Forced Evictions in Kariobangi

Around 6 a.m. on May 4, demolition crews hired by the Nairobi Water and Sewer Company began demolition of informal housing in Kariobangi displacing more than 2,000 families in the process. Fifteen Hands of Love families have been affected.

The demolition not only destroys the lives of the affected people, but it also undermines the work that Hands of Love and other organisations have been doing in the fight against coronavirus.

You have to wonder who in our unfit-for-purpose government thought it was a good idea to add this humanmade crisis to that of COVID-19.

We are doing our best to assist the affected Hands of Love families, including providing them with temporary shelter.

Erick Ojwang – A Dedicated Member of HoL Team

Ever met someone so diligent and hardworking? Well, Mr Erick, who has been working for HoL from when it started, fits that bill.

“I was among the pioneering team that started the school in 2008. We began with about 15 children” he recounts.

Erick goes about his work diligently. He is the first person to report for duty and the last to leave. During the day he is always busy rotating like a shuttlecock from one room to the other cleaning, mopping, emptying bins and performing many other duties. It is unlike him to be seated doing nothing. “I have to be the first one in school because I keep the keys to all the classrooms. Sometimes I leave for home at 5:00 pm, but other days I have to stay longer so that I can complete all my chores. I take it upon myself to ensure that the children come to a clean learning environment because I love seeing them happy and in good health,” he ventures.

Teacher Erick, as children and staff call him around the school, reckons that working at HoL has been a fantastic experience. “Through this job, I can sustain myself and my family,” he says. As busy as his days are, Erick, a dedicated father of five girls still finds time to be with his family. His daughter Berretta, a multi-talented second-grader at HoL benefited from sponsorship program by the ACAKORO Football an initiative that supports young talented soccer players. Erick always makes time to attend his daughter’s practice sessions and games.

A Day at a Time: Story of a single mother who chose not to give up

When you step into her home  you may assume she is doing so well for someone who is living in Kariobangi. Scovia Chabaya, a single mother of five has also faced her own fair share of challenges.

After she had her first two children, her husband then, who was an alcoholic, was taken to a rehabilitation centre by his parents, after which she lost communication with him. As a young mother, she automatically became the sole bread winner for her family. She had to brace herself and learn how to fend for her family because her children now looked up to her for all sorts of support and providence.

As fate would have it, she met her second husband later with whom she had three more boys. He too, turned out not to be as dependable as she may have hoped.  Scovia learnt the hard way to not depend fully on anyone to feed and support her children. Vending diluted juice around Kariobangi market is what has been bringing her income lately.

Hustling can be very tricky for a nursing mother like Scovia.  Sometimes when she needs to step out to fend for her family, she risks and leaves her toddler locked in the house all alone with the TV on.

“He usually cries when he gets bored but stops as soon as he notices there is no one to attend to him,” she explains.

 On good days when she has some money, she pays her neighbour 50 shillings  ($ 0.5) to babysit him. Selling juice around Kariobangi involves a lot of walking under the scorching sun. Carrying him around alongside her goods and exposing him to the harsh conditions is something she does not find necessary. Venturing into this juice-selling business in Kariobangi has not been a walk in the park for her either.

“Doing business in Kariobangi is not easy. At times you have no choice but to sell items on credit. Most of the customers who take goods or services on credit end up not paying. This can be very discouraging since it leaves you in debt.”

Nevertheless, Scovia is a wise mother who invests the little money she saves into buying durable  household items. When you step into her home, you may easily confuse her for a rather stable resident of Kariobangi; despite the fact that she and her five kids live in a two-roomed house.

 She chooses to look at the brighter side of life and be grateful for what she has and the blessings of her dear children. Whining and feeling sorry for herself she says, won’t put food on the table at the end of the day.

” I have five beautiful children who look up to me and expect me to provide come what may. I can’t afford to let them down. Sometimes it is a struggle to get by but at the end of the day as long we are alive and kicking, I’m contented. I have learnt to take a day at a time.”

With a lot of hard work and God’s grace, she has been able to provide for her family and pay school fees for her kids. Her firstborn, Derrick Obanda in class 8 and second born, Alