Sunday, October 13
The group met up on the Saturday night at the Best Western Hotel in Nairobi, having been picked up from the airport by the local NGO – Access Kenya. This is a family group trip; we are all cousins (and an Aunt) from England, plus two from Canada. After a good night’s sleep we all got together over a hearty breakfast before loading the vans for our trip north to Naro Moru.
Before leaving Nairobi though, we went out to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. The trust rescues baby elephants, that are orphaned from game reserves around the country. The elephants are bottle fed until they are two and are re-introduced to game parks when they are around five years old, the process takes at least five years before a wild herd will accept them. This was a lovely visit where we got close to and even touched the baby elephants; a lovely experience.
The drive north took a few hours including stops at a mall to get some supplies and lunch at a roadside service station north of the city. Naro Moru is a lot higher than Nairobi and so quite a bit cooler. The lodge is at the end of a dirt road and set in a nice garden. We were greeted with a warm welcome and after settling into our rooms there was a tasty supper waiting for us.
Monday, October 14
Today was our first view of our project at Kinyiaga primary school. The weather was atrocious with heavy rain leading to lots of mud. However, the group’s spirits were not dampened as we had a wonderful welcome from all at the school.
After our welcome address we toured the school and discussed the various requirements with the “Access Kenya” local representative.
One of our priorities is to renovate the toilet blocks and as you can see we discussed and then demolished the outside wall which had sinks in but was in danger of falling down. Dan Miller, our Team Leader” built the Inukshuk.
David Jones, DWC Volunteer
Tuesday, October 15
One group finished the girls’ toilet wall. The second group dug drainage channels outside classrooms and kitchen that had no gutter and spread the spoil from the old wall in front of classes to stop the mud. Whilst outside the kitchen we were invited in to taste the children’s food which was cooking in the large pots. Lunch was Maize, mixed beans and cabbage which feeds the children a hot, nutritionally balanced meal every day. Two cooks, who are parents of children at the school, prepared the beans for tomorrow.
The third group carried on putting up facia boards in readiness for the new gutters.
Sheila Glanville, DWC Volunteer
Wednesday, October 16
Arrived at school today on a bright and sunny morning, to find about 50 parents already digging to prepare the school kitchen garden. This area was previously an abandoned fish pond of about 25 x 10m.
Immediately some of the team got stuck – in working alongside the parents, helping to level the ground.
The rest of the team finished demolishing the wall in front of the boys toilet, clearing the site and started rebuilding it.
After lunch we were unable to continue our outside work, as the heavens opened and there was deluge of rain. So we were then given permission to go into several classrooms to interact with the children. My husband and I went into the 10 to 11 year olds classroom where we enjoyed talking to the children about life in England and answering their questions.
The highlight of the day was when the whole school sang Happy Birthday to me and other songs in English, Swahili and their local language Kikuyu.
A wonderful end to a unique day.
Jane Stanford, DWC Volunteer
Thursday, October 17
We made the most of the dry, sunny weather this morning to continue digging the kitchen garden and completing the last 3 courses of stone wall on the boys latrine. Unfortunately, we were rained off just before we could finish the wall. The ground turns to mud so quickly which makes it really hard for everyone to move around the school grounds- children included. Most of the children wear gum boots as we have been doing too. After lunch the rain let up enough to get the wall finished which was very satisfying.
We also took some school supplies today that we had brought with us from home which the school was very happy to receive. Two of our team have a link with a primary school in the UK and were given several boxes of exercise books to bring for the local school children. It will be a revelation for them when they see pictures of the school.
All in all a good days work despite the rain.
Jacqui Richards, DWC Volunteer
Friday, October 18
Only a half day working today, so time was of the essence. The weather was fine, so we split into four teams and sprang into action.
Team 1 finished off the boys’ toilets, where we had completed the wall yesterday. This involved repairing the wall to the urinal and re-plastering with several layers of robust water-proof render.
Team 2 removed the old corrugated roof of one of the girls’ toilet blocks, which had all the water-resistant qualities of a lace doily, and replaced it with new roof panels. The highlight of this project was the sight of John the carpenter running down the hand-made ladder face first. Less enjoyable was having to carry this monstrosity about the place in the sucking and very slippery mud.
Team 3 set about digging the foundations for the new water storage tank. An 8-foot diameter hole, 2 feet deep. Much advice was received from the locals on how such a hole should be dug, including practical lessons and the curious instruction that the diggers “should always face the mountain.” Far from being some local ritual to propitiate the god of digging, this turned out to be very sensible advice about how not to hit your partner with your digging implement.
