And it is impossible not to smile and laugh when the young are around.
This gallery contains 3 photos.
Originally posted on lucinda E Clarke:
I am feeling quite depressed at the moment. Why? Once upon a time, I thought I could write. Not as well as Tolstoy, or Shakespeare, but the average, everyday stuff. This is a good…
My apologies for the break in my “Charity” blog series, caused by the passing of my long-suffering husband. He was ready to go, he told me on the day of our Golden Wedding anniversary…
Life goes on, and I am beginning to pick up the threads again.
It is always good to hear from David Baldwin, and I’m delighted to give you the second in his series about his work in Kenya. Over to you, David!
In my introductory blog I recounted how myself and daughter Susie started in 2009 our small, grass roots charity supporting an impoverished, marginalised community in NE Kenya – St Peter’s Life-Line, and the amazing circumstances in which we, and they, now find ourselves. My next blogs will fill the gaps between then and now, sharing with you the joys and sorrows of this tumultuous and wonderful journey.
With all the preliminaries of setting up our charity completed, our thoughts – and rising excitement – turned to our first visit in February 2010 to St Peter’s Primary School, Kajuki, and meeting up with Fr Joe – parish priest and founder of the school. For me it was the prospect of returning to the country of my birth and upbringing – of which I had the most loving memories.
The big wide smile of Fr Joe greeted us at Nairobi airport, and we set off for Kajuki, some four hours away. Having left the congestion, scruff and sprawl of Nairobi, we were soon driving through the Kenya of my childhood – the scatterings of smallholdings and huts set in vibrant greenery, contrasting vividly with the rich, red soil. Small herds of livestock by the roadside, being tended by children, makeshift wayside stalls, and the patient plod of many people by the roadside.
The final approach to St Peter’s was along the rutted, dusty roads of the rural Kenya that I remembered so well, and there before us, as we swung into the parish and school compound – was gathered the whole school of about 180 children – excitedly greeting us with songs, hands eagerly outstretched, flashing smiles and crowding round.
After the excitement had died down (it took a while!) we toured the school. It sits in a large, dusty compound with St Peter’s parish church, presbytery and sisters’ house. It was very basic, built of stone and tin roofs – four classrooms with only gaps for doors and windows, the blackboard painted on a wall; the ‘kitchen’ was an open tin shack, in which the school’s meals were cooked over an open wooden fire in vast saucepans; the two dormitories, very crowded, wooden bunk beds, each sleeping four children; toilets were tin sheds covering the ‘squat’ long-drops – and very smelly; the ‘showers’ a small tin shack in which children washed themselves out of a bucket – which they filled from the river half a mile away. But… as we discovered and experienced, a high performing school academically, with healthy, cheerful, well fed children, being given a quality education.
The days of our visit were packed – getting to know the school, teachers, children – listening in on classes and participating. Getting out and about, visiting and getting to know the community and individual families.
We were very impressed with the way the school was run – the day was well structured, with qualified teachers and strict discipline. But what struck us most was the ambition of these kids. Their appetite for learning was insatiable, their effort to do so, unstoppable.
Our visits to various families was eye-opening, thought provoking, humbling and sometimes, downright heartbreaking! All living in the absolute depths of poverty in their humble, cramped, mud and wattle huts. This was the Kenya that I remembered 50 years ago!
There was Callista, a young mum of four, with severely crippled feet, who although was able to walk, was unable to carry loads, and she had to rely on her kids to carry the daily water from the river some mile away. Then, Jane – a St Peter’s pupil. She was born out of wedlock, and when her mum subsequently married another man, he refused to take on Jane, and she is being brought up by her elderly grandparents. It is not uncommon for grandparents to be struggling to bring up their young grandchildren – either through abandonment, or parents dying from Aids.
On that sad theme we visited Arabilla – 14 years old – both her parents had died, and she was singlehandedly bringing up her three younger siblings, having taken herself out of primary school. When they were old enough to fend for themselves on a daily basis, she took herself back to primary school, aged 19, to complete her education.
