Posts Tagged 'Isiolo'

Arriving in Africa

Arriving in Africa: By Nyla Rodgers

Dancing with the women of our partner community in Kambi Garba, Kenya.

A week before leaving on this trip to Africa my best friend’s mother told me, “When all the other little girls were make believing they were princesses your were busy pretending you were in Africa.” After hearing this I started to think back and realized that I always had a fascination with Africa.  I remembered that I wrote my first grade essay about Kenya. I remember using my grandpa’s atlas to trace the outline of the country and drawing the mane of a lion like a sun with an orange crayon.  And in 1986 when I was 7 years old and Paul Simon came out with “Graceland” I would belt out the song “Under African Skies” and imagine all those stars and think “someday I will see them.”  So it was no surprise to me that 20 years later when I first stepped off the plane in Nairobi,  I felt like I had returned home.
This is my 6th trip to Africa and ever since that first trip in 2006 I continue to fall deeper in love with the culture of this incredibly beautiful continent and people.  I feel like each year my heart must expand so that it can fit all the love I receive and give as we travel to all our different partner communities.
This year I am traveling with Amy Vaninetti, Mama Hope’s Operations Director and Bryce Yukio Adolphson, Mama Hope’s Visual Journalist  and so far we are having an amazing time.  During the next two months we will be visiting all of Mama Hope’s seven partner communities across Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana.

Playing with the students at Ngeya Primary

This is Amy’s second trip with me  and it is so fun to be traveling with her again. She is constantly glowing and bringing warmth to everyone she meets.  She feels like I do that a part of her heart has always been here in Africa.
We are also traveling with Bryce who is on his 5th trip here documenting Mama Hope’s projects.  Everyone knows him and his camera.  His Swahili is almost perfect and when we arrive to a community immediately people are calling his name.   He will be busy documenting all of our adventures with his beautiful photos and video.

Bryce in action with partner Rocky Muuri in Maai Mahiu, Kenya.

For the next two months, each of us will take turns writing on the blog.  We are not just going to be sharing project updates we will be posting our personal stories, funny times and crazy adventures.  So stay tuned because as we’ve learned  the unexpected is always expected.

Kids Singing in the Kitchen

This is a pretty common occurrence in the kitchen at Wind of Hope. The three girls (each waiting to be placed with a family) Miriam, Bushi, and Amina started out by studying their English with words like rock, flour and car. They eventually moved to their favorite pop songs. I don’t think I could have managed to memorize “Hips Don’t Lie.” …but they did. To the right is our founding director, Nyla, peeling tomatoes and humming along.

– Bryce

Three Takes on Community Gardens


The Ngeya Training Garden in Maai Maihu, Kenya

The Ngeya Training Garden in Maai Maihu, Kenya

Since leaving Tanzania, Nyla and I have been traveling throughout Kenya helping to implement drip irrigation projects with communities in Mai Mahiu, Isiolo and Kisumu. Earlier this year Mama Hope received a grant from the William Zimmerman Foundation to launch these gardens. Initially, we thought of doing a single pilot “Demonstration Garden” that we could replicate in all three communities. Though, in typical Mama Hope fashion, the gardens have evolved according to the needs of our partner communities. Jargon? Yes, but it’s true. Single template solutions only seem to work on paper. Here is a brief rundown of the three different approaches to the gardens. We’ll have more about their progress as time moves on.

Comfort the Children, Maai Mahiu, The Rift Valley

The Enviroment Club in their training garden at Ngeya Primary School.

The Enviroment Club in their training garden at Ngeya Primary School.

First stop was up in the Rift Valley about an hour north of Nairobi. Small buses whine up steep hills, pass broken guard rails, overlooking the expanse of the Rift Valley. Up the hills towards the town, volcanic ash mixes in with the farm lands and winds roar up the town’s main strip stinging the face and the clouding the eyes. Our partner project here is Comfort the Children International (CTC), an American based, but locally run organization working to create sustainable project models for local community based organizations.

Earlier in 2009 when Mama Hope first received the funds from the William Zimmerman Foundation we gave CTC a project grant to start a youth run Demonstration Garden. Currently, the garden is in its third harvest and will continue to produce year-round through the use of drip irrigation. It’s run by the local primary school’s Environmental Club. Mostly the group consists of coy quick-witted children between the ages of 7 and 14 who are taught an amazing amount of farming knowledge by their teacher, simply known as “Rocky”. Every Tuesday after school the Environmental Club meets to discuss the logistics of running the garden and on Thursdays they work in teams to maintain the garden.

