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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A Recap of 2010 Projects

As we wind down the year, I thought it would be good to list all those projects that were accomplished by Koins for Kenya in 2010.

It is always a surprise to me to see how much we are able to do.  Koins is a small organization, with a tight budget and projects limited to private sponsorship.  Yet, each year, with the help of kindhearted and generous donors, we are able to continue to build schools and provide scholarships in our service area.

2010 Recap:


Students:
  •  91 students were on scholarship for their secondary education
  •  9 students were on scholarship for higher education (university and college)
  •  Help was provided at the Albino school in Kibandaongo          


Building Projects:
  • A new water cistern in Miguneni was completed just after the first of the year
  • Two new classrooms and a water cistern at Vikolani primary with fund raising led by Val Stokes
  • Two new classrooms and a water cistern at Dzivani primary with fund raising led by Dallin   Frampton
  • Two new classrooms at Miguneni primary with fund raising led by Kris Kimball
  • Two new classrooms at Mwache primary with fund raising led by Robin Kimball
  • One new classroom at Chikomani (Windridge) primary with fund raising led by Cindy Workman
  • New kitchen at the KCC (Koins Community Center)
  • Staff quarters at the Sean Michels School (under construction will be completed in early 2011)
  • Kitchen addition at Sean Michels School (under construction will be completed in early 2011)
  • Well over 100 new desks constructed and delivered to the various primary schools mainly Dzivani, Miguneni and Mwache. 
  • 7 4-stall latrines were built at various schools with a grant from Safaricom.

Micro business projects that were mostly self funding (based at the KCC and BTW in Mnyenzeni):
  • Cell phone and battery charging
  • Tractor work
  • Sewing of uniforms and other sewing needs of the village
  • Renting the KCC to other groups
  • The workshop completed desks and chairs for Mnyenzeni and Bofu secondary schools as well as other local projects

Other
  • Kendy’s volunteer work at the Mnyenzeni secondary school
  • Dallin Frampton and his time in the village
  • Two successful major expeditions (March and July) and a June visit by the Michels family
  • Accounting system up and running in QuickBooks

Funds have started coming in for construction at Gona Primary in 2011.  So far about 20% of the needed funds have been raised. We still have a ways to go. 

As we look forward to 2011, we have a March expedition developing, a dental expedition planned for July, hosted by the Michels family, and a July/August Koins expedition.  We will continue to raise funds for the Gona school, and I am awaiting a "wishlist" from our Kenyan board with further building projects outlined. We continue to take care of a large number of student scholarships.  

We are looking at partnering with a group called Self Reliant Agriculture.  This is an organization with expertise in training local farmers how to farm better, to use their land to provide their family with nutritional self-sufficiency through improved agricultural production.  I am excited to see how their involvement can bring improved quality of life to our villagers, most who are dependent upon their small plots of land to provide sustenance for their families, and who are now focusing the majority of their efforts on growing corn, which provides limited nutritional benefits. 

On my personal wishlist for Koins in 2011 are the following: 
  • Volunteer(s) willing to donate their time and stay in Mnyenzeni for an extended period to teach English at the secondary school and other skills in the villages
  • Corporate sponsorship that will allow us to tackle some of the larger issues, such as water and health needs, faced by the villagers
  • A grant writing volunteer that can help us find grant sources that might help us with some of our larger funding needs
  • A continued willingness on the part of those who are supporting our students through scholarships
Koins would not be in existence without the support of our wonderful donors.  Thanks to all who care enough to help those who are unable to help themselves.  

Asante sana, 

Ingrid

If you would like to make a year end contribution to Koins for Kenya, you can make a secure online credit card donation here.

Childbirth in Africa - Story on Today Show

I was watching the Today Show this morning, and thought this video worth sharing. It is a universal story of rural African women, this could have been shot in Kenya, the story is so similar.




With the building of a clinic in Mnyenzeni, Kenya, we are hoping the future of the local women and children will improve. It is the first clinic to be built in the region. As Americans, we have been raised in a country where most of us have never questioned the availability of health care should we have need. In the majority of Africa, this is simply not the case.

If you want to contribute to an organization that is truly making a difference, where 100% of all donations go towards the work being done in country, please consider making a contribution to Koins for Kenya. In our years of operation, we have accomplished so much, on a shoestring budget, by comparison to most NGO's. As we prepare for a new year of projects in a country so desperate for help, we can use your contribution for good.

Asante Sana,

Ingrid

Friday, November 26, 2010

Duncan - A Kenyan Success Story

Bret with Duncan,  June 2001

A while back, Bret received a hand-delivered letter from Brent H., a fellow humanitarian working in Kenya.  It was given to him by someone mistaking him for Bret.  The young man in the photo above, Duncan, had been trying to track Bret down for some time.  The following is his letter to Bret:

Dear Sir,

Greetings!  I hope that you are fine, healthy and progressing well.   I, personally, am well, only striving hard to achieve my dreams and goals in life.

It has been a very long duration, approximately 8 years ago without meeting again.  I remember that we lastly met at Samburu High School when I was in third year of the secondary course.  During that time, you brought for me and my friends who you were sponsoring with school fees attractive t-shirts.  That was the last moment of our meeting.

