Letters from Gabriel

Letter from Gabriel – Feb 2014

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds all of you in the best of health and blessed with a good start to 2014. This letter is long overdue, and I sincerely apologize for the delay. It has been an eventful year with a lot of unforeseen challenges. I am grateful however, because it was also a year of much growth in faith and inner strength.

It is now a year since the ethnic clashes in the Tana Delta ended as abruptly as it started and life has slowly returned to normal. TRLF was invited to be part of the Tana Delta Peace Forum set up by the Deputy County Commissioner’s office, aimed at conflict resolution. I believe that our human development initiatives can bring about not merely periods of normalcy but long term peace and sustainable development for the people of Tana Delta. The following report elaborates on this conviction:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2014-trlf-education-and-peace-final.pdf

As part of our efforts to support the areas most affected by the conflict, we started a mobile library this month, initially serving two schools in the delta, including Buyani Secondary School which was vandalized and forced to stop operating for almost a year as a result of the clashes. Our school The Delta Mustard Seed Academy is now registered with the Ministry of Education as a Private Nursery and Primary School, with an enrolment of 115 children from all the delta tribes. You can read more about these and our other educational initiatives at :https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-b-and-c-education-support1.pdf

We terminated the services of the contractor responsible for constructing Phase 1 of the Emmaus Centre (i.e. the school building) in the middle of last year on grounds of non-performance. We were unable to proceed as planned as he refused to return the original building plans to us. The case is currently pending a court decision with a ruling date set for 17th March. Meanwhile, construction of Phase 2 of the Emmaus Centre (i.e. the Community Centre housing the library, computer room, meeting room, auditorium and cafeteria) will begin this month under a new contractor. This phase is expected to be completed by August. Details about the ECP are available at:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-k-and-l-scaling-up.pdf

To better manage these new initiatives, I have delayed my annual trip to Asia. I will arrive in Singapore on 21st March. Collections for the Mitumba Project (i.e. sale of recycled goods to improve rural livelihoods) will start on Saturday 22nd March and run through to Saturday 29th March. The venue remains the same as last year, i.e. the Nativity Church Kindergarten at Hougang Ave 8 (opposite Punggol Park). I look forward to your support once again. Full details can be obtained from :  https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2014-part-b-pdf.pdf

This project, with your generous support, benefited over 50 families last year. I write about this and other entrepreneurship programs at:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-g-and-h-entrepreneuship.pdf

The farm project has progressed very well in spite of being partially destroyed during the floods that hit the delta in May and June last year. More information on this is available at:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-d-e-and-f-sustainable-agriculture.pdf

This was largely due to the efforts of the present group of youth under formation who are also the farm managers. They have matured tremendously in the past year, and are very responsible and honest. I explain more about the youth formation project in the following write-up:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-i-and-j-integral-formation.pdf

We were blessed with many visitors last year. A compilation of photos of 2013 visitors is available at:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-m-donor-visits.pdf

I am grateful for these visits, as it enriches the life experiences of our youth. I trust that every one of our visitors were also enriched in some way, and I welcome more such visits in the coming years.

I am very grateful to all who have helped us in one way or another, making possible so many initiatives last year. May you be blessed abundantly for your generous spirit.  Below is an acknowledgment of the help we received in 2013, and I apologize if I have inadvertently missed mentioning anyone:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-n-acknowledgements.pdf

Highlights of our 2013 initiatives can be downloaded at: https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-pdf-part-a-cover-and-intro.pdf

The complete 2013 Annual Report comprising all the above sections is available at:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2013-trlf-annual-report-final.pdf

We have made major changes to the administration of our school fees sponsorship programme with the aim of assisting the most marginalized students from every location in the Tana Delta. This and all our other plans for 2014 are outlined in the following report:

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/2014-part-a-pdf.pdf

I hope you will be encouraged to continue to journey with us this year as we work towards a more complete humanity for all.

I created a new email address for the foundation: tanariverlifefoundation@gmail.com, and will be sending all future reports through that address. Please save that email address in your contacts list/address book to prevent our future reports from inadvertently being sent to your spam folder.

Lastly, I look forward to meeting you during my stay in Singapore and Malaysia from the end of March until the middle of May. I will be contactable at both +65-98338401 (Singapore) and +6012-6237040 (Malaysia) from 21st March. Please note my new permanent mobile number in Singapore.

Thank you once again, and I wish you all a year of peace and fulfillment. God bless.

Gabriel Teo Kian Chong

Idsowe – Tana Delta

February 2014

 

Report from Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF), Kenya – 2012 activities

Dear friends,

I do hope the year started well for you, and continues to be one of blessings and peace for you and your families. I got into Malaysia on Friday 18th January 2013 together with Prisca Mbaru and Tracy Jilo, a bit later than usual as there was much handing over to do with the ongoing construction work. Prisca is our sixth student on scholarship at UTAR in Kampar, Malaysia, and is doing a degree in
English Education. Tracy benefited from our secondary school and youth formation programmes and started our nursery in 2011. She is in Singapore for 3 weeks on internship with Little Giants Montessori Centre and the National Library Board (NLB) of Singapore.

