Kenya through the eyes of a young Singaporean – by Lyanna Lim. A 3 part series

26 Sep 2014, Chara Location, Tana Delta

As I alighted from the matatu, I spotted a blue tentage with the words ‘Holy Innocents’ High School’ . Parents were making their way towards the PTA meeting at the Chara location. Parents from the Christian Pokomo community were seated to the left, the parents of the Muslim Orma community on the right with the students from Buyani Secondary School in the middle. Buyani Secondary School was closed in 2012 and part of 2013 due to damage incurred during the violent ethnic clashes in the area. Thanks to the peace talks led by NGOs including Tana River Life Foundation peace has since prevailed.

Volunteers and foundation staff walking towards PTA meeting at Chara Location

Volunteers and foundation walking towards PTA meeting at Chara Location

Students in class at Buyani Secondary School

Students in class at Buyani Secondary School

The foundation accepts applications for bursaries at the start of each school semester at PTA meetings . Students submit their academic transcripts to support their applications, while parents have a channel to appeal for financial support for their children based on extenuating family circumstances. The chiefs and headmen of the surrounding villages kicked off the meeting with rousing speeches in a mixture of English and Swahili, the national language of Kenya. Parents from both communities then took to the stage thanking the leaders and foundation and encouraging their children to do well in school. Finally, Student President Bahaiyesa Ali Batuo and Headgirl Mwanahamisi Jakofa of Buyani Secondary School addressed the crowd. A common theme ran through their speeches – that education was paramount, it equips students for their future and shapes their lives, and that all of them should continue to strive in the face of adversity. In spite of not understanding Swahili I could feel the burning aspirations of the community, and the passion and drive of the students . I felt guilty about having taken education for granted in my teenage years.

We then spoke to some parents as well as students to understand their lives and struggles to break out of their circumstances . Living in a community without electricity, the students needed lights to complete their homework and revision in the evenings, many did not have access to textbooks , girls skipped school one week every month as they could not afford sanitary napkins. Many of the students woke up before dawn to make it to school on foot, a walk that could take over an hour, braving the elements and wild animals in the bush. The walk could take over an hour. A woman in her 30s with 8 children told us about being recounted how she sold as a child bride so that her brothers could go to school.

Village women cooking a feast of goat stew and pilau for the PTA meeting with the foundation

Village women cooking a feast of goat stew and pilau for the PTA meeting with the foundation

Lyanna washing her hands before enjoying the feast prepared by the villagers at Chara

Lyanna washing her hands before enjoying the feast prepared by the villagers at Chara

A lunch of roast goat and pilau cooked the traditional way over coal fires was lovingly prepared by members from both tribes. Food and hope for a better future bring communities together and help them to look beyond irrelevant differences. Having children of different ethnic backgrounds going to school together help cultivate mutual respect and promote racial harmony.

UPDATE : 

We are raising funds for Buyani Secondary School. It is a 3 room school house located in an area doesn’t have running water nor electricity and we are raising funds to bring solar energy into the classrooms, provide students with sports equipment, sponsor their participation in school events, build a multi-purpose room as well as provide shelves, tables and chairs for the room. Would be great if you and your friends could help spread a little Christmas cheer to the students. Thanks for your generosity and have a Merry Christmas !  Please click here to give : https://www.globalgiving.org/projects/rebuilding-buyani-secondary-school/

Lyanna’s Profile :

Lyanna, Sarah and Iris learning to use traditional bush toothbrushes

Lyanna, Sarah and Iris learning to use traditional bush toothbrushes

Currently working in India, Lyanna Lim always had a soft spot for developing countries. Her trip to Nepal as part of her graduation trip motivated her to work in South Asia after she graduated. Inspired by her father who went to Kenya to lend his construction expertise to  TRLF’s Emmaus Centre Project in 2013, Lyanna decided that she wanted to volunteer for this organization. She spearheaded a Global Giving campaign in the beginning of 2014 to raise funds for a mobile library and subsequently visited the foundation for 2 weeks in September 2014 to implement a library software and to coach the youths on how to catalogue and maintain a proper bookkeeping system of the library using the software.

Together with two other volunteers, Iris and Sarah, they traveled to Kenya .  It was an hectic and exciting 2 weeks of implementing a library software system, speaking to student beneficiary and their parents, studying the feasibility of provide solar powered lighting to the students, exploring various reusable sanitary napkin solutions for schoolgirls  as well as sourcing for local soapstones and kitenge (African garment) for fundraising purposes

In her free time, Lyanna loves running, reading and experimenting with raw food recipes. She will be pursuing her MBA in Duke Fuqua School of Business in 2015 and hopes to leverage on her network and business skills and continue contributing meaningfully to TRLF.”

One Response

  1. l really love the work your doing ,,,l would wish to volunteer and work with you people because l love charity work as community nutritionist

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