Since then, I have written several letters to you but mostly I don't get any feedback.  They are returned to me with information that the postal organization and personnel could not deliver those letters because the address I used is wrong and the owner unknown.

When I completed my secondary school course, I stayed at home for a whole year because there was inadequate resource to enable me to pursue further studies.  But in September of 2005 I enrolled in Kaimosi Teacher's Training College and trained as a Primary school teacher.  I completed my two years course in the year 2007 and fortunately, the following year I was employed.

Currently, I am teaching at the Chigutu Primary School, which is along and adjacent to the Murvani road leading to Kinango district head offices via Samburu town.

Surely, I have been enthusiastic and wished to meet with you but communication means have been the biggest obstacle to me.

Recently, I came to realize that you are the donor who launched and operates the Koins for Kenya organization.  In addition to that, I wish to share a lot with you, only when we meet again because it has been almost a decade without meeting.  Currently, I am attending lessons at school, but I have seen the need to write this letter for you, reminding you and hoping that you will also remember me, communicate to me and make arrangements even to meet with you again.  I will feel honored when you do so.

Finally, I have dearly missed your company and great aspirations; and words full of wisdom which I used to preserve after chatting with you.  I also register my appreciation and gratitude to you for the kindness you felt and aid that you offered to me.  You kindly paid school fees for me just like my own parents.  May God bless you and your family abundantly and empower your life with love and prosperity in everything that you undertake.

I hope that you will soon communicate back to me, create time to meet once again with you before you go back to America.  Otherwise, may God's love that makes everyday a joy to live nourish your life.

Yours sincerely,

Duncan Fumo Komato

Duncan and fellow college graduates, 2007
As we approach 2011, it will mark ten years since the first visit to Kenya made by Bret and I.  It was fun to read this letter from Duncan and to see the progress in his life since that time.  We can only hope that as Koins continues to sponsor secondary students that go on to the university level, we will see many more such success stories, and receive feedback from our students.

If you want to make a change in the lives of Kenyan students by providing a scholarship, either at the secondary school level ($300/year) or at a university level ($1,500/year, but can vary by school), please communicate with our scholarship coordinator, Nancy Littlefield, and she can connect you with a student in need.   If a lump sum won't work for your budget, she can set you up for a monthly or quarterly payment that will go toward the yearly fee total.  You will receive letters from your student, and an regular report card update.  For a small amount you can truly change a life.  

Asante Sana! 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Charo's Tree - Vernal Trees for Charity Gala

Charo's Tree
Sherrie Christensen, one of the August expeditioners to Kenya, has made and is donating a tree to the Trees for Charity dinner and auction to be held next Monday, November 29, 2010 in Vernal, Utah.  Following are the details:

Trees for Charity
Gala Dinner and Auction
Monday, November 29, 2010
Doors open for tree viewing at 5:00 p.m.
Dinner begins at 6:00 p.m.
Auction 7:00 p.m.
Cost: $20 per person
Western Park
302 East 200 South
Vernal, Utah

Tickets can be purchased at the door that evening or from the Vernal Chamber of Commerce prior to that night. 


Please take the time to view my tree this year.  It is number 5, and it features handmade beaded heart ornaments from middle school children from both Kenya and Vernal.  You won't be able to miss this colorful tree!  The garland is made from konga cloth material which the Kenyan women use for their skirts.  This garland makes a path from village to village on the tree with handmade huts and banana tree leaf people depicting everyday life in Kenya.

The charity which I have chosen to donate the proceeds of the sale of this tree is Koins for Kenya.  This charity is a Utah based 501(c)3 humanitarian organization which donates 100% of all donations directly to remote villages in Kenya.  This is the organization I traveled to Kenya with last summer.  While we were there, we learned of the death of a twelve year old boy named Charo who lived in the village of Gona.  The day after he died, we visited his school mates to hand out pencils, and in a ceremony, the local chief proudly handed over an envelope containing ten percent of the cost of building a school building, which is required by the Koins organization before work can begin on a new school project.  I fell in love with the people of Charo's village.  The parents understand that the future of their children depends on their receiving a good education because without education, they have no opportunities and the cycle of poverty will continue.

The cost of building a two room school building in Charo's name is $10,000.  If you would like to contribute a specified amount to this charity without actually having to purchase the tree, please contact the Vernal Chamber of Comerce at (435) 789-1352 and tell them you would like to add a "Tree Topper" to this charity.   All donations are tax deductible.


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dallin Frampton's Kenyan Experience

Dallin with his sisters and Anthony Yama at the school he built in Dzivani, Kenya
Dallin Frampton returned in August from a 5 month stay in the Koins village area of Kenya.  Dallin had a desire to do something good in a part of the world that really needed help.  After a meeting with Bret Van Leeuwen, the founder of Koins for Kenya, in September 2009, he began raising funds to build a school in the village of Dzivani.  He did concerts, made t-shirts, solicited funds from friends, neighbors and family, and departed in March of 2010 with a small group of Koins expeditioners.  The work on the school in Dzivani and the mud hut in the village of Dzivani which would become his new home in Kenya was begun during that March trip, and he continued that work once the rest of the expedition departed.