2013 Asia Trip Schedule
Because of the ongoing construction work, I did not want to remain OUT of Kenya for the entire 3 month period this year. I will return to Kenya for a week after Chinese New Year to check on the progress of the construction and to arrange for the next contract instalment payment scheduled for 22nd February before returning to Asia again until the end of April. It helps that Ethiopia Airlines
started flying from Nairobi to Kuala Lumpur on 31st October 2012, offering very much cheaper fares than competing airlines, i.e. US$800 vs the US$1,400 on Qatar Airways last year.

My schedule will be as follows:

21st Jan to 8th Feb – Singapore
9th Feb to 15th Feb – Malaysia (CNY break)
16th Feb to 24th Feb – Kenya
25th Feb to 28th Feb – Malaysia
1st Mar to 27th Mar – Singapore
28th Mar to 2nd April – Malaysia (Easter break)
3rd April to 20th April – Singapore

Tana Delta Clashes
Some parts of the Tana Delta were affected by violent clashes in August and September 2012, resulting in a curfew being imposed in the entire district since October 2012. The cause of the clashes was initially reported to be a fight between the farming and pastoral communities over land resources for cultivation and grazing of livestock. This was proved untrue when the clashes erupted
again in December 2012 and January 2013 when there was abundant pasture after good rains in November 2012. Security reports now indicate that all the clashes were planned outside the district with the cause and perpetrators remaining unclear. The fact that the local community in and around Idsowe, unlike in some other areas, chose peace over violence throughout the period of unrest from Aug 2012 to Jan 2013 could be an outcome attributable to TRLF projects over the years. Many of TRLF beneficiaries cannot be easily
manipulated and are now able to make meaningful choices in freedom and dignity. The ECP is aimed at strengthening this outcome, so that entire rural communities can progress sustainably and not be manipulated or marginalized by the rapid urbanization affecting their lives.

Emmaus Centre Project (ECP)
With your generous support, we raised S$508,000 in donations in 2012. Besides funding our regular development programmes in education, agriculture, formation and entrepreneurship, we were also able to start construction of Phase 1 of the ECP, comprising the school building, water and power supply and access road. Phase 1 is expected to be complete by June 2013 and with sufficient funds,
Phase 2 comprising the community centre will begin in July 2013. I am grateful to Jonaron Foundation for pledging to match every dollar we raise for the ECP development fund.

Aegis Building & Engineering Pte Ltd will be seconding a site foreman to TRLF by the end of March 2013. The site foreman will supervise construction of Phase 1 and 2 and train two of our staff members who will supervise construction of Phase 3 independently. I am very grateful to Mr. Yeong Wai Teck and his friends for this tremendous support. I am also very grateful to Jeremy Neo for remaining in Idsowe to help my staff in site supervision for two weeks in January after my departure.

TRLF Early Childhood Development Programme
We started our second year of this programme, which is a nursery and kindergarten for over 60 children aged between 3 to 5 years using temporary facilities as the school is being built. By the time we actually begin operating at the new school premises in January 2014, we would have had the benefit of two years practical experience in running the school off-site. We employed three teachers
and one caregiver for 2013 and will cover 33% of project running costs from fee collections.

Mitumba Project
All the efforts put into collecting usable recycled items last year was of great help to over 50 families in Tana Delta. We were more selective of the beneficiaries in 2012. Women with siblings, children or grandchildren whom they were supporting in schools or colleges were given priority. We also assisted women who had members of their families needing urgent medical attention as well as a
few with small scale businesses to assist them expand and earn stable incomes.

Fr. Henry of Nativity Church in Hougang will host us from 1st March onwards so there will be NO change in venue. A write-up giving details of the Mitumba Project is attached herewith. Do support us with your donations. We will also appreciate your help in sorting and packing the items and loading containers. I hope students from Raffles Institution, Holy Innocents High School, Singapore
Polytechnic as well as from other schools in Singapore will assist us as they did last year.

The jumble sale, bake sale and “karanguni” sales in April 2012 raised S$18,500 to finance this project. We are planning similar events this year to make the project finance itself as much as possible, targeting to cover even the airfare of the TRLF youth managing the project.

Other Assistance Required
Besides funding support for 2013 programmes, we also hope to receive the following items to be shipped over to Kenya in March: (1) used classroom furniture (2) new/used canvas for community meetings and (3) new/used sports equipment, e.g. footballs, volleyballs, goalposts, nets etc.
I will be in Singapore with two of our youth from 1st March until 20th April 2013 and am looking for accomodation during this period. If you are able to provide us with an unused flat or house during any part of that period, do let me know. The place does NOT have to be furnished.

