31 March 2010

Olkiramatian Reto Community Based Organization

The women have been officially registered with the social services as a CBO, Community Based Organization.  “Leave your politics at the gate, this centre is for the development of the community and not any one party.”  The chairlady said as she stood up to greet the leaders and community members that had come to hear the news.  They have high hopes for this centre and weren’t afraid to say it.  “We want the projects of this centre to do better than anything the men of this community have ever tried to do.”  There was laughing and timid support of this idea across the room but then the chairman of Olkirimatian School, stood up and answered, “If these programs do succeed, they will.”

The women have been very patient waiting for things to develop and it now seems like things are coming together and moving fast.  Building in camp has commenced; there are 4 skilled laborers on site and 5 more people hired to help from within the community.  Concrete was being poured in the staff housing on Thursday and the foundations have already been dug out for the staff kitchen, mess areas, and the women’s Banda.  Recent rains have created a swimming pool where the septic tank will go though this hasn’t slowed anyone down. 

Three beneficiaries of the bursary program were present and witnessed us publicly hand over the check from our fundraisers.  The treasurer of the committee accepted the check and after a bit of celebration, she asked us what this piece of paper was.  Which leads us to our next order of business – finding basic educational training for these women.  We are actively seeking advice and direction that any of our readers could give us.   

On other community news:  The Patterson Memorial Secondary School is taking up collections for a school bus that they would like to purchase to ease the costs of renting transportation for school field trips.  The bus can also be rented out to the community and primary schools in the area for individual events.  They were asking for 1000 ksh from everyone in the community – about $12.    

04 March 2010

Breaking ground!

Great news! The South Rift Resource Centre is about to begin its next phase of development. We have signed a contract with local contractor Matias Bifani to begin building the centre. On Monday this week a team comprising of the ACC director, the women's group committee, local leaders and resident researchers met with Matias at the site to disuss the final placement of all the proposed buildings. Matias starts breaking ground as I write! It is hoped that within four months the centre will have:

- a central meeting hall and main office with a supporting kitchen. It is imagined that both the local community and visiting groups will use these buildings. We also will have our library and herbarium in the office area.
- a building for resident reserchers to cook, have office space and living space.
- staff accommodation upgraded with a kitchen and living space
- a banda for the local women's group to display their beadwork and other small business items
- supporting bathrooms for all these facilities.

The total cost of the project will be Ksh. 7,087,114. ACC has committed Ksh. 5 million. We therefore need to raise an additional Ksh. 2 million (approximately) for construction work. We will also need to raise additional funds for equipment. Any thoughts on this most welcome!

McGill Students visit the camp

The South Rift Resource Centre hosted 45 students and professors from McGill University in Canada for four nights over last weekend. The students were studying a variety of different courses including Environment and Development, Nutrition and Biodiversity, and Wildlife and Ornithology over the course of their 3 months in Africa, and used the South Rift region as part of their learning environment. The students visited the conservation areas, the irrigation schemes, had talks from local herbalists, leaders and resarchers and played football with a local school. Despite the fact that they were camping during the biggest rainstorm on record since the centre was established (with 27mm falling in one night!), they had a great time and assured us they would be back next year.

03 March 2010

Fundraiser Update

Education is the word.  We are proud to finally report on what we did with the money raised this fall at the Emerson fundraiser in Bozeman, Montana.  A second effort was made in St. Louis, Missouri, by the 1st grade class of Christ Prince of Peace elementary school. Together the combined contributions totaled ~ $5,000. 

We spent $1,800  (141,000 KSh) to support the relief efforts started by the African Conservation Fund and SORALO late last year.  Contributions through ACF, SORALO, and our efforts supported nursery schools throughout the south Rift, which are financed by local communities rather than the government.  Salaries were paid to teachers and food was provided to help sustain nursery schools for at least 3 months during the severe drought.

The Olkirimatian Reto Women’s Group has launched their bursary program for girls to attend school.  This has been something the women have wanted to do since the creation of the South Rift Resource Centre, and they are now in a position to get off the ground running.  We are matching the women’s initial investment of $1,334 into this program (100,000 KSh).  One girl from each of the four sub locations of Olkirimatian has been chosen to receive this scholarship. In the weeks to come, we will visit the homes of each of these girls to get their stories and share them with you here.  There has already been tremendous gratitude expressed by the leaders of the community.  They praised the women for truly picking the most needy girls.  The aim of the program is to send the girls to school throughout their primary and secondary education.  The community will continue to monitor this program and welcomes any suggestions you might have.    

Furthering our efforts to promote education we’ve started a textbook program and spent $1,774 (133,000 KSh) on Kenya’s curriculum textbooks to supplement the needs of two schools in the area – the contributions bought 422 books for Entasopia and Pakase Primary Schools.  Upon our visit to Entasopia Primary School we realized the school’s basic needs were not being met due to over enrollment.  The school has 510 pupils, but the government only recognizes its capacity at 350.  There are so many students enrolled in class 1 that the school has had to split them into two groups.  They set up a second classroom outside because there was no space left within.  Education has become a high priority to local families and more and more parents are starting to send their children to school.  While this is a great thing it has led to the increasing demand for basic educational needs.  With guidance from the community leaders, we hope to continue the textbook program.

We would like to thank all those who helped to raise this money and spread the word on the importance of education.  We could not have supported these programs without your help.  Thanks to the 1st grade class of Christ Prince of Peace elementary school who simply collected coins from their classmates and made a substantial contribution to this cause.  What you may have around your house can help to change the lives of so many children around your world.