Dallin responded to a questionnaire I sent him, giving a little more detail about his stay in Kenya.

Name:  Dallin Frampton   

Age:  20 years old

Hometown:  Holladay, UT

Work Experience:  I did construction all through high school, it definitely helped me when I got to Kenya so I at least had a bit of a base to work off of when we really got to work on the school in Dzivani

Duration of Stay:  5 months

How did you learn about Koins for Kenya?
  I learned about Koins through this girl that went to East High named Tara Tolbert, she is awesome and she is really the reason why I got hooked up with Bret and Koins in the first place

What were your primary responsibilities as a volunteer?  I built a school in the village of Dzivani primarily, and then went from there to building a kitchen and repairing the water cistern at the Koins Community Center, as well as building two more primary schools at Mwache and Miguneni,

What did you learn about Koins for Kenya while in Kenya?  Koins has given countless numbers of Kenyans, ranging from all ages, hope and opportunities in their lives to excel where as before, they would have fallen victim to the blockade of poverty and lack of resources which would in the end, halt them from succeeding in life whatsoever.  Koins has also given jobs to about ten individuals, all of which are some of my best friends in the world, and Koins has helped to establish a few micro-businesses that charge cell phones and car batteries for people to run radios or other simple electronics off of. 

What surprised you the most about volunteering for Koins?  I was mostly surprised about the unreal amounts of joy I felt while living over in Kenya.  I had nothing, I lived as a native in Dzivani and I had the time of my life.  Volunteering with Koins for the 5 months I was there helped me to gain some of the best friendships I have ever had in my life and it instilled an undying love in my soul for the people in Duruma land.  Just to see the joy on children's faces after completing a project in the Koins area basically brought me to tears every time and I had never felt like that before I left to go live there.

What surprised you most about living in Kenya?  I was expecting to live as a native, but it is definitely a night and day difference between just saying it, and actually living it.  It blew me away how easy we have it in the USA and how we take every little thing for granted, it really is mind blowing.  I lived in a mud hut and it was the best time of my life, having no plumbing of any kind, dirt floors and a gas stove to cook all my food.  The joy that living in Kenya brought me is unmeasurable, being able to live as a Kenyan, with Kenyans and having them accept me as an actual Duruma, not an American was amazing.  I didn't hear my name 'Dallin' for 5 months, everybody called me 'Ruwa', the name they gave me when I first got to Kenya and it was so much fun being able to be accepted into the village as one of them and being able to work alongside these people day after day

What do you plan to do upon your return to the USA?  I am at school right now up at the U of U, just trying to get my generals out of the way and I am planning on going to medical school to hopefully become a surgeon or something along those lines.  I am also working part time doing construction and landscaping with my neighbor.

Any piece of advice for future volunteers?  I would say to anybody planning on going to just dive in and work harder than you ever have, it will be rewarding in so many ways and make as many friends as you can, Kenyans are amazing people and they will teach you much more about hard work and happiness more than you could ever teach them.  Also, don't go swimming in rivers.  My legs are covered in parasites and crap cause I kind of have a problem listening to rules, but I am proof that you will be miserable if you do. 

What has been your favorite part of volunteering in Kenya?  My favorite part of the trip was of course being able to construct so many different projects from the ground breaking all the way up until we are putting the roof on and making final touches, but I also kind of fell into a weird situation where I got stuck with a pet monkey which ended up to be one of the funner parts of my stay in Kenya.  He was pretty much my side kick and we got a lot of work done together, him mostly just hanging on my head all day while I was plastering walls or something.  I miss that little man bad, but he is good hands with our girl Kendy who is teaching school down there right now. 


THE FUN STUFF
:

Favorite movie:  The Town

Favorite book:  Born to Run

What was your favorite musical group when you were in junior high?  Less Than Jake

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?  Kenya!  best place in the world, I want to live there so bad

Who is the person you respect the most and why?  Probably Jimi Hendrix, I love music and it took him a long time to reach the top and he owned it once he got there

What do you think is the secret to a good life?  service and selflessness is definitely what I think is how we can be happy.  Plus in my opinion, the less we have the happier we are, so as long as we don't get caught up in what this crazy world tells us we need, we will love our lives

Dallin's Kenyan home, a mud hut he helped build

Monday, October 11, 2010

News Article about the Albino School Project in Kenya

 

Albino School in Kenya - click here to go to the link, or read article below:


