Thursday, April 10, 2014

First blog from teachers

Well, Meru has changed our lives…as dramatic as that sounds, its true. We came here as four students, somewhat na├»ve in what we were about to experience. We knew that our paradigms would shift, how much of a shift was nothing short of outstanding. I apologize for the delay in this post, as we are fortunately without internet access at our apartment.

            Upon arrival, the sweet smells of Nairobi entered our lungs as we inhaled our first breath of air. Perhaps it was flowers, perhaps it was the fact that we had been relaying from airport terminals for the past 20 hours. Regardless, to have our feet on solid, Kenyan ground, felt comforting. Henry was there to greet us, along with Simon and Susan, all equally making us feel at home instantaneously. In our exhausted excitement we commented in awe at the Acacia trees, donkeys on the highways and cows crossing the road. Kat experienced an awful journey, suffering from an equal concoction of those damned malaria pills and a potential flu bug…not to mention flight anxiety. However, with the help of the angels at the Anglican Guesthouse, she was comforted by new friends, and comically Fanta with salt. The next day we met with Mamma Jen for the first time (truly deserving of that name). She got us amped and ready for the 4 hour drive to Meru.
            It seems like months ago that we had that first journey to our new town. I remember analyzing and observing the people as we drove, my mindset completely different than what it is now. I remember almost pitying them, for their lack of technology, electricity, and proper housing. I remember feeling bad for them, for wishing for some common solution to help them all. I remember being scared to eat their food, to drink their tea, to live their lives. I never thought of myself above them, but I did think my way of life was easier. I now understand, that our Westernized way of life is not easier at all.
            We are consumed my technology, not only ruining our environment, promoting child workers, and racking our bank accounts, but also driving us away from each other. We have phones that communicate instead of our mouths, ipods that allow us to segregate ourselves from the rest of our peers, and big houses that ask us to be alone, locked behind the doors of our own bedrooms. We eat food from around the world and have mega superstores, but what we eat is pumped with hormones and filled with toxins making us sick. We may have vehicles, but our lack of exercise has made our country obese and fragile. We have so much, yet hardly share our wealth, in fact, I’ll go as far as to say forgotten how to give.
            Maybe the Kenyans don’t have our prestigious lifestyle, with our cars and our clean houses and our flashy material goods. But what they have is better, they have a sense of community. They are healthy, strong-bodied individuals, who have people that care for them and family that love them. They have nothing and give everything. They are unaffected by this demanding sense of time management we have in Canada. They walk and talk, about the big things, and the little things. They eat local food, unaltered by toxicity and import, minimizing their carbon footprints. They don’t use their lights in the day, because sunlight is more than enough. They do not waste, they do not care for vanity, and strive for comfort rather than attaining uncomfortable stilettos. The children are independent, grateful, eager to learn, undistracted by technology…not to mention killer fast runners. So yea, I have an Ipad, but what I don’t have is strength and acceptance from community.

Photo sent to FHF by Mwenda which he entitled as Carolyn Francis introduced her teachers to Ruuju students

Monday, February 17, 2014

Breast examination

One of our volunteers in Kenya, Janet Dykerman,  is a mammogram technologist on Prince Edward Island.
Since breast cancer is all too common in Kenya, we asked her to explain to women how to check their breasts for lumps or changes in their breasts.
When we held focus groups or had other meetings, Janet met with small groups of 10 people or less for a half-hour and explained why and how they should check their breasts regularly for any changes.  She gave them a fact sheet she had compiled and she had a synthetic breast they could examine for lumps.
She told them she was not a medical doctor and that if they found changes in their breasts they should consult a medical doctor. 
All women were very appreciative and told us they had not been told this previously.   

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Gathering information

By Teresa Mellish
On this visit to Kenya we  gathered  information for the final report on the Food Security project.

One way of doing this was to interview women on their shambas (farms). It’s a wonderful opportunity to see their screenhouses and greenhouses.
We randomly select the women and then travel to their farms.
They are always cooperative and willing to answer our questions. They always offer us tea and frequently give us a few eggs, some mangoes, passion fruit, a few pieces of sugar cane or some delicious plums.   All we have to give them is a 2014 calendar.   
Here are two pictures- one of Ilse interviewing a woman on her shamba (with Salome translating)  and the other of fruit we were given over a couple of days.

Training on financial record keeping

Ron Herbert, a retired accountant and a volunteer with Farmers Helping Farmers,  taught two classes of basic financial record keeping to the Directors of five dairies we work with in Kenya.

The approach he took was to show the farmers how they could keep financial records on their own shambas.    He developed the curriculum for 4 sessions for each dairy and a Kenyan will teach the other two sessions. 
We have tried to have Kenyan accountants teach accounting and they try to make accountants out of our partners by making it too complicated.
 Even though most farmers don’t like bookkeeping, it’s a necessary part of any business, including farming.   The Kenya dairy farmers were appreciative of the training- they even did their homework between the two sessions!!
One of the attached pictures shows a few farmers discussing the training. They are seated under a large avocado tree near Karatina which provides shade- it is the most pleasant classroom in the world. The other one shows Ken Mellish presenting a laptop computer to the Dairy Chairman so they can start computerizing their milk records.  This laptop was donated to us.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Imagine the excitement of unveiling three Village Feast cookhouses

Village Feast members, Jolyne Sharkey and Ilse Peters-Ching were excited to open three cookhouses at three schools during the past couple of weeks.
The construction of the  cookhouses and the energy efficient cookers were paid for by the Village Feast over the past few years.
The cookhouse is a kitchen where the morning porridge and the lunch stew are prepared and served to the school children.   The children’s parents provide the maize and beans for the stew and Farmers Helping Farmers with their partner DFATD support  a school garden to produce vegetables for the stew with funds from the Village Feast for the school gardeners wages.
The three schools are all primary schools with over 200 children at each school  from nursery to standard 8.
The schools are all twinned with Island schools as follows:
Mitoone Primary School  is twinned with West Kent Consolidated School
King’O Primary School is twinned with Gulf Shore Consolidated School
Marinya-a-Ruibi Primary School is twinned with Margate  Pastoral Charge 
During their time in Kenya Ilse and Jolyne also visited four other cookhouses sponsored by the Village Feast.
Thank you Village Feast! You are making a huge difference in the lives of the school children at these schools.


We visited Shaad Olingo's farm

By Teresa Mellish

Last weekend, Ken, John, Eddy and I visited Shaad Olingo’s farm in Muhoroni.  I know that all of the people who have volunteered in Kenya over the past 30 years  with Farmers Helping Farmers know Shaad and will recall his wonderful hospitality.  We tell all of our volunteers to feel free to ask Shaad anything- because there is nothing he has not been  asked before by Canadians!

Anyway back to the farm, Shaad’s farm, called GAD-Hortec (named after his three sons) is a two hour drive from Nakuru on the highway to Kisumu.  It has black soil and most important, it has lots of water!!!
He is presently growing bananas, mangoes and papaya.  He has also grown tomatoes, onions, kale and potatoes.
He wants to dig a pond to store the water and then irrigate his crops with the stored water.  
The area where his farm is located  in Nyanza county – we saw fields of sugar cane and we learned that the county is food deficient so he should have no trouble selling the food he produces.
It was a wonderful farm which Shaad was delighted to show us.