Sunday, October 31, 2010

50 meters from the Ugandan border

Yep, that's it. And not a step to closer. Viva la Kenya! :)

Friday, October 29, 2010

Same place, same work, but so different.

If I compare my current work and life in Shianda with the one I had little bit more than one year ago in the same place, it is very different. This time I could skip all the progress of getting know the place and getting used to the culture, as well as dicovering the interesting aspects about how it is possible to run a project here. During the time I was away from Kenya, I had time to think about all that I experienced and accept it. And the running organisation is so much easier to work with than the starting organisation:)

Next week, Alari is going away and leaving me alone to represent the Estonians here. Luckily, a huge amount of work has been done, leaving me here to enjoy the first results and to prepare the next inetresting projects. Life is peaceful and the days are filled with moving forward.

I like where I am now, I like what I am doing and I like the direction I am moving to.
If somebody wants some special chirsthmas presents from Kenya, it is the very last time to order those.


Monday, October 25, 2010

It's good to travel, but it's the best to be back at home.

I left Shianda for 10 days to visit my friends in the other parts of Kenya. At first I really enjoied the luxury of having electricity and floor that was having some cover - not just pure soil, I enjoied the running water and the toilet that was inside the house and it had even electricity. Then I went to Kabarnet, where I continued enoying the same things, but after few days I felt somehow not peacefully.

I arrived yesterday evening back to Shianda and I realised that actually I had missed our mud-hut. It was great to light the parafinlamp and to listen the sounds of the nature around our house. It was so great to have this peace and time. It was also a good feeling to have one place that feels like home in this country. Where, after I have been away for 10 days, people say hello, give me the key to our home, say that they missed me and just simply offer the dinner.

Its also good to reach to the place where I know exactly, how the things are and I can skip all the hussle caused by not knowing. It's good to find my things from the house, even if there's so few of them. Even that small amount feels like a lot actually. Me, Alari and Elen came to Kenya, having one small backbag of personal things and stayed for 1 or 2 or 6 months.

What I have discovered is that if there are people living somewhere, then they possibly need the same basic things for living as I do. Therefore, worrying about what to take or taking too much to the trip is kind of overrated. All these fancy packing lists that everybody have in the internet, full of the expensive gear for any possible occasion- it's much more fun to buy things locally, as well it's often cheaper - for example the malaria prevention cure, mosquito net, hand sanitaiser and water purifier are definetaly cheper in Kenya than in my country. In general I like Kenyan supermarkets very much - they have really everything you could ever need (except the special make up and hair products for white skin and blond hair) and the choice is wide. Sometimes it's possible to find really great products, like the torch that's rechargable from the socket - it's our favorite thing and we use it every day.

One day, me and Alari tried to make the minimal list of things that we need for living in Kenya in the mud hut style and the list is following:
  • 1 pair of sandals, 2 pairs of trousers (1 pair of long trousers), 3-4 t-shirts and one long sleeved pullover, socks and underwear - should be logical :)
  • pen, notebook, 1-2 books (but also possible to buy local magazines and newspapers instead)
  • camera
  • money
  • toilet paper
  • soap, shampoo
  • comb
  • hand sanitizer
  • small backbag
  • medicines - malaria prevention, painkillers, bandages, thermometer is also a good luxury thing to have
  • torch/flashlight
  • i-pod/mp3 player (can be also used as a flash disk)
  • small scissors
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
Should be all :)

Anyway. It's raining in Shianda as usually - this place has really a lot of rain and it's also kind of cold (cold in the African way), but it's fine, I like this kind of weather anyway more than hot one. They say that in December, the local summer will start - we'll see.

But I finish now and will go and enjoy the mud hut and peace.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I had time to read a book and watch a movie.

It's difficult to understand the sum of a person's life.

Some people would tell you it's measured by the ones left behind.
Some believe it can be measured in faith.
Some say by love.
Other folks say life has no meaning at all.

Me, I believe that you measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you.

"The bucket list."


Life has so much to offer. All one ever needs is imagination and energy to chase down one's dreams. Something I swore I would never lose sight of, no matter the cost. Of course, I wondered about our future: where we might live, what careers to pursue. Somehow, out there in the desert these questions seemed less pressing and I was content to leave them unanswered, to let them drift. I was confident that the future would unfold as divine providence saw fit.

"My heart is Africa"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Another rainy afternoon

Today is Friday - that means the only free day in the week.

I was planning to just rest and to do nothing, but then I managed still to wash my things, to bring water twice and to cook spaghetti on the open fire. Then it was half past twelve and it felt like I should do something. So I came to Kakamega town to talk about my bicycle that is broken and the shop promised to repair it. I also checked the prices for the solar panels and batteries and decided not to buy those and to keep on living without electricity. The last thing will be buying a new phone - mine had no network in most of the time and it got lost somewhere also. Phones are cheap here. So many things that I was thinking about already for few weeks will be done.

I feel little bit tired, but we have been traveling for 2 weeks and working almost every day and talking about work every evening for 3 weeks, so I guess it is time to feel tired. My plan is to pull myself together and to work 7 days starting from tomorrow without a break and then to leave Shianda for a while, to rest and think about other things.

In general, I feel like the work of research and family visits is reaching to the end and we are now in the planning and doing phase how to help the ones who need it. To make these decisions is not always easy, because this is kind of cruel game. Who to take and who to leave. But I always tell myself that if I wouldn't do it, then nobody would get any help at all.

Last week we were paying the school fees of the program children - the ones who had loans at school and who were sent home and not allowed to go back anymore. We have paid fees for about 25 children and some amounts are really small. In general these amounts are not more than 5 euros and children are sitting at home because of this amount.

It feels strange to have internet working already for more than one hour. In Shianda there is usually no electricity or no internet.

Few days ago, me and Alari we started remembering the times in Sweden. It was funny, because almost 2 months have passed from the time we left and until now we have not talked about these times at all. It was funny to remember all that and we were talking until the night.

In general, I have got used to the Kenyan life again and feels like I would have not been away.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Only about the work.

Yesterday left the second volunteer of WEFOCO – Elen, who volunteered 2 weeks in Shianda village. Elen said that she likes how simple and straight forward is life in Kenyan villages. Last day she visited the families most in need from her areas and took them smaller and bigger gifts. Elen chose families to where to give chicken – families can start earning by selling eggs and new-born chicken. Elen had also collected some donations in Estonia and could divide cloths and games in some families. Five minutes before the bus left, she made her last deal and bought 4 blankets for a family that was not having bedding, beds, mattresses and that had leaking roof. Elen was talking about the nutrition in the seminars and visiting her program families also during her free time. Talking about the free time, during 2 weeks Elen had one free day and she used it to get lost in the Kakamega rain forest with another volunteer, Alari, but they definitely had good time there as we could see from the videos later. Next to getting lost, Elen faced also some real challenges while working in Shianda and said that she is changed thanks to all that she has seen and been through. One orphaned girl was left into her heart forever.

One week before Elen went home Meelis, who said that he is at home in Esonia, but he´s heart is still in Kenya. Meelis spent one night in one of the program families. He lived at the home of Benedict´s family. Benedict is a 5-years old boy who participated in HIV testing that was organized by WEFOCO in June last year and who turned out to be HIV-positive. During one year WEFOCO has been counseling the family and making sure that Benedict gets drugs and treatment properly. Recently, the main house of Benedict´s family was burned and they currently live in their kitchen. After returning from the Benedict´s family, Meelis was very motivated to help the family and provided them with 3 blankets and gave away some of he´s cloths. "It´s the latest fashion in Europe," explained he with a big smile next to the mud hut of Benedict´s family. Meelis did a really great job while visiting the families with a local volunteer Bonnie. Meelis visited every day around 14 families and spent the evenings in the office, preparing the reports. Although Meelis was volunteering just for 3 days, his help to the organisation was really significant.

Every weekend all the volunteers spend two days visiting the program families. At the moment we visit the families that were chosen by the local social studies students and the program director. The aim of the home visits is to collect data about the families and to indicate the most problematic families as well as to make sure that there would not be any family in the list that does not need to be there. During first 2 weeks we have indicated both kind of families. So we have started making changes by deleting some families from the list and by already helping the families who need it the most.

While visiting a family, we focus mainly on following:
·how many meals do the children get per day
·what do the children mostly eat
·are all the children going to the school
·who is paying the school fees and does the family have loans in school (if a family has loans, children are sent back home and not allowed to go to school before the loans are payed)
·the performance of children in school
·are the parents alive and who is taking care of them
·any health problems in the family
·family income resources
·what could family do to have better income
·counseling in case of HIV positive family members

So the main problem categories are:
·Food and nutrition
·Health problems and payment for the medical treatment
·School fees, uniforms
·HIV-infected families
·Income generating activities

Therefore the activities we currently have, are:
·Monday – day for analyzing the collected data and paper work
·Tuesday – HIV prevention work in schools and local events: video and volunteer testing
·Wednesday – seminar in one of the program areas on topics such as hygiene, first aid, nutrition, income generating activities and HIV
·Thursday – school visits to get information about the performance of the children from the program families and to collect information about the other orphans in this area
·Friday – free day
·Saturday – home visits
·Sunday – home visits

We have been following this schedule for 2 weeks and we start getting an overview of the families and problems and we have been able to help already the first families. Alari and Mirjam continue the work in Shianda following the same schedule for the next two weeks.
All my respect to my 4 friends who took the risk, trusted me and came to Kenya to volunteer for a organization that I proposed, giving their time, money, energy and good ideas. Also I would like to mention that Esther is amazing and unstoppable.

The most beautiful moments