Appreciation
Special thanks to the following friends for their assistance since I left last year:

• Jason Wang and the entire AEDAS team, Milenko Prvacki, Ruth Chua, and all their artist friends, Iris
Tay, Karen Tan, Ho Kah Keh and Mike Ang for their time in organizing our activities here;
• The Pang siblings for donating their artworks to raise funds for the ECP. See link to artworks:
https://tanariverlife.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/more-childrens-art-in-aid-of-trlf-2012-2013/ ;
• The Chung family and Iris Tay for running bake sales, Ms. Esther Wee of Halia Restaurant and Ms.
Gina Choong of Kitchen Capers for sponsorship of ingredients and packaging for the bake sales;
• The Little Giants Montessori fraternity for organizing activities to raise awareness and funding
support, and the matched funding by Credit Suisse Singapore;
• Focus Pilates, Glenn Martis & Yoke Moi, Maria Chung & the SOTA Choir, for contributions to the ECP;
• Mr. Lee and Mr. Tom Zeng for volunteering as our consultant engineers on the ECP site;
• The SMU Pendeza group for hosting our young adults at Meru, funded by Accenture;
• Donation of a solar water pump from Ong Wai Kin;
• Mrs. Kiang/Mrs. Elaine Ng of National Library Board (NLB) for assisting us set up our rural libraries;
• Mr. Hsieh for kindly expanding our support network;
• Lena and Sharon Lim and team at XBCS for ideas on sustainable toilet design for the ECP;
• Anita Teo, Angela Beins, Virginia Bruce, Mary Pierre, Julie Sng, Agnes Sit, Karen Tan, Ruth Chua and
Nina Foo for visiting us;
• SJI, Maris Stella, RI, Catholic High, St. Theresa’s Convent, Holy Innocents High School for their support.

I look forward to meeting you while I am here in Asia to thank you and update you. Meanwhile, for media articles and audited reports, go to https://tanariverlife.wordpress.com/tag/media-coverage/
Sincerely,
Gabriel Teo Kian Chong
25th January 2013
Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF)

2013 Mitumba Project
TRLF is a Non Governmental Organization (NGO) registered in Kenya since 2007. It was founded by Malaysian and former Singapore PR, Gabriel Teo Kian Chong.
Mitumba means recycled goods in Kiswahili. The Mitumba Project is aimed at helping rural households earn additional income to cater for their own development needs, e.g. education, health and enterprise through the sale of recycled items that are still in very good condition.
Every year we make a collection of specific used items from friends here in Singapore, sort these items into three categories, i.e. (a) new or almost new high-end branded goods, (b) recycled goods for Mitumba project stock, and (c) goods that are in good condition but do not fit the criteria for redistribution in Tana River. The first and last category of items are resold here in Singapore at a jumble sale or to the “karanguni” sector, while items in category (b) are packed and shipped over to Tana River in Kenya for resale by the local women there.

The project has evolved over the years to become increasingly more self-financing, made possible from the jumble sale and karanguni sales proceeds. We received tremendous support in 2012 and were able to assist over 50 families in Tana Delta. Beneficiaries were chosen based on their actual household situations. Women with siblings, children or grandchildren whom they were supporting in secondary schools or colleges were given priority. We also selected women who had members of their families needing urgent medical attention as well as a few women with small scale businesses to assist them expand and earn stable incomes.

Though the project takes up a lot of time and physical effort, it helps rural households find solutions to their problems in dignity and without dependency. They receive a walking stick and use that to help themselves stand up and walk. In addition, it has also provided students from Singapore an opportunity to directly partake of an activity that changes lives in a meaningful way for rural families in Tana Delta, Kenya.

We appreciate your support towards the Mitumba Project and ask you to note the following points:

1. Attached is the list of NEW/USED items we require. Kindly donate ONLY items as specified on the list so that we may make good use of the limited space available in the collection centre. In addition, we will also need medium sized firm empty carton boxes, OP tapes and double sided tapes for packing and labelling the boxes. The boxes should not be too large to make loading and unloading easier. Do bring these along if you have any.

2. The collection venue is the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Upper Serangoon Road. For map, go to http://www.streetdirectory.com/asia_travel/travel/travel_id_1724/travel_site_85524/. Please use the FIRST entrance along Hougang Ave 8 leading to the Nativity Church Kindergarten (facing Punggol Park). DO NOT use the main entrance to the church facing Upper Serangoon Road or the second entrance along Hougang Ave 8 as you will not be able to reach the collection point from these entrances.

3. The collection period for 2013 will be as follows:

  • Saturday 2 Mar 10.00 am to 8.00 pm
  • Sunday to Friday 3 Mar to 8 Mar 2.00 pm to 8.00 pm
  • Saturday 9 Mar 10.00 am to 8.00 pm
  • Sunday 10 Mar 2.00 pm to 8.00 pm

As we are being hosted by an institution of worship, please adhere to the stated collection times and dates. Kindly DO NOT leave your items in the car park outside this period without prior arrangement with us.

