Friday, 19 March 2010

The Sound Of Silence

Simon is about eight years old. He is a stocky, healthy-looking child with an open face and ready smile, but he is deaf. I don’t know quite how deaf he is. If I clap my hands loudly enough, he will sometimes hear it (or sense the air pressure?), and if I make a loud, high-pitched sound with a reed, he will hear that. In fact, he gets quite excited when he hears it, which leads me to believe that he doesn’t hear much else.

When Simon was a baby, about five months old, he contracted malaria. As far as I know, he was taken to hospital and treated, but then lost his hearing. I don’t know if this loss was as a result of the malaria, the treatment or coincidence – I am not a doctor.

So, Simon is deaf. As he lost his hearing at such an early age, he has never learned to talk. He makes sounds, but I don’t know if he can hear them. He knows that when he makes a sound, people will look at him and he can then sign to them, or use facial expressions to convey something.

As is common in Africa, Simon appears to be left to his own devices by his family. Children with “disabilities” are not useful. In fact, some can be considered a burden on the family, something that depletes already scarce resources such as food. I am not saying that Simon is treated as a burden, but he is often seen wandering around when other children are at school.

We believe that Simon is bright. He shows an aptitude for photography. For a child of his age, he takes well-framed, in-focus photos. He is fascinated with photography and understands how to use the different functions of the camera when shown.

We would love to help Simon, but we do not have medical people on our staff, and we don’t have the financial resources to have his hearing (or lack of) tested.
  • Would Simon benefit from a hearing aid? 
  • Is his condition reversible? 
  • If I take an old, discarded hearing aid to Kenya, will it do any good? 
We don’t know. I don’t suppose any doctor would like to hazard a guess without examining the child, but that is what I want you to do, hazard a guess as to why Simon is deaf and whether there is anything that can be done for him.

It is a shame; Kisii has an excellent school for the deaf, run by the deaf. But we cannot afford to send Simon there, and his family certainly can’t, so we will try to glean some authoritative guesses from the medical profession and work from there.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Free What ... ?

Having put the few thimbles full of diesel that I can still afford into the car, I went to pay. As I paid, the cashier said, "Do you want free sausage rolls?"

My ears pricked up. "Free" is my favourite four-letter, F-word.

I followed his pointing finger to a basket with the ticket stating, "Sausage Rolls - 3 for £1.00"

I was disappointed, but I remembered a discussion on the local BBC radio about whether spelling, syntax and pronunciation is important these days. Well, I guess this episode proves that it is!

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Waste, Graft and Corruption

I have read various accusations and counter-accusations regarding the efforts of Band Aid to raise money to alleviate the Ethiopian drought, and how that money was diverted (or not) to buy arms.

I read that NGOs and other organisations are going around the Third World sinking boreholes in villages to give them easy access to clean water, but make little or no provision for maintaining the boreholes or the pumps needed to extract the water, rendering their work a total waste of time and money - donation money.

And it makes me mad to see the money of good people, given in the hope that they are making a real difference to less fortunate than themselves, tipped down a bottomless pit - or pocket. I applaud the donors, but I curse those people who misuse the money, either through lack of research or pure greed. It's all the same to me.

But we, the charitable organisations should be a little more careful with this money. It is not ours to waste, any more than the taxes collected by governments become the money of those governments to squander on nice houses, big cars and other "necessary" expenses to keep them in a high lifestyle at the expense of the people who employ them, the population of the country they serve.

It is not just the big charities who are guilty. I was asked to work for an NGO registered in Kenya and I accepted, until I found out that the main activity of this NGO was to convince British charities to provide them with computers, supposedly for schools. Needless to say, the computers never saw the inside of a school, but were instead sold on the open market and the money pocketed by the head of the NGO.

I quickly disassociated myself from the NGO in question.

We, that is KCIS, have been asked on occasion to check out supposed local organisations making claims from charitable foundations. Our enquiries have usually found that the claimants are making false statements in order to obtain funds.

We know of a charity in the UK, which is totally above-board, but whose local officials are fiddling the books and pocketing large amounts of money sent to them to build and refurbish schools. Instead, the officials have very nice houses.

What can be done about this intolerable situation? I don't have an answer.

Our organisation doesn't receive much money, just a few pounds here and a few dollars there. We have a director who is both a trustee of the charity in the UK and a director of the NGO in Kenya. The staff in Kenya are dedicated. We do not have a problem with money being siphoned off.

We see wastage at all levels and dream of what we could achieve with a fraction of the money, compounds full of 4x4 vehicles that are never used, charity workers in Nairobi driving around in high-end cars to and from the offices ... anyone in any capital of any developing country will see it.

We  can only dream of what we could achieve with a fraction of this wasted money.

Monday, 15 March 2010

How Old Do You Feel?

