Happy New Year from the Tana Delta – a note from Gabriel

Dear Friends

I pray that you and your loved ones are well, and wish all of you a belated Christmas and a very Happy New Year 2016. May God bless you with grace, joy, peace and inner strength in the year ahead.

It has been really hot over here in Tana for the entire month of December, despite the heavy rains. Thankfully the weather has cooled down this week and we are hoping that the hottest period has passed. The river broke its banks as a result of the heavy rains upcountry and some villages along the Tana River were flooded. Our village was not affected though our farm and many others along the river were flooded causing some loss of crops. Nevertheless, it was not as bad as we were expecting with all the dire predictions of El Nino in the press since September.

We continued extending our reach to the most interior villages this year, giving a lot of students opportunities they would otherwise not have. We managed to organize the first Tana Delta Secondary School Debate sanctioned by the Ministry of Education. We held it at Kitere Secondary School, the most remote school in the Delta. The entire school comprises a single building with 3 classrooms, one of which is used as staff room cum principal’s room cum store.


Kitere Secondary School is situated in Ndera Location. It is the most remote secondary school in the Tana Delta

It takes two hours to get there during the dry season and even longer during the rains, if at all the roads are passable. Normally such events are held in schools situated closer to the tarmac road, and at most just a few student representatives from the interior schools are able to travel to attend such functions due to lack of means.

Every debate participant received a dictionary donated by St. Theresa’s Convent in Singapore
Every debate participant received a dictionary donated by St. Theresa’s Convent in Singapore

Holding the event at Kitere Secondary School gave that entire school population a truly unforgettable experience. It also enabled students from the less remote areas who participated in the debate to appreciate the challenges students in the remote areas face.

TRLF – improving Child Literacy Skills in the Tana Delta
TRLF – improving Literacy Skills in the Tana Delta

Our school, Delta Mustard Seed Academy had an enrolment of over 150 students this year. Our children are able to read from the time they are 5 years old, whereas the norm in the Delta has always been that kids even as old as 9 struggle to read simple words. We would like to assist more children develop in this way and have identified 6 primary schools in the most outlying locations for special assistance. We are developing a program together with the school teachers from these schools for implementation in 2016.

 School Building under construction; Community Centre in the background
School Building under construction; Community Centre in the background

Work restarted on construction of the school building of the Emmaus Centre Project (ECP) in late November. The delay was because the contractor Mr. Li was tying up another project in Ethiopia and was unable to release his site manager until mid-November. The site manager Mr Yang is a very skilled and dedicated builder and his service is worth the wait. He undertook the community centre construction and completed that with utmost professionalism and much passion. The school is expected to be completed by May 2016.

The community centre building is complete with the exception of the internet connection. We are working on getting the external works completed, i.e. waste disposal, water supply and storage etc. All such works are expected to be completed by mid-2016.

TRLF youth, Nancy an Esther explaining the use of reusable sanitary napkins to students from Kitere
TRLF youth, Nancy and Esther explaining the use of reusable sanitary napkins to students from Kitere

We continue nurturing our youth, both at secondary school level as well as post-secondary level, helping them form and internalize moral values. We also involve them in all the community work we do so that they become more integrated in the real lives of their own communities and neighbours. Many of them mature to become more passionate and aware of the needs of others and of their responsibilities to assist.

TRLF donated desks, chairs and textbooks to Oda, Buyani and Kitere secondary schools in 2015
TRLF donated desks, chairs and textbooks to Oda, Buyani and Kitere secondary schools in 2015

As we leave the gift of 2015 behind, and look forward in wonder and faith to 2016, I thank you very much for journeying with us as we build individual lives, and thereby entire communities. You are remembered in our prayers today and I ask that you too keep us in yours. Once again, Happy New Year 2016, be blessed.


Idsowe Village – Tana Delta, Kenya
1st January 2016

Watch Our Latest Video

Watch a video of what the foundation has been up to lately. Gabriel Teo speaks about the work being done in Education, Sustainable Agriculture, Entrepreneuship, Youth Formation Program and the Emmaus Centre.

