Fifteen Years Old – Empowered by Education

Tending goats

There are many reasons a Samburu 15 year-old girl might need help to continue her education.  She could have never been sent to school or withdrawn from school to tend her family’s animals.

After regular school hours, there was a  Shepherd School teaching 95 of these children, but the funding has stopped.  It is being continued with prayers of some support.

Accepted to secondary school, but no way to pay

She might have completed primary school, but have no way to pay for secondary school, so is being readied to be married off.   If only she had a scholarship, her life will be different – no marriage and childbearing before “Sweet sixteen”

Married with child but still wanting to read and write

Needs scholarship to finish

Twenty- two married women, some as young as fifteen want to continue their education through an adult literacy program – 3 hours/3days per week.  They want their children and families to know more and do more than they can.  Through education these girls and women can understand the practices of female genital cutting, early marriage and childbirth and make informed choices for their daughters.  They will have alternatives for security other than large familes of 7-9 children.

For background material see:

Please help:  Celo Friends Meeting is supporting projects in these three areas.

Please help me stay in school

Healthy baby, but wants choices other than more children

Enough to educate all children

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Overcoming Challenges – Kaimosi Friends Hospital

Families in the Courtyard. The gutters lead to 500 liter tank

A single story building set around a courtyard offers good opportunity for rain water harvesting;

Silt encroachment on water source

on many days while I was there, this was the only source of water. The nearby privatized water plant was malfunctioning. Hand-washing without water is difficult. As Dr Ben said, “it is only by God’s grace that we don’t have hospital

acquired infections”.  Drinking water is filtered through biosand filters – clean safe water albeit coming slowly.

Electricity comes and goes.  The generator provides barely enough light for surgery and only when other lights are turned off.  Lighting is supplemented by flashlight.  The plaster is cracked.

Delivery Room, often no light

The roof leaks, even in the Operating Theatre.  Money has been raised for renovation, but has been tied up in details over ownership of the hospital.  Looks like this has resolved and work will be starting.  Finding a skilled knowledgeable trust-worthy project manager is also a challenge.  Dr Ben is an experienced Ugandan doctor who has been working in Kenya for over 25 years.  He cares deeply about the patients.

Dr Ben and patient

Even without specialty training He operates on all cases that are within his capacity, having learned over many years and much battlefield experience.

Dr Sylvia

Dr Sylvia is very bright and enthusiastic, just out of her internship,  during which all Kenyan physicians must perform twenty C-Sections during their internship year.  Thenshe was placed where she can be of service, doing them.  Head nurse Irene Gulavi came out of retirement to help the hospital, which had suffered from mismanagement, get back on its feet.

The providers are hampered because there is no infant warmer for the operating room when there is a C-Section.   Better surgical instruments for C-Sections and laparotomies are needed.  The outpatient clink needs a suction machine.

The laboratory has no blood chemistry analyzer to check electrolytes, kidney, or liver function.  There is no incubator to do cultures.  There  Recently thanks to Friends coming to the World Conference, there are now enough blood pressure cuffs, stethoscopes, and thermometers.

Trauma cases are frequent – thugs and motorcycles are rife in the area and we saw many broken bones and lacerations as a result.  There were two severely burned children during the time I was there – no ability to get specialty care and we had to struggle to have enough gauze.  Malaria is endemic.  Septic induced abortions common, since legal services are not available and for some, particularly school girls, there is no access to contraception.  Hypertension is often unrecognized leading to strokes.  HIV/AIDs infection rate is around 10% in the area – an underlying cause of admission.

People come to Kaimosi Friends Hospital because it is close,

Mother with newborn and knitted cap

affordable and no one will be turned away. Patients, that are too sick and would be better off if they transfered to a hospital with more advanced facilities,  stay because they cannot afford to go. The staff is very committed to improving the quality of care, though their equipment is minimal at best. I have told them I am working to secure the funds to send them much needed supplies. One of the first priorities is improving the outpatient treatment facility.

In Labor in the morning, mosquito nets still down, no nurse in sight

The hospital has a new administrator, John Ochienga, who is experienced, hardworking and has the know how to improve the hospital. He  sees a need to hire more nurses, but he is hampered by the poor housing conditions he is able to offer them. In an effort to utilize the funds the hospital has in the best possible manner they have hired a young Financial Officer.

Child fell from a tree and her abdominal wall and intestines were perforated with her guts coming out. Now recovering from surgical repair.

Some of the most urgent needs I saw while I was there were: finding a way to support severely burned children, who cannot afford to stay long enough to recover, more staffing in Labor and Delivery so that no woman giving birth is left alone,  public service announcements to let people there is an ambulance available to transport sick patients. One additional service to the community the hospital could offer would be a morgue a necessity to grieving families, which would produce a small stream of income for the hospital and help subsidize indigent care.