A Global Village Saves Albino Kids From Slaughter

An African principal, a Dutch fundraiser and a Mormon housewife are building a sanctuary for some of Kenya's most vulnerable citizens.
It was during her first volun-tourism trip with the group Koins for Kenya that Jami Quesenberry, 47, from Salem, Utah, met the African woman Mwanahamisi and her daughter (right) at a dispensary in Lutsangani, Kenya, a small village about 50 miles outside of the port city Mombasa in 2009.
Mwanahamisi's husband had divorced her for giving birth to albino children, and upon looking closer at the small girl, Jami noticed the child's skin was indeed white and covered in boils and scars from sun exposure.
The despair in Mwanahamisi's eyes said it all — and it haunted Jami all year.
Little did Jami know, the sun wasn't the child's only danger.  Although Mwanahamisi's husband had divorced her for having two albino children, in September of this year he learned that albinos could be sold for their skin. One trip across the border to Dar es salaam, Tanzania, and he could get himself 18 million Kenyan shilling. He came hunting for the children with a machete.
We wrote about the horrors inflicted on African albinos here back in June. We also told you about the start of Mwanahamisi's story. We promise that things only get better from here.
albinoa2.jpg
Jami Q. with Hussein Lumbambo and the headmistress of the Kinandaongo School in Kenya
 Shortly after Jami's first visit, a local Kenyan man name Hussein Lumbambo had a dream to open a school not far from Lutsangani in the town of Kinandaongo, where the approximately 100 children with albinism in the area can live and be educated free from fear and danger.
But without a car or modern forms of communication, Mwanahamisi never knew this luxury even existed. On her second visit in 2010, Jami met Hussein in a chance encounter.
When Mwanahamisi learned her ex-husband was searching for her children she hid in the Koins for Kenya community center in a village close to her town. Jami was contacted by the Koins executive director Anthony Yama. She in turn reached out to Hussein.
He responded to her email post-haste and rushed to find Mwanahamisi and her children. Talk about the benefits of six degrees of separation.
"I was out my senses when I received your email and I had no business staying in the office when my albino children were in danger I had to use all my powers and all means available ... the two children are now safe, sound and comfortably seated in class with the others in class. I had to respond to your call remembering all what you are doing to make the albino children have a bright future," Hussein wrote to Jami shortly after rescuing Mwanahamisi and her children.
albino3.jpg
An albino boy at Kinandaongo School with new hat
 Hussein's school has truly been a global project. A Dutch woman named Marjon Bogaard, visited the school in April and forever changed it.
"Through Hussein we met the albino children and we started to collect money for them. In April we started to built new toilets and water tank for the whole community of Kibandaongo and built a dormitory for the albino children and a small water tank," Bogaard told Tonic over email from Holland.
The dormitories are necessary for the albino children who must be protected from human predators with high walls, provided the funding to build them.
See, we promised a happy ending. So what is next? At this time, there are no funds to purchase beds and bedding for the 48 students who will attend. The students also need protective uniforms, hats, shoes and sunscreen.
There is also the issue of food and water. In schools in rural Kenya, students bring corn from home and a stick of wood for the fire that will cook their corn. This is lunch. Students also need to bring water from home, collected by their mothers daily from filthy rivers and dams near their villages.
Because these students will be too far from home for their families to help them with food and water, the school will need a cistern to collect rainwater from the school's roof. This water will be used for drinking and cooking. The students will need monetary assistance to help buy corn and wood for their meals.
An albino student at the Kinandaongo School
This past weekend Jami, her husband and their eight children cleaned out their closets and hosted a garage sale to raise money for beds. All of her money is being sent through Koins for Kenya to ensure that it reaches Hussein and is used to construct beds and provide food.
"As I walked through Hussein's school in July, I immediately thought of Mwanahamisi and the despair I had seen in her eyes.  It had haunted me all year.  Now I saw there was hope for her children.  I knew that I needed to do everything possible to complete the school and make this opportunity available to her family and to others like her," Jami told Tonic.
"We are not short on stuff. We are a country of stuff. Everyone has stuff. That's how I came up with the idea for a garage sale. It gives everyone a way to help, whether big or small. I started sending out e-mails and Facebook posts and have had such an overwhelming response. I hope that Mwanahamisi can know that she is not alone, that she is not friendless. My dream is to go back to her village some day and see that look of despair gone and replaced with a smile."
Want to join this global village? To do that, please go to www.koinsforkenya.org. Click on the "Donate Now" block. There will be a pull-down menu on the donation form under the title "Donation Destination". Submit your donation under the "Albino School Project".  Koins has zero overhead costs. All money goes 100% towards these projects. And your donations are tax deductible.

The new school year starts in January. Let's give these children a future filled with knowledge instead of fear.


Photos by Ingrid Van Leeuwen

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Update on Kendy in Kenya

Our niece, Kendy, is living in Kenya, teaching English at Mnyenzeni Secondary School, and doing her best to help the students prepare for their national exam in November.  She joined our group to Kenya in August, and has stayed on alone, living, interacting and teaching in Mnyenzeni.

She has kept a blog (as an internet connection has allowed) and it is interesting to follow her experiences.  I am including an recent excerpt from her blog, as I feel it really shows the effort involved to teach and work in Kenya. 

Where did September go?

OK, I know I came here to teach English. I’m doing that, or trying to anyway. Teachers keep scheduling random lessons and lab days during my scheduled class time without any notice, and less and less students have been showing up each day, although it’s steadied out this past week as the same six to eight students per class consistently show up. (And really, with two weeks until the big exam, I’m not trying to spend my energy trying to find and discipline the absent ones when there are some seriously eager, willing and bright students sitting in, fully prepared, and on-time to class each day.) Apparently, that “just happens” as the exam date approaches. Instead, they prefer to sit in the library and study on their own…and the school seems more or less OK with this… Even though it’s their grade, their future, their decision, not mine, I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t bummed out about this – in a big way. And with all the amazing organizational skills and communication happening, my extra test prep sessions keep getting postponed. Once, so the kids could practice…singing? Priorities? Too harsh?

