Saturday, September 5, 2009

Government at Work

Jambo All!

Patty and I have been out of easy Internet range for a few days so we are a bit behind in our blog. In fact, I am attaching a picture of myself using the computer in a field. I had to climb up a hill before I could access the Internet. What you don't see is that a herd of cows and goats had just passed around me minutes before. I'll bring you up to date with this entry.

On Wednesday morning we had a very exciting meeting. We had a meeting with the Honorable Richard Onyonka, MP, Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs. He is the elected Prime Minister of the Kissee District and then is appointed by the President to be the Assistant Prime Minister of Foreign Affairs. We went into the meeting hoping to get him to earmark some dollars for the IkoToilet project for schools. He is on board! In fact, he is so excited about the project that we have a follow-up lunch with him on the 14th with the people from IkoToilet and the Minister of Water for Kenya. How is this possible? We are getting to the right people and they are so enthusiastic about what our U.S. students are doing. They cannot say "no." Now H2O for Life will have the Kenyan government as a partner on many of our projects.

From there, we headed back to Christopher's home and village of Kathungu. We would also like to see the IkoToilets compliment the work we have done there so we headed off to a meeting with the village leaders including the Chief (like a state representative) the Counselor, (like a mayor) and the leadership (like a city council.) We never want to force a project on a community that does not want it or support it. We presented the idea of IkoToilets and school and they love it! Now we have to wait and see if they are willing to contribute the 50% matching funds from their CDF funds. (Community Development Funds) If they can do that, we will work to get our schools on board for this exciting opportunity to provide clean water and latrines to the schools! Keep your fingers crossed! We had one more meeting with another District Official who controls CDF funds and just paid a courtesy call on him at the request of the village leadership. There are lots of layers to the approval process in Kenya but everyone we have met with is encouraged that the government will find funds to help in this endeavor.

After all of our meetings, we finally made our way back to Christopher's. In a way, it felt like we were going home. All the kids and women were there to great us. We spent the afternoon visiting. Patty brought along light-up bracelets for all of the kids. In the dark Kenya night, it was fun to watch the excitement on the kid's faces as they marveled at these.

We awoke the next morning to a bit of rain. Kenya is so dry. We shake our clothes out at night to remove the dust. This little bit of rain was welcome but it was not enough to do anything other than to help control the dust.

We had a meeting in the afternoon with the women from the village. They have formed a Woman's Group who are also looking to make improvements in their community. They gave us a request for an addition to their existing dam. Further research is needed but we hope that we can help them find a solution in the coming months. It was an interesting meeting. We always have to have someone interpret for us. Although most Kenyans in this area speak English, it is the kids who know more English than most older adults. Something is said and everyone starts laughing except for Patty and myself. We hear the interpretation and start laughing after everyone else is finished. It is much like watching a movie with sub-titles. We are both very happy to see women start to take an active role in the politics of their villages. They have a long way to go but before we left, we had them chanting, "We can do it!"

The rest of the day was spent polishing the girl's nails and teasing the boys. We also spent most of the afternoon working on a video of girls and their need for water at schools. Once it is put together, we will send it out to all of our schools. Patty is the next Steven Spielberg! We spent lots of time in the kitchen with the women and enjoyed the camaraderie. Both Patty and I took a turn at making Chipati. I am not certain why all the women laughed at my Chipati!? Oval is a nice shape.

We are now in Amboseli Park. Amboseli is a Masaii word that means very dry and dusty. Wow. Did they get that one right for this area. Last night we sat outside our lodge and watched gazelles, a hippo, wildebeests and a herd of elephants walk by. They were only a few feet away from us. It is amazing to witness these sights and I hope that this area can be maintained for many generations to come so that we can forever view the animals in their natural habitat.

We head to the Masaii area around Rombo tomorrow. We will be out of range for a couple of days before we head off to see some of the projects completed by Student Movement for Real Change.

We will think of all of you as you enjoy this last weekend of summer. Get ready for a fun year and continue to work on your H2O for Life projects. Your work is making a significant difference in the lives of these students. The only sad thing that I have witnessed on this trip is that there is so much work to be done but together we can make change happen!

Val and Patty

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