Thanks to Alen Nikolovski, Soh Lai Leng, and Sister Delphine for agreeing to be interviewed. Thank you Wally Tham and Esther Chan for producing this video !

Kenya through the eyes of a young Singaporean – by Lyanna Lim. Part 2 of 3

27 Sep 2014, Ndera, Tana Delta

The Road to Ndera - Traffic Jam Delta Style

The Road to Ndera -Traffic Jam Delta Style

Jam Delta Style 2

The Road to Ndera -Goat Jam in the Delta

Driving to the interior - The trail to Ndera

Driving to the interior – The trail to Ndera

The road to Ndera was bumpy and dusty. After one hour of travelling on mud roads and battling with the potholes, we finally reached Ndera village. Ndera is located in the interiors, north of Idsowe, where the Foundation is based.

Families from Ndera waiting for lunch at the PTA Meeting

Families from Ndera waiting for lunch at the PTA Meeting

Mothers at PTA Meeting

Mothers at PTA Meeting

We were visiting another village with the foundation to conduct a bursary meeting . Students in these schools had high aspirations, as they shared their ambitions to be politicians, lawyers, doctors, clinical officers, engineers and early childhood educators. It was most heartening to hear them speak about their future with such fervor.

Lyanna and Sarah with students at Ndera

Lyanna and Sarah with the students at Ndera

 

The toilet at the school in Ndera

The toilet at the school in Ndera

A tour of the school premises led us to the toilet. The pit toilet was supported by wooden branches and flanked by several corrugated steel sheets . As city dwellers this was a rude awakening to the privacy and hygiene issues these students faced.

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.”

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.”

Gabriel and Tana River Life Foundation featured in Millionaire Asia

Thanks to Brian Yim and the team at Millionaire Asia, Gabriel and Tana River Life Foundation were featured in the Issue 33 of Millionaire Asia. Here’s the article.

https://tanariverlife.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/millionaire-asia-second-nature-journey-to-the-tana-delta-2pp_r8-final.pdf

Reaching out to Schools in Singapore

Gabriel and team were invited to his alma mater Raffles Institution on 16th April as part of Heartware 2014, organized by the Community Advocates of the school.

He spoke on the work of the foundation and helped Rafflesians understand how their efforts in collecting used shoes contribute to the community in Idsowe, Kenya through the Mitumba project.

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Here’s an extract of the article by Joyce Er, Marcus Tan, Christine Saw and Martin Lim :

That same day, a talk was also held to help establish the right attitude towards the final instalment of Heartware, Feel It! No Shoes Day. Over the past two years, this has been held alongside the Shoe Collection Drive that CA holds in partnership with the Tana River Life Foundation (TRLF). This is a charitable organisation situated in Kenya, which aims to provide dignified aid to marginalised locals. The talk was conducted by Rafflesian alumnus and TRLF founder, Mr Gabriel Teo, about his organisation’s schemes and the ethics he believes should underpin any acts of social service. He was accompanied by three Kenyan youth beneficiaries of TRLF’s programmes, including the Mitumba Project which the Heartware shoe collection drive is contributing towards.

Mr Teo began with a preamble on the principles underpinning his work. He warned against heroism and ‘creating dependency’ or a culture of slacktivism, which he characterised as ‘playing with people’s lives for your own ego’. Passionately decrying shortsighted, one-off welfare projects that fail to prioritise human lives, he said, “Community is understanding that it is not about output or numbers you generate, it’s about outcomes, and how are lives changed for the better.”
After touching on schemes geared towards subsidizing education for Delta students, Mr Teo provided detailed information about the Mitumba Project, which is behind Heartware’s Shoe Collection Drive. Mitumba, or ‘recycled goods’ in Swahili, is a microfinance scheme set up in 2004 and one of TRLF’s entrepreneurship courses. In addition to shoes, Mitumba also collects clothes and bags, which are then sorted and either sold or used for the course.
The microloan scheme, essentially a form of repackaged financial assistance, operates over 4-5 months. In the first month, 100 pieces of clothing and 20-30 pairs of shoes are loaned on good faith to interview-selected applicants, mostly women with dependents such as children studying in secondary school or with chronic disease. Participants market and sell their wares to locals for about 400-500% profit. The sale of all their shoe stock, with a pair going for approximately $4.20, can pay for about a term’s school fees. In the subsequent months, they repay their loans and purchase more stock to sell. Participants must remain accountable, presenting monthly receipts accounting for their income and expenditure.