Apologies, (not really) but it’s a product of passion. Reality is seriously getting in the way of my idealism – which I’m not giving up on! I’m stickin’ to my guns, but I think I came here with bigger expectations than were actually possible. My family here keeps reminding me that one (I) can be just as good of a help as an observer to issues that easily get overlooked in the bigger scheme of things, but who wants to be a hall monitor? Honestly, if it weren’t for those super inspiring, hard-working and intelligent 12-16 kids, and some equally passionate faculty members, (AND all the other angels in this village!) I’d be way down right about now.

BUT the SSAWA program, my Duruma family, and the friends I’m making are really my sources of fulfillment here. Held the first-ever, official SSAWA meeting (again I say, finally!) last Sunday. We played ice breaker games and focused on “team building” exercises to loosen these girls up and set the tone for a positive and free-feeling next couple of months together. A day in Kenya so far has never felt more right. We played the “name game” in which we’re all in a circle and someone says their name while accompanying it with some kind of body movement. And you go around the circle trying to remember everyone’s moves/names. In my previous, American experience with this game, it can mean a clap of the hands, maybe a wave, some over-the-top silly dance move.. The young, female, African version would have nothing to do with anything of that sort. It was allllll ABOUT the booty, hip and shoulder shakin’ moves. YES!!!!!!!!!! And did I mention how much Kenyans like to laugh? Kinda discouraging to get used to at first when I’m trying to practice my Swahili and they crack up laughing even if what I’m saying is totally correct. But we basically transformed the otherwise ugly, bare classroom into a festive, colorful dance party, music provided by their loud and sweet laughter. Most fun I’ve ever had during an ice breaker activity for sure..

And I really feel like the days have just been getting better ever since. Today was another good one. Grace, who is a kindergarten teacher here in the village, comes by frequently to visit with Mama Em and the ladies here. Grace is from Mazeras (a town, not Mombasa, but not the bush) and told me today that she came to Mnyenzeni in February to start the kindergarten academy that operates out of the church building. She’s really sweet, way cool and is a fellow young female thing without babies!! She’s always telling me to come by her home, but my American-ness is apparent and ugly here in the way it holds me back from dropping in on people unannounced and without any sort of official concrete invitation. Silly me trying to get all official here.. Yesterday I said I would come tomorrow (being American again, needlessly setting a date for something like tea and a chat) so today she finally led me to her place. Like most teachers, she rents out a room that is a part of a bunch of rooms that all share a common, rectangular “courtyard” in the center of all the rooms. Village-style dorms? She lives in one concrete room, but she’s a baller, and it’s single occupancy. She also keeps it super clean and while extremely simple, something about it threw off really cozy and comfortable vibes despite the actual material makeup of the structure.

She provided the tea and cookies, and I a few reasons why it’s taken me so long to come over. I was trying to explain that in my “home culture,” it’s not really OK to just drop by someone’s place unannounced, and especially not expect them to prepare you something to eat and drink right away, if at all. We play this little dance: (By the way, “play” and “dance” is the same word in Swahili..love that!)

“Would you like something to drink?”

“Oh, no, I’m OK, thank you”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, really, I’m cool.”

“Please……”

And then either they give up or you give in, but in any case, getting fed is not something that’s expected. Nor is it the “happiness of our culture” (as Mama put it) to drop whatever it is we’re doing at the moment to cook something for an unexpected stranger coming into our homes, generally speaking. I guess that’s part of the difference - they’re not “so busy” running around and doing a bunch of things. Village life is a lot more communal in every way, meaning visits are therefore seen as less intrusive and more common. Personal space is a foreign concept along with selfish behavior, and, really, there’s not MUCH else to do around here besides talking to people and eating. Grace put it beautifully:

“Visitors are like angels. They can come at any time! Today, you are my angel.”

I mean….REALLY?! American friends: Don’t be surprised if I just show up at your place out of nowehere one day expecting tea and cookies because I think I could get used to this.. But know that you could expect exactly the same from me!

I wrote the above a few days ago, and what I said about the days getting increasingly better still holds true. Yesterday evening two of my school teacher friends and I went for a sunset walk along the main road. It fell dark before we reached home, and without the light of the moon, it was the darkest night I’ve ever moved around in. Although, the lack of any light whatsoever only made for the most beautiful skyscape of stars I’ve ever seen. Dancing around under the light of the Milky Way? Hand drumming in the distance with different animal sounds coming from everywhere? And a mama that calls just to make sure I get home safely? I’m CHILLIN’ here, you guys… And today on my sola, afternoon walk through the village, I was forced to consume fresh young coconut from this old man that insisted on climbing up the tree and chopping it down for me just to say “Karibu” (Welcome).