Rocky going through his student's notepads in Maai Maihu.

Rocky going through his student's notepads in Maai Maihu.

The approach here is simple. Educate and work with the children to install and maintain the irrigation systems through lessons and practical activities, then involve the children’s parents in the training in an effort to spread the knowledge of the drip irrigation systems to the local community.

Wind of Hope, Isiolo, Kaisut Desert

The beginnings of the Wind of Hope Pilot Greenhouse

The beginnings of the Wind of Hope Pilot Greenhouse

8 hours away in Isiolo is our original partner project Wind of Hope in the Arid (WOHA). It’s a worn and dusty town surrounded by safari destinations. WOHA is an HIV/AIDS Community Based Program struggling through a particularly severe drought to feed its community. Four days ago we heard a story about a 79 year old man being repeatedly robbed by his neighbors for his food relief.

James Sunday helps to clear space for the greenhouse.

James Sunday helps to clear space for the greenhouse.

We had planned to help organize for a youth drip irrigat CTC, but food insecurity lead the youion program similar toth to decide on a smaller more easily guarded project that would better utilize the little water resources they have. It was decided that a drip irrigated greenhouse should be constructed and used as a demonstration for the community of ways to conserve water and to provide better yields during drought periods. Also when the rains come the water can be harvested from gutters on the roof into water tanks.

Within an afternoon the greenhouse had been plotted and the land cleared completely by the youth. They also organized for building materials, soil, and skilled labor to help them construct the timber. Currently, they are documenting the project themselves through a camera and computer class Nyla and I have been teaching them.

Our Lady of Perpetual Support, Kisumu, Lake Victoria

Anastasia, OLPS director, (right) consults garden plans with the local community.

Anastasia, OLPS director, (right) consults garden plans with the local community.

Coming up to western Kenya is a bit deceiving. It’s green and after being in a drought in the desert it was a shock to our system to arrive in a rain storm that could have doubled as a monsoon. Kisumu sits on the shores of one of the biggest fresh water lakes in the world. A 15 minute cab ride away from the city reveals tired farms and dried up fields of corn. It’s green, sure, but once you get away from the city water sources, food security is entirely dependent on very undependable rainfall.

Our project partner Our Lady of Perpetual Support for People Living with HIV/AIDS (OLPS) does exactly as the name suggests. They are a community run program offering health care, home based care gardens and an orphanage. Their basic mission is supporting children from conception on. As the founding director, Anastasia states, “It is not enough to simply feed a child. They must be fed and educated, so they may do the same for others.”

Planting Kail during a drip irrigation training.

Planting Kale during a drip irrigation training.

The project here has come together as drip irrigation training for 100 female home based caregivers taking care of orphans (most have been widowed by HIV/AIDS). They are to revamp a 3 acre garden with easily replicable drip irrigation systems. OLPS’s goal by the end of the year is that these methods are adopted by the women for use in their home gardens. The women’s hope is that the produce from the garden will be used to supplement the food supply for an elementary school that is across the street from the project.

Salim Dancing

This is Salim. He is a four year old orphan at Wind of Hope in Isiolo, Kenya. The day after we arrived at the project the youth had a dance party where Salim started showing off his moves. We were quite impressed.

– Bryce

Busy with the World


Traveling again. I’m racing along the tarmac in a taxi with James, a 17 year old back at Pepo for a break from Secondary school. To my right is Goolo, the cab driver. Not a word had been spoken in 20 minutes. We all know the deal. We’re headed to Kambi Garba.

Part of what I’m doing at Pepo La Tumaini is helping to fill in the gaps in their capacity. In this case they need photos. APHIA II EASTERN, the East Africa branch of USAID, has required photos for all the children they give Antiretroviral Aids medicine to. A seemingly small demand, except Pepo doesn’t have a camera. Nor do any of these 899 children have photos available. 28 are registered in Kambi Garba. Not bad I thought.

This is my third trip to Kambi Garba in four days. It’s a small dusty dry village with nomadic tribes. Thorns tangle around dirt yards, hiding dilapidated shacks and the occasional camel. Residents are largely Borana, Somali, and Turkana. None of whom have the friendliest history toward one another.

