The end of January bought some wonderful Kenyan sunshine for Dave Stubbings, his wife Maxine, Jason Coyle & Stephanie Hickman. We flew out to Nairobi laden with suitcases full of uniform from Carisbrooke C of E Primary & Weston Academy (which had recently closed). Unfortunately, we did not manage to get through Nairobi customs without some of our luggage being checked. We had to pay £50 on uniform that had been donated free, even when we explained that we were a charity.
Arriving at Kisumu some 24 hours later, checking into the hotel we met up with Evans (Director of Uzima), and a young teacher called Austin. Here we spent the next couple of days buying supplies for the centre, and finding the best deal for the much needed shoes.
Sunday 29th January we made our way to Uzima guest house, a tricky little start as the driver decided to try and go over a central reservation and we ended up pivoting like a seesaw for a while. Once we were back on the road we only stopped for a quick photo on the Equator, and paid a few schillings to see how the water changes direction when standing in the Northern Hemisphere and then moving into the Southern Hemisphere.
Once we arrived at the guest house the driver could not open his back doors to get our cases out! His pivoting had jammed his doors, so searching for tools we set about stripping his van down, seats first until we could rescue our cases.
After unpacking Maxine cooked us a wonderful supper, she proved to be a godsend when it came to cooking. Who would have thought rice, beans and lentils could taste differently every day? Although all of us are quite happy not to eat porridge, rice and beans for quite a few months, we need to pause for thought as many children would be delighted to have this food every day, as Westerners we are truly spoilt.
The following morning, we walked down to Uzima and were greeted like royalty, the children formed 2 lines which we walked through. They cheered and clapped and their faces were beaming, it was a very emotional moment for all of us.
After being shown the completed school building, and looking at all the classrooms we felt extremely proud of what our hard work and continual support from supporters has achieved. The school still requires guttering, painting and another water tank to collect the rainwater. The kitchen is nearly complete and we hope it will be functional in the next couple of months. Pascali, (the cook) has done an amazing job cooking for nearly 300 children in such awful conditions.
The children welcomed us by singing, dancing and putting on a small play. Once the festivities were over we set to the task of distributing school uniform, taking photos and measuring the children's feet. Most of the children received a new full uniform except the older children, we would arrange a visit to the nearby market to ensure that they got shorts & dresses for the girls. Luckily we had some extra clothing, mainly football shorts and dresses which we gave to them, so they didn't feel left out. We were pleased to hear that the general health of the children remains steady, Jiggers are under control and they are regularly wormed. There had been a few cases of Typhoid, and with support from the nearby clinic investigations were under way as to the probable cause. There is a small shop located at the entrance which sells items to bring a small income for the school, as is water from the borehole. The fruit trees that were planted late last year are growing well and should be due for harvesting in 18 months, Oranges, Passion Fruit, Water Melon & Avocado. Adjacent is a field growing kale which is used and sold by the school.
We did the usual home visits, some of which we found quite destressing! Some of the conditions that families live in is appalling. Pictured here is a young lady called Sharon won lives with her mother, Aunt and all the siblings in one tiny house illustrated in the background. Despite their obvious poverty they appear happy and truly thankful for Uzima.
During the 2 weeks we had plenty of time to interact with the children, playing volleyball, netball & football. I spent a morning teaching the older children how to play rounders, a game which they thoroughly enjoyed and have decided to put into the games curriculum. Jason showed the younger children many ways to play with the parachute, and even though they didn't quite grasp some of the concepts; preferring to hide under the billowing parachute, they all had tremendous fun. The skipping ropes and French skipping proved very popular with the girls, and many hours were spent rekindling my childhood.
I had a lengthy chat with the head teacher, Mr Laban who expressed a desire for more story books for the children, when he showed me his supply it was indeed very small. I have made the decision to post a 2kg package to Uzima once a month containing books, pencils and such like. If anyone else would like to do this also, please contact me Steph Hickman.
On our last day we arranged a party consisting of biscuits, squash and a lolly for the children. Competitive sports were played teachers, trustees against the children. I am pleased to announce that the teachers won the rounders' but we failed miserably at volleyball! Shameful really considering Jason & myself play once a week. Still it was a wonderful way to end our visit.
Sadly, we heard that once we had left, Uzima had a visit from the Department of Health & Sanitation claiming that unless work commenced immediately on installing more toilets to their specification then they would close the Centre! This task was next on our list after the kitchen was completed, unfortunately they do not work with us!
The Government Departments may keep giving us hurdles to jump, but these children work hard to improve their lives! (shown opposite) Uzima Academy a charity run school came top out of 300 schools in the Samia District. This list includes Private schools as well as community schools. Imagine our delight.
My last visit was in 2014, and I can honestly say that the children look far healthy and certainly smile more. The improvements are obvious when you look at the children; Without your support this would not have been possible.
So on behalf of all the trustees please accept my sincere gratitude and bless you all.