reflections on the Kenya trip.

On our last day in Kenya we took some time out to relax in the sun and recount our experiences throughout the trip. We said our fair wells to all the staff at the Hartebeest camp that had taken such good care of us during our visit, but for myself it felt like a ‘see you again soon’ rather then a final goodbye as I thought about how I could continue to contribute to the project beyond the trip. I felt ready to return home and see friends and family, but equally I knew how instantaneously the memories accumulated over the trip would create a longing to go back.

Reflecting on the trip itself and the work we committed ourselves to during the two weeks we were there, I feel lucky and extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able participate in such an ambitious project that has some real potential. I have learnt how important it is to humble yourself before all people you encounter no matter your position or their own, to see and participate in such work in which every individual involved has a say of equal validity and with considerable effect on the direction of the project is exciting and something that I have not seen before in my working life. With no emphasis on status or positioning the ethos of community media for Kenya holds everyone at equal distance from each other, I think that this is were the work gets it’s strength from and I hope that this ideal can be maintained as well as can be as the project continues to grow.

From working with university students in Nairobi to the safari on the Masai Mara each and every experience has been eye opening and enriching. I have learnt more about myself and the world around me on the two week trip than any text book has ever taught me. The skills and knowledge I have learned from this trip will serve me well in the future, but more then that the trip has given me a heightened sense of respectful humility for culture and people that cannot be learned.

Visiting Kenya has been something I have wanted to do for a long time and something that I will not be able to forget. The way in which this project allowed us to do so felt like the right way to approach outreach work, and will be the only way I can see myself working in similar projects in the future. Peter’s mantra of ‘learning from experience’ has proven to be the best way to learn. I hope that my experience’s in Kenya will feed further experiences positively back in the U.K. and I look forward to continued contributions to the project and to seeing it evolve.  

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Reflections on my experience in Kenya

On my last day in Kenya I spent the day on safari with Callum, Rosie, and Peter. It was such a fantastic day to see the variety of the Kenyan wildlife, as well as a way to wrap up my experience in Kenya. It put the opportunity and experience that I have been given and worked for into perspective, as I have been extremely lucky to have traveled to and around Kenya, meet selfless, genuine people, teach university students, seen upcoming development projects, been a part of another culture, and to experience a safari. 

This experience has taught me how rewarding it is to engage in communities, to be a part of growth and development within the community, but also, and maybe more importantly, individual lives. It is individuals who work together to help one another and pass that help on to other people who work towards the bigger picture. It was because of individuals that I met in Kenya and their hopes and dreams, that communities were able to form, grow, and engage with other peoples hopes for their communities, and actually make change for the better.

This opportunity also gave me a chance to go out of my comfort zone, not only in the sense of engaging with communities in Kenya, but also travelling with people who I wouldn’t usually travel with, and being put in a situation where I have to believe in myself. When arriving back from Kenya I started a full-time job. I felt that from going out of my comfort zone in Kenya, I was comfortable going out of my comfort zone once more when entering a new environment – the work environment! This experience has made me believe in myself when faced with an unfamiliar situation, and have more confidence in who I am and what I am capable of. 

Going to Kenya is an experience that I will always remember and treasure, and hopefully apply to my everyday life and future career in helping others. 

Preparing to return to the UK

Well today is the final day of the trip. We catch the flight to Gatwick (via Dubai) at 10.50 this evening.

Yesterday was a very relaxed day — probably the only one we’ve had on the entire trip. The students grabbed a bit of a lie in and most of the day was spent packing and chilling with a book in the Hartebeest garden. In the evening we met up with Willice & Gordon for an informal meeting to discuss future plans over a meal and drinks. We spent an enjoyable 2-3 hours in their company reflecting on the workshop; the trip as a whole and how to proceed from here. We retuned to Hartebeest at about 9pm — enjoyed our final Tuskers for an hour or so — and went to bed.

This morning has been much like yesterday — finalising our preparations to travel to the airport and relax reading our books. At about 3.30 we will head up to the cinema, which is about 2 blocks away, to watch the newly released ‘The Lone Ranger’ before heading back for a bite to eat and then the airport.