Team 4 worked on digging ditches to drain water that had been pooling around one of the classrooms. As this involved digging in already liquid mud, this appealed to the mudlarks amongst us.
With the application of prodigious amounts of energy, all tasks were completed before the heavens opened at lunch time.
Suddenly we were at the end of week one of our project. Much had been achieved and sore muscles and blisters had been won through much effort and great team work. We had made many new friends and were all incredibly impressed by how much the local people achieved with so few tools, no electricity and no machinery.
Now we had the weekend to recover from this week’s exertions and prepare for next.
Saturday, October 19: A wildlife cornucopia
The weekend was a mixed bag for weather, with torrential rain on the Saturday and mainly nice weather for the Sunday.
On the Saturday we had decided to do a hike on Mt Kenya, we set off in good weather and stopped for a photo of the mountain clear of cloud. The climb up to the park gates gave us sightings of water buck and buffalo as well as some monkeys, we then drove up to the Meteorological Station at the end of the paved road at 3000m elevation. Although we set off in dry weather, the cloud soon moved in and the rain started. The first 350m of the climb was through the forest before we broke out on to moorland. Some of the team decided that was far enough, given the weather and lack of a view. Some (fool)hardier souls kept ongoing to 3600m, where we should have had a panoramic view of the peaks. After a bedraggled lunch we headed back down to the van, and then to the lodge to dry everything out.
Sunday, October 20
On Sunday we got up very early to see nice weather and headed out to Sweetwater/ Ol Pejeta Game Sanctuary. This a vast private game reserve with a 100Ha chimpanzee reserve in the middle, where Jane Goodall’s chimpanzees were moved to, from a reserve in Burundi in 1995. This was a lovely visit in itself but when combined with the game reserve it was spectacular. None of us had ever seen so many animal species in such a short time; everything from elephants to lions and a cheetah. We were super lucky and the rain only returned as we were leaving the park. After an exciting drive into Nanyuki on a very muddy road, we stopped for lunch and some retail therapy.
Monday, October 21
Today we recommenced our work at the school after the weekend break.
The team split into three groups:-
One group continued on the foundations for a new water tank. This involved further excavations, a concrete base and construction of a circular wall, most of which was below ground level. The second group assisted the mason in plastering the outside boundary wall of the girls toilet block.
The third group worked alongside some parents to dig a 70 metre long trench in preparation for the installation of water pipes which are going to be installed later to the toilet blocks.
Work stopped earlier today to give our local workers some time off as it is a National Holiday.
Graham Stanford, DWC Volunteer
Tuesday, October 22
Well it’s the 7th day working on the project and we can really see a difference, but we are also frustrated as we might not get to see all our work finished.
Today we have been working on a number of things. Plastering the newly built walls on the boys and girls latrines. Getting the water to and installing taps in the sinks for the latrines and building the base for a water collection system.
A project important to the women on this trip has been the distribution of reusable Sanitary towel kits. These are from a great organisation called Days for Girls. Many girls in Kenya miss essential school days during their periods due to a lack of sanitary products. Three of our group gave a very successful talk and demonstration to 45 pupils at our school and distributed the kits to these girls. Two more sessions are planned at other schools tomorrow. Rain pretty much stopped work at lunch time, but Jacob our plasterer did one more wheel barrow full of plaster before calling it a day in the pouring rain.
Then back to the guest house, but because of a power cut we’re all sitting round the log fire in clean, dry clothes but in need of a shower.
Another great day.
Wednesday, October 23
All woke rather despondently as yet again it was raining and didn’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
Once we got to site we had a group on making the basins for the girls toilets. A group on putting more guttering up. A group helping in the garden and giving advice on how to lay it out into manageable plots. The girls in the group have been very keen to refurbish the hygiene room for the girls when they are menstruating. Yesterday we went into Naro Moru after work and bought paint, brushes, a clear corrugated roofing sheet and coat hooks and handles. Today they managed to paint the room and also get the new roofing on. That left my sister and I clearing out the store room. It was in complete shambles and we thoroughly enjoyed sorting it out and making room.
After lunch all the girls had to leave to go to 2 different schools to educate and hand out the Days For Girls kits. This was a very humbling experience. The girls were extremely receptive and we tried to make the course enjoyable as well as informative. Although we had only worked a half day at Kirinyaga, we were still quite tired from the interaction with the girls.
It didn’t actually rain today so we ended up getting more completed than we expected so all feeling we need another 2 dry days to maximise our efforts.