Friday, January 29, 2010

week 2.

I would like to say it's hard to believe that we have been here two weeks already, but in reality, it feels like we have been here months. Not in a negative way, but simply because we have gathered and learned SO much information in the past two weeks- not only about the IDP camp, but about the area and Kenya in general. I think I have used my brain more since arriving in Kenya than I have since college. It feels good.

At the beginning of the week we completed the (beg pardon) godforsaken greenhouse! After determining that we would need to chop the greenhouse plans in half and leave the remainder for construction at a later date, we worked furiously hard on Monday to remove and re-build one wall of plastic. The few volunteers that were left on this project were as unenthusiastic as we were, but we did it! It is finished! On Tuesday the seedlings were planted, and most of them are taking quite nicely to the soil. The entire project is very ill-planned, as whoever decided to donate this obviously did not think about the climate and situation of the people at the camp. We ran out of donated water today (water is about 20 cents/5 liters, and the plants take about 500 liters a the calculations), but luckily our contact (Irene) at VICDA came through and gave us some more money and promised a water truck (80,000 liters) to come next week. I think that she now realizes how ridiculous the project is, and hopefully it will impress her enough that she will follow up with potential donors in the future as to the logistics and site-specific requirements of each project.

While Ben worked on expanding and perfecting the chicken coup (he got 9 very enthusiastic volunteers to help!), Robin and I went to the Pipeline IDP camp near Nakuru, about a half hour's drive from Kikopey. Pipeline is a camp of 1,000 families, roughly 6,500 people. It is huge. With this major increase in size comes (obviously) more funding, projects, and talents. It was a fantastic visit because it not only gave us community-organizing ideas (about what works and what doesn't work), but it also gave us a new spirit of inspiration (which we desperately needed after the greenhouse situation). We met with the Camp Chairman and Secretary, and then were given a tour by a current volunteer (read: total space cadet) in their medical clinic. Two of the original volunteers to the camp were an older couple from Australia, and upon leaving, they donated a very substantial medical clinic and business center, solar panel, library, and tin house for a "special needs" school. They also have a security guard, a community center, a huge chicken coup, a greenhouse (same donor as ours), a school, and a fish pond. They are also in the process of building tin and wood houses for all residents (see for more info). We learned that with more people there are not only more problems (mostly health related), but more willing people and more talents to draw from. Nonetheless, the chairman and secretary still admitted that sometimes, it is just them building something. And most of the time, people don't agree with what they have to say. But like all good leaders, they take it into consideration and pursue what they believe to be best for everyone. Pipeline was a good base, a great foundation that we can look at for ideas on how to begin to organize our small camp. What is one crucial thing that Pipeline has that we are in complete deficit of? Water. They have a pipe that supplies water directly, at no cost, from the town of Nakuru. Funny how something so simple can change the way everything works.

So, why don't we have water? We found out from Irene that the District Commissioner for Naivasha (our DC) basically sucks. The DC for Nakuru made sure the IDP camp had a water source almost immediately upon moving in to their new land, whereas ours has denied any involvement for the past year. Robin and I were about to go pound on his door the next day- but the Kenyan Government just (today!) established a new position for a DC of Gilgil- our town! So, we're going to hit this guy while he's new, and find out what it takes to get water to the camp, and residents of our valley. We should be meeting with him next week. If not, I'm getting Amnesty International in here. There is water in the mountains, why can't we have any?

After talking to those at Pipeline, and another volunteer that was just leaving Pipeline after a 6 month placement, Robin and I decided it was best to begin our Asset-based Census project ASAP. What Ebenezer needs is some group inspiration. And calling them together as a group doesn't work. So we figured, why not go house to house and perform a census? Mapping the community both physically and through assets/talents will (hopefully) identify common interests, talents, and ideas. Though we know there would be no "concrete" or physical result from this project, we really do believe it will create some crucial ties and bonds that will help Ebenezer become more cohesive in the future. Performing an asset-based assessment is relatively new, as most assessments of communities are done based on 'need'. Though we will be deciphering needs through this as well, we hope to focus more on past successes, future dreams, and solid talents and skills to inspire both the residents and their leaders in forward growth and cooperation. And we get to meet everyone in the camp! We are going to start this up next week, and we really don't know how long it will take... it depends on how much people want to talk to us. While focusing on smaller side projects in the morning (like talking to the DC), we will perform the census mostly in the afternoons/evenings, when people are home. Then, hopefully, we can evaluate the material and go from there! We hope to encounter ideas and stories that will help us to identify how we can best direct funding and VICDA, so that money isn't wasted, as it was in the greenhouse. Better yet- we can map out future projects so that when more volunteers come here, they will have an idea where to start!

I also went to school this week! I have wanted to go for a while now, but I finally had time on Wednesday. Nova had 45 children that day, ages 3-5. Yikes. It was a lot of kids. Luckily, she is young and fun, but overworked and underpaid- as usual. She is basically a volunteer, receiving 50ksh/month, per child. The equivalent of $0.75/mo/child. Just being there, though I didn't know the language, helped out a ton- I could focus on discipline while Nova taught. Flustered and tired, during the children's recess, she came over and asked "what should I do?". She is so sweet. So, the next day, we met and talked for almost two hours about teaching methods and lesson plans. In fact, we created a notebook of information (as much as I could provide with my random teaching experience!), and mapped out a theme-based lesson plan for the next 12 weeks. She seems really excited about it, and I am too. She's going to begin next week, when she has volunteers (we recruited 5!) to help her. It was like pulling teeth to get people to help out (seriously, how hard is one hour per week, when school is 5 steps from your house?? ) but I feel like the 5 we roped into it will actually find it much easier than they think. I will help out when I can, hopefully for an hour everyday, and just be there as support while she tries out different teaching methods.

Wow. Maybe I should try writing more than once a week. I never get to talk about when we're not working! Basically all we do when we're not at the camp is read, write, talk and eat. We just discovered this place in town (Kikopey) where we can get a leg of delicious goat and a beer for like $4- and no one bothers you! It is a daily temptation. Especially when you have dry yams and tea for two meals in a row. FYI- the stomach does not respond well to starch-on-starch. For the second yam meal I insisted they let me make yam pancakes with pico de gallo... because I couldn't even imagine trying to swallow dry yams again. Ben needs to get his ass (pardon) in the kitchen sometime soon. I think he's a little disheartened by the fact that they laugh at him whenever he says he's a chef. I told him that just one meal would change their minds.... we shall see. Perhaps this weekend- we're going to Hell's Gate National Park (you can bicycle through with giraffes and rhinos!) and Lake Naivasha (flamingos and hippos!), and hopefully we are going to have a kitchen and a real bed. Did I mention we are in bunk beds in an 8'x 12' room? Hilarious. I love it.


Michael said...


I have a friend who has been to South Africa on a similar project like Ben and you are on. He told me about this device called a Hippo Roller. Here is the site
I don't know if you can arrange anything or not but worth checking into.


marge said...

i love your community asset mapping idea and think you'll get a lot out of it. if i've learned in the past few years, it's that if you dont utilize the people you're working with/for then you'll get nothing accomplished.

sounds like you're learning so much!
much love,

rebecca said...

I concur with my laugh twin. The mapping seems like it would be a strong project that will benefit future short-term volunteers (and obviously the community at large). Press on, sister friend!!
Lub, Becca.