A lot has been achieved during this trip and the students and I will reflect on this in posts from the UK. As with the previous trips the students have behaved impecably and have engaged in the true spirit of the venture. I am extremely proud of them all. It has been a pleasure to work with them!

Callum, Rosie, Laura & Peter - CM4K team 2013

Callum, Rosie, Laura & Peter – CM4K team 2013

Ruiru and the Childrens Orphanage

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The trip to Ruiru changed and adapted on the run up to our trip to Kenya.  A lack of communication with Kris, due to connection problems, meant the plans kind of fell through. Callum had been in talks with Kris in getting a music session set up with the community members and ourselves- but this was dismissed due to lack of planning and communication.

We still went over to Ruiru for Peter to have a meeting with Mike, Roman, Kris and Vincent about future plans of collaboration between partners and different communities. This was very interesting to sit in on and play a little role of contributing my thoughts and ideas on the subject matter. The plans everyone had in mind were strong. There were many logistics to work out to ensure the plans could be followed through and work to benefit the communities and partners alike. Firstly, facilitating the communities by using accessible technologies was highly important. As throughout our work so far, it is important to ensure alien technologies are not introduced within a community that they will never be able to use again or gain access too. This causes more harm than good, which is why working within their means is essential. Alongside this the importance of long term sustainability was also important.

The meeting was interesting to get a taste of what the future holds for the community partners and the initiatives that want to be implemented to benefit community learning.

Next we moved over to a childrens orphanage. This was a real eye opener- just like Kingsway School earlier in the week. We stopped off to get some lollipops at the shop prior to our arrival (thanks Peter!) to give to the children. This instantly made each and every child happy! The smiles on their faces when interacting with us were so rewarding. Just talking to each of the children, finding out their names and playing some games kept the children smiling the duration of our stay. Inevitably, as noticed this trip, they were fascinated with the digital cameras and we took lots of pictures of the children with their blue tongues from the lollipops all smiling!

The trip keeps getting better and better! Let’s see what’s going to happen next with the Maasi Market and the following remaining days…

Fun n games at the Maasai market

Just a quick blog to bring mine up todate.

Yesterday, as we had no more training to do, we decided to take a leisurely breakfast, spend some time chilling in the secluded, wooden gardens of the camp……the atmosphere of which was added to or encroached upon (depending on your point of view) by the Hallelujahs and songs of praise accompanied by a live band coming from the church across the way……whils n ot really my cup of tea I give them A* for stamina and stickability……they were still going strong after 3 hours.

Eventually, we caught a cab into town and were dropped by the Maasai market which was being held in the car park of the City’s Supreme Court. We were to be accompanied by our young friend from Ruiru, Kris Mbogo, who often comes with us on our training workshops. Of course as it was Kris, and Kris is always late, so 15 minutes after we arrived and 75 after he said he’d be there Kris turned up all cheerfulness and friendly as is his way.

We went for lunch first and found a rather nice Tratoria which allowed us a cheap but nice lunch and more importantly 2 not so bad double esspressos, which one of the comforts I most miss on these trips, so this was a treat.

After lunch we ventured into the market and Kris was immediately accosted by one guy who tried to explain that he would be our one guide through the market and that he would secure the best prices for us. He was immediately followed by several others who were intent on taking everyone in seperate directions in order to ply their trade on what they thought were unsuspecting Mzungus (white folk) and in this context what are known by conmen here as ‘Marks’.

I was happy to play along for a while as I ensured we all stayed together so that nothing untoward would happen. However, by keeping this group of conmen together they all started poking, proding and getting in our personal spaces. People who know me know that this is not the best thing to do with me and my hackles started to rise until eventually I had had enough and told them all to clear off! Or words to that effect! The original guy, who had a bit more about him, still tried to ride my ire by congratulating me on doing a great job of getting rid of these ‘bad men’. His attitude changed when I told him that that meant him also and that we were capable of walking through the market on our own. At this point he asked where we were from — he had identified us as Americans — once he knew we were from the UK and clearly possessed some street-wise he departed in high dudgeon muttering about his preferences for Americans who , and aplogies to any US friends reading this, have more money than sense in his eyes! 😉

Of course, this did not end the stream of beggars and stall traders eager to give their new ‘brothers & sisters’ from the UK a very special price……. a price that they would give to no-one else you understand. Lol. If you can think of those David Attenborough nature programmes of seals and sea lions on an overcrowded beach, with gulls and other assorted marine life all biting & snapping aggressively at intruders encroaching on their territory and squarking at passers-by at the top of their collective voices — then double it — and you start to get an idea of what the Maasai market it like. Great fun but definitely not for the over sensitive or gullable because they will be relieved of their cash and anything else that takes their fancy in double quick time.

