Our Urban Garden

We have had great success with growing food and different plants thanks to an urban garden on one of the centre’s balcony. Since the garden was started in August 2015 we have grown kale, spinach, amaranth, tomatoes, green papers, eggplant, pumpkins, carrots, potatoes, radish, lettuce, coriander, strawberries, passion fruit and watermelon, with varying degrees of success. Maize, beans, avocado, pawpaw and a mango were germinated and grown for a short time for learning purposes.

Green peppers, eggplant, pumpkins and watermelon did not do well and after the second try growing them we gave up. Carrots, potatoes, tomatoes radish, lettuce and potatoes did moderately well while kale, spinach, amaranth, coriander, strawberries and passion fruit were a resounding success.  Of special note is the passion fruit which grew and kept producing for a year and only died early this year when it was re-potted.

The garden has been a wonderful outdoor learning space where the children learn valuable urban gardening skills that integrate with subjects such as math, science, social studies. In addition, taking care of plants has been useful in instilling a sense of personal responsibility. This is important because their living conditions at home do not allow them to interact with nature. Many people in Kariobangi do not appreciate that they can grow a lot of food in the small space they have. The school garden has been a useful tool in changing this notion and a small number of parents have been challenged to the point of growing their own kitchen gardens.

We have been using the vegetables harvested to supplement our lunch program; Amaranth, coriander, onions and kale have been especially useful in this regard.

Lastly we would like to say a huge thank you to Giulia who was instrumental in starting our garden. She raised €250 to help us expand the garden last year.

Alternative job description for early childhood teachers – by Sonya McIntyre

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  • You must have a warm, smiling face that makes every child feel special and loved.
  • You must be able to laugh at jokes that you don’t understand, or you don’t find funny. Child humour can be a confusing minefield to navigate.
  • You will preferably have a little bit of quirkiness. If a child requests that you be the captain of a pirate ship, you will be the best pirate captain you can be.
  • You must feel comfortable telling everybody in the same room as you, that you are going to use the bathroom.
  • The ability to sing in tune is not necessary, however the ability to sing out of tune in front of a crowd is essential.
  • Some knowledge of Frozen, Minions, Spiderman, Ariel, Peppa Pig, Octonauts, Thomas the tank engine and Sofia the first would be advantageous.
  • A high level of multitasking is essential. If something would normally take 5 minutes to achieve, you must be comfortable with it taking 15 minutes or longer.
  • You must be able to distribute warm hugs as required.
  • Possessing the skills required to rapidly count the heads of numerous moving small people is of utmost importance.
  • Must be comfortable entering public places on the way home from work with unknown substances on your clothing.
  • You must have a high level of comfort around talking about bodily functions. You must also have a strong sense of smell to enable you to respond swiftly to said bodily functions.
  • You preferably do not have an aversion to an environment that at times resembles the aftermath of a tornado.
  • You must be able to remain focused in environments with high noise levels.
  • Pretending to eat playdough creations realistically is required, this is a skill that may develop with time and experience.
  • The ability to remember the names of 40+ children, their parents, siblings, grandparents, pets and special soft toys is a key component of this job. Again, this is something that will develop over time.
  • You must feel comfortable sitting on furniture that does not contain all of your behind.
  • A high level of comfort with being asked personal questions by children is essential. You will regularly be asked questions regarding what you are having for lunch, whether you are willing to share said lunch, whether or not you are married, and if not, why you are not married, where you are going (as you walk into the toilet), and what you did in there (the toilet).
  • You must have an understanding that the small people you have a strong relationship with during the week, may completely and utterly refuse to talk to or acknowledge you when they see you at the local store. Your feelings must not be easily hurt.
  • You must have the ability to read a ten page fairytale with at least one interruption per page.
  • Authentically showing an interest in and curiosity for bugs and creepy crawlies is essential, even if they are your biggest fear on earth.
  • You must be prepared to have a lot of fun in the workplace. Laughter is something you can expect to engage in for a large part of your working day.
  • Finally, you must be prepared to feel loved, special, and important to many young children and their families. There is simply no other job quite like this one.

Global Youth Service Day: Naivasha & Kariobangi

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Last week I was thrilled to facilitate AFS Yes Alumni seminar for the first (and hopefully not the last) time. The workshop was held at the Crescent Camp, Naivasha with the theme of Empowering the Youth for Peaceful Change.

Lots of Quotes and Stories

Despite having spoken at many events before, I was incredibly nervous on this occasion. I hadn’t worked with a young audience before and I was unsure what approach to use. In the end I opted for a new method, using lots of leadership quotes and personal experience working for a prominent politician, working in Kariobangi and working with the Sabaot Land Defense Force (SLDF) ex-combatants in Mt. Elgon, to emphasize key points. By the time the seminar started I was calm, and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  And judging by feedback from attendees, I think the seminar went down well.

Kariobangi Cleanup

After the workshop in Naivasha the AFS Alumni joined Hands of Love Educational Centre parents and the Kariobangi community for a cleanup exercise on 15th April to mark the Global Youth Service Day. This was great.

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I have to mention though, one group of girls from Korogocho were making things difficult for everyone but ended up teaching me an important lesson. They taught me that to be kind, to be selfless, to sacrifice personal convenience and gain for the greater good is awesome. The mettle of a good leader. It sorts of drove home the message from the seminar. It is easy to blame others (above and below you), and yet at the end of the day, you have to hold your tongue in order to look inward and ask “How did I contribute to the problem and how can I make it better?”.  This is amazing, a form of awesome completely based on how you choose to think and act?