Coming to the end of our visit, and just when we thought we had our mission of supporting this one small primary school forming comfortably in our minds, Fr Joe broached the subject of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the so called circumcision of women – of which I knew very little – but as I learned, has a profoundly damaging effect on the women of this deeply conservative tribal community, about which, and how we reacted, I will discuss in the next blog.
But we left Kajuki deeply satisfied, inspired, humbled, and fired-up to do whatever we possibly could to try and play our small part in bettering this struggling community’s prospects.
Thank you David, and I look forward to more instalments!
Judith Gibbons is a new friend – I haven’t met her in the flesh, but her grit and determination are evident. I’ll let you speak for yourself, Judith!
You can’t tell anybody about this Mrs Gibbons
Those word were spoken by a 6ft tall 15 year old youth who had ALMOST been banned from coming with me, on my second ever trip to Kenya in 1995. He did not mean “don’t tell them I was holding hands with two Pokot toddlers” but “There is no way to describe this ….you can’t tell anybody, you have to feel it! “
And that was practically the start of “Friends From Marich Pass”.
A school trip with 53 participants, living without electricity, with long drop loos, with open air cold showers, and the bites of mosquitoes; this resulted, on our return to England, in the students wanting to do something to help. They all got the message….WE HAVE SO MUCH….they have nothing. And a year later when I returned with the next trip, I took the money they had raised and bought mattresses for a dormitory in the village primary school.
I have rummaged….and come up with some photos….to set the scene…. me grinding corn: me and students treading mud to make bricks; some of the area in which we work; some of the people…traditionally dressed and otherwise; the” classroom” at the top of the mountain which took me four hours to climb and which the headmaster did 4 times a day, and the view from the top….to show where the school is situated ( we contributed about half the cost of building 2 classrooms as at the time they had only one, so lessons were in good old fashioned African style…under the trees) My knees were worse when my staff and students climbed the next year to see and open the finished classrooms.
Then in 2000, hampered by the fact that cash was being handed over or cheques paid to me personally, we had to do something about safeguarding the money…we formed Friends FROM Marich Pass. We chose “from”, not “of”, because the simple things that we were doing were helping not just the local school but schools in the wider district…we were spreading out FROM Marich Pass….and we were “from” Marich!
And then like Topsy…it grew. With the unstinting help of Dr David Roden, (now deceased) the founder and owner of the centre where we stayed, we progressed to helping with Education fees. We vet applicants, successful ones HAVE to make some contribution themselves; we check progress and we pay fees directly to the appropriate establishment. Priority now is given to tertiary education students.
AT TIMES humanitarian needs dominate. A house is destroyed; we buy immediate necessities; medical bills to pay before patient release; transport costs to a funeral; a coffin is needed; a school runs out of maize this week; a school needs pencils. These are just a few of the hundreds of small things we have helped with, but our main aim is to help with educational opportunities. It all started because of English students, we want to continue with Kenyan students.
We are a MICRO sized Kitchen Table Charity, working from one computer. NO ADMINISTRATION costs are deducted, with the exception, sometimes, of buying jam jars, paying for one airline ticket per year (if funds allow) and occasionally paying for excess luggage so that free goods collected in England can get to Kenya safely. We have no assets, we employ no one and ALL of the fundraising is organised by me and my family. We have no website (long story…and cost) but we do have a Facebook Page. EVERY penny that we have to spend is spent directly in Kenya; we never give money, we pay bills! We have no sponsors or rich patrons and we have only ever once managed to “win” a grant.
Everything we do today, needs doing again tomorrow, the story is MUCH longer than this brief introduction allows, but we can’t let go!
You can find more about the Friends from Marich Pass HERE.
Thank you so much, Judith, for sharing this with us. Your story has brought back many fond memories of when I stayed in that very same place about fifteen years ago, with a group of Kenya Museum Society Guides on our way to Koobi Fora!
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