We all came away enjoying the experience and with what we considered were bargains whilst the traders still made a profit…..just not as big a profit that they thought and the best thing was that the conmen knew they had been given short shrift! 😉

Masi Market.

Today we went to meet Kris in the town centre. We first went to an italien restaurant and reflected on the previous days meeting. Kris expressed his feeling’s of positivity from the meeting. I feel that if everyone is able to get and keep the ball rolling on all their ideas then the project will go far. I was impressed by Kris’s knowledge and vision for the community media projects.

After lunch we headed into the Masi Market with Kris as our shaperone. We were quickly and strategically spilt from each other and crowded by sellers. Peter made great friends right away with a player wanting to charge him for being his shaperone around the market “I’m gone” he shouted ” this man is english, they don’t feed us, I prefer Americans” they were born to disagree with eachother.

After a fun spot of hagaling with the sellers and getting lost in the noise and busel of preachers and beggers, we slugishly made our way out of the market stopped by each and everyone one of our new best friends on the way out. Once out of the market we said our goodbye’s to Kris and travelled back to the camp again for a hearty Ugalie a couple of tuskers and then bed. Tiring but fun day.

Ruiru meeting at focus youth initiative centre and project lucas orphanage.

After a lazy morning we left for Ruiru around 10. When we got to the centre we met Kris, Roman, Mike and Vincent and sat down for a meeting about the way forward with their combined work towards the ICT skills development project. Me and Rosie mainly audited and took notes throughout the meeting be were asked our final thoughts towards the end. There was alot to talk about and follow, after a brief introduction from everyone Mike outlined the itinerary and what he believed to be the three main areas of discussion for the meeting.

The three main topics up for discussion were the remodelling of an annual conference bringing key figures in to share ideas and meet each other. How to organise the training workshops such as the ones we had par taken in from here on out and how to properly support the community media centres in a sustainable and manageable way.

Initially Peter opened up the meeting by discussing his idea’s for setting up a community media interest group back in the U.K that could channel investors and supporters through one organisation to make funding and contributions more manageable and accessable to potential investors. After suggesting how support for the CMC’s could be managed from the U.K Mike opened up the same questions for how support can be sustained in Kenya. It was agreed between Mike, Kris and Roman that long term sustainability would have to come from the ground up, people in the communities would need to see and understand the potential for CMC’s first to then be more willing to contribute, Peter emphasised the idea that it should be approached in a reciprocal manor, and discussed with Kris the potential with new partnerships established at the Hill Park workshops between the rongo university, the potential for Kenyan students to come to the U.K and teach workshops much in the same way.

Mike then emphasised the importance of proper co-ordination moving ahead with these ideas, bringing it back to the three topics Mike expressed that it was now the how? that should be asked. The resounding understanding then among the group was that they should set up one single organisation to co-ordinate all the activities under one roof, making communication easier to manage.

Other items for discussion included a discussion about partnerships, everyone came forward with the partnerships they had been overseeing and agreed to an open policy with sharing contact details and developments in these relationships.

After these Mike brought everyone back to discuss the way forward and conclude on proceeding’s. The four main things to move forward with that I identified from the meeting were, forming a community interest company, developing and writing a memorandum of understanding between all partners, Developing a network between the CMC’s and creating a model/strategic plan as a basis that all CMC contributors and developers can work from.

After the concluding thoughts from Mike he opened the forum for everyone to contribute their own concluding thoughts. For myself, feeling that the discussion had stretched far into the future for plans that would take some time to develop I thought I would bring it back to the basics and reitterate that it would be important as a basis to go forward with all these plans to have a well defined and coherent philosophical framework that was written and understood throughout the organization, this way new partners would have a full understanding of what to expect and how to interact with the organization especially as a community run organization in which every individual has a say, this way it will be easy to see if the direction and intentions of the project change as the project grows. I felt I had witnessed an important moment for the community media project and I look forward to seeing it grow and fulfil it’s potential.