Honestly, I hope that visitors to countries/places like this that are still developing don’t JUST go home appreciative for what they have and how great their lives are back home. With such an extreme cultural exchange taking place I would hope that the reflection and life lessons run a little deeper than that. After all, shouldn’t appreciation on all levels be standard universally? In addition, I hope they recognize how open, warm, kind and generous these people “with nothing” are, and strive to be even half as good an example of a human being in their blessed existence.

Salama sana, brothers, dadas, papas and mamas!

___________

I think Kendy is amazing.  And what she is doing is amazing.  If she can make a difference in the lives of even a few students, it will be worth every minute she is in Kenya.  If you want to follow more of Kendy's blog, you can go here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

News article about Brayden Christensen's Eagle project

A local Vernal paper published this article about Christensen's summer trip to Kenya:
Brayden loading finished desks to be transported to Dzivani, Kenya
Vernal resident Sherrie Christenson inspired her son, Brayden, to help others after she first donated to the Utah-based humanitarian organization Koins for Kenya.

Sherrie donated money earned from her nonfiction book, “The Power of a Penny,” to Koins for Kenya, a foundation that has been helping rural Africans to overcome poverty through education projects since 2003.

Sherrie’s donation was handled by Brett Van Leeuwen, Koins for Kenya chairman, whose son had built school desks for the organization as an Eagle Scout project. Brayden thought it would be fun to go to Africa to help build school desks for the children, and chose to build desks for his Eagle Scout project as well.

The Christensons left for Kenya on July 22 and stayed for 15 days. “It was awesome,” Brayden said.

While in Kenya they stayed in the village of Mnyenzeni in the Kenya Community Center, a place where volunteers reside while working on projects. The first day the Christensens were in Mnyenzeni they were greeted by hundreds of smiling children that were happy to see them.

“We were overwhelmed by the student’s responses when we told them we were going to give each one a brand new pencil. Who knew a measly old pencil could bring such happiness?” Sherrie said.
Kids gather outside Windridge school, showing how desks are used
There were five or six children squeezing together to sit at desks that were built to accommodate only three students. The children squeezed together so no one would have to sit on the dirt floors with chiggers and bot flies. Sherrie said the need for desks was obvious.

Building desks for the school was not an easy task. There were complications caused by lack of wood and screws. Finding wood was a problem because in Mnyenzeni there is not a local lumberyard, and the only way volunteers could get more was by buying a tree and then waiting for it to be chopped down, split and planed.

The volunteers had to travel to the village of Mombasa, 30 miles away, to buy more screws. But because of heavy rains, the roads were washed out and travel was slow.

When the volunteers reached Mombasa, the shops were closed, and the Christensens as well as other volunteers had to find other things to do while as they waited for shops to open later that afternoon.

After much effort, the desks were completed and ready to be delivered to the schools using a tractor and a trailer donated to Koins for Kenya. The majority of the desks Brayden worked on were taken to the new Austin Frampton School in Dzvani.

In fact, the Austin Frampton School was dedicated while the Christensens were in Dzvani by a KFK volunteer, Dallin Frampton. The school was dedicated in honor of Frampton’s 10-year-old brother, Austin, who has Down’s Syndrome.

Frampton built a mud hut in Dzvani and lived there for five months while he helped villagers build the school. “The villagers embraced Dallin and loved him,” Sherrie said.
Brayden sitting at finished desk with rose brand, to be used in Dzivani classroom
Frampton raised all $10,000 to cover costs to build the two-room school by performing a concert in his hometown, Holladay, near Salt Lake City, in October. Roses were branded into the desks in honor of Frampton’s friend, Sophie Rose Barton, who helped raise money by singing at the concert. She died in June.

The Christensons were not only affected greatly by the dedication, but also by the entire experience. One night the Christensons were sitting with other volunteers when a young 12-year-old boy, Charo, died no more than 50 feet away from where the volunteers were sitting.

“Charo and his uncle were trying to get to the dispensary to get medical help. They had walked for several hours and had been turned away from two other villages because they didn’t have any medical personnel available,” Sherrie said. “They were from the village of Gona. Charo was still dressed in his school uniform.”

Charo had gone to school earlier in the day despite his headache because he didn’t want to miss out on the end of term testing. By the time Charo’s mother had gotten home, he was seriously ill. After being turned away from the second village, Charo’s family took what little money they had to hire a motorcycle to drive them to Dzvani, but it wasn’t fast enough.

“It was hard to go to his village the next day to hand out pencils at the school, it was hard to know that they were all experiencing the loss of their friend, but they were still so welcoming to us.” Sherrie said.
Gona schoolchildren welcome Koins visitors to their village school
The volunteers were escorted to a small area where the students performed a program of tribal dancing and singing; local dignitaries came and talked about the importance of education.

At the performance, the chief of the area presented an envelope to a KFK board member that was filled with 10 percent of the money that’s needed to build a new school. Raising money was difficult for the people of Gona because most of them make less than $300 a year.

“On one of the last days we were in Kenya I had several students from the middle school come and help me make Christmas ornaments out of wire and beads so I can decorate a tree for the Vernal Trees for Charity event in November,” Sherrie said. “We are donating it in Charo’s name and hoping to raise money to put towards his classmates’ new school in Gona.”

