December 7th 2012 marked 18 months in Kenya for me. While my experience has been overall amazing I have to admit it has been a rollercoaster ride. Joining Peace Corps I was always told that I would take away so much more than I would give. I didn’t think this could possibly be true, but it is. Kenya has made me a stronger woman in every aspect of my life. I know what it is like to walk an hour to town just to get electricity, lift 10 liters of water out of a well when I need it, wash my clothes by hand, use a pit latrine and be judged or harassed just because of my skin color. Life is simple, but it is not easy.
I have tried to make my projects over the past year and a half as sustainable as possible. I have taught women how to make reusable sanitary towels, held cooking classes, and started a school library and garden at CBSM. I have also taught life skills at two secondary schools on a weekly basis and have had nutrition classes at the hospitals in Kimilili. I have had women’s and men’s health/sports days encouraging physical activity and health awareness which have been extremely successful. have applied for solar cookers and lamps for the women’s groups and orphans of CBSM but I have yet to hear back. Perhaps my best week in Kenya was Camp GLOW sponsored by PEPFAR. This was a weeklong camp to empower and teach high school girls about HIV/AIDS/STIs/STDs, pregnancy, career opportunities, income generating projects, etc. I realize my projects are small scale but I want to stray Kenyans away from the “every white person has money” donor mentally. Just giving them money but never teaching them the importance of capacity building and sustainability is (in my opinion) not the right way to go about development work.
For future projects I would like to build a rain capacity storage tank for CBSM. Sometimes the tapped water is turned off or just doesn’t work and I think it is important to have another clean and readily available source of water for the students. I would also like to have a jiggers outreach and treat all of the CBSM children infected with jiggers. I hope to also paint a world map mural in one of the new classrooms if possible and will help Racheal Singley wherever needed in her efforts with the children’s home.
I honestly think my most rewarding projects are not projects at all but the everyday conversations I have with Kenyans sharing my culture and learning more about theirs. This cross-cultural exchange has made me a much more open-minded, tolerant and patient person. On the flip side, I have been told from many Kenyans that they have learned a lot from me as well. These conversations and experiences are the things I will miss the most when I leave in August. Well, that and the beautiful simplicity of life here.
Community Breakthrough Support Mission is excited to announce Margaret Biketi as the new Project Manager within our Woman and Youth Empowerment Program! Margaret has been with CBSM since 2008 as Head Mistress in our school and will now be taking on an exciting new role in our Empowerment Program.
“When I started at CBSM we only had 30 children and a lot of hope to impact the lives of the hundreds of needy children in the area,” explains Margaret. Since then CBSM is proud to support and teach more than 350 students at our school. “Because of the great success of our school project I hope that our Woman and Youth Empowerment Program will grow to help the lives of others within the community just like our school has.”
Margaret has been working closely with Zaida our accountant and leader of our Woman’s Table Banking Group to communicate with the woman involved in these projects to understand their needs, ideas and short and long term goals.
CBSM has 10 active groups of woman in our table banking program that meet weekly and pool together funds that a member or members may borrow for a fixed amount of time with interest to invest as each group sees fit. Some women use this money for short term projects and/or to invest in various tools/materials etc. to boost their personal businesses. Businesses vary from agriculture, selling second hand clothing and farm products, brick making, shops and a food hotel.
These businesses have been a lifeline for many woman and their families as it is their primary and sometimes only source of income. Margaret will be working closely with the table banking groups to provide materials, education and other tools to help them expand and improve their businesses.
Margaret is excited to dive into her new role, “I am really looking forward to helping the groups and understand how to improve our programs for them so they can experience success.”
CBSM is so thankful for Margaret’s determination, passion and positive energy and believes that she is the perfect person to lead our program to long term sustainable success!
Please check back for updates of the woman involved in these programs and how you can support them!