After the meeting we then travelled a short distance to visit the Project Lucas orphanage, we brought lollipops for all the children and played with them all taking photos, playing football and catch and talking to them all. They were all so lovely and well behaved, I was taken of to a classroom to help teach the kids some english. They were learning about passive and active phrasing and past present and past participals (something I had long forgotten) I read from the handy teachers book that was sat infront of me, it was a breeze, I don’t know what Peter is complaining about teaching is easy. After moulding a few minds and playing with the kids outside again we left to travel back to the Hartebeest camp. Another great day in Kenya.

Maasai Mara

 

 

ImageToday was the day I admittedly was most looking forward to, and the day most people back at home were jealous of- the trip to the Massai Mara. After a long bumpy drive on the dirt roads we finally arrived. The accommodation was beautiful, but I was not anticipating the bug filled tents! I think I was just being a girl about things and freaking myself out… Hey! Well for someone who hates moths and butterflies I wasn’t exactly able to prepare myself for the jumping spiders and beetle creatures roaming around my home for the night!

We quickly left again after dropping our bags off to go to the Maasai Village. This place was just truly amazing. The villagers build their houses from scratch themselves out of resources accessible to them- mud, manure, sticks and branches- and they’d last for around 9 years. We questioned what they would do once their houses deteriorated and the response was they moved location of their village. This intrigued me as to how easy they seemed to make it sound to up and move an entire village of many different families.  The team work and collaboration between the villagers was clearly visible. With the boys going out at 15 to live in the wild and fend for themselves, albeit in a group, for 3 years to then come back and become a true man. This ritual is not complete of course without the killing of their own lion. I know I wouldn’t be up for the challenge even though I do find them extremely cute- I wouldn’t want to risk it!

Learning about the villager’s culture was fascinating and I’d still like to find out some more about it! Shortly after seeing the inside of one of their houses we were ambushed by the selling techniques from the Maasi villagers who gave us a chance to try out our haggling techniques… to be completely honest I don’t think my techniques were up to scratch but it gave me some practice for what was to come later in the week at the Maasai Market!

Setting out on the actual safari was a little overwhelming. There was so much to see and we had to keep our eyes peeled. By far the greatest views we saw were the pack of lions and the little lion cubs! They all ventured out slowly and began to play which was delightful to see! The following day the animals seemed to be out in full force. We all were a little tired from getting up early and fending off the bugs all night (okay, maybe that was just me…) but when we started to spot the animals I seemed to wake up immediately! Spotting herds of elephants and plenty of giraffes, gazelles, zebras, warthogs and wildebeest- to name but a few the day was getting better and better. The most exciting part was the exiting of the park. I know this might sound a little crazy but this is when our driver spotted a cheetah casually taking a stroll down the dirt path. We managed to get right up close and get plenty of good pictures- although Peter missed his amazing shot… Whoops! I think the fact he’d seen the Cheetah in the first place had made his safari trip this year- as it did for all of us!

I’m just looking forward to getting home and making everyone jealous- especially my dad- with all the pictures and stories I’ve got to show and tell!

3 go to Ruiru

Our return to the Hartebeest Campsite signalled the time for Laura to leave us in order to return to the UK in order to meet her mother, who she had not seen for a year and who was returning to the UK from New Zealand for Laura’s graduation. I bet she’s a very proud mum as Laura gained a 1st Class Honours degree! The drive to the airport was a rather subdued affair, we’d gone into this as a team of four and Laura had been a memorable member of that team. So it was with a heavy heart that we all wished her safe journey home and waved a fond farewell.

So it was that 3 of us set of for Ruiru and a meeting with the Focus Youth Initiative. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. We had originally planned a 3 day community capacity building workshop similar to the one we had run in Nairobi only using music as part of the outreach activities of FYI. This had been put on hold, and we changed our plans accordingly, due to our former UK based partner organisation’s best attempts at undermining the trip at the last minute – we recently dissolved our partnership (let’s just say due to a number of financial and ethical disagreements) – through the broadcast dispatch of a most vindictive and spurious email designed to cause maximum disruption and incite people’s most basic fears and prejudices. It was all very sad and the one cloud that hanging over what has been a very successful trip.