Thank you

I got carried away writing this post and I think it is better suited in my personal blog. Anyway,  let me conclude by thanking all the wonderful Naivasha seminar attendees and the parents and others who joined us for the cleanup exercise. Huge thank you to AFS Kenya for organizing an awesome seminar and supporting the cleanup exercise.

Meet Rukia Aslam, One of the first Children at Hands of Love

Rukia AslamLast week we embarked on a process of tracking down all the students who have passed through the centre. We want to know what has happened to them. Especially those that left before 2010 because some of them will be sitting for their national primary school examinations this year.

So over a couple of weeks I will be posting about these HoL Alumni. To get us started today is Rukia Aslam. Rukia joined the centre in 2008 in and left in 2010. She is now a pupil at Moi Forces Academy in Eastleigh, Nairobi and will be sitting for her national examinations next year.

Rukia’s Mom says that the education that she got at the centre laid a firm foundation that enable her to excel in her education after she left the centre. So much so that when she joined Moi forces academy she had to jump a grade because she was so much ahead of the other children in her class.

How women who work are held back by a lack of quality daycare in Kariobangi

This awesome article by Stella Muthuri a postdoctoral fellow at African Population and Health Research Center shows how quality childcare has the potential to empower women living in Kenya’s informal settlements!

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Women’s economic empowerment hinges on the assurance that quality and affordable child care is available so that they can go about the business of doing their jobs.

Globally, women’s participation in the labour market has remained at around 52% for the last 20 years, according to United Nations. But women also bear most of the responsibilities at home, including caring for children or other dependants, cooking, cleaning and other housework.

In Kenya, only 46% of the country’s women participate in the labour force. For most working mothers, having formal employment may allow them more options for child care. A steady source of income eases their ability to send their children to daycare centres, or even pay for in-home care.

But for the women in Nairobi’s slums, who toil in the informal sector with modest and irregular pay, their likelihood to afford child care is greatly reduced. This is partly due to the increasingly disjointed nature of life in the urban slum where there’s no network of family support. In the past mothers could rely on this network to lend a hand or a watchful eye until a child is of school age.

There has been a growing awareness of the potential to provide daycare for children in Nairobi’s urban slums. But the quality of care varies widely because of a lack of adequate regulation.

Caregivers in this setting lack the support they need to provide quality child care or ways that they should stimulate the children’s environment while their mothers are at work.

Improving women in the workforce

Our study is a three-year project. It explores the daycare options available in Nairobi’s slums. It also assesses whether a woman’s ability to work and earn can be improved if quality child care is provided and subsidised. The study provides subsidised and quality improved daycare interventions to mothers in Korogocho, one of the largest slum neighbourhoods of Nairobi.

Almost half of all Kenyan women aged 15 to 49 years have a child under the age of five. For most of these women, participating in the labour force is dependent on concurrent child care responsibilities.

Our aim is to examine the nature and magnitude of barriers to child care, such as high cost and low quality and what impact these have on the way that women participate in the labour force. This will generate critical evidence-based policy recommendations aimed at increasing the participation of women in the labour force.

The results of the study will also provide researchers with insights into ways women’s participation in the workforce can be stimulated and how the gender gap in earnings can be narrowed.

The findings can also serve as the basis for discussions between policymakers and community leaders about how better to meet the needs of mothers with young children.

A global conversation

The research findings could have broader impact. Exploring the challenges that women in the most vulnerable and compromised environments face may improve their livelihoods.

This research will feed into the global conversation about women in the workforce, and how to approach the targets outlined in the newly ratified sustainable development goals, in particular, goals five and eight that deal with gender equality and economic growth through employment.

Understanding the choices women have to make to meaningfully contribute to their countries’ development, while also sustaining their households, is a step towards realising economic parity. Economic parity should not only be an ambition for the privileged but for all women.

More About FIFA 11 For Health Programme

The FIFA 11 for Health Programme is a series of football based sessionsaimed at encouraging physical activity and educating children about healthy behaviours related to some of the world’s health problems

The programme is comprised of eleven, 90-minute sessions: each session comprises two 45-minute halves. The first half is called ‘Play Football’ and focuses on teaching young people skills related to a spefic aspect of footbal. The second half is called ‘Play Fair’ and focuses on teaching young people a particular health issue.

At the centre we have tweaked the the programme a bit to suit our circumstances. Because the children in the centre are below the age of 10 we have removed sessions on sexual and reproductive health and put more emphasis on Sanitation and Hygiene issue

FIFA 11 for Health Programme

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Two weeks ago we were fortunate to participate in a Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) funded training programme that is aimed at using soccer to promote good hygiene practices, raise awareness on HIV & AIDS, prevent malaria, promote access to basic education and promote

gender equity. Teacher Ramadhan Makokha our deputy head teacher represented the centre in the week long program and will be implementing the things that he learned in the workshop at the centre. At the end of the workshop FIFA donated 8 soccer balls, 20 insecticide treated bed nets, 25 bibs and a pump. The bed nets have been distributed to 17 households and three remain at the centre for training and demonstration. The other materials will be used to improve sports at the centre.

We are very grateful to FIFA for the opportunity and the materials.

Thanks Paola Ramello

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On Friday February 26, 2016, Paola Ramello accompanied by Terry Little visited Hands of Love Development Centre. She brought us gifts from Italy which included colour pencils, ball pens, toothbrushes and suitcase full of clothes.

Thank you Paola for your kindness and and generosity.