horn, windshield wipers, and many other means to communicate with each other.
Leah introduces the group to each other and goes over the plans for the day.
Emily had some lunch prepared for us when we arrived. After the long ride I was very hungry and the food was very good, especially the fresh baked banana bread. After lunch we met with the Koins/SRA staff and they took us around the area telling us about their projects.
Patrick shows the new goat pen to the group and tells us about the use of the milk. 
It is impressive to see what they have done in a short amount of time.We have tripled the goat herd, increased the chickens significantly, planted a huge demonstration garden, and prepared dozens of rotational garden plots.
Eddison explains the rotational garden training center to the group

When I was here before we cut down a coconut tree that was about to fall over because the river had undercut the bank. We used the tree to make the first goat pen. Today as we were walking around the garden we heard a huge splash in the water. I went to investigate and found that the remaining trunk of the tree and the root ball had fallen into the river. The timing of it happening is rather interesting.
The old tree and root ball finally fell into the river. I am standing on the dam that we built when I was here last time.

Kenya with Thrive Life

Jason, Lindsay, and Amy in Amsterdam after a long flight

I am very excited to go to Kenya again. This time I will be going with Jason and Lindsay Budge, and Steve and Amy Palmer, the founders of Shelf Reliance that has grown to be Thrive Life. Alan Silva from The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture, SRA, will be going with us also. It is a wonderful group!

We started our journey learning another lesson about travel. Double check and make sure your names is exactly the same on your passport and your tickets. One of our group had her middle name listed on one and  her maiden name as her middle name on the other. They had to change the tickets which led to a long story that will probably be funny but now is just painful.

We added  to our group in Mombasa to complete our expedition group. We have Alan, Steve, Angela, Amy, Lindsay, Jason, Martin, and Leah
In Amsterdam we also met up with Alan for our long flight to Nairobi. Leah met us at the airport with John, our driver. The battery was dead on the car so we asked around until we found someone with "jumper cables" (they were really just two lengths of heavy wire that we held against the battery posts). After the car started the guy with the cables wanted me to pay him. I have learned to defer to my native counterpart who understands the culture and knows what is appropriate. Leah gave him about 300 Kenyan Shillings ($3.5) to share as he saw fit with the crowd that had gathered to help. It was one of those times that I wish that I understood the language. It appeared that some of them were discontent with how it all happened. I have helped dozens of people start their cars with jumper cables and have never accepted anything but thanks.
Amy points out that there isn't much room between the cars after the attendant has Leah park in a spot definitely to narrow.

We stayed at the Nayali Hotel in Mombasa. The parking attendant had Leah pull into a spot that only had about a foot on each side of the car. I had to crawl to the back seat to be able to squeeze out of the car. In spite of the parking attendants confusion as to how to turn the wheel Leah was able to drive in and then back out the next morning.

As I walked down to the beach passed the swimming pool, I was almost wishing that I had scheduled a few hours extra in the morning to relax at the hotel. It was raining but there were still several people enjoying the beach.

We had a very nice buffet style breakfast in the hotel. Marty and Angela from Aqua Culture without Frontier joined our expedition group. They will look at the water situation and give us recommendations on how to better utilize the water that is here. They also can give us ideas of using fish ponds in some of the areas.

Leah and Amy picked up Steve at the airport to complete our group. We should get the last of the luggage at the airport tomorrow. We know that it finally arrived in Mombasa. Travel tip #2: always put a change of clothes in your carry on in case your bags don't arrive when you do.We look forward to a great expedition in spite of a few set backs to start it off. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Water Cisterns for the Village School Children

The representatives from Thrive Life and I will be helping a school build a water cistern like the one in the picture. It captures the rain water from the school and gives them relatively clean drinking water, which is a huge improvement over their former routine of having the children walk a far distance to a pond to get very dirty water.

A large water cistern that collects water from the roof of the school when it rains.
This was installed in a village thanks to a school in Ogden Utah.
There are no water systems to provide water for this village. They walk to the closest pond or river depending on the dryness of the season. Women carry five gallon jugs of water on their heads every day for long distances to provide water for their families. In most cases the water that they collect is polluted with bacteria, microorganisms, and other impurities. Having a cistern to capture rain water can literally be the difference between life and death for some of these children. This cistern program is an option that they can utilize until they are able to gather the resources for a better water system. 

This school is almost finished, and now, thanks to assistance from Thrive Life, there will be  water for the children to drink
The philosophy of Koins for Kenya and The Institute for Self Reliant Agriculture,SRA is to ask the people receiving help to do all that they can on their own: i.e. - haul sand from the river, break rocks into gravel, provide the labor, and come up with 10% of the money. It costs $4000 to for the rest of the supplies that need to be purchased. The average wage is about $1 per day so it would be impossible for them to raise the money for the entire project on their own. With this program, the villagers feel ownership of the project while the donors make it possible to be completed.

The large rocks will be crushed by hand into gravel for making the concrete for the cistern
This school is being built as part of a similar program where donors provide the financial assistance that bridges the gap between what the people can do themselves and what needs to be done. This model has helped to build over 50 schools that now educate about 8000 students. It is amazing to see what has happened.
The cistern skeleton is being done. This is a very exciting time for the villagers.

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