So, after 10 years in the making, the Little Angels Academy is now virtually complete, accommodating 160 children aged 5 to 14.
Paul has just returned from Kenya this morning, so I thought I would write a newsletter straight away.
Just before he went, we were told there was another outbreak of Jiggers, so I have included some pictures taken of the kids having their treatment. They first soak their feet in a special anti-Jiggers solution, and then the offending parasite (worm) is removed with a pin. Not nice!
We are paying for the classrooms to be re-painted, and have bought a new hose so that Pablo the caretaker can wash the classrooms every day and stop new infestations. Whilst we thought we had eradicated Jiggers in Taliban Village it has now broken out there again. So, while we cannot control it in the villages, we can make sure the classrooms are clean and treat any cases at the school.
Also, two friends, Dave and Nicky, who visited the school this week, have given money to buy some shoes. This is the most effective way to prevent infection, and we do need to buy many more. Flip-flops don`t last, and break too easily, so the children need sturdy, plastic shoes. We have also paid for a large sink to be constructed, just for the use of the kitchen, to cope with the large amounts of washing up. During the hot weather the cook prefers to cook in the open air, as it is cooler for her, but during the rains she will go back inside the kitchen and use the fixed stove there.
We now have a full complement of teachers, 13 in all, and I have included a picture of them. So, after 10 years in the making, the Little Angels Academy is now virtually complete, accommodating 160 children aged 5 to 14. The staff to pupil ratios are excellent, and the children are performing well. We have thought long and hard about what we should do once the children have sat their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) exams, in Class 8. Whilst we have explored the possibility of building a High School in Kanamai, and indeed have been pledged land for this purpose, we currently have neither the funds nor the support to embark on what would be a huge new venture.
Just completing and fully funding the Little Angels School has stretched our resources to the limit. However, if our children achieve a mark of 350 or more (out of 500) in their KCPE exam they will receive a bursary from the Government to attend a local, Provincial or even National High School, depending on what mark they achieve. The bursary will cover both their school and boarding fees. Our children are doing very well in comparison with other local private or government primary schools and so, when the 17 children soon to be in Class 8 sit their KCPE exam, they will hopefully achieve high marks. The brightest children would be given an opportunity to attend one of the Provincial or National High Schools. Our dream of enabling some of the poorest children in Kenya go on to secondary education and ultimately, to University and into a profession, is soon to be put – literally – to the test.
A local 16 year old girl named Esther wanted to train as a nurse when she finishes High School, and since it was half term for her, she asked if she could sit in with Paul at the clinic. She enjoyed it so much (and indeed was so useful to Paul) that she now wants to be a doctor instead! She has asked Paul if it would be possible for her to help again during his next visit, and he would be delighted. She is already receiving some financial support from Dave and Nicky, and will need considerable financial help if she does win a place at Pwani University, Kilifi, where Paul is an honorary professor. Paul thinks this young woman has probably `got what it takes`, and we shall be watching her progress with great interest.
One of Paul`s young patients with congenital heart disease, named Salma Juma, has been listed for open heart surgery in Israel, through the kind services of M.E.A.K. In order to travel abroad, something our poor people virtually never do in their lifetime, Salma and her mother require passports, which themselves require birth certificates. Our 4 `Boys` took a few days out from farming to obtain these documents. Salma needs surgery urgently; whereas obtaining a passport can take up to a year. However, having paid the officials a `supplement`, we expect to have the passports within days.
Paul saw 77 patients over 3 days, with a wide variety of conditions. In order to re-supply prescriptions for his growing number of patients he now has to visit Kenya every 12 weeks. So his next week there will be in late May.
Meanwhile, while Paul has been away, Pearl has visited 2 schools. At Longwell Green Primary School the children had organised a Summer Fayre, by themselves, and raised more than £500 for the Trust. This will pay for mosquito nets, for those children who do not have them. The children at St Peter`s School in Portishead had also organised a cake and toy sale last summer, and had raised a similar amount. This paid for the children at Little Angels to have a Christmas Day celebration, complete with food and gifts.
For these visits, Pearl prepared a power point presentation focussing on the differences between children`s lives here and the lives of their counterparts in Kanamai. Starting with animals (e.g. `domestic` versus `big` cats), Pearl went on to compare their houses, sanitation (toilets), water supply (taps), wells and bore holes (only used in Kenya!); what they eat; and how their schools compare. She took some mosquito nets along to show how they protect children at night from being bitten and catching malaria. The children showed tremendous interest, and asked many questions.
The links with these schools are particularly precious to Pearl, since they provide her with the opportunity to remind the children not only how privileged we are in the rich West, but to show them that they really can make a difference to the lives of children of their own age in Kenya. She also paid a visit to a local Probus Group.
Back at the Little Angels, we have now begun work on the final classroom, and we shall complete this when we have the £1,500 we still need. Until then, one class is being taught in the playground, beneath a mango tree, which provides shelter from the sun, but not from the rains which will be arriving soon.
So, dear friends, we do need more money to fund our School, and also to build more toilets in the Kanamai villages. Although we have now built four blocks of toilets (pit latrines) in the villages, 80% of our people still use `the bush` as their toilet. So, we still have a very long way to go in stopping the spread of water-borne diseases which, in the poorest of the villages, are still killing as many as 1 in 4 of the children before they reach the age of 5 years. More and more villages are asking if we can build toilets, or upgrade wells for them. We are so very keen to do these projects, but can only authorize them when we have the funds.
It looks very likely that we will hold a Dinner/dance in September, and we will keep you posted about that.
So, thank you for your support, and interest. Without your aid we could not have achieved what we have thus far. Do look at the photos taken just this past week, and see how happy and well the children look, thanks to you!
With our very best wishes, and thanks
Paul, Pearl, George, Debbie & Paul.