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Sorry to leave all of our lovely readers hanging for such a long stretch – you know what they say about time flying when you’re working hard…or something like that :)

I’m actually stepping out of my posting hiatus to highlight some really great sources I have recently stumbled across in my day to day work.  If you’re reading this blog, you are probably as interested in charity work and Africa’s future as I am!  So I thought I’d share some links with you – ranging from other great blogs to general informational sources that include progress and statistics on development in Africa.

http://kenopalo.com/
Titled The Africanist Perspective, I am certainly not the first or last to recommend this insightful blog.  Ken Opalo covers a range of topics from social to political and I, personally, found his commentary during the Kenyan elections this year to be honest, comprehensive, and easy to follow for any newcomer to African politics.

http://www.moibrahimfoundation.org/downloads/2012-facts-and-figures.pdf
Mo Ibrahim is always a strong voice in the field and this report on “African Youth: Fulfilling the Potential” is just one of many publications they offer.  They also hold forums for leaders in Africa and publish those results for other scholars and development practitioners to utilize in their work and experiences.  This particular report is an eye-opening and refreshingly visual look into the state of African Youth today.

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs345/en/

The World Health Organization (WHO) is probably a familiar source to development students or other practitioners, but nonetheless they are worthy of mention as an authority on health risks and challenges around the world.  This particular link highlights risks for youth around the world, all of which are particularly relevant to the communities we work with in Africa.

http://www.un.org/en/development/

Another familiar transnational body – the United Nations provides great resources and fact sheets about Africa and worldwide development.

http://www.un.org/en/globalissues/briefingpapers/youth/africanyouth.shtml

This is a great link for the nitty gritty statistics about countries in Africa.  Population? Working age population? Literacy Rates?  All here!

Did I leave anything out?  Tell me your favorite sources for information, opinions, and news on Africa and development in the comments!

We at Bread and Water for Africa believe we have some of the best supporters in the world! Alioscia Oliva is proof of this.

Alioscia Oliva is a professional poker player who is using his talents and popularity in the poker world to help dramatically improve the lives of students in Kenya.  Alioscia met Bread and Water for Africa employee (and contributor to this blog!) Sylvia a few years ago and has been learning about the work we do at Bread and Water for Africa since then.

Following Sylvia and my recent trip to the Lewa Home on the 2012 Safari and Program Tour, Alioscia learned about some of the students we support at the Lewa Children’s Home in Eldoret, Kenya, and he knew that he wanted to make a difference in the lives of these students.

Sylvia and Ruth

In addition to Ruth’s academic prowess, she excels at soccer and racing – here Ruth is with Sylvia at Lewa after beating her decisively in a foot race :) (Sorry, Sylvia!)

One of these students is Ruth. Ruth has dreams of studying medicine and becoming a surgeon.  Through the support of our partner the Lewa Children’s Home, Ruth has been given the opportunity to attend a basic, local public school in Kenya. However, due to the high costs of finishing her primary education and continuing on into secondary school, Ruth may never get the chance to fight for her dreams of being a surgeon.

Since the costs are very high for Lewa Children’s Home to put Ruth through secondary school along with the children’s primary school tuitions they already support, Alioscia stepped in to raise support to sponsor Ruth and four other children like her throughout their education into secondary boarding school and college. For Ruth, this means a chance to pursue her dreams and escape the risks facing her as a girl without a stable family environment in her home village.

In order to raise awareness and sponsor Ruth and four other students, Alioscia has set up a fundraiser on JustGiving (http://www.justgiving.com/Alioscia-per-Ruth) in the hopes of raising £17,955.74, the costs necessary for these 5 children to finish primary school and complete secondary school. Check out the website for more information about sponsoring children through their education, click “Read More” on the page for the English translations!

We would like to thank Alioscia for his initiative and his desire to invest in the lives of these Kenyan children. Thank you Alioscia!

Kipkeino primary students

Lewa children are instilled with a passion for education very early on! Here are the toddlers in their morning classes.

We aren’t the only ones impressed by his efforts! Check out this spotlight on his fundraiser by an online poker magazine (Ok ok, I know it’s Italian but it’s a great article and Google Translate does a decent job with the key messages..) : http://www.assopoker.com/poker-freestyle/con-alioscia-oliva-costruiamo-un-futuro-per-ruth-12622

Don’t worry! We will continue with recaps from our trip to Lewa after this brief interlude of thoughts from the 2012 AidEx Conference (a global humanitarian and development aid event) that was centered on this very question of being prepared for the future.

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Being welcomed to the AidEx Conference at the Brussels Expo Center

 The question of preparedness is one that many of us in the development or nonprofit fields fear asking – or one that we simply don’t have time to ask as we frantically try to keep up with present crises, projects, and ideas.  However, this conference was a stark reminder of the consequences of being unprepared for the future and its opportunities and challenges.