Full hospital ward

My hope is that through the loving generosity of the Friend’s wider world family, that the hospital will have the  more modern lab equipment it needs, and that the water and electricity supply will reliable and through meeting level IV guidelines for Emergency and Essential Surgical Care, Kaimosi Quaker Hospital will once again be a shining beacon of light of our faith and God’s love for those in need.

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Samburu Rites of Passage: Becoming Man & Wife

Sammy & Demaris’s Home

Sammy, Damaris, their daughters and nephew

Story 2 - Sammy is a Quaker pastor, 32 years old, now a student at Friends Theological College.  He met his partner Damaris 7 years ago while working as a research assistant 120 km from home; they were introduced by his American professor employer John Holtzman.  She, age 13 or 14 no longer was in school and was working at a resort.  They liked each other;  he visited and stayed with her family for a week A few weeks later she got very sick, was brought to Maralal nearer to his home; he came to see her, paying her medical expenses. He continued to see her whenever possible; she wanted to be with him and he beaded her.  This protected her from any other men.   She kept asking to get married and in love, he consented once she was 16. Before coming together there was a large village celebration joining the couple. Sammy slaughtered a bull and paid four cows as part of the bride price.  

Sammy preaching

Damaris at a women’s function

Although married in the eyes of his community, he looks forward to a Quaker wedding after he completes his studies.  He will pay the remaining seven cows to her family.  They have two children 16 months and 3 1/2 years and he is keen that they space their children, because “it is too hard on her”.  They have a loving, respectful relationship, and her life is much better now than it was before.  She is active in the church and enthusiastic about joining the Adult Literacy School to further her education.  

Girls from Shepherds School

Sammy as a pastor wants to change community norms, so girls can complete their education and not want to be married early.  Hopefully by the time his daughters are ready to marry, early beading and Female Genital Cutting will no longer be the standard.

Damaris at market with Sammy’s mother

 

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Samburu Rites of Passage: Beading, Female and Male Circumcision

Night Landscape

The Samburu, a subdivision of Masais living in the semi-arid North Central Laikipia, are very community minded with several practices that foster cohesion.   There is a circumcision ritual Muratare e Layiok about every 14-15 years; all older boys not in the previous group (usually from 11-25 ) are circumcised together, marking the onset of their Moran (warrior) period.  The current age set commenced in 2005-6 after the drought.  The morans traditionally live together and share everything with their age-set,   usually not marrying until the completion of this Moran period.

Celebrating a Circumcision

If a boy was away at school, he can be circumsized later with an appropriate celebration and still be considered a member.  Although the morans usually have large pierce holes in their ears, the boys going to school often use fake pierced ear-rings. They love hair-decorations and beads.

Already “Engaged”

Samburu girls are also circumcised (clitoris removed) but individually either when young, as a teen, or right before marriage.  Unless she has had the procedure, termed by others FGC (female genital cutting) she is still considered a girl and an unsuitable sexual partner. The samburu beading practice is a practice which ALL Samburu girls MUST go through either partially (for educated girls during their FGC or as they wed) or completely (for illiterate girls who have never gone to school other than the Shepherds School that started recently). Beads are a part of their lives as they grow up.  The practice is normally initiated by parents around puberty, but possibly earlier.  Morans (warriors) buy beads

With beaded partners

for a specific girl and she qualifies as  his legal girlfriend , accepted by the community, now usually with her assent. This tradition of morans buying beads for girls is slowing down, but remains a special indication of a Samburu girl’s beauty, as do the beads given by parents and uncles.

All beaded Samburu girls MUST undergo FGC and marriage for a bride price at any age decided by the parents especially the father and uncles. The girls are often married by 12-14, their youth and naivety  preventing them from doing anything about it.

Mary,Married after secondary school, now on to college with husband’s and in-law’s blessings and assistance with her child

Girls who have finished 8th grade and attend secondary school, become a better marital candidate, so all is delayed.  They also can resist such practices and if forced are knowledgeable enough to report to the relevant authority. If  an unmarried Samburu girl who has undergone FGC becomes pregnant there are fewer consequences for her and her boyfriend than if she was still a girl;  if one has a legally accepted boyfriend the risk of pregnancy is very high.

Story 1  Sabina  is a 20 year old Samburu Quaker from the Friends mission in Loltulelei.  After her mom was widowed and left with nine children, she removed Sabina from school Class 4 to tend an uncle’s goats.  Two years later Sabina insisted on going back to school and finished Primary Class 8;  she could not get a sponsorship for secondary school, so repeated class 8 applying herself to learn even more of the material.  She succeeded and was the highest scoring Samburu girl on the end of the year exams.   She refused the family demands for her to be beaded and become a marriage candidate, in order to bring a bride price to her mother, who was caring for 8 other children.  

