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Thoughts from category: JT in Kenya

India bound...

Every year, innocent gives one or two lucky employees the opportunity to go and work with one of the charities we support through our foundation, using some of our work skills. Those of you who've been reading this blog for a while may remember tales from Andrew in Malawi, JT in Kenya, or our Emilie in Ethopia.

Em in Ethiopia
Emilie in Ethiopia showing the bees who was boss

On Friday, I'll be following in their illustrious footsteps, lugging my camera and a notebook with me, as I head to India to work with disability charity ADD gathering materials for their fundraising and training needs. I'll be penning a few posts while I'm away but it sees only right that I do some introductions first...

ADD supports disabled people in 11 different countries across Africa and Asia to challenge disability discrimination. Their vision is to create a world where disabled people can enjoy their rights and participate in society as fully as they choose to, and we've been supporting the work that they do in India since April 2009.

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Three quarters of the disabled population in India live in rural communities, and less than 2% receive any form of vocational training. ADD India works to educate people in the skills they need to earn a livelihood, and offers financial support through microloans- these are frequently used to boost incomes in India, but disabled people are generally excluded from these schemes.

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The project that we're funding has so far delivered loans to over 200 people, enabling them to gain independence through their livelihood, and to participate more fully in the communities in which they live. Over the next few weeks, I'll be meeting a few of the people who have benefited from these loans, and be able to see first hand the impact that it has had not only on their lives, but on the lives of their families, who are often marginalised as well.

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So there you are. Introductions done. I'd definitely recommend that you get to know them a bit better here, but if not, I'll be in touch shortly with some more info from the other side of the world.

reality check

JT in Kenya

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Doug and I go for a jog most evenings. I say jog, it is a quick walk in places; I blame the heat and the altitude. As we get out of our gate Kennedy, the neighbour’s son is ready and waiting in his sports kit, good to go. We turn up the hill and start running, Kennedy always the pace setter. Doug has a regular circuit which starts with a lung busting climb and thankfully levels off to be a steady downhill back to the start. We did two laps tonight before both of us couldn’t face anymore; Kennedy could have run all day. Being a mzungu (white person) and running in garish sports equipment we stick out like a sore thumb. The local kids are high-fiving us all the way round and some chase after us chuckling to themselves, which is great. They make the effort worthwhile.

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We end our jog by running on top of a dam that is just on the outside of Kola. Usually it is just Doug and I cooling down but today there were hundreds of people sitting there. After a few minutes a cheer went up and a truck pulled up. The truck was there to distribute bags of maize. The people had been waiting since 08:00 in the morning for emergency food relief.

Most households near Kola are subsistence farmers with a small plot of land to feed their family. October through to December is traditionally the rainy season, however last year there wasn’t enough rain to sustain their crops so they failed, and now the country is heading into famine. We saw Kennedy’s dad queuing up for the maize.

By JT

the lion sleeps tonight

JT in Kenya

In a round:- Wimoweh, wimoweh, wimoweh...

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An Elephant

Ok so I wasn’t in a jungle but any excuse to get that song in (pop anorak alert, check out the REM cover of it).

Well it’s not all work work work you know. On my weekend I decided that I should head out to one of the national parks to see some wildlife. So off I ventured 3 hours south of Kola to Tsavo, there are two national parks in the area Tsavo West and East. I headed to the West as it was more accessible for me.

I thought that because I had seen nature programmes then I had seen all the animals before, but it’s not until you see them in the flesh that you really appreciate how fantastic, ridiculous and amazing they really are. Within 5 minutes of being in the park we drove by a giraffe, how do those spindly legs manage to keep it upright, I don’t know? Ostriches were another funny one, they are massive. The best sight of all was in the evening I sat down for dinner and was trying to choose my meal and looked out to the watering hole to see a herd of elephants having a bit of drink. After a few minutes they just wandered off in single file out into the bush. Beautiful.

A gruesome little tale is that the lions at Tsavo are famous for being the most aggressive. This was proven in the 19th century when 140 railway workers were killed in a single year by two man-eaters. The man who trapped them and killed them was Colonel JH Patterson, if you want to find out more he wrote a book called The Man-Eaters of Tsavo.

I was disappointed not to see a lion but then again maybe it was for the best, wimoweh, wimoweh...

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Penguin.

the day job

JT in Kenya

My brief whilst I am out here is to spend time setting up a computer network for the office staff in Kola. The office manages the operational functions of EDK (Excellent Development Kenya), they are broadly split into Finance, Admin, Logistics, and Training. Here’s most of the EDK team, John wore his shades especially to look cool, I reeled out my cheesiest grin and strangely Mbutu stared at the tree; good job the others knew how to behave on camera.

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Left to right – Kyalo, Christine, John, Esther, Peter, Mbutu, Me

Right, if you are at all bored by IT talk I advise you to stop here.

The challenges to IT work in Kenya are based around getting quick access to the right hardware and software. The nearest place with a choice of IT equipment to purchase is in Nairobi, which is a good 2 hour drive. Being prepared is important as you can’t just pop down the shops to get another network cable. Also I am used to downloading the software I need from the internet, whether it is Windows Updates or new applications. You need a speedy and reliable internet link for downloading large files and this isn’t always the case in Kenya.

In remote areas such as Kola the only possible way to get internet access is by using mobile broadband (the USB sticks that are getting popular in the UK) which the mobile companies are rolling out across the country. Unfortunately the service can be unpredictable. However it is very impressive how the mobile companies are using a technology like mobile broadband to reach customers and bring the internet to such remote places. If you consider that there is no mains electricity or running water where I am staying.

It will be great if the mobile companies can get to the level of coverage and reliability they have with voice calls as an improved service will mean better communication and hopefully benefit Kenya’s communities and economy. Every man and his cow in Kenya have a mobile and the advertising for the mobile companies is everywhere. I heard a story from a visitor to EDK saying that she was out in the Maasai Mara with one of the warriors in his full ceremonial dress when his mobile went off. It’s good to talk.

By JT.