As it transpired we had a very interesting and productive meeting. We all made it clear that whatever came from the meeting it was not to be related to or taking the place of the previous relationship or the activities that that organisation may or may not be involved in. Any agreements between the attendees of this meeting and the other organisation would not be affected in any way by whatever was decided.

Callum, Kris, Peter, Mike, Roman & Rosie

Callum, Kris, Peter, Mike, Roman & Rosie

It rapidly became clear that there is a need for the kind of training that the students have been facilitating in order to support the activities of the would-be partners. It was also evidenced that a lot of talent and knowledge already exists in Kenya and that part of the emerging partnership’s remit would be to find ways of encouraging it. The training the trainers approach was embraced as an appropriate ethos for the partnership and a plan of action for future developments was drawn up. I will report more on this as matters develop. For now it is enough to say that I am very excited by the potential of this partnership. What might have been an uncomfortable meeting proved to be anything but and I believe we have a basis for trust and mutual respect which will stand us all in good stead in the coming months and years. The students were fascinated by the meeting, telling me afterwards how interesting it had been. They played an active part throughout and participated with respect, dignity and professionalism.

After the meeting we headed over to the Lucas Project, which is an orphanage project run by Focus Youth Initiative. The meeting had been chaired by Mike Asudi from Faces of Peace and he chaired it, as usual, very effectively. It was great to see Mike again, we have worked with him before on a number of occasions and look forward to continuing working with him. Kris Mbogo (my Kenyan son) from FYI came with us to the orphanage and it was not long before he had his hands on our camera and was filming (some things never change eh Kris?). The visit was a real fillip and the students particularly enjoyed themselves & the kids enjoyed the lollipops we bought. Callum did some English teaching whilst Rosie and I played with the children. All in all another really interesting and worthwhile day – we had imagined that the next few days will be more relaxed but our trip to the Maasai market in the car park of Nairobi’s Supreme Court on Saturday was to dissuade us of that fairly sharply.

In this picture, I’d like you to guess the only person not to get a blue lollipop! 😉Image

Masi Mara!

Today we left early for the Masi Mara we travelled 5 hours out of Nairobi until ashvalt met dirt track, the first thing we did was to enter the Masi village on the outskirts of our camp. The Masi are an incredible tribe, the most awsome thing that we learnt was that at 15 a Masi boy is strewn to the wild along with other boys in the village his age. They live from 3-5 years in the wild and towards the end of their time they must hunt and kill a lion to prove their manhood.

After watching and dancing along with the Masi men as well as visiting their homes it was straight to bargaining for trinkets. I snagged myself a lions tooth and a necklace for 2,000 KSH and a rubber braclet with the colours of the Kenyan flag and the words ‘Learn, Empower, Grow’ on it. We had ordered them before coming.

After visiting the Masi village on the first day we went on an evening game drive. We saw Gazelles, Zebra’s, Elephants and Hyenna’s but the highlight was unquestionably watching a 16 strong pride of lions and lionesses wake up from a long day nap and play with their cubs. Their beauty was astounding. Then it was back to the camp for sleep.

We woke early the next morning ready for a second drive. On this drive we saw Topie, Ggazelles a plenty, Zebra’s a plenty and a huge heard of elephants as well as large grouping’s of wildebeast and various other animals preparing for migration. We visited the hippopotamus at a hotel lake and saw a crane as well as many other wonderful birds. Then as we were travelling back and Peter was just saying how much he would love to see a cheetah, one just strolled out of the thicket onto the path in front of us. We couldn’t believe our luck, the cheetah posed for a few pictures and then strolled back into the grass to find a nice spot of shade under a tree. Magnificent.

Heading back to Nairobi now where Laura will be getting ready to go back to the U.K. It will be sad to see her leave, it has been great working with such an enthusiastic person even with all her famous toilet breaks. I didn’t think Londiani could be topped but the Mara was another overwhelming and unforgettable experience. I’m extremely grateful for such an incredible opportunity, it will be hard to re-adjust to life back in the U.K.