Sabina by her house with mom and brothers

Thanks to a secondary school sponsorship to St Theresa’s Girls High School from Save the Elephants, she continued her education and became interested in conservation through this NGOs support program for sponsees. After graduation, she was again pressured by family to marry; a wealthy Samburu Kenyan airlines pilot  wanted her.  She held her ground and now is studying Conservation Biology at Kenyatta University, Nairobi – one of Kenya’s prestigious schools.  She plans to return to Loltulelei and establish a conservation organization after graduation.  There is none in her area.

Through her courage and pluck she has opened doors for herself.  The rest of the family is following a more traditional trajectory.  The eldest brother finished secondary school but lacked school fees to join a college, so he is at Loltulelei primary school volunteering as untrained teacher. Two other older brothers, who left  primary school, are morans, living with their age-mates.  One sister was married off at fourteen and has children.  The other sister got pregnant at age 12-13 with a moran; although there was shame involved, she had the baby, is living with him in his parents family compound and is going back to primary school.  He is working as a mechanic in the neighboring city.  The younger three boys are still in primary school.

Sabina eagerly shared her story with me, the next post will contain the  related story of Sammy and his wife Demaris whose paths took a different direction. Please contribute to literacy projects insuring healthy choices for girls.


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Only One Meal a Week

Micah 6:8 “… And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice (tzadakah) and to love kindness (mercy) , and to walk humbly with your God?”

Background -Bags of maize (corn) from the Shamba: Peeling Potatoes

Two days before Mwandani, the feeding of the street people preparations started.  Niva Kegode has a farm plot where she grows maize and beans, which are harvested to form Githeri, the staple of the weekly meal.  This week’s portion was picked over for rocks and debris, put in a pan, covered with water and soaked. Niva shopped for cabbage, green pepper, tomatoes, carrots, onions and garlic to make a nutritious stew, but the price of potatoes was too high.  The following day, outside under the porch, the helpers started slow cooking the Githeri over a charcoal stove.  It was a challenge to keep enough water, since the municipal piped water stopped over two weeks before.  That day she went to market to buy goat meat, a change from the usual chicken.

Six AM the day of the cooking, Marcie and I were up to have our tea and be ready at first light to leave for the wholesale vegetable market to buy potatoes, which are loved by all but expensive. While there we bought mangos, avocado and peas for ourselves. Others started cooking the rice over the charcoal fire.  On arrival home, the Ghideri was ready. We began peeling and peeling potatoes, onions, heads of garlic and cutting vegetables.

Stirring Stew

Each was added to the oil at the appropriate time, beginning with the onions, garlic and meat.

The meals are packed in plastic bags, allowing filling at home and more cost effective than paper plates.

Filling Bags

First a large serving of Ghideri is place in each bag, then rice, then stew making sure each bag had potato and meat – 98 bags in all, each weighing about a pound.  We licked the bottom of the pan, the stew was so good.

Really Tasty

We parked on the street, near a place where the shoulder is grassy and wide with a large tree.  People are already waiting in two lines – some have been there for hours making sure they wouldn’t miss out.  Marcie greeted each one shaking every

Greeting everyone

hand, the traditional way of

Niva Kegode Encouraging the boys and men

acknowledgement and then Niva spoke of her faith and the need to try and rise up from despair.

Hard Lives

She warned the children to stop sniffing glue and some of them gave her their bottles.  They know each person who comes regularly and will help them with courses,

Women and children, too

books, trainings, etc.  Marcie prayed and then we began to serve the food taking five bags at a time, at first it was orderly, but as people became afraid that there wasn’t enough they got up and started crowding around.  After being brought back to order we served the rest of the bags.  The ten latest arrivals got none.  On receiving the bags, they were torn open by teeth and the feast began.

Collecting Plastic to Sell

Images of the children still remain on my heart;


most were thrown out for one reason or another and left to fend for themselves.

The rest of the week they live on over-ripe mangos and avocado gleaned from the wholesale market and do odd jobs for money to buy a little something.  Some who used to be here have a home now and steady work.  The families  hope to get their lives back together.  There is no safety net in Kenya.  Noone provides a daily meal.  Shelter beds are rare. As the population rises, the ability of the rural areas to support people will lessen and there will be more homeless. Last week they fed one-hundred twenty-eight.

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Boys Living on the Streets

Watching Inside/outside

The 3-4hr Matatu trip from Nanyuki to Nakuru was more interesting because of the Video CD playing Christian World Music.

