|First, let me send heartfelt good wishes for the New
Year. May it bring blessings to you and yours.
We are still well and traveled safely over the holidays for ten days in Cape Town, returning to yet more rain! The extension of the rains has caused enormous problems everywhere with roads and bridges collapsing, thousands homeless and crocodiles becoming a major threat to people and livestock as rivers overflow their banks. However, we have seen blue sky for part of the last few days, the roads are drier and we no longer have to use four wheel drive to turn into the lane leading to our house. Soon we may well be complaining about the heat!
Just before Christmas there was disruption to the air service into Kisumu with Kenya Airways refusing to use the dilapidated runway. We switched our tickets for our South Africa trip to East African (who were still offering service), only to find Kisumu completely closed for repairs. We arranged to fly out of Eldoret (an extra two hours away by road) and then, quite by
chance, found that the service to Kisumu was restored. However, while we were in the East African office checking on the latest changes, my bag was stolen which, for once, contained my laptop. The bag was right at my feet and I never left it, but someone was clever enough to slide it away without me noticing.
We figure this was our 'test' for this year. (Two years ago we had no accommodation, last year our vehicle was out of action for six weeks.) But this time it could have been a lot worse. Fortunately I had back ups for most things, and paper copies for others, so I bought a new laptop in S Africa and have spent the last week re entering files. I have lost some of my most recent emails, but I think I can survive relatively unscathed. If you sent me something important recently, you might want to send again since my 'patricia' address does not appear to be working.
Four of our wells are just about finished, with pumps to be installed this week, and we hope to have handover ceremonies soon. We have problems with two sites. One has not yet been handed over and the story we hear is that the group on whose property it sits is refusing to allow all members of the community to use it. This, despite the agreement that the water would be for all those around. So we have some work to do, and have contacted the local
Chief to reconstitute the committee. Apparently the pump is being vandalized in retaliation (it has needed repair four times already.) So we have halted the latest repairs until we can meet with the people involved. The other site with difficulties is because of the rocky terrain. This will need extra time and materials. We have two more sites to start this month, bringing the
total for 2006-2007 to thirteen. The others installed earlier are functioning well.
Cape Town was a delight. We rented a small apartment at the foot of Table Mountain which loomed over us in clear sight with only the occasional topping of a cloud "tablecloth". The weather was perfect and we walked everywhere, always starting by a delightful stroll through the "Company Gardens" originally created by the Dutch East India Company for growing
fruits and vegetables, but now filled with flowers and shady trees. Cape Town was established as a way station for ships plying the routes to Australia and India. Although we were there for such a short time, we did take a couple of trips out, to a winery in Stellenbosch and to the Cape of Good Hope. Beautiful countryside and fascinating architecture.
By taking city tours, talking to people and visiting the museums, we found out something of the vibrant and complex history of the city through the years of slavery, apartheid and now into the new country that has just celebrated its tenth anniversary. Across from the Company Gardens we visited a Synagogue with a wonderful display of the history of the Jewish immigrants
and at the other end of the street stands the Anglican Cathedral of St George where Archbishop Desmond Tutu was based. This church was never segregated like most others and the crypt (now a restaurant) was the gathering place for people of all races for social meetings and prayers. It apparently was not uncommon for tear gas to be lobbed through the open
windows which give directly onto the street. There are many projects in the city for bringing back people who were displaced from their homes during forced removals and for revitalizing other areas. Petty crime is a major concern and security people (some on horseback) were visible in large numbers in the city centre. Cape Town hopes to host the World Cup of Soccer in 2010 and is desperately trying to improve its safety image.
Immediately upon our return to Kenya I was asked to give two workshops on the Virtues project to community groups. We have another teacher workshop slated for this month, training for clergy and two other parish groups plus a hospital. It is amazing how word is spreading and communities are interested. Just before Christmas I visited a primary school of 487 students
(with only 9 teachers) where they have begun to implement the positive discipline advocated in the Virtues. They told me they no longer use the cane: "The Virtues have helped to improve the discipline of the school. We have 9 Peace keepers. By the use of the Virtues we have improved the academic standards of this school." I listened to songs and dances by the
children and I was happy to offer my congratulations on their good work and to leave some sashes for the student Peace Keepers.
The Computer School is started up again last Monday with a full class already enrolled for the morning. We are hoping for an afternoon class as well, since the power is more reliable during the dry season which should now be starting.
A the end of January we will have the seminar on HIV/AIDS for primary (elementary) schools. The course was developed in consultation with a group of teachers. I also want to check on my chickens in the micro-finance project and perhaps start a new group in another location.
It's hard to believe that half our time has already sped by and we will be returning to Canada in less than three months. We were happy to have a visit from our older son and his wife before Christmas. Suzanne delivered a well received talk at the University on Child Rights and I have already been asked if she can come again. We will be home in time for the birth of our
first grandchild in May as we have just heard the good news from our younger son and his wife.
We try hard to remain positive about everything since we meet and interact with so many wonderful people. The corruption is so widespread that we now ride it without turning a hair. The education system is so elitist (money as well as marks) that families will cheat and lie for their children to go to High School. Some private schools only allow their best students to take
exams and farm the weaker ones out to public schools (for a monetary consideration). Thus they ensure that their average marks remain high and they are in the top percentage of schools in order to attract more fee paying pupils (public school is free but grossly overcrowded). CHES is now interviewing needy girls for scholarship and have found the latest scam:
girls from private schools register in a weak public school, so they obtain position 1 in the class. Their report books (which show position and marks) from previous years are "lost". So now any candidate without all the supporting documents does not get an interview. Even the Canadians there have been offered bribes, so heaven only knows what pressures the Kenyan
staff undergo. Colleagues are confirming that they have never seen such desperation amongst families trying to send children to school. About four years ago Kenya introduced free primary education which means that a cohort of children who could not even afford primary fees returned to the classroom and are now waiting to enter High School. Statistics show that about one in seven primary children actually go on to secondary education. Parents are
literally standing weeping at the gates of those organizations that offer assistance.
The country is gearing up for elections in November this year. Parliament only passed eight bills in the last years they have been in office, and most budgets were approved without a quorum in the House, so we are not expecting too much other than promises for the coming months.
But the newspaper today announced secondary schools will increase their intake, allowing more of those who can pay the fees to enrol, and the government is offering twenty five scholarships for women to study engineering. Small steps, but all in the right direction. A Community Development Fund introduced two years ago is doing good things in areas
where the MP does not syphon off the money. We see schools, health clinics and roads being built with this money.
Kwa herini-goodbye for now