4. During the collection period, you may contact Eddy Adison at 86705012 or 92320222 if you have any questions or need assistance unloading your donated items. You may also contact Gabriel Teo via email at gabrielteo@yahoo.com or visit our blog at http://www.tanariverlife.wordpress.com for more information and updates on this and our other programmes.

5. Finally, we also need volunteers to help us to sort, pack and load the items during and after the collection period. Do let us know if you are also able to assist in this way.

Please download the guidelines for the  Mitumba 2013 Project. 

Thank you for your support and God bless.
Gabriel Teo Kian Chong
26th January 2013

Report from Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF), Kenya – 2011 activities

Dear friends,

I hope last year ended well for each one of you and that you had a good start to this new year. I thank God for all that He has made possible since we returned to Kenya in April 2011. I am also grateful that our area was not seriously affected by any of the calamities that affected other parts of Kenya, such as the drought, and later the floods, and the threat from neighbouring Somalia.

I will be leaving for Malaysia on 20 January with two of our youth to be home in Johor Bahru on time to share the reunion dinner with my family and the students from Kampar. Immediately after the Lunar New Year, I will travel up to Kampar to register a new student as well as to check on the progress of the four who are already there. Once that issue is settled, I will be heading for Singapore at the end of January 2012. As in the past years, I will be happy to meet in the coming weeks as we seek your continued support for yet another year. We will also be collecting items for the ‘mitumba’ (recycled goods) project in February 2012.

Mitumba Project

The used clothes we brought into Kenya last year was distributed in three ways. Part of it was distributed to our students and youth for their use, another part was issued to members of the Dziavye Women’s Group, and finally the largest part was issued to a group of 25 women from the most economically disadvantaged households in the village. In total we were able to assist over 50 women this year. The women were charged Ksh20 (S$0.30) per piece of clothing, and proceeded to sell each piece at Ksh50 (S$0.75) or higher. These enabled us to cover the cost of import duties, while enabling the women to earn substantial profits. With these earnings, some managed to rebuild their homes, e.g. changing iron sheets for leaking roofs or repairing outhouse toilets for their homes, some revived their small businesses selling fish or sundry items, while others managed to pay part of their children’s school fees or cater for medical emergencies.

As the items we received last year were all in very good resale condition, the women did not have much difficulty selling off the items. I hope you will continue to assist us once again this year although the collection will be after the Lunar New Year.

TRLF Nursery

We started a single class nursery school last week for 3 to 4 year old kids and hope that that will be the seed which will develop into a vibrant educational centre for the community in the future. The teacher running the school is Tracy Jillo, a young lady from Idsowe.

Tracy is a beneficiary of the girl-child education special assistance programmes that we have been providing for the past few years with your support. She was sponsored under our secondary school programme from 2005 to 2008. In 2009 she was part of the youth formation programme working in the farm and volunteering with office administration. We sponsored her for a course in early childhood development from 2010 to 2011. Upon completion, she volunteered to be the librarian when we opened the children’s community library in September 2011. She is now teaching a class of 20 kids besides running the library 4 days a week.

Educational Centre Project (ECP)

With regard the Educational Centre Project (ECP), we received the final building plans from partner institutions in Singapore (namely AEDAS Pte. Ltd., ARUP Singapore Pte. Ltd., LAC Engineers & Associates, and KPK Quantity Surveyors) in October 2011 and were able to obtain approvals from the local public health and public works departments before the Christmas break. We are awaiting further approvals from the physical planning department and the Tana River County Council after which construction can begin. Meanwhile we started and completed land clearing works, i.e. clearing bush and uprooting trees, on the site to be built upon leaving the surrounding areas of the 12-acre plot forested and green and still with some wildlife such as mousedeers (dik-dik) and antelopes.

The land clearing works were done by over 60 of our youth from the start of December 2011. Although the work was very labour intensive, the youth cooperated well and did a very clean job on site and each was paid according to the area he/she cleared. Involving the youth instead of paying a construction firm to bulldoze the area was beneficial in several ways.

  • Firstly, we were able to minimize destruction to the environment, preserving as many trees as possible.
  • We also saved a substantial amount of funds since the work was done manually without heavy machinery.
  • In addition, the youth were able to appreciate the value of their hard work, and in a deeper though less tangible way, by working on the land clearing exercise, they were able to participate in their own communities’ development, creating a sense of community ownership over the project.

We were planning to build a culvert to create and all-weather access road to the site from the main road before I leave but that plan was delayed as the quotation received from construction firms was on the high side. We are waiting for quotations from alternative sources before proceeding.

Ground levelling works will commence on Monday, 16th January 2012. These preliminary works will be completed in my absence so that construction can begin by May this year.

The youth also cleared a plot of land in one corner of the plot which will be used as the sports centre housing a football field and basketball and volleyball courts. We intend to start planting grass over the area as construction proceeds so that by the time we open the centre in January 2013, the sports area will also be ready for use.