Brayden said he is more grateful for the educational options in the U.S. now that he has helped a less-fortunate country with their schooling issues. Brayden said his goal now is to continue to help other countries.

By Liberty Montague, Vernal Express

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Ingrid's Kenya Journal, Part 5, August 1-2, 2010

Sunday, August 1

We had a leisurely morning, which was really nice. We started sacrament meeting a little early, but we were all there, so it was perfect. It was cool to have Paul and Curt bless the sacrament and Brayden pass it, right here in the KCC. We followed the normal script for a fast and testimony meeting, with Mike conducting the meeting (he is in the bishopric at home). It was a very good meeting.  I think we all enjoyed hearing from most every member of our group. It was emotional at times, heartfelt and open. It was the best sacrament fast meeting I have attended in a long time.

I think the thing I love about being in Kenya is the people in our group. I love how this humanitarian work brings out the best in people.  And I mean the best in whatever they are.  Some people are naturally good at interacting with children, some with different cultures, some are good with their hands and building, some are organizers,  but by and large, all have good hearts and are here for the right reasons.  I know I should be loving working with the Kenyan people, and enjoying that cultural interaction, but I find it awkward and difficult at times.  I really don't understand the culture, I am offended often by the way the women are treated and that sometimes makes me uncomfortable with the men.  Bret is just the opposite, he loves the work, he is comfortable with the men and being in a position of power here.  He interacts well with the children and has a way of getting the women to respond to him.  I often feel the discomfort of the men when they work with me, as a woman, but knowing that as wife of "Baba Bret" they have to treat me with respect.  Being here really puts me outside of my comfort zone, on so many levels.  Another issue I am dealing with is that after more than a week, my night time combination Ambien and Malarone starts making me restless and nightmarish. My dreams are becoming very vivid and strange.
Buffalo demonstrating borehole well at Mwache

Marcie at Mwache borehole well
Jason, Austin and McCall
Our group walking to the well at Mwache
Leigh getting crazy climbing the tree
Paul getting crazy climbing the tree
Anthony Yama's parents met us on the path near Mwache

Kendy faces her fears in the cornfield
A village woman, preparing food and caring for her children
 After the service, we had a sandwich lunch, cleaned up, then a few of us got in a van and went to Mwache to see the bore hole well in action.  There are 3 bore hole wells that LDS Humanitarian built  in 3 different villages in 2009.  It is quite amazing to see them pump clean, unlimited water so effortlessly.  Anthony's parents walked from their home up the trail to visit with us.  His father is sick with malaria, and his mother is recovering from a terrible foot injury, so it was with great effort they came to see us. 

Chakaya, the nervous groom

We returned to the KCC and the wedding guests started arriving. Chairs were brought over from the secondary school, and the front yard of the KCC became the gathering place for about 200 people. Chakaya arrived, and we joined the crowd in the yard as we awaited the bride. It was kind of comical how they blended American traditions and who knows what other traditions for this wedding.

Women cooking for the wedding crowd
Women singing to greet Kwe Kwe, the bride
Kwe Kwe arrives and is escorted to Chakaya
The bride's father and sister
Chakaya and Kwe Kwe prepare to be married
Kwe Kwe reacts to a comment of Bret's during ceremony
The bride and groom kiss (not a typical Kenyan public behavior)
And they are married (notice the interlocked pinkies...)
Our group made an arch for the newlyweds to walk through

As Kwe Kwe arrived, the women from the kitchen came out singing and dancing and welcoming her and her entourage. The rest of the women in the crowd joined in. As she was escorted from the car by Dallin and her bridesmaid, there was a line of women that threw rice at her. She walked up to the porch of the KCC, where Bret and Chakaya were waiting, and Bret asked her father to come up and give his daughter to Chakaya. Then he proceeded with a ceremony that blended traditional US wedding vows with kind of a "make a new start, don't do what Kenyan men typically do" recommendations. It was interesting to watch the reactions of the crowd to this different kind of wedding. Kwe Kwe seemed embarrassed at some of the things Bret was saying, but I think ultimately she was excited about getting married, in her shy Kenyan way. The funny part was when they cut the cakes we bought, and fed a bite to each other, then another bite, then a bite to their best man/bridesmaid, then the parents and then all the guests. I had to leave. It was just so funny. Shortly thereafter, the music and dancing started and didn't stop until about 8:00 p.m.. Lots of pilau was served along with ugali, and most guests stayed outdoors, although Johnson's wife and kids and Lucy, Anthony's wife, and kids came inside and ate and played games and had fingernails painted by our group.
Austin and Catelin dancing

A large pot of pilau, ready to serve to the wedding guests
 Our group was pretty exhausted by the time the last guests left. We bypassed P&P because of our testimony meeting this morning, and had an early bedtime.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Everyone was up early preparing to depart for the safari in Tsavo.

