Friday, February 19, 2010

The car is still missing and, at this point, little hope to get it back. The insurance is on the case but it will take some time until they release the money and then we will have to look again for a car. The car I am driving is a rental car that doesn't manage well in really tricky-to-get-to remote locations. I have spent most of the week in this car driving around the country to push for much bigger issues.

Nahashon and myself left on Sunday night to go to Nanyuki. The following day we met with staff from the Segera Mission and dispensary to discuss the current situation. It almost felt like going home and this was the first time I have been back since we have been working there everyday for two weeks in June last year. Even all local leaders did come to see me. It is so nice to see familiar faces and the hope they are carrying. I gave them all a brief update on our Engineers Without Borders Project and that we have at least 2/3 of the money needed raised. They were very happy to hear that. It looks like we will start to build the bridge in June! (photo women getting water)

Beside visiting Segera Mission, we also went to talk to the head teacher in Endana Secondary School and the involvement of the Engineers Without Borders Student chapter at UCI to improve the school. We only spent about 5 hours with the community but it was highly rewarding and fun. I can’t wait to go back and get things finally started.

Later on Monday, we left Nanyuki to go all the way to Mwingi to discuss on the following day and over 140 km dirt road the big scale farming project along the Tana River. The local chief was informed that we were coming and warmly welcomed us. We were taken to the Tana River (see photo) and next time I have to bring a 4x4 car, because the little Toyota we had barely made it. We also had a chance to discuss the framing approach with the chairman of the newly formed cooperative. It was highly informative and finally things started to make sense. Miscommunication and assumptions based on little information is a common theme here. People are very open to discuss but you have to ask all questions, they simply don’t tell you the whole story. So, the challenge of putting the puzzle pieces together started successfully. I am very enthusiastic that the approach of the cooperative has a high chance of success.

A great coincidence gave us a chance to talk to many of people from the surrounding communities (see photo), because they gathered together on the same day for elections. Now everybody knows that I will be living with them to get the project started. The same day, we drove all the way back to Nairobi only to get in the car again on Wednesday to leave for Namanga at the border to Tanzania. I was participating in a Maasai meeting to discuss issues of a dispensary managed by the Partnership.

It rained cats and dogs all night making everything really muddy the next day. I started driving in the direction of Arusha in Tanzania and a bus was stuck in front of me leaving only a small way to pass. Of course, I tried to get through underestimating how deep the mud was and we got stuck (not the first incident this week, because I already had 2 flat tyres J). It took a major effort of at least 6 other people to get the car back on the road. Covered in red mud, we continued. We went to Arusha to meet the District Commissioner to discuss big scale farming in the West Kilimanjaro area. We had a great meeting and we will have a very important meeting next Tuesday in Longido/Tanzania with district council to discuss the strategic plan they have been putting together. We made it all the way back to Nairobi still on Thursday.

Now it is Friday and I went briefly over to the girls home to visit and play games with the small girls and also to financially support the construction of the foundation of a water tank. Tonight, I will go to Nairobi to have a drink or two with Megan, who has finished her last exam to get her Msc.
Nahashon and myself managed to open a bank account for our future children home. I would highly appreciate it if you could pass the bank details to your friends and see if we can come up with enough funds to get the project off the ground. A little financial support goes a long way here. We could use some for these children.

Many, many hugs from East Africa,


Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Hijackers and The Innocent

Quite turbulent times. I wanted to go this week to Nanyuki to talk to the people involved in our Engineers Without Borders project, but the plan was changed due to a incident which had happened to Peter Kamweru in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday. He was carjacked and held hostage for about 4 hours. The hijackers took everything he had including the car, which was supposed to be used by me in the field. Peter is alright, but still traumatized by the incident. In that night 4 different cars were taken and the owners robbed. We are still hopeful that the car will be recovered, because the other 3 cars were found parked at various locations.

That was a shock to all of us, but life moves on.
The plan is driving to Nanyuki tomorrow and to talk to the Segera Mission Clinic and the Endana Community early on Monday Morning.

Today (Saturday), I went to the girls home to interact with the kids, since it is their day off from school. I had a fantastic time and the kids are just great. Besides engaging with the children, I try to help where I can before I move out to the field. On Friday, Nahashon and myself drove to Nakuru to help out two former street kids, who have some computer skills as well as furniture making skills and who have started a small home for street kids. The kids battle sickness every once in a while but going to the hospital is far too expensive to keep this little NGO going. We hooked them up with a Presbytery health center “Nakuru West” and we are hopeful to get them almost free health care there. This NGO is called “Blue-G Outreach Programme”.

Nahashon and myself are in the process to open up a Barclays Bank Account and as soon as I have it, I will let you all know. We are getting close to start fundraising for our own home for orphans in Limuru area and we will need all help we can get. There is no overhead and all funds will be going straight to the needs of the kids. I would like to stress that this initiative is run only by Nahashon, his wife and myself.

I have attached a few photos from the girls home in Limuru which is managed by the East Africa Partnership. I hope you are all well and any help is highly appreciated. Volunteers are always welcome.

Hugs and all the best from Kenya,


Sunday, February 7, 2010

Michael Reaches Tanzania

I have just been down in Tanzania for the first time. We left Nairobi on Wednesday afternoon and crossed the border in Namanga. The road is under construction and driving can be very dangerous, because of gigantic potholes and diversions without warning, but I am solely getting used to driving around in East Africa. The Kenyans tend to be a bit more crazy compared to Tanzanians in terms of driving. We have met with quite a number of people in Arusha, where we stayed in a hotel.

On Thursday we drove out to West Kilimanjaro to discuss the collaboration with the local Maasai communities, this is a slow process. I have a good feeling with one of the communities, which welcomed us in a very friendly way and have been already pro-active and have built a 3 inch pipe from a stream higher up on Kilimanjaro 11 km away!!!!. They took us to the intake The water is just enough for daily use of this 5000 people community and we were discussing options to increase the water flow. They are allowed to go to 6 inch which would allow to use water to irrigate some of the area.

The local government is also welcoming me to stay down in their village, which I will do relatively soon to get a better idea of the entire area and what the people want. I also have attached a photo of Maasai children, which are going to school (a lot of them still don’t). I hope I can ease the suspicion they often have about mzungu (white people) and we can start working on how we can improve the food and health situation in this area. We are also in touch with the District Commissioner located in Longido. I am still staying in Limuru, north of Nairobi in a hotel. The plan for the next week is meeting a few people in town (Nairobi) on Monday and leaving for Nanyuki on Wednesday to visit the community we have been involved with our Engineers Without Borders project. I can’t wait to go back there to tell them that we are getting closer to actually building the footbridge and to help the new EWB-UCI student chapter with their new project in the same community to improve the water supply of the secondary school.

I just got my first stomach bug and I am feeling a bit weak, not to worry, this is normal and I was wondering that I did not get it already J.

Hugs to everybody and you will hear from me again in about a week.