So what are the risks of avoiding “future-think”?  Well, the underlying consequence to the organization doing the avoiding would be its own eventual phase-out.  If you don’t plan for the future, you have no future – Sweet and simple, right?  This is a very serious and very real threat, especially for smaller organizations like Bread and Water for Africa®.  Our ability to survive in a climate of global transformation depends on whether we MAKE time for strategic thinking, innovation, and planning.

Besides the immediate threat to the organization itself, we must also consider our many partners in Africa.  What are we risking for the communities that we partner with?  What are the threats to the livelihood of the children, the families that they support?

At AidEx, Randolph Kent (Director of the Humanitarian Future Program at King’s College, London) discussed the importance of sustainability for preparedness in terms of

  • Fostering and creating more opportunities for successful innovation;
  • Avoiding a synchronous system failure; and
  • Building resilience to external shock.

When working in a field where people’s lives can depend on how smart and efficient we are in accomplishing a mission, we cannot overlook the magnitude of these outcomes on our partners.

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It’s good to prepare for the future! But Baby Edward at Lewa might be getting ahead of himself…

“Sustainability” is a word that’s been thrown around a lot in the era of globalization.  It is used so frequently that it has come to mean everything and nothing – which is a huge pet peeve of mine, since I believe that “sustainability” has a huge role to play in our future-think strategy before word-overuse renders it obsolete!

So how do we define “sustainability”?  Why is it important in our approach to the future?  Simply speaking, our team identifies a project or program as sustainable once we are confident that it would remain operable without the support of Bread and Water for Africa®.  For us, sustainable means that without Bread and Water for Africa®, the change and impact achieved in the community during the time of our support and through the support of our donors would remain. 

Our ability to prioritize sustainability and anticipate the challenges and opportunities the future holds will dictate our success in supporting African communities, our ability to be efficient and responsible stewards of our donors’ gifts, and our resilience as an organization – and a team – in the face of the ever-transforming global context.

How do you define sustainability?  What do you think is the most important opportunity or challenge that the future poses for us (in a humanitarian context)?  Leave a comment!

Epic.

Whew! Though barely half-way through the trip – epic is the only word I can think to describe the first five days of the 2012 Annual Safari and Program Tour.  After arriving at Lewa Children’s Home, I had just barely recovered from the beauty and majesty of Kenya’s wildlife and landscapes before being full flung into the love and chaos of the Lewa family. 

Lake Nakuru

                         Overwhelmed by beauty at Lake Nakuru

 

The drive from the Masaai Mara reserve out to Eldoret was a bumpy 8 hours that took us from the lowland savannahs up to the misty highlands that cradle Eldoret town within it.  When our van pulled up to the gate of the Lewa Children’s Home, I felt a certain excitement and anxiousness as we drove past the farm and up to the main home.  Phyllis took a break from her dinner preparation and came out to greet us with her apron and open arms.  And in those first moments, I really felt like I had arrived at ‘home’.

Phyllis Keino and Lewa Children

                     Phyllis and her adoring fans! 

All of our fatigue and mustiness vanished after getting settled into our rooms and catching a whiff of the amazing meal that Phyllis was whipping up in the kitchen (don’t bother asking for a recipe for anything she makes – the three main ingredients seem to always be intuition, experience, and a little of everything in the spice cabinet).  

Pili Pili Peppers

“Pili Pili” Peppers – Small but deadly spicy! Use in cooking with extreme caution.

Our group gathered around the dining table along with the other Lewa volunteers, Phyllis, and Jos Creemers (the genius behind Baraka Farm) for dinner as the house was quieting down for the night.  We listened to Phyllis and Jos talk of the day and the happenings around the home, and they patiently answered the many questions popping into our brains.   They told us the babies wake at 6am each day, so we high-tailed it to our rooms after dinner to wind down and get some sleep for what promised to be a long and adventurous week to come.

First day at school

As I said earlier, I arrived at Lewa at the end of the summer holiday. On September 3rd, a lot of the children had to make their way back to school.

The majority of the Lewa children go to the Kipkeino school. The school belongs to Lewa and is located just on the other side of the road. It is ranked one of the best schools in the entire country and many of its students come from the region’s elite.

The Kipkeino school

The Kipkeino school

It is a unique opportunity for the Lewa children to be able to study (tuition-free) in a competitive environment, to get the same quality education that children from privileged families receive. That said, they still face tough challenges.

Being an orphan carries a huge social stigma in Kenya. Who your parents are and where you come from are a big part of who you are. Children are often called “son of” or “daughter of.” That means orphans are missing that essential part of their identity.

And as in many other schools around the world, your economic background doesn’t go unnoticed either. Phyllis does what she can to level the playing field. But, in the end, she can only afford the essentials. No fancy shoes, no fashionable jeans, no accessories or jewelry.