Bret and Anthony left for Mombasa. I deep cleaned the KCC, and with the help of the kitchen staff we washed and bleached every single dish, table, surface, and tidied up inside and out. I began washing my clothes, and Emily took over for me. She kind of laughed as she walked up to me, asked me if I used a machine at home, to which I responded "I have a machine for everything at home!"  I hate to admit, but I was happy to have her finish washing the clothes for me.  I showered and spent much of the rest of the day in the KCC updating my journal and getting caught up on Koins work.  All day one of the board members was outside the KCC watching over me. I didn't mind staying in. It was hot outside and I had a chance at quiet and cool productivity sitting in front of the fan.
Foundation of the new clinic in Mnyenzeni, just in front of the dispensary

In the afternoon I took baby blankets up to the dispensary, and took a few photos of the foundation of the new clinic being built.  It is quite exciting to think what it might offer to these villagers.  It looks to be about the size of the KCC. 
Tool crib in workshop
Workshop, neat, tidy, organized and in good working order

I walked over to the workshop with Buffalo, Chief Tuku and Eliud. They showed me around, pointing out all the work that had been done since we had been here. The workshop really looks great, Mike and Curt have done an incredible job with that building.  It is tidy, the tools have been organized, hand tools labeled and marked where they should be stored.  The workshop workers have been trained by Mike and Curt how to care for the tools, the building, how to sharpen blades, replace broken parts, keep track of tools.  What a difference from when we arrived.  Curt has agreed to take on the role of Workshop and Construction Management on the Koins board.  It will be wonderful to have him in charge of the workshop on a full time basis, and for him to get our construction costs down to a science. 
Sewing center workes busy making Koins purses
Bret arrived and started a discussion with the Kenyan board members about how they had done the electrical work in the workshop. I walked over and checked out the sewing workshop. They were busy sewing our bags and pajama pants.

Bret and I accompanied Chief Tuku to Mnyenzeni, and we went to the home of Peter Mrabu (Purity's dad) and spent some time visiting.

Back to the KCC for dinner, just Bret, Paul and I. It was nice and quiet. We finished our pilau and fruit with hot scones and honey, then cleaned up and headed off to bed early tonight.

Tuesday, August 3

Up at 7:00 this morning. Sometime during the night our netting came untucked, we had mosquitoes in our netting so all night I was getting buzzed by them. It was very annoying and I woke up to blood spots on the sheets, and as I smashed a few of them there was blood on my hands.  No itching though. I don't know where they bit me. Not a pleasant thought, with the prevalence of malaria here.


I took a morning shower, then we had breakfast with Purity's dad and discussed his desire for his son, who is high in his Form 2 class, to receive a scholarship.   He missed qualifying by 5 points on his exam.  Bret told him to retake the exam and we would be happy to take care of his scholarship once he qualified.   He is a nice man.  We discussed some American customs, like Bret accepting our son-in-laws as extensions of our family, having dinner with them, traveling with them, being friends with them, and he had a hard time understanding that.  It is so not Kenyan custom to be friendly with the son-in-law.  It is as if they lose a daughter when one gets married. Bret encouraged him to try that new idea out when Purity is married in the future.  He looked doubtfully at Bret, but didn't say he wouldn't do it. 
Rain coming off the roof of the KCC
Bret on the road with a boy tending goats
Local bread delivery
Brand new baby at the dispensary
Young mother returning to her home with a bucket of water from the river
A man we crossed paths with carrying chickens (alive)
Woman and her daughter cutting wood

A heavy rain came down for a few minutes, then Bret and I went on a walk through the countryside up to Chikomani. Along the way we shot some photos and observed Kenyan life.  As we were heading back we came across two women cutting sticks with machetes and binding them and putting them on their head. It was interesting that the first thing that happened was the younger woman asked us for money for taking her photo, then she asked for Bret's shirt and his sunglasses.  We offered them candy and I gave them a bag of dried mangos. They seemed happy with that and didn't mind that we followed them back towards their village.  They even seemed to be encouraging us to stay with them.   They spoke in Duruma and only knew "give me 50 shillings" in English, but I showed them photos as I took them and that seemed to please them.
Woman with her baby, cutting wood
Pregnant woman who was cutting wood.
Women carrying wood back to their village



We got a call from Johnson asking about going to the Massai village on the way back from safari.  Bret has had bad experiences with the Massai, who are used to dealing with and abusing tourists.  He has had experiences with people spending way more than necessary for trinkets, and also with a couple girls being cornered and groped on a previous trip.  He didn't want the group to go, but the majority ruled and he just warned Cindy to keep an eye on things.
Matuwa on the roof of the KCC

The monkey, Matuwa, who is Dallin's pet and an occasional nuisance, keeps running on the roof of the KCC.   It makes an amazing racket.  He was tied up behind the bathrooms in his little shack, but eventually he chews through the rope and then runs around like crazy. The local kids tease him and he chases them and grabs and bites their ankles.  Both sides seem to feed off the attention.
Anthony's portrait from Rebecca Peery

The group returned from safari about 4:00, so we caught up with their activities as some headed to showers. We had a lot of rain today, so it is really muggy and sticky tonight. We presented Anthony with a portrait painted of him by Rebecca Peery, an artist and friend of Koins.  She want to Kenya with the March expedition. Anthony was so happy with the painting of himself.