Zaida, Phylis, and Breezie (left to right)
(written by Mandie)
As some of you may know, we have a Peace Corps Volunteer, Breezie, who will be staying in Kimilili for two years. She has only been in Kimilili for three and a half weeks, but has really gotten down to work!
With a degree in nutrition, Beezie has been conducting nutrition talks to a local hospital's VCT clinic, to newly HIV diagnosed individuals. She will continue to educate others about proper food choices on a weekly basis at the hospital every Wednesday and Thursday morning. During her first talk she spoke about three types of food that can be helpful during an infection and/or illness like HIV/AIDS. Bodybuilding foods to repair the body during illness, protective foods to fight infections and energy foods are essential to maintain immune function. This information is very helpful to those who are newly diagnosed and who may not understand the importance diet can be.
Breezie has also been doing many other things, which has kept her quite busy. Recently, she attended a Community Health Workers meeting in Kamasielo and has been communicating with various group within the community, assessing their needs. Many have given great ideas that the community would like to see established or created.
Breezie has really enjoyed her time in Kenya thus far and looks forward to what lies ahead in the coming months.
On the morning of the 31st October, 18 members of a little known community in the Northwest of Ireland, woke to the beautiful sight of a clear, dry brisk October morning.
This was the start of a very good day indeed, a day these 18 people were going to walk some 10km to raise much needed money for a charity they had not heard of before until a member of their community, Vicki became a volunteer with in September of this year.
It was through the images and stories that Vicki sent home on a daily basis that this small openhearted community known as Enniscrone/Kilglass too became involved in the lives of CBSM. Although some 7,500 kms away from their reality, they could see and feel the need of these women and children. So, when asked by Vicki to help fundraise, there was no hesitation just willingness to do what they could to help.
At noon on the 31st October, all 18 people met at the starting point - the little village of Easkey to commence the sponsored walk back to Enniscrone. Through laughter and high spirits they blissfully made their way, knowing that no matter how little or large the sum raised it would all go directly to a very worthy cause.
At every passing car they rattled their collection buckets, smiled wholeheartedly and carried on their way. Some 2.5 hrs later some walked, others were dragged but eventually they all passed the finished line. It had been a wonderful day, the sun, smiles and laughter and the images imprinted in their minds of the beaming faces of the CBSM children made the 10km journey effortless.
It was a day where one small community in the far corners of Northwest Ireland reached out the hand of friendship to a small community in the far corner of Western Kenya. A friendship that over time will grow into one of respect and loyalty and a true understanding of the meaning of giving and receiving.P.S. Rev. Wasike would like to extend great thanks to all the wonderful people in Enniscrone/Kilglass, Ireland for their unquestionably grand efforts to help the children and women of CBSM. The land purchase is now secure! We will also be able to purchase a soil block press to help construct more classrooms, install dry toilet latrines, and hopefully also a school kitchen.
by Rev. Wasike
We are in high gear preparing for our CBSM Kimilili Bake Sale and Raffle. This fund raising event is to take place tomorrow at the CBSM Education Center. Margret’s women co-op is doing the baking, the other women co-ops have been mobilising the local community to turn up in large numbers. We have involved local government representatives, women groups, and guardians of the children, friends and neighbours.
We are praying the sun will shine and many people will come and participate and make the event successful.
by Lia (introduction) and Rev. Wasike
Those of us working with the Community Breakthrough Support Mission often get asked why we are focusing so much of our efforts on helping women co-ops and youth groups to build successful small-scale businesses. Recently, Rev. Wasike wrote the following about our work in general and empowering women and youth specifically. I'd like to share with you his thoughts on the matter for the eloquently argue the matter:
The essence of all of our work is to make the community a self-reliant and independent collective. This compels us to initiate programs that may be realised by the women in the local community. Women in Kimilili and the surrounding area have not been allowed to partake in running business es because their husbands do not approve. They believe women should stay culturally apart where they can bring up their children in the homes; irrespective of whether there is food available or whether their children are attending school or not. Traditionally, women have been competing in the number of children they give birth to as a form of status since polygamy is still practiced.