Finally, we dug a well on the site and touched water at 40 feet. The water is very saline but we hope that the salinity will decrease in time.

Public Libraries

2011 also saw the establishment of the first two public libraries in Tana River County. After opening the Garsen High School library, complete with bookshelves and books in July 2011, we opened a second smaller library for children at Idsowe Village in September 2011. The second library is fully owned and managed by Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF) and will eventually be moved to the ECP site as part of the proposed community centre housing a library, computer centre, cafeteria, business centre and meeting room.

With support from friends in Singapore, a container with over 10,000 books and used bookshelves (donated by CHIJ St. Theresa’s Convent, Singapore) arrived in Mombasa Port on 3rd January 2012. There has been a serious congestion at the port since 23rd December 2011, and up till now, the container has not been downloaded. However, once we clear the container, these books will be put in storage until the new community library is ready. A major help we will need in the near future is the cataloguing of items and computerization of the book lending system.

Youth Enterprise Scheme (YES)

Another project started in 2011 was the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme (YES). This project is intended to help the older youth become self reliant by carrying out their own small trades. We built a business centre consisting two building blocks and opened it out for rent to the older youth. The centre, named ‘Biashara Street’ (‘biashara’ is Kiswahili for business), houses a tailoring centre, a mobile phone repair, a sundry shop, a computer and office services centre, a tuition centre, a hairdressing saloon, a photo studio and an electrical services centre, run and owned by the youth. These businesses have all been registered with the County Council, with each business unit paying rent that is used to pay the salary of one night watchman as well as defray utilities costs, e.g. water and electricity. We also obtained permission to put up advertisement boards along the main road to direct customers to the business centre. This centre will also eventually be shifted to the site of the ECP.

Educational Sponsorship Programmes

In 2011, we sponsored over 500 students at Secondary School level with school fee bursaries and over 40 youth at tertiary level. A group of friends and institutions in Singapore (namely Palate Sensations, Gallery Helios Pte. Ltd. and Halia Restaurant) continued to conduct bake sales and other fund raising events in 2011 to raise funds for the education of the girl-child. Definitely, the gap has narrowed a lot in the last ten years, and the special assistance to the girl child in terms of sanitary napkins and bursaries has been of great help.

In addition, we improved on the night preps programme, providing a proper study area with adequate lighting for more students from the village to do their studies during weekday nights. At the moment, we have a group of 30 students coming to our premises each night for personal studies.

Finally, by January 2012, we will also have a total of 5 students doing degree studies at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) in Kampar, Perak, Malaysia on full tuition scholarship. The first two students Oscar Raha and Hamara Awadh leave Kenya tonight after a two week stay with their families here in Idsowe. The most recent candidate is Collins Hiribae who will do degree studies in Accountancy.

Youth Sustainable Agriculture Project (‘Shamba’ Project)

Started in July 2010, this project is in its second year now, and is largely funded by Wesley Methodist Church of Singapore. All activities at the ‘shamba’, which is the Kiswahili word for farm, are guided by the principle of maximizing the use of available local resources, affordable technology, as well as environmentally sustainable methods. The aim is to develop a model farm that other local small scale farmers can emulate to enhance the quality of life for their families.  We employ a method of profit sharing with the youth working on the shamba project.

2011 saw a vast expansion of the project as we started fish farming and poultry projects. In terms of crops, we planted an area with local drought resistant foods, e.g. tapioca, sweet potatoes, squash and pumpkins and another area with fruit trees, e.g. passion, bananas, pomegranates, mulberry, orange and mango trees. We also started a small vegetable plot using the drip irrigation method, and managed to harvest zucchini and ladies fingers on a regular basis in December 2011. Our aim in the crop projects is to encourage a balanced and diversified diet for families without substantial increase in costs, while opening up the possibility of additional household income from sale of excess produce.

Honey harvesting and fish harvesting were carried out during the year with local sales. In addition we put into place an improved irrigation system consisting of water storage tanks, underground pipes and also dug a water pan. The drip irrigation and bee keeping projects were slightly affected by the threat of floods in December 2011. Fortunately, the waters subsided in two days causing minimum damage.

The plan for 2012 is to increase production and to explore viable methods for the youth to market their produce.

We also hope to start a small goat rearing project in 2012.

2011 Audited Financial Statements

The 2011 Audited Financial Statements will be issued and uploaded to our website at  www.tanariverlifefoundation.org  by mid February 2012.

i-Movies on TRLF Projects

We are finalizing some short videos on the different projects and will send you the you-tube links once these are ready.

Meanwhile, I wish each one of you and your families a joyful, peaceful and blessings-filled year of the Dragon and look forward to meeting up soon.

Thank you all once again for your faithful and generous support for all the past years.

I also do hope that we will be blessed with visitors once again in 2012.

Warmest regards.