In response to a question about the sustainability of a scheme in which TRLF still provided the shoe stock, Mr Teo clarified that Mitumba ‘is not intended to be a major source of assistance’, and practically only ‘gives them a boost’. The real intention, Mr Teo stressed, was to ‘preserve dignity as you assist, through dignified giving and dignified receiving’, as opposed to a condescending ‘beggars can’t be choosers’ attitude on this end, or a sense of passive dependence on the other.
Since the overwhelming majority of students in attendance were CA members or Councillors, the outreach for this talk was admittedly seriously limited. This was unfortunate, as the talk did have important messages to share. Especially in light of Acta Non Verba, those in attendance found the talk useful in clarifying exactly how the Mitumba project works, and understood TRLF’s guiding mindsets of aid with dignity in relation to No Shoes Day. Lum Qian Wei, a Y5 member of CA, succinctly summed up her takeaways, “I found it useful. The TRLF emphasises self-reliance and preserves the dignity of the beneficiaries as ultimately, beneficiaries have to put in their own effort to run the businesses. I think No Shoes Day serves to remind us how fortunate we are, and helps us empathise with the poor; this ties in nicely with the TRLF’s principle of treating everyone with respect regardless of his background or status, and not slipping into condescension.”

The complete article is available on http://rafflespress.com/2014/04/27/wareming-hearts-heartware-2014/

Rebuilding after the conflict : Mobile Library in the Tana Delta

From August 2012 to January 2013, the Tana Delta Sub-County was rocked by intense ethnic violence, which resulted in destroyed roads, disrupted education, and affected farming and livestock breeding. However, the local community in and around Idsowe (the base of the foundation) chose peace over violence throughout this period of unrest.

In the last half a year TRLF has been part of the Tana Delta Peace Forum set up by the office of the Deputy County Commissioner to address issues of Peace and Development in the Tana Delta. Being a major education stakeholder in area, TRLF is extending its programs to these communities. These programs are designed to mitigate the risks of future reccurrences of the senseless violence. Setting up a mobile library is the first of a series of programs designed to improve access to quality education. The library will service schools with the least developed education infrastructure and that were most affected by the conflict in 2012/2013.

The first session of the mobile library was kicked off on Friday 21 February at Buyani High School which was vandalized and forced to close during the conflict. Students will now be able to a access a library for the first time in their lives. The foundation will transport books to Buyani High School and Gardeni Secondary School twice a month. More schools will be added to the program in the coming months.

Here are photos of the first library session at Buyani High School.

Setting up the mobile library

Setting up the mobile library

Collecting membership dues and giving out the membership cards

Collecting membership dues and giving out the membership cards

Students from Buyani High School experiencing a llibrary for the first time in their lives. Thank you one and all for your books. You've helped open up their world !

Students from Buyani High School experiencing a llibrary for the first time in their lives. Thank you one and all for your books. You’ve helped open up their world !

Students from Buyani High School checking books out from the library they've ever experienced. Did you contribute these book ? We thank you !

Students from Buyani High School checking books out from the library they’ve ever experienced. Did you contribute these book ? We thank you !

They love their books !

They love their books !

Students from Buyani High School posing with the TRLF bus which transports the books to the school

Students from Buyani High School posing with the TRLF bus which transports the books to the school

We are starting to use online crowsourcing as a means of expanding our fundraising base. The funds raised there will pay for the cost of running the library for 1 year. Help us pay for this by giving generously on http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/mobile-library-tana-delta/

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