It has been a busy two weeks for Uweza in Kenya and now we are finally getting a moment to update everyone on our projects. Everything has been going well, although we know there is much to do yet. It has been great coming back to see how much most of the projects have grown over the last year, despite the devastating effects of the Kenya election violence in December of last year. Despite the disruption that lasted months, it is great to see how rapidly we are expanding. We have spent the last two weeks in Kenya mainly surveying what needs to be done and thinking of how we can best put to use over the coming months all of your donations. We are especially looking more into how we can achieve greater growth and reach as many as possible with the funds provided to us, and we cannot even begin to express how much your donations will help us. We are working hard to ensure that each and every dollar we use is spent wisely. We have some new projects in the works as well that we hope will be a good partnership with Uweza.
As for our Soccer League, we are working to expand to a town in Western Kenya called Malaba, located on the border of Uganda. Currently, we have two soccer teams in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, but we are organizing to create two additional teams in Malaba. While visiting a children’s home in Malaba the first week, that cares for over 150 orphans, we saw most of the boys had organized a soccer match amongst themselves, and were using a ball made of rope and plastic bags. They had no shoes or equipment, and their goal posts were made of stripped branches from the trees nearby; and then we thought, why not reach out to provide for these boys and girls who had already organized their team, and provide them with lessons and equipment so that they can grow and learn more from their recreation. So, I then visited the site last week to talk with the coach and organize a roster for the boys’ team and the girls’ team, and will be back in the next coming weeks to officially start the lessons and practices. We are hoping we can provide this opportunity for the children in Malaba because it will be one of their only organized activities.
And in Kibera, we spent the last week visiting the two teams at their practices and seeing what can be improved as well. This week we finalized the roster for the moment, and took all the new boys to the market to get shoes; they were beyond ecstatic. For some of them it is their first pair of real shoes they have ever owned, and especially for the younger boys, it was great to see their faces light up when they got their own pair. At the first practice we had a few donated cleats that we have to the boys on the Under 12 team but we did not buy them socks yet. One boy who received shoes, Brian (age 5) pictured on the left at practice, did not want to take his off the entire practice even though without socks they were hurting him, but he refused to not play with them even for the day. He was so excited to have them, at every break he would crouch down in pain, and then continue to play. Another boy who received shoes that day, James (age 7), the moment practice ended he took off his shoes and sat down and started to intensely clean them. They are all really enjoying the lessons and tournaments, and it is great that they can organize into a productive activity outside the orphanage walls a few times a week. Thanks to previous donations, we brought uniforms from the US to bring to the boys on the two teams. We have not told them they will be getting them this week and we cannot wait to see how excited they will be. Also, we are trying to organize a trip for the boys in September to see the Kenyan national soccer team in the World Cup qualifying match against Namibia.
The Tunza Orphanage itself is also doing very well, and over the last year has received around 12 new children, making the number of orphans living in the Center now over 70. Surprisingly, the children that we know do not look as big or different as we imagined they would grow in the last year. We have been working on seeing if we can get together a girls’ team or a productive activity for the girls as well, since the boys have the option of joining the soccer team. The space has recently expanded and an additional floor was built onto the left wing of the orphanage. We are looking forward to discussing soon some ideas for improving the orphanage with our orphanage partner organization, Faces of Kibera (facesofkibera.com). Currently, the orphanage is working to be registered with the Kenyan government as a children’s home; with this comes extra requirements and improvements that are needed to become registered. This week we will start renovations on the building and repaint the entire orphanage as part of the registering upgrade requirements. We are excited to help put donations towards this because registering with the government will bring a lot of benefits to the orphanage, and the upgrades and improvements will make Tunza Orphanage a cleaner and safer place for the growing amount of children.
We have also been working with our school project, Jamii Children’s Center, although it has been a difficult start with the school because it was severely affected by the election riots. Most of the previous staff and administration had to flee Kibera during the election because of threats against them and their families, or their homes had been destroyed. The school, therefore, did not start this term until March, and have struggled since to get back on their feet. Even now, the three classrooms and the storeroom are being lived in by refugees who do not want to leave. We have spoken to the police about this matter, but they have been given 3 months to find new homes. So now, all classes have been combined into one class that learns outside in the main hall. All of the supplies that were located in the storage room were stolen as well, except for a few mattresses, the water tank is often empty because the refugees misuse it, and one of the two new toilets for the school has been taken over by the refugees as well. The school remains with just the kitchen, where the supplies are hidden at night, and the main hall area.
Most of the previous students themselves have also relocated to different areas; last year their had been over 90 students and now they have started the term with just 20, many of them new. Although it is sad to think that many cannot attend school anymore, the small number of students starting this term now means that we can provide for them much better and it will be easier to implement more programs now that the needs are lower. Over the last few months, Uweza initiated a fundraiser project that raised money for backpacks filled with school supplies for over 100 students. This week we gave 20 of the backpacks to the Jamii students. Before this week, most of them sat while the few who had school supplies received work from the teachers. Now, all the students will be able to learn with their new supplies. The kids did not know they were going to receive the backpacks, and so they were ecstatic when they were given to them; and opening them to see all their new supplies and books, they ran around screaming in excitement. Also, we had a project last month where friends of the organization sewed balloon covers to make the balloons last longer while the children played. The project was a success and we brought them this week to Jamii and the kids wore themselves out running around kicking the balloons for hours.