Gabriel Teo Kian Chong

Idsowe Village, Tana River County, Kenya

14th January 2012

January 2011 :

Dear friends,
I know this is a bit late, but let me start by wishing each of you a fulfilling year ahead.
The end of last year was a bit hectic on our end as I wanted to submit the 2010 books of accounts to the auditors before I left Kenya to return to Asia. After many hours during the Christmas period right past the new year, we finally finished closing the books and were able to submit our files to the audit firm, PKF Kenya, in Mombasa on 10th January 2011. We expect the 2010 audited accounts to be issued by early February and will post it on our website at http://www.tanariverlifefoundation.org. You may for now access the website for the audited reports from previous years up to 2009.
UTAR Scholarship for Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF) Students
I left Kenya on 11th January 2011 together with two new students who are now in UTAR – a private university in Kampar (near Ipoh) in Malaysia. Together with the two students who came last year to do a 1 year Foundation course, there are now four students, all from Tana Delta, studying at UTAR on full tuition scholarships. All four of them started their first semester degree studies yesterday, 17th January 2011 – Oscar Raha in Business Information Systems, Hamara Awadh in Electronic Engineering, while the two new ones, Keston Bonaya and Alex Musila are both doing Business Management.
This year I am here with Eddy Adison once again. Some of you may have met him last year. He will be with me on this trip to assist with the administrative work and the ‘Mitumba’ (Reusable Goods) Project. I also hope that his stay here can help him understand better the responsibilities and expectations that assistance and donor aid entails. He is one amongst a core group of former beneficiaries who are being formed and exposed to a greater extent with the hope that they will go on to do more under the umbrella of TRLF in the future.

2010 Projects
In 2010, in addition to the ongoing projects such as secondary and tertiary level educational assistance, youth formation and work with the women’s group to increase their household incomes from sale of second hand clothes and other items, we also undertook two new projects.
(i) Garsen High School (GHS) Library and Bakery Construction
TRLF has been sponsoring the development of GHS since it started with a class of 16 students seven years ago. GHS is now the largest public secondary school in the district. Hamara Awadh is the first student from GHS to go on to tertiary studies.
In 2010, we finished putting up the fence, gate and guardhouse for the school. We also built a bakery and library cum audio visual room. The bakery will supply breakfast for the almost 500 students studying in GHS. In addition, if properly managed by the Principal and staff, it can also become a viable income generating project to sell bread to the surrounding towns and villages. Presently, all the bread in the area is either home baked or brought in daily from Malindi, a town situated 100 kms from Garsen.
The library is the first such facility in the entire district. It is at the moment unfurnished and I hope to be able to collect appropriate furniture, such as library shelves during this trip. We received a lot of books in the later part of 2010, collected and shipped over by friends from Singapore. The books are presently still stored in the TRLF containers and will be handed over to GHS together with the furniture hopefully before the start of Term 2 in May this year.
One other minor project carried out for GHS in 2010 was the development of an agro-forestry project for the school. This involved the fencing up of a small area set aside for the planting of trees to generate
income from sale of poles and hardwood when the trees mature. Besides the fence work, TRLF also assisted in building a tool store and watchman’s room and the water storage system for this project.
All GHS development projects in 2010 were funded mainly by Jovinas Trust and another private trust which has requested to remain anonymous.
Sustainable Agriculture Project (SHB-SAP)
In addition to the formal educational projects, we also started a sustainable agriculture project (SHB-SAP) that is being carried out by the TRLF youth. The SHB-SAP is intended to be an informal educational project based outside the classroom in line with the TRLF mission of assisting in the holistic development of the human person. The project is being carried out on a 10 acre plot owned by TRLF in Idsowe village and comprises many small scale sustainable agriculture projects, such as bee-keeping, fish-farming, farming of vegetables and food crops such as maize, sweet potatoes and tapioca, fruit tree farming, as well as poultry and livestock keeping. Other than the basic infrastructure, i.e. the farmhouse for the watchman and his family, the fence and gates and the water storage and irrigation system, all the project activities involve low capital input. This is so that as the youth learn in a practical way how they can improve on household incomes, nutrition and quality of life by working on the land in a sustainable and affordable way, other local farmers may also benefit from their experience and attempt similar projects on their own small plots without being hampered by the need for high capital inputs. We hope that eventually, the farm will evolve into a sustainable agriculture training centre and be a model farm for the local small scale farmers. The Wesley Methodist Church in Singapore contributed a substantial amount towards the infrastructural costs of this project in 2010.
Educational Centre Project (ECP)
For 2011, besides developing the sustainable agriculture project, we also intend to begin construction of the Educational Centre Project (ECP). The ECP is intended to become a comprehensive community centre. Besides pre-primary and primary educational facilities, the ECP will also contain other community facilities such as a library, a computer centre, meetings-seminar-training facilities and a business centre for youth enterprises. It will also house the TRLF administrative office and contain accommodation facilities for staff, donors as well as the public. The 12 acre site of the proposed ECP was allocated to TRLF by the Idsowe Village Council of Elders and confirmed by the Tana River County Council in 2009. We have been paying rates for the land since 2009. The entire area was fenced up in 2009 and a topographical survey conducted in 2010. The architectural building plans are being designed by AEDAS Singapore and we hope to get more support in terms of expertise, materials and funding this year from various sources during our stay here. Since 2009, unutilized funds received from donors specifically for the ECP has been set aside in a fixed deposit account with CfC Stanbic Bank in Mombasa. There were two major donations towards this project in 2010, i.e. from MAJODI (Melaka Johor Catholic Diocese) and from a private individual donor in Singapore. The fixed deposit account had a balance of Ksh7,310,967 (approximately SGD116,000) as at 31st December 2010. Ksh310,967 (SGD4,945) represents interest earned from the account. Jovinas Trust has also pledged a dollar for dollar funding on all funds raised from other sources towards this project. We hope to be able to begin construction as early as May 2011 and ask for your prayers and support for this task.
Mitumba Project – Collection of Reusable Items for Resale
As in the past years, we will once again do a collection of used items for resale by the Dziavye Women’s Group to increase their household income. Details of the collection period are in the attached appendix. I do apologize for the short notice period but hope you will be able to support this appeal. I am grateful to the Principals, staff and students of Holy Innocents’ High School and St. Theresa’s Convent in Singapore for assisting us with the logistics for the shipment of containers in 2010 and appeal for their kind support once again this year.