For as long as I can remember, youth 's work in our community was to take care of the livestock. Tragically, this livestock no longer exist in large scale as used to be, hence make this group is left idle and hence a source of violence and crime in the community.
My understanding is that what a child needs most today in order to be self reliant tomorrow is food and a good education to unlock potential of the child. A child also needs shelter for security and health when sick.
Most men in Kenya, and this is culturally approved , believe it is okay for them to inclusively use any income increase they earn to increase the number of wives. The bigger their families are, the more respect they earn in the community. This is unlike women, whose first priority is the wellbeing of their family (parents and children).
I believe that by empowering women and youth in the community, we are doing something similar to doing an overhaul on an engine that we can always count on for the rest of our long journey. Thankfully, it is becoming more common to see women running business than it was previously. Yet, without proper knowledge on how they can best do business and without the proper capital their journey is arduous.
Hence if a chance arises for us to empower one woman who has 10 children, what we are doing in creating this opportunity is taking care of the 10 children. In fact, starting the women empowering program has already created real help. For instance, during the last school term almost all the vegetables the school cooked for the children came for free from the women co-ops we trained in our first two CBSM Gardening Vocational Training Program workshops. During the workshops, we taught them best business practices and gave them water pumps and seeds.
This term we have avoided the cost of cooks, as four women who had applied to be enlisted for workshops and our facility was not able to accommodate them, offered to do the cooking at CBSM school for free for children this term . They did this on the condition that they would be able to attand the next series of workshops. They have done wonderful work this term, reduced the cost of running the school as salary for cooks is recurring cost and recurring costs are very painful always come when one one is not ready. Fortunately, we are happy to be giving our next workshops in August, which they will be able to attend.
It is our belief that through collective will and work we will offer our children a safe and happy environment to grow in.
By Rev. Wasike
Our garden project started as many project here start, by taking small steps with big hearts and strong wills. Since the plot of land that our temporary school stands on is too small, the planting was done in various places in the area; depending on the free portion of land donated for this season by the Kimilili community.
We managed to plant cassava plant, maize, cow peace, and kale (sukuma wiki). We are hoping to raise some funds so that we can purchase some land adjoining the school, as well as a plot of land 15 minutes walk away that is bordering on the river.
I spent some time over the last day making this presentation to explain my motivation and experiences working with the CBSM community. I hope you enjoy it.
by Rev. Wasike
The CBSM board members and some of our community members organized and collected food donations and contributions. Thankfully, the children will now receive lunch and porridge during their school day.
The donations were in form of maize, millet, sorghum, beans and firewood. So, as of tomorrow, our children start receiving meals at school.
We had to discontinue this service during the times we had problem with landlord in the beginning of this term while we were building our new temporary facilities. The food donations will hopefully allow us to provide lunches for the next month and a half. God is great.
Many children were suffering having to go without lunch or travelling long distances for lunch and when they came back, they were too tired to learn any more.
Thank you all for your continued prayers and efforts for the project.
The Community Breakthrough Support Mission recently had some visitors to Kimilili. Can you guess who they were? Well, Esther and Judith from Our Song Circle - Wimbo Mviringo site. Isn’t that wonderful?
We had wonderful time. We took a tour of the CBSM facilities, met with our children, and discussed possible school exchange projects in the future. Esther came with Caleb, one of the children from her school. We all appreciated this opportunity to meet and get to know each other.
We talked about the role of technology nowadays. Judith has regular access to computers and the Internet. Esther is learning how this technology works. Even though we all have different levels of media competence, we are equally convinced of its importance. Technology is essential to facilitate connection, collaboration, and communication.
At the moment, we are in the process of exploring various possibilities ourselves. Eventually, we hope to be able to have the means to let our children have access to this technology and create projects with the support of this technology.