Friday, 23 October 2009

Generous People Will Make It Christmas At Twiga

Since the beginning of 2008, I have been collecting old cell phones for sale in Kenya. Last year, this effort raised enough to buy all our kids a new pair of leather schools shoes!

I have continued to collect cell phones, but they are becoming rarer. So I put out a plea for toys and games, as we approach Christmas - and my departure for Kenya.

Orphaned kids in Kenya don't do Christmas. They go to church, but other than that, Christmas Day is just another day to survive.

Anyway, I just want to say a big thank you to Sophie, 10 years old, who lives in Newbury. She has given up her complete collection of Barbie dolls, 15 of them! Her little brothers gave 4 or 5 cars and a few other bits and bobs.

Anne, also from Newbury, gave us a load of cuddly toys, and some games, such as chess, draughts and card games and a junior Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.

Mia, a South African, also from Newbury gave us some games and some seed for our vegetable plot.

Our kids at Twiga are going to have one very good Christmas, even if it will be a little early - I will be back in the UK for the day.

But we still need money to feed them (and to build the much needed children's home), so if anyone is feeling generous, or wants to do some fund-raising, please feel free. Donations can be made with the PayPal button in the right margin.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

OK, I'm British - Official

While I was pushing my mother around hospital in a wheelchair, I was rammed unceremoniously from behind by one of those motorised mobility scooters.

What did I do?

I turned round and said, "Sorry!"

Only in England ...

Monday, 19 October 2009

I Wonder If I will See ...

I am about to embark on my fourth trip to Kenya since September 2007. The previous trips all lasted about a month as will this one. But during all these trips, I haven't seen a wild animal close up.

That's not quite true. on my first trip, I was driving from Nairobi to Kisii, via Nakuru, and while on the floor of the Rift Valley, a small herd of zebra weaved is way through the almost stationary traffic, passing immediately in front of us. There were also  a few baboons sitting on the rocks at the side of the road, watching us go by.

On my second trip, travelling from Kisii to Nairobi by matatu, I saw, in the distance, a herd of giraffe mingling with a herd of goats, tended by a very small (Maasai?) boy. He looked very small against the giraffe.

Other than that, I have seen lizards scampering across the walls of every home I have stayed in, the largest cockroaches in the world (probably), and a centipede as think as my little finger.

In Kisii, close to the  house, there are a lot of raptor birds who nest along the river. They are good to watch, but when they are the only wildlife to be seen for a couple of weeks, the novelty wears off.

While staying at the coast, I saw a hedgehog wandering around the compound in broad daylight. The kids were delighted until they realised that it could not be stroked!

So this time, will I actually see what Kenya is famous for? A lion, or rhino, perhaps a hippo, an elephant, or my personal favourite cat, a cheetah would be nice.

It would make a change from the goats, cattle, chickens and dogs that roam in, around and through every town and village.

When I was in South Africa, twenty years ago (OMG, was it that long ago?), I visited two game parks regularly, as well as the Sandton Lion Park and a reptile park, not too far from home. I made the most of my stay there. I was licked by a giraffe, charged at by a rhino, and hissed at by a puff adder.

(Note: I don't recommend the being charged at by a rhino experience. It was bigger than our car.)

So, I think it is about time I experienced some of the animals of Kenya that aren't found sharing my bedroom / compound / shoes / food, or that aren't destined to become my dinner one day.

We'll see.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

More KCIS on the BBC

As the UK representative of Kenyan Community Initiative Support, I have been invited to appear* on BBC Radio Berkshire again, immediately after my next trip to Kenya, that is 14th December.

We have been there before, twice now, on Clare Catford's Sunday Faith programme, but this invitiation is for the weekday afternoon programme presented by Sarah Walker, who has a "Desert Island Disks" slot from 3 to 4 pm.

A whole hour of free promotion of our cause. That can't be bad.

*Not strictly an appearance if it is radio. What is the right word?

Stacey Dooley; Where Did She Pop Up From?

... and I don't mean Luton Airport (like Lorraine Chase).

With little else to watch on the 40 or so channels I receive on TV, I was channel-flipping when I came across a programme, Stacey Dooley Investigates. As it was about Cote d'Ivoire, I stopped flicking and kept one eye on the box.

My immediate impressions was that the investigator was a young air-head looking for fame. Oh, how wrong I was!

Stacey Dooley may be young, but she is no air-head wafting in from Luton Airport. She is not a "professional" broadcaster, but what she lacks in experience, she more than makes up for with genuine passion and feeling for kids who are unscrupulously exploited for the desires of the developed world - fashion clothes from India and chocolate from Cote d'Ivoire.

OK, it is true that only a small number of children in a small village will benefit from her efforts. She managed to re-open a classroom at the local village school. One more and the school will be recognised by the government and will then be supported.

One small step. But it also brought home to us, the fashion-loving, chocolate-munching developed world, just how we get these delights that we don't even think about.

How kids are working 12 hours a day to produce T-shirts. How small kids with machetes are harvesting the beans to make our chocolate. Now, I look at a bar of chocolate and think of those children.

Judging from comments on Stacey's Facebook and on YouTube, I guess I am not the only person to be moved by her programmes.

So, all I can say is 10/10 for effort, Stacey. I hope you take up a career as a reporter of child exploitation in the future (if you haven't already). And I hope that you will visit us in Kenya one day. We could show you a thing or two.

Kisii - Here I Come

I have finally managed to book the flight for my next visit to Kisii in Kenya. I nearly didn't manage it - I had been monitoring the fares for the three carriers that fly direct from Heathrow to JKIA and they had remained stable for a while at around £390 return, which i find reasonable.

However, yesterday, I was finally in a position to actually book the flight, so logged on to the Kenya Airways website, only to find that the fare had increased to £491, £101 more than I could afford.

My heart sank, as the three carriers usually follow the trend together. But not willing to give up, I logged on to the Virgin Atlantic site and was overjoyed to find that their prices hadn't increased. But, I have to phone to book with Virgin Atlantic as their on-line payment system does not recognise my debit card, Maestro.

45 minutes of musak later, I had booked my flight [at this point, I would like to say that the VA booking staff are first-rate] and a couple of minutes later, my e-ticket was in my email Inbox!

So, I am leaving the UK on 11 November, arriving at Jomo Kenyatta on 12th at 9:05am, and should be in Kisii in time for tiffin.

During my stay, I hope to meet like-minded people in Kisumu, Nakuru and eslewhere. I will also be working on perfecting the methane collector (otherwise known as the anaerobic digester), setting up rain harvesting at the Twiga Children's Centre, and finding a potter who can make some clay gadgets that could be popular.

I will also be talking to the local council on various matters. I would love to see a few tourists visiting Kisii. It has a lot to offer, but I would not like to see it spoilt. Kisii is a typical dusty, chaotic African town with a lot of charm, but it would benefit from a little injection of tourist money. But the town needs to clean up, roadside rubbish is a big problem, but as a lot of it is vegetable waste, it could be composted. Some of it could even be used to make methane which can then be used to power generators or other static, petrol fuelled machinery.

I will attempt to footage for a new video showing the plight of orphans and vulnerable children in Kisii, including those at Twiga. Although I have a half-decent camcorder, I am not a film producer/director/cameraman, and although I have an idea as to what I want to show and how I want to show it, I don't know if I am capable. Only one way to find out!

Luckily, VA have not changed their baggage policy - yet - and I am allowed two pieces of hold baggage at 23kg each, as well as small hand luggage. This means that a lot of clothes and toys that were donated to the Twiga children will finally get there.