Appeal for Used School Furniture
In 2010, we received substantial amounts of used school furniture from various sources with the help of the Principals of St. Theresa’s Convent and Holy Innocents High School. As in the past, we repainted the used desks and chairs and donated 100 sets to Marifano Secondary School and another 150 sets to Gadeni Secondary School. We hope to be able to collect more classroom and library furniture this year. We also distributed full sets of stationeries donated by students of St. Theresa’s Convent to all children in Idsowe Primary School and the two nurseries in Idsowe village.
Fundraising Activities in Singapore in 2010
After we left Singapore at the end of April 2010, a group of friends continued to carry out several activities to raise funds in support of the education of rural girls from Tana Delta as well as the library books projects. I am grateful to Iris Tay and friends at Palate Sensations, Kitchen Capers and Ginger Garden (all in Singapore) for all their untiring efforts in funding and organizing bake sales and book collections and also arranging the shipment of an additional container load of items to Kenya in the later part of 2010. These efforts were complemented by a substantial funding from Jacqueline Teo specifically for the education of the girl child in the later part of the year.
Donor Visits to Tana Delta in 2010
We were blessed with several donor visit in 2010. In July, we had the Kong family – Kwok Wei, Wai Leng and their three kids, Jin, Ren and Kei visiting us followed by the Tan ladies, Clara, Angie and Imelda in August. Not long after we had a meeting in Nairobi with Ms. Eng Hwee Cheng and her brother followed by a weekend visit by Ong Wai Kin who was in Kenya on a business trip. Finally we had two 15 year old boys from Johor Bahru, Zachary Frank and Kevin Joseph who came and lived with us for almost a month in November. These visit have been enriching for our youth and students and I do believe for the visitors as well. Do let me know if you intend to visit in 2011 so we can make preliminary plans while in Asia.
UTAR Students Holiday Stays in Johor Bahru and Singapore
In September 2010 and January 2011, the two students from TRLF who are studying in UTAR in Malaysia were on term break. Oscar and Hamara visited Johor Bahru and Singapore on both occasions. I am grateful to the Teo family in Johor Bahru for giving them a sense of family life while in Malaysia. I am also grateful to Pauline Wong and her extended family, Julie Sng, Karen and Gary Tan, Iris Tay, Clara, Angie and Imelda Tan and many others in Singapore for their kind hospitality in looking after the two boys during their holidays and helping them appreciate in a deeper way what kindness and generosity means. I noticed a greater maturity and openess in both of them when we met in Kampar last week.
Programme for Asia Stay
Eddy and myself are now in Johor Bahru at my mum’s place and will move to Singapore on Thursday 20th January 2011. We will be there until 31st January 2011 when we will return to Malaysia for 2 weeks for the Chinese New Year celebrations and donor meetings in Melaka and Kuala Lumpur. After that we return to Singapore and expect to be there until the end of March to finish all donor meetings and presentations as well as sort, pack and ship off all donated items from Singapore. We hope to get assistance for at least two containers this year to ferry the expected school (library and classroom) furniture, study aids (e.g. calculators, etc) as well as used clothes and other items.
While here, you may contact us via email at <gabrielteo@yahoo.com> or by phone at +65-92320222 (Singapore) or +60-127237040 (Malaysia). We look forward to meeting you to thank you personally, and to share more about the year past and plans for the year ahead. I am very grateful because this journey would not have been possible if not for God through you.

God bless.
Gabriel Teo Kian Chong – Johor Bahru – 18th January 2011

—————————————-

Christmas 2008 :

Dear Friends,

I hope this letter finds each one of you whole; grateful for the year that has

been, and hopeful for the year ahead.

