Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Looking forward

The holiday season is a little different here. It has been 95 degrees all week, and Christmas was the hottest day so far! But we still enjoy holiday tunes, presents, and great food (we roasted a goat). And just like at home, the holidays are a great time to take a look at what we have done in the past year and what we hope to do in the future.

At Vutakaka, December always has a different feel – school closed on November 22nd and the clinic closed on December 16th so the staff can go home from Christmas (don’t worry, there is still care available in Takaungu over the holidays!)
That might sound relaxing, but we have to get ready for 2012! School opens on January 4th, so we have a lot of textbooks and school supplies to get delivered on time. A classroom is going up for our new Class 8, our first graduating class! We also have our plans in place to build 6 new toilets thanks to the Rotary Club of Darien – we should break ground on this right away in January!

Despite all the construction and supply purchasing, I have still had time to reflect on the great year we had in 2011. We had our first Class 7 students, which scored very well on their common exams. We are so excited for them to go onto Class 8, the last primary school class. Our teachers worked so hard this year, putting in a lot of extra tutoring time with kids that needed a little more time. The students got to do some great extra curriculars this year too: a big sports day was held at a local primary school, they went to Tsavo National Park on their field trip in February, and every Friday they played soccer with the local international school. It was another great year at school, and we look forward to having our full school (KG1 through Class 8) next year. We can’t wait to see how our students do on their Primary School exit exams at the end of next year! Our school farm is also up and running, thanks to a lot of support from American International Women’s Club of Genoa, the Rotary Club of Kilifi, and Emily Capello and the family of Carol Boland. It is so great to see the students and gardeners producing food for their lunches. It is definitely another step towards sustainability at Vutakaka.

The health department has had a busy year too! In June, we helped the government launch a 50 person volunteer Community Health team. The team collects data on every household in the villages and then tries to educate the families on better health practices. They can refer clients to the nurse, organize for emergency trips to the hospital, encourage HIV testing, and help pregnant women get proper pre- and post-natal care. In 2012, the focus areas for the health team will be pit latrine construction and malaria prevention.We are so excited about the CHW team and happy to be in partnership with the Ministry of Health!

We also looked at a new clinic this year, with the idea of opening new health services in the Mavueni area. This new clinic was built by a government program, but the Ministry of Health does not have the money to outfit it. The EAC would be able to finish it and hand it over to the government, who would then take up our staff and medicine costs. It also opens the possibility of a new Community Health team in that area, and the spread of our school health classes to more primary and secondary schools.

These transitions are the key to the EAC’s vision. We are working diligently to create a new kind of development – programming led by local needs, and built with local resources. In 2012, we look forward to reducing our programming expenses in health, and discussing strategies with the parents to find independent income for Vutakaka Junior School. Each year, we help more people with less money! So, thank you for being part of the EAC community – your help goes a long way towards sustainable change. Happy New Year from all the EAC staff in Kenya!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kenya HQ reporting!

Hello everyone! My name is Kate Crowley and I am the Kenya Program Director for the East African Center. I’m excited to be blogging from KenyaHQ to make sure you get news about Vutakaka Junior and Nursery School as it happens. I'll also be blogging at our Vutakaka Health Clinic blog (http://eachealth.blogspot.com/) We hope you will take time to read our updates regularly and will be as excited as we are about what is happening at school.

Jen Hill, our US Program Director, has been out here working with us since the beginning of October, and we have been spending a lot of time talking about our programs, how to improve them, and how to move forward. Mostly we are just gushing to each other about how wonderful everything looks at the school!

The student’s exam scores for the Term 3 mid-term are trickling in from the teachers, and I am really excited by how they look so far. Our oldest students will be entering Class 8 (the last primary school class) next year, so we are very focused on our student’s performance and on how to improve it. At the end of Class 8, all Kenyan students take the Kenyan Primary School Exit Exam (KCPE). The score they receive on this exam determines which public high schools they are admitted to. 

Kenyan high schools are broken down into 3 categories: National, Provincial, and District. The National schools are the best, and we hope many of our Class 7 students will be admitted to National schools following their KCPE exam next November. Be assured you will see a blog soon about how you can help support our students in high school (the government has promised for many years to reduce costs, but public high school still remains out of reach for many students).

Jen has also been getting lots of great pictures of all the extra activities we provide for our students. After school clubs are active and exciting. The student’s can chose from an HIV/AIDS awareness club, the gardening club, the drama club, the debate club, and many others. Jen also brought the wonderful Alessandra Delacruz with her to Kenya, and Alex is holding art classes with the students every day. If you want to see some of these great projects, connect with a student through our website (www.eastafricancenter.org) and we’ll send you a picture of a student and one of the great new art projects. We will follow that up with 3 personal projects from them each year. 

Our farm is also up and running! Through donations from American International Women’s Group of Genoa, the Rotary Club of Kilifi, and in memory of Carol Boland, we were able to dig the well, buy a pump and a tank, build a stand for the tank, and set up our taps to service the farm. Our team is working hard to harvest greens, tomatoes, onions, carrots, eggplants, and green peppers for our students lunch every day, in addition to growing maize and beans during the traditional rainy season from April to June. It is a beautiful farm and something that I personally feel very passionate about. It is so amazing to see it working, providing food, and saving money each day!

This week is the mid-term break for our students, which means we will hold a parents day to give out the student’s midterm reports and give parents news about the school. Jen and I are going to take this opportunity to share with the parents all about how we fundraise for the school, and how we spend the money. Since the beginning, we have always believed in complete transparency for our organization: to our donors, AND to the community we serve. We want them to give their input into our school expenses, and to know exactly how much work goes into raising money, but we also want them to know how passionate we are about keeping these amazing programs going. We hope to further involve the parents next year in our budgeting and our local fundraising.

That is all for now from KenyaHQ. Remember that if you connect with a student you get updates throughout the year from our students, teachers, and staff AND you get the chance to support this wonderful education opportunity for students in Takaungu, Kenya. Kwaherini na asanteni sana!