I have been bombarded with literature (adverts) from SAGA. For those who don't know, SAGA is a company that offers a host of services for over-fifties, such as car insurance, holidays, etc. It is not necessarily the cheapest or best, but it is tailored for the over fifties - so I was annoyed, very annoyed, until I realised that I was over fifty.

Now, I am approaching the age when I will be entitled to a free bus pass, that is, sixty. When this was pointed out to me by a "friend", I told him that he was mistaken - but he wasn't. In June I will be of that age.

So I would be able to travel for free - if only we had a decent bus service.

The problem is, I don't feel sixty. I don't even feel fifty.

OK, I admit that the body isn't as supple as it was, but then it never has been that supple. I suffer back problems, which I believe were caused by an incident when I was a serving police officer - many years ago.

I suffer from osteo-arthritis due to having broken my ankle in the early 90s. Both injuries were incurred long before I was fifty.

I am happy to delude myself about my age. I am as old as I feel, surely? And it is a nasty shock when I receive literature from SAGA to remind me that I am mortal and that my age number is creeping up.

It is also a shock when I realise that the average life expectancy for a man is 77 years. Now that makes me feel old!

Things I Will Say To My Mum Today ...

Taking a leaf out of the Millennium Housewife's book (or blog)

Good morning, Mum
It's Monday
Do you want toast or Museli?
Marmalade or honey?
It's Monday
You asked for honey.
I am sure you did.
It's still Monday
Yes, you take all the pills after breakfast.
Yes, all at the same time.
Look at the top of the paper, it's Monday
I am not shouting.
Put your hearing aids in.
Both of them
Well don't moan if you can't hear me then
It's Monday
Do you want some lunch?
Ham sandwiches
Yes, you can have them toasted
I did ask you if you wanted ham sandwiches.
Well, I've made them now
It's Monday, all day
Do you want a cup of tea?
No, I'll make it (under breath - I want it today)
We've having pork chops and something
No, there's nothing you can do, it's all under control
I'm doing pork chops
No, there's nothing to do. I've got it all under control
Those are pork chops
I'm going to grill them
No, under the grill
No, I've got everything under control
Just go and sit down. I will bring it in to you.
No, don't eat a cake now, you won't eat you dinner
You won't
Dinner will be in five minutes
See, I told you not to eat that cake.
I'm not surprised. You rarely finish your dinner
Because you eat cake just before I serve up.
Yes you do
OK, no you don't
No, I am not in a mood
Do you want a cup of tea?
No, I'll make it.
It's Monday.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

What Joined Up Thinking Can Do In Kenya

The idea was to put an electrified fence around the Aberdares Conservation Area.

  • To stop wildlife marauding onto farm land outside the fence
  • To protect the farming communities and their crops that border the fence.
  • To curb illegal log extraction.
  • To promote harmony between wildlife and local farmers.
  • To prevent illegal entry into the Conservation Area.
So why is the Aberdares so important?
  • One in three Kenyan's livelihood is dependent in some way upon the rainfall, rivers, forest and wildlife of the Aberdares - one of the nation's largest mountain ranges
  • Five out of Kenya's seven largest rivers flow north, west, east and south providing hydro power and water to millions of farmers and seven of Kenya's twelve towns.
  • The people of the nation's capital, Nairobi - over 3 million - are entirely dependent on water from the Aberdares
  • Over 30% of the nation's tea production and 70% of its coffee is grown on its foothills and high slopes
  • Over one million farmers living on its lower slopes depend upon its rich soils and rainfall.
  • It is one of the largest indigenous forests in East Africa.
  • Its wildlife is profuse. It is the home of several thousand elephant, and buffalo, forest antelope, leopard, the rare and endangered giant forest hog, the largest known number of the highly endangered mountain bongo and over 270 species of birds
  • It is one of the surviving strongholds of the Black Rhino in a truly wild habitat
  • The Aberdare National Park within the 2,000 square kilometres of the of the Aberdare Conservation Area is one of Kenya 's prime national parks. It is the place where Britain 's Queen Elizabeth stayed on the night she became a monarch
  • Two world renowned game lodges - Treetops and The Ark enable thousands annually to see Black Rhino and hosts of other wild animals in this natural habitat and at very close quarters
The project, a joint venture between the KWS and the Rhino Ark charity is now complete. Farmers with shambas on the edge of the conservation area are very pleased. Elephants and other animals can no longer raid their crops.

The black rhino, the bongo amongst some of the rare breeds of Kenya are protected. Indigenous forest is protected and the water table is protected.

Job done!

Well, no, not quite. There is still a lot to do, not least of which is maintenance, and other expenses like the wardens' salaries, etc. Rhino Ark are building huts for the wardens, and there is a need for small 4x4 vehicles.

But, look at the achievement, almost 400 km of electrified fence erected around a mountain range.

This is what can be done when Kenyans, ordinary Kenyans, not politicians, organise themselves in a worthwhile project.

Now, how about doing the same for the Mau?

For more details of what Rhino Ark and The KWS have achieved, visit the Rhino Ark website.