So, when we walked the Lewa children to Kipkeino for the beginning of the new semester, and I saw them carrying their belongings in plastic bags, my heart sunk. The other students were taken to school by their parents. And they had all the accessories that give kids their age a social edge: a Hello Kitty toothbrush cup, a Nike sweater, a brassiere!

The Lewa students’ inventory was painstakingly short: the bare minimum, what was required by the school, nothing more. Nisha, Susan and I helped each of them to go through the list, made their beds and kissed them goodbye. Janice, a 10 year old in class 5, had sneaked in a Disney princesses puzzle that she must have taken from the Lewa play room. I don’t think she was allowed to take things from the play room, and really the game was more adapted for a 5-year old than for a girl her age. But when I saw the look on her face, holding this little pink box as if it were the only thing she had ever owned for herself, all I could say was: “This is so nice!” She was holding a small treasure.

I hope we can keep helping Phyllis so that she doesn’t have to worry every single day about how she’s going to feed her children or pay for their medical bills and that one day, Janice can have a Disney princess back pack, or a Hello Kitty toothbrush holder…

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Cheese!

Cheese, Gouda to be more precise, is a very important part of life at the Lewa Children’s Home. Not that it is present in the children’s diet – they prefer their milk in a liquid, fermented form (called mala) – but because it is sold to families and businesses throughout Kenya and even all the way to Uganda and Europe!

This is gouda

This is gouda

The Baraka Farm, masterfully managed and developed by Dutch farmer Jos Creemers for the past 20 years, produces milk, fruits, vegetables, maize, meat and the famous Gouda for the children of Lewa and for sale on the local market. The proceeds from the sales are used to support the orphanage’s daily operational expenses. As any agri-business owner knows, this is not easy; because you first need to cover your own production costs…

Jos checks on his cows

Jos checks on his cows

Bread and Water for Africa UK has recently funded the expansion of the Cheese kitchen. The building is completed and the machines are ready to be shipped from Holland. This new facility will allow the Baraka Farm to process almost all of its milk (currently 500.000 Liters of milk per year!!) into cheese, which sells at a higher price than the unprocessed milk. The new cheese factory will even be able to purchase milk from the local dairy farmers in Eldoret, ensuring them a fair and stable income.

The new Baraka Farm cheese factory

The new Baraka Farm cheese factory

The new cheese factory, once fully operational, will therefore generate a significant additional income for the Home. This has always been a major goal for Phyllis: to become self-sufficient and stop relying exclusively on donations. In the current economic climate, the implementation of these projects, with crucial investments from Bread and Water for Africa, couldn’t have been more timely. It is still a long way until Lewa becomes financially independent – as a children’s Home, it may never be – but these carefully planned and forward-thinking projects allow the Home to make long-term plans for their children. For Phyllis, as for any mother, her children’s future is the number one priority.

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6:00 am – An hour I generally consider the middle of the night. Not at Lewa. 6:00am is when the children’s home comes to life. Young voices trickle through the dormitory, then the hallway, gradually gaining numbers and force until there’s a full-blown cacophony in the playground, just beyond my window pane.

The early morning also marks the start of a working day at Lewa, where Phyllis’s small staff of social workers tackles large-scale child rearing with the speed and efficiency that would be the envy of most parents. The “older kids”—age five and up—are seasoned veterans by now and don’t need much help getting ready. But the toddlers—and there are dozens of them—are shepherded through an assembly line of morning routines.

The kids are soaped and rinsed by a staffer who sends them onto the next station where they get dried, one after the other, using a single towel that gradually dampens. At station three, the kids are rubbed with body oil and assigned their clothes for the day.

Today I’m on-hand and desperately want to help. So I’m toweling off kids who aren’t quite dry and attending to the final phase of the process: helping them into their pants and t-shirts, pulling chubby limbs through sleeves and cuffs. For some of them, this is just a game. They can actually dress on their own but are happy to take advantage of my ignorance of this fact. I help them pick their outfits, and they soak up the extra attention from a grown up. They also get an extra kiss.

Getting dressed

Getting a bit overwhelmed here

My sudden appearance on the scene has also set off a feeding frenzy of sorts. On most days, Lewa’s 106 kids are competing for the attention of Phyllis, who they call “mom.” Today I have the honor of being the center of attention. I don’t speak their native Kiswahili, but the language barrier melts away as I get a crash course in emergency terms. “Pole pole” means “Slow down.” “Godja!” is “Wait!” while “Cudja” means “Come here.” And of course, “Hapana!” for “No!”

Breakfast

Finally ready for breakfast

By the end of the day, my own t-shirt can be thrown directly into the washing machine. I’m also adapting to the rhythms of the house, ready for bed and fast asleep at 9:00pm.

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