Vendors Everywhere

I arrived to the chaos of the Nakuru Matatu stage (station) and was led to a bench in front of the office to wait for Marcie, a Kenyan Friend who married an American four years ago.

Marcie Thinking About Home

They have been together a total of  11 years and he has adopted Rozlyn, her child from a previous marriage. She was deported 3 years ago, saying it would take 8 months for her to get papers.  She remains in Kenya; Rosalind and her husband Tony are in the US.  She busies herself with family and taking care of street people, especially “her children”.  (For more on immigration.)

Nowhere to Park

There is no parking where the matatus are crowded around, so she walked me to the car, carrying my duffle in classic Kenyan fashion, one handle over each shoulder.

She took me to her favorite restaurant and as we parked the car we were greeted by four boys that come to the weekly street people feeding, some of “her children.” She told them to watch the car and we went in and ate.  Coming out we joked and bantered with them.  Marcie had found a sponsorship to secondary school for Job Ocheing, since he had done well in primary school. He was thrilled to become a student, even though he is sixteen as he starts the equivant of the Ninth Grade.  She had already bought him half of his uniforms.

The next morning we planned to go to Lake Nakuru National Park early but as we were getting ready, we received a disturbing phone call from the boys.  They had spent the night in jail for hassling a Mzungu (white). The police had picked them up right after we left.  I was the Mzungu.

Off we went to the courts, being sent from door-to-door, building to building.  We were both upset and infuriated.  Finally a very nice municipal guard took us to the public health office, through it, and up to the prosecutor’s hidden office.  We told our story, not faking the tears.  After about an hour, we were sent with someone to the office by the holding cage.  The officials talked and then the man with us   told us to stay back, went and accompoanied our two out.  We were motioned to follow behind,  Once out on the sidewalk, we met.  The boys were not bitter about being jailed, just thankful to be free.  That afternoon, after going to the park, I bought and gave Ocheing the rest of his uniform – sweater and shirt.

Out of Jail and with Mama

Clothes can make the Student

The next day in town, we saw him coming with his friend Joseph Kariuki, who also wants to attend school, but has no fees.    Job had completed  school  registration; he gave me one of the best hugs I have had in Kenya. Now to find money for Joseph.

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Goatherd to Ornithologist

Joseph Aengwo, Following a Dream

A Turgen Home

Joseph, a small 10 year old Turgen boy was out herding goats.  He saw a small group of Mzungus (the tribe with the white bodies) pointing and exclaiming. With the interest of a child he moved near to see what was going on.

Rocky Terrain for Goats

It was birders and he caught their excitement and recognized the thrill of seeing the different species: he began learning the songs.  He started following the birding parties and then with sharp young eyes, helping the guides.

Living in the Rift Valley

He finished primary school and a Swiss lady recognizing his talent sent him to secondary school.  He new that he wanted a career as an guide and ornithologist and another Swiss benefactor sent him to Wildlife & Tourism School.

Knowledgeable Guide

Now he is a skilled guide and runs his own tour company, Silent Fliers Safaris.  He has personally sighted over 700 Kenyan birds and maintains a  blog,  Kenya Birding, where you can enjoy his and others’ remarkable bird pictures.

Fence makes the Schoolyard Green

When he is not working he stays in his home territory right next to Lake Boringo and his passion is to work with local children to preserve the landscape that he grew up with.  He is very concerned about over-grazing and pointed out the difference in flora around the school-yard – because there is a fence.  He formed the Lake Boringo Biodiversity Conservation Group to do outreach to schools.  As he said, you can’t change the parents, but if the children change they will change their parents and their environment.   

Denuded Land and Prosopis

He pointed out the Prosopis Juliflora, a very thorny Mexican shrub, introduced to prevent soil erosion, now horribly invasive taking over the habitat of the acacia tree which is useful, home to birds, and slow growing.  The only good thing about this plant is that it is dense and good for charcoal.  One management strategies is to allow villagers to use this plant even live, sparing the more valuable acacia. It is also good for making furniture; they have created a new craft with it. Yet still it remains.   Case study from the Lake Baringo area of Kenya - Invasion of prosopis juliflora and local livelihoods  by Esther Mwangi and Brent Swallow reviews  the problem also helps us think about other invasives .

Marcie and an Acacia

Marcie kegode Bishop, sister of the clerk of our meeting in Fargo, ND joined me on the birding adventure. During our two evenings with Joseph we saw over fifty bird species. Marcie became quite expert at recognizing them.  I relied on the pictures in my camera, until through a finger-slip deleted the majority of them.  However Joseph has wonderful pictures on his Kenya Birding blog.  Before we left the very helpful Robert’s Camp, the woman who takes care of those of us in tents and bandos came for some medical advise.

Medical Care Freely Given

Thank-fully something in my personal stash could help her. 

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