The first journey resulted in five photos of registered children and 15 photos of children who have been orphaned since the registration list was made. Some street kids threw rocks at us while we got a tour of the local water sources.

“Trash water” Sarafina Kamaro calls it. She’s a community Elder and our contact in Kambi Garba, “Look, it’s full of trash.”

It is. Isiolo river travels through a military base, several villages, then town before here. The water has a stink to it.

“We drink the water, then we get sick. Stomach aches.” She goes on.

“You don’t’ boil it?”

“No,” she answers looking back at the mile walk to her home.

She takes us to a small spring in the side of the river. It’s tucked away in a rocky hole only small enough for a small water bottle. A young girl of about 8 sticks her hand in the hole fills the bottle and empties it into a 10 liter jerry can weighing about 30 pounds when full. It takes awhile.

A day later, the second trip resulted in four photos. Only one of them from the register.
I’m remembering all this when the cab swerves to avoid a herd of goats. Goolo doesn’t flinch. He just turns up the radio. Somali music, I’m thinking.

About 30 minutes after leaving Isiolo town we arrive at the end of the tarmac. This is where the road ends in Kenya. From here it’s dirt roads all the way to Somalia. Small buses shoot like bullets out of the desert leaving dust like vapor trails.

It reminds me of a friend in the U.S., a Somali refugee. He told me with a chuckle, “After the soldiers had killed my family I walked to Kenya. Then they told us to leave. So I walked to Ethiopia. When it got bad there, I walked back to Kenya. You can never take a car! You’ll get shot!” He had the biggest grin on his face.

But the present is different here and construction has begun again on the tarmac. Large hills of gravel and sand loom over a newly leveled path fading into the distance. Children wave from atop the mounds. The Kenyan government is extending the road to some nearby tourist destinations, safari parks and the like. For a while longer, the road still ends in Isiolo.

James and I get out of the taxi and pay Goolo. He nods and speeds away.

We go down some small dirt paths off the main road. They wind to and fro. The thorn fences rise and create a tunnel over us. We have to walk in single file.

“They are called Panya routes. We are panya here!” James lets out with a smile.

“Panya?” I ask.

“Rats! We are rats.”

A tattered looking woman stands roadside as if waiting for us. We ask her for directions and she takes us the rest of the way. Sarafina’s home is a bit of an orphanage. Five women saunter about doing various chores and tending to children. There are near 20 children in various states of disarray. A good number of the Kambi Garba youth are in school, but these children are simply around. They range from 6 months to 10 years. We exchange greetings and start going over who is left on the list.

Selina Nawatan: Nomads School
Shadrak Ekidor: Moved to a different district
Zainabu: Lives in Shambani
Christine Engngiri: Lives in Shambani
Lokale Goko: New Life School
Akuta Ngoko: Has gone on a journey
Kebo Akwara : unknown…

10 more are living in Shambani, a small village just across the river.

“Can we go?” I ask.

The yard erupts with chatter. Women with babies on their backs and hips, old grandmas who can barley walk, a drunken woman from the street jumps in the fray.

“They will not take us,” James translates. “They say the people there are so much for money. They say to forget the children there and just take care of the ones here.”

As I surmise and later confirm with the Chief of the area, Kambi Garba and Shambani have a long standing grudge. No one is clear why, but I’ve grown to suspect water issues. Whatever the problem, they’re not taking or letting us go there.

After taking about 10 photos, we hear yelling from a group running down a road 100 feet off.

“Wait here,” Sarafina lets out then runs off leaving us with a drunk woman demanding I take her photo.

James and I guess it’s another illegal alcohol raid. Walking through Isiolo town this morning, we caught glimpses of some police raids at some local changa huts. Changa being the Kenyan equivalent of moonshine. It’s cheap and poisonous. I know of at least one person who used it to commit suicide.

We eventually make our way to the confusion. Someones cut a camel with a machete. A Turkana man has slashed the leg of an eight-foot camel. There is an angry crowd and some official looking individuals. The camel sits on the ground bleeding. Another stands by its side chewing lethargically. Three weeks later I find out the man who slashed the camel meant to feed his family with it.

A child from the list is at the scene. Another picture taken and name crossed out.

Half an hour later, James and I are walking down the tarmac. We’re heading to New Life. A primary school a kilometer outside of Kambi Garba. We need a photo of a single attending student. The sun beats down and we share a water bottle.

