Its been forever

It feels like its been forever since I last wrote a post. Ive been back in Kenya since September and have had a number of challenges to work through, so this update has taken a while to write. For a recap on the past two months or so and a bit on what its like to live in Kenya. Here we go.

In January this year we decided to take the next step to become registered as an international NGO (Non Government Organisation). Reason being, we needed a wider capacity to do what we want to do out here and being certified as an international NGO helps in a big way. It means we have working plan, structure, constitution and strategy for the future. Our working plan is obviously that, a moving plan that is flexible, adaptable and will keep us focused and moving forward. The process actually took just over 8 months to complete, but we were eventually granted the certification in October. The name of our NGO is Kitendo Children’s Charity Programme. The definition of Kitendo in Kiswahili is ‘action’.

We have had the threat Al Shabaab ever since I’ve been living here in Kenya. Al Shabaab are an extremist group with strong links to Al Qaeda. The main base for the group is just over the boarder in Somalia. Shabaab means ‘youth’ and so they mainly recruit youth from Somalia and Kenya. One of the key reasons Kenya youth have joined the group is poverty and unemployment. These two problems have convinced 100s of youth from Kenya to join the group in the promise of money and working for a worthy cause. Its worthy in the sense that they are Islamic and will fulfill their religious calling. Recently in September and October, four foreigners, one British, one French and two Spanish nationals were abducted and a killing of one British national all in Kenya on or near the north coast. This is nothing new, as the group have done this sort terrorizing before, but this time, it has damaged one of Kenya’s main economic earners, tourism.
In a climate that is already volatile due to the ongoing challenges Africa has, this has been a stab right in the back. With warnings against all but essential travel going out in US, UK, France and other countries this has had an effect to destroy the image of Kenya as a safe and exciting country to travel. Two of the foreigners were actually Spanish medical aid workers posted in Dabaab Refugee camp, the biggest in the world where thousands of Somalis have come too from the drought and conflicts in their country.

So Kenya went to war with Al Shabaab in mid October. Partnering with the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia, the army have been working through parts of Southern Somalia on a mission to wipe out militia operating in the camps, while attempting to create a buffer zone between the two countries. So far they have taken some strong holds and are presently heading to one of the main ports and biggest income earners for the group, Kismayu. Al Shabaab have obviously not taken this lying down so the threat of attacks in Kenya have been promised from the group. Nairobi has been talked as on of the main targets being the capital where government is and the largest population lives. Security right across the city has been beefed up to the point that almost every building there is security padding people down, mirrors under cars entering shopping malls.

Where we are now with all of this is that we are living with an eye on everything. In saying this I mean we are fully aware of the threats, which could be acted upon any day in any place. There have been 3 attacks so far. It has been all over the news for the past month and so being aware of where you are is important, but at the same time, it shouldn’t control your life and prevent you from living. This weekend I came to Nairobi to get coffees, food, WIFI and chill in a new cool cafe at one of the main malls. Its the first time in a month that I’ve come to Nairobi, where I would usually come through at least 1-2 times a week.

Its effected me in a way that you just don’t know where or when they might attack. One of the explosions happened right where we take transport back from Nairobi to Naivasha. But then next time it could be some where completely different. Its not Afghanistan or Nigeria where the attacks have been devastating and very common. But we are at the beginning of something, that has no end date to speak of. You just have to be smart and not ignorant.

Apart from this we have moving forward at KCC. We are enrolling 26 kids into primary school to start school in January next year. The cost is US$50 for everything they need, like uniform, school fees, shoes, school bag and government registration.

Food costs have doubled since the start of the year out here. For example a 50kg sack of sugar used to cost us 4000ksh (US40) now its 10,000ksh (US110). This has stretched us a lot, but we are somehow managing.

Our Womens Group has been flying. They have just completed a massive order of 400 pieces of jewelry for a fair trade store in the US. They make paper beads from old magazines that are then beaded together to make necklaces, anklets, bracelets and earrings. The group empowers the women with a trade, income and support network. We divide the sales 3 ways whereby the women receive the largest percentage (50%), then materials and costs (37%) and the school receives a small donation of (13%) of the sales. The sales have been increasing and the quality of the product has improved a lot and they now have a export standard of workmanship. So I’m happy for them and this initiative is showing some good results from our hard work getting it set up.

For Christmas I’m heading to Uganda with a good friend of mine who’s here in Kenya for a second time doing an internship with us. Really looking forward to heading to Uganda! It was the first African country I came to back n 2006, and I have always enjoyed being there. So Christmas and New Year will be in the Pearl of Africa as they say. I really enjoy traveling to other African countries, each country is unique and has its own distinctions.

Since being here I have been camping four times with my new tent! I bought it in England in August and wanted to go camping a lot more while out here. Where we live there is the massive lake Naivasha and it has camping sites all around the lake. One of our favourite places has a brilliant bar and restaurant as well as hot showers, pool, huge trees, big grass areas and places to soak up the gorgeous Kenya sunshine.

I don’t get sick out here, I have the occasional migraine and headaches but that’s it. I’ve never had Malaria or any of the sicknesses that go around. There are a lot of things you can get sick from out here, food and water being two of them.

My showers are currently once a week, and that’s a good cycle. The usual rate is 2 weekly. I mean proper showers. Bucket showers just don’t quite do that same trick for me! I’ve got the art down, I just don’t feel like I’m that clean afterwards!

Then there is hand washing. There are no washing machines so everything is hand washed. That means you need to plan ahead of time and make the effort, usually on a Sunday morning and typically one and half hours or so is the right timing, depending on how well you wash your clothes!

Power cuts are now scheduled for every Thursday in Naivasha. So from 6pm to bout 10pm we have black out. This means lots of candles and sometimes going for beers. Not such a bad thing at the end of the week. Beer here is quite cheap and actually not that bad. The local beer is called Tusker and is light larger and to be honest its a refreshing break from the work.

Thats a bit about what Im up to, whats going on and how I live here. Ill try and write more frequently with updates on life in Kenya.

Love and Peace.

One thought on “Its been forever

  1. Awesome Marcus. You always blow me away with what you are up to and your living conditions/ environment. Coffee in Nairobi always sounds so exotic and exciting! Glad you have that place you can go to and feel relaxed and chilled.
    Lots of love and prayers Marcus- Jols, Phil and our wee sprogs.


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