October, 2017  We Did It!  32 Libraries Delivered to Kenya in May

After nearly 18 months of planning and coordination with our partners at the African Library Project and Rongo University, 32 libraries were delivered to schools in southwest Kenya this past May. Nearly 20 volunteers from CO, FL, NM, NY, and VA traveled to Kenya to visit schools and to help get 32,000 books where they needed to go.  The libraries were delivered to schools in Migori and Homa Bay counties and to the islands of Rusinga, Mfangano, and Takawiri.

Prior to the delivery of these books, none of the schools had a general reading library and it was a tremendous amount of fun to watch as the boxes of each 1,000-book library was opened.  We want to thank everyone who held a book-drive or donated funds – your work and contribution is making a difference!

Working on Delivering 64 Libraries to Kenya in 2018

What did you do on your summer vacation? Since June we’ve been evaluating and making recommendations for 2018 library recipients.  PH volunteers visited over 30 schools in the Lake Victoria region, and along with our partner Rongo University, 64 applications were vetted and submitted to the African Library Project.  Book drives have now been scheduled for nearly all of them and we’re starting to fundraise for the $25,000 that will be needed to cover the fees associated with importing and transporting a cargo container of 64,000 books across Kenya.  We could really use your help:

PH Volunteers Making a Special Impact on Some Special Kids

When PH first arrived on Rusinga Island in March 2013, we knew very little about the specific needs of the community.  We were also in the early stages of implementing a refocused mission statement and still getting to know one other as a team.  One of the first places we visited was the Nyamuga Special Primary School which is the only school in the region specifically for pupils with special physical needs.

During our first visit to Nyamuga, we were met by Mr. Eric, who is the head teacher. With enthusiasm, Mr. Eric welcomed us and gave us a tour of the school and the challenges faced by both students and staff.  We were moved to see how happy the kids were, all of them with smiles and giggles that filled the tree draped dirt courtyard.  Even though the school lacked many of the basics expected of a special education school, all the of the kids were enthusiastic for the hugs and immediate friendship extended by the team. Since that first visit, helping Nyamuga has become an important part of who we are at PH.  What’s also remarkable about this school is that some of its students have some of the highest standardized test scores in Kenya.

Since 2013, PH volunteers have donated backpacks, stationery, soccer balls, bed sheets, and toiletries. During an early visit we noticed many of the pupils were not comfortable sitting at their standard desks and so in January of 2014, we raised funds and had special adjustable desks and chairs built. In a subsequent trip, PH volunteers joined with the Nyamuga kids to paint the dormitories and Chris, a member of our staff, painted murals on the walls. We had lots of fun painting the dorms. Nyamuga is a source of treasured moments that are close to the heart of every PH volunteer and especially for Ted Okatch, our in-country coordinator.  Our work is a constant reminder that a simple hug and an expression of love through volunteerism is all it takes to touch lives.

Sanitary Pad Project – Working on a Sustainable Solutions with Multiple Benefits

In 2015 one of our PH volunteers raised funds to buy feminine sanitary pads for the girls at Nyamuga Special Primary school and Kaswanga Girls secondary school.  The pads were received with great appreciation but it also created an awareness for a problem many of us in the U.S. rarely think about.  After the pads were delivered we learned it was the first time many of the girls had ever tried to used one (despite going through their menstrual cycle numerous times).  Additional research revealed that a significant number of girls miss classes every month because of the stigma associated with menstruating or lack of money to purchase sanitary pads or napkins.

Last year, as part of a strategic review of our overall women’s empowerment mission, we felt it would be a good idea to explore the feasibility of a textile project to make baby blankets, diapers, wash cloths, and reusable feminine sanitary pads. Many of these items are included in the Purple Slip Packs which is part of the Purple Slip Campaign. The idea is that by producing these items locally, we can create local jobs and save the costs of shipping these items from the U.S.  At the time, we were challenged because PH doesn’t own any sewing machines. Kibisom Project, located on Rusinga Island, offered their sewing machines which weren’t working and we’ve had them repaired.

This year the women on our Kenyan staff have been working hard to advance the project by sewing sample baby blankets, baby diapers, wash cloths, and reusable feminine sanitary pads.  The team has visited four schools, Kaswanga Girls, Kamasengre Mixed, Nyamuga Special and Waregi Primary and discussed the idea of making reusable feminine pads to sell to at reasonable rates. The idea has also been embraced by the head teachers of each of the school. A few pads were given to students to sample, and we’ve received feedback that they are comfortable and reusable.

This project serves as an excellent example of some of the women’s empowerment projects we’re working on and we look forward to your support.