“So what are you doing after school?” I ask.

“Where or what?” James responds.


“I’d like to be… a doctor or a journalist. Yes, I’d very much like to be a journalist!”

My ears perk.

“Yes. I’m even secretary in the journalist club at school. I love it very much. …I’m very interested in people from everywhere. Ai, those journalists get to know things. They are always so very busy with the world!”

A police wagon roars down the tarmac. It’s carrying several of the people from the camel incident. It kicks up dust and we’re alone again.

After another ten minutes we reach New Life School. The gate is chained. Dried plants line the fence. Inside it’s a ghost town. Dusty and empty.

“You. Is the school open?” James calls out to a child milling about near the road.

“Closed,” the kid responds.

“Closed for everything?” I ask.

James gives a questioning shrug, looking a little hopeless. We stand there for a moment soaking in the sun then head back to Kambi Garba.

Sarafina explains she’ll arrange with the child later. We then find out the ride we expected isn’t coming. And we haven’t enough for a taxi or bus. It’s about a eight kilometer walk back to town. We’ve hitchhiked before, but it’s just police and army vehicles today. Not ideal.

A little ways down the road a hulking tour bus rolls by. It’s a 12 wheel, 20 foot high, yellow and green vehicle. More commonly used to help the army traverse rivers. The tired looking tourists look down from a high.

20 photos down 879 to go. I know I’m not going to finish taking the pictures. And I know Pepo won’t either. The occasional volunteer might have the camera and the time. Each of the 899 children need a daily activity report as well. That’s 899 pages a day from a largely illiterate community.

James and I walk past the construction at the end of the road and back towards town. We spend most of our time talking and dreaming of cool milk or water. We go back and forth about whether soda is good for quenching thirst. But neither of us really care what we’re going find in town. Really anything would do.

The Final


On July 29th the Pepo La Tumaini ECD (Early Childhood Development) preschool tackled their year-end final with the same intensity of a bar exam. Children ranging from 3-5 years old sat through hours of tests deemed essential by the Kenyan Ministry of Education.

“Do you think you’ll pass?” Project Coordinator Khadija Rama asked Abdallah Mohamed.

“I don’t know. Only the teacher knows.” The 4-year-old sternly answered.

The student’s tests began at 8am and lasted, interspersed with recess, until 12:30pm. Their tests ranged from animal identification in English and Kiswahili to math and science.

Ashu Abubakar, is one of the few students unable to get a desk for the tests.

Frankline Murithi was one of the first finished and with only one wrong answer.

Denis Mutrtuia (left) and Samwel Kithinji were witnessed plagiarizing each other’s papers, but escaped authoritative detection.

Fidy Ntinyari and ECD teacher, Albina Ngugi, discuss the final.

Ngugi has been teaching at the ECD for three years and often makes the class decorations using whatever resources are available.

During the math test, students were asked to complete problems such as 4+3 and complete numerical sequences 21, 22, __, 24.
Answers varied.

Brenda Gakili was one of 54 students taking the test who would rather be at recess.

As the day wears on many students got the chance for extended recesses, while others stewed in class.

Shouting, “Finished?! Finished?!, “ a group of students help/harass Antony Kimathi with his final.

Antony: last man standing.

A Clinic Evolving


Hello friends of Mama Hope,

I have arrived safely in Isiolo and feel like I have returned to my Kenyan home. We were welcomed with flowers, a song and a dance by the Wind of Hope orphans.

We were told that while the clinic has been under a construction it has served as so many things for the community. During the recent conflict it housed refugees who had lost their homes. During the rains it served as an orphanage for the children whose rooms flooded. While the elementary school was being renovated it served as a school. Until its official launch on August 12th, it is being used as a rehabilitation home for girls who have been sexually abused or have come off the street. The outside waiting area is being used as a preschool while the new school is being built.

Your donation to build the health clinic also helped build a school/sanctuary/orphanage/rehabilitation center providing a safe haven to hundreds even before it has opened to provide health care to thousands!

I’m so happy to see that the Mama Hope Clinic built to nurture the community is doing exactly that!

Thank you for your support. This all would not be possible with out Mama Hope’s incredible donors.

During the next two months we will be updating the blog with videos, pictures and stories of our time in Kenya.

With gratitude,



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