Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Why Kisii?

Kisii is a town, but also a District in the province of Nyanza, Kenya. It is situated in the SW of the country, in hilly country, mainly above 5,000 feet. Although it is only some 70km south of the Equator, the climate is pleasantly warm, around 25°C during the day and rarely drops below 15°C at night.

There is no rainy season as such. It can rain pretty much all year round, and the soil in the area is extremely fertile, except where it has been over-farmed.

The area was a coffee-growing area, but due to difficulties in receiving payment, the local farmers have reverted to subsistence crops.

The area also supports bananas, avocados, pineapples and other exotic fruits.

So, why have I made my base in Kisii town? I have been asked this many times, so it is about time to put the answer down "on paper".

First, I think it is necessary to explain briefly my connection to Africa.I was contracted to South Africa in 1989, during the apartheid era. I was politely asked to leave when the authorities found out I was too friendly with the ethnic population. I always wanted to go back to Africa, it had got under my skin.

Then, a few years ago, I was asked to manage the Rhino Ark website. Rhino Ark is a conservation charity in Kenya, so there it was, a (rather tenuous) connection to Africa.

A little later, I was contacted by ACIS, a Nairobi-based organisation, asking if I could supply cheap computers to schools in Kenya (I was, and still am a computer consultant in the UK). I couldn't help, but in conversation, I got roped into building them a website.

Soon afterwards, a children's home in Kisii contacted me, also looking for computers. Again, I offered to build them a website. We communicated regularly and became cyber friends.

Then, purely by chance, I met a rather pretty, intelligent, educated, Luyha lady over the Internet. She lives on the coast with her two children.

With all this going on, I was beginning to plan on going out to Kenya, which I finally managed in September 2007.

I was hosted by the director of the Nairobi-based organisation, who made me very welcome. He booked my coach to the coast so that I could meet up with my lady friend (that worked out rather well, by the way!).

On my return to Nairobi, I met people at WHO and KeNAAM. Then I arranged a trip out to Kisii to visit the children's home.

As soon as I arrived, I was "adopted" by a cute little boy, Josephat, who dubbed me his Baba Mzungu (hence the blog name). I met many of the kids, and was shown the plot where it was hoped the orphanage would be built.

I returned to the UK after a month in Kenya, and vowed to return as soon as possible.

I did, in March 2008, after a delay caused by the post-election troubles.

I went straight to Kisii, where I stayed for about 10 days as a guest of my friends Vincent and Abigael, the directors of the children's home. I made another vow. I wanted to work with Vincent and Abigael, in Kisii.

After another 10 days on the coast to see my "New family", I returned to Nairobi, where I stayed a further 10 days.

Upon my return to the UK, I started to work on the projects we had discussed.

Vincent and I eventually decided to form a new organisation, KCIS, of which we would both be directors, or trustees, and we would incorporate the children's home, renamed Twiga (giraffe in Swahili).

Vincent, Abigael and I are now ready to start the practical work that we have been planning for a year. We will turn the plot into a shamba (farm), where we will install the projects, grow food for the children, hopefully with a surplus that we can sell.

So, that is "Why Kisii?" Pure chance, if you believe in chance, or was I guided there?

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