I apologize for not writing since I returned to Kenya in March this year, but be

assured that I remember your friendship and kindness and that my prayers are

with you constantly.

The year has filled with a lot of blessings from God, with many signs of growth,

especially amongst the youth that I am forming to continue this work in the

future. I have seen in many of them glimpses of both compassion and passion

for life, and I am hopeful that with proper guidance and encouragement, some

of them will go on to do much for their communities in the future. Besides

forming them as morally upright, honest and able community leaders, , many of

them have also picked up useful skills, whether in agriculture, or in office

administration, or in computer knowledge as part of their formation.

The young man who was the leader of my youth last year, Eddy Adison,

introduced a new group of youth in July this year before leaving for his course

of studies in sustainable agriculture and community development in September.

I thank God he finished the term well, and is now with us for this month,

picking up from where he left in leading the youth group.

The one in charge of the group this year is a young girl, Caroline, who has

shown a great depth of understanding for what she is being called to. She still

has many obstacles to overcome, not least being the cultural norms about

leadership position for women especially in rural areas, but I am hopeful that

with time, she will mature and possibly be one of the pillars of her community.

God willing, she will start studies in Accountancy in September next year.

The youth group was this month officially registered with the Ministry of Social

Services under the name Emmaus Youth Association.

The other programmes, such as the secondary school, tertiary and vocational

sponsorship programmes, have continued without much change, except that

parents are more committed now in attending meetings, and there is a greater

sense of working together with the foundation to take charge of the education of

their children. This alone is a sign of positive change in attitudes, a sign of hope.

Garsen High School which we started in 2004 without any certainty about its

future has grown and expanded beyond expectations. The headteacher, Benjamin

Shollo is a very committed professional. The foundation gives him a lot of support

as his task is not easy, managing a school population of almost 400 students with

insufficient resources and staff from the Teachers Service Commission. For the

first time, the boys’ and girls’ drama and football teams qualified to represent the

district at the provincial games, and for many, it was an enriching experience,

resulting in a more positive attitude towards their growth and development.

Academically, we will know how much we have progressed when the results for

the Secondary School Leaving Examinations are out in February 2009.

Garsen High School is expected to have the highest enrolment in the district by

January 2009, as it is the only day school in the district, charging the lowest fees,

and yet offering a better than average quality of education. The foundation is

putting up a school fence during this school holidays and we expect that by

February next year, being properly fenced up, the school can start livestock and

agroforestry projects to raise supplementary income for the school.

With regard the Educational Centre Project (ECP), i.e. the proposed nursery and

primary school that is to be built and run by the foundation, our efforts to secure

title for the 12 acre plot of land donated by the Idsowe Village Council of Elders

has been an exercise in perseverance. Nevertheless, we have now obtained all the

required approvals from the District authorities. What remains is the plot allotment

letter from the Ministry of Lands in Nairobi, which is expected within the next one

or two months, after which construction can begin.

I will travel to Singapore/Malaysia at the end of February 2009 and plan to begin

construction as soon as I return in April 2009 so that the school can be operational

by January 2010. The ECP facilities will also enable us to conduct adult education

classes in the evenings to assist those who dropped out at the end of primary school

to go on and obtain their secondary education certificate. In addition, the ECP will

also contain a library, a computer lab with internet connectivity and a seminar

room. These facilities are aimed at improving both formal and informal education

in the district, to benefit as many as possible.

I made an application to the Kenya Revenue Authority for the foundation to be

awarded tax exempt status. This is equivalent to being recognized as a charity and

Kenyan companies making donations to a tax exempt organization are allowed to

deduct such contributions when calculating their taxable income. The status of this

application is still outstanding, and yet another exercise in perseverance.

Members of our youth group receive a monthly allowance of approximately S$30

(RM60) for volunteering their time with the foundation. The entire amount is

normally banked directly into their savings account, so that it will be available to

supplement their indirect education expenses when they go for further studies next

year. This month however, the youth decided to donate part of their allowances and

together managed to raise over S$300, with which they bought rice, maize flour,

cooking oil, tea leaves, sugar and one goat. They identified 18 poorest households

in the village and plan to distribute the foodstuff to these families on 24th

December.

It is a small step but a great lesson in learning how to give back and share from

what they have, and I am greatly encouraged by the generosity they have shown.

This is probably the first time that any youth group has done anything like that here

in the village, and it is yet another great sign that God is present amongst us.

With this, I humbly ask you to remember all of us in your prayers, just as we give

thanks to God for all of you constantly, as we work together to build a more just

society. I wish you and your loved ones strength of spirit, great hope and deep

sense of joy for life this Christmas, and a blessed start to the year ahead.

Yours sincerely,

Gabriel Teo Kian Chong

Idsowe Village – Tana Delta District

Kenya

18th December 2008

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out..” John 1:5

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