As for future involvement with Jamii, we are working on improving the kitchen to provide better for the students and the staff. Right now it is a small, enclosed area in the back of the school, and everyday the kitchen staff make a fire within the room, causing smoke to collect for hours as they cook. Also, because it is like this it takes a long time to cook the food and a lot of firewood to continue the cooking throughout the morning. We are hoping we can build a stove that will direct the smoke out of the top of the kitchen and make it more healthy and efficient for the staff. With the students, we are organizing school field trips to take them outside of the slum to places such as the zoo and airport, where we took the students last year. Also, we want to take them to a health clinic soon to get physical checkups, as well as the eye clinic to have their eyes checked (many suffer from vision problems or eye infections), as well as to a clinic to receive immunizations.
Additionally, a few of the students who graduated from Jamii and were to attend Grade 1 at primary school have instead returned to Jamii because their guardians cannot afford the school fees. The students placed top in their classes last year, but instead must sit with the younger students relearning what they know because they have not been sent to primary school. With Uweza’s new sponsorship and scholarship program, we have awarded these students scholarships to attend primary school, and are currently looking for sponsors for the remaining students. To see about sponsoring one of these children, please visit www.uweza.org/sponsorship and if you have any questions about the program, email me at email@example.com.
Furthermore, we have been working extensively with our health project, Tumaini Health Outreach and have been busy with home visits and patient hospital care. We have been able to visit many of the patients that your donations have helped to support over the last few months, and all of them have expressed their sincere gratitude for all of your help. Currently, three of the patients have been sent to the hospital for further care through donations, and they are improving rapidly now that they have access to quality medical care. All of them are so grateful they have friends who are willing to help them in their times of medical needs, and we everyone who helped was here to really see how your donations are working to support and provide for the health needs of these patients.
While at the hospital visiting one of our patients the other day we found a girl named Jenny in the next bed that was age 15 and has late stage AIDS; she had been born HIV+. She was admitted to the hospital two weeks prior and was discharged a week later but no one had come to pick her up. She was asking if we could help as she saw us helping our patient in the next bed. When asked about her family, she explained she had no mom or dad or siblings and they all had died and she was alone. She has been stranded at the hospital with no one to take her home, we have talked to the hospital social worker who claims that Jenny's grandmother can't afford the transportation home. We are going to try and see how we can help.
Also, for the other patients in the program we have been providing food for them during home visits, as many have continued to struggle since the election riots. Through home visits we have been hearing many of the patients’ heartbreaking life stories and how they came to be in the program. For example, one of our patients told us the story of how she came contracted HIV and then came to Kibera. She was born in Western Kenya and her family arranged her marriage with a local man practicing polygamy, and she became his second wife. She had 3 children with the husband and then he died but she did not know what from or his medical conditions. The husband’s family then kicked out her and her children off of the family’s land and she moved back to her maternal home where she started to become sick and was tested positive for HIV. Once at her maternal home, her family shunned her and her children as well, and so she decided to come to the city of Nairobi to try and receive treatment and also because she had nowhere to go. Now she struggles to provide for her children by working part time jobs of washing clothes and selling vegetables, but she says it is becoming increasingly difficult with her health afflictions to sustain a living and provide for her children. Many of our patients stories are very similar to hers.
Additionally, one of our HIV+ patients is currently 7 months pregnant and we are working to ensure that her child is born and continues to live without HIV. For this, we monitor her throughout the pregnancy, and during birth we will ensure she is taken to a proper hospital to receive treatment. If the birth is done properly with medical professionals, there is only a 2% chance the child will contract HIV during birth. After the child is born, we have promised to provide formula for the patient so that the child doesn’t contract HIV through breastfeeding; this can be an expensive process, but we are looking for local organizations who may help to partner with us and provide as well.
And lastly, for our relief project to support victims of the Kenya election violence, we have not had the time to discuss how we can continue to support the relief camps and refugees but will be working on this for the coming week. Last week, I visited a refugee camp to see a former student of Jamii and realized there is still definite needs for these people who have been stranded for months with no help. The camp had over 300 refugees, all living under plastic sheets hung over tree branches to act as tents. When visiting the student, she was living under one “tent” with her family and shared it with 10 others in the camp. When it rains, the area becomes a cold, mud pit and a breeding ground for disease and viruses, so many of the refugees live in sickness. We are thinking of the most efficient ways to serve these people that have been struggling for months now, and will be updating you shortly on what we come up with.
So, I think I have explained all the recent news of our projects and I apologize if I have dragged on at all. We at Uweza just want you all to know as much details as possible because you cannot be here yourself to see all that your donations and support are providing for. We hope we are acting as good representatives of you and your support here in Kenya and if you have any questions or want to know more about a specific project we are working on, please feel free to contact me or Jen through our contacts page. Also, if something here has specifically intrigued you and you would like to help more or have any ideas yourself, please contact us. We are busy, but we would loveeee to hear from you all about anything and will try to get back to you as soon as possible.
Asante sana sana sana na kwa heri na kuamkiana.
(Thank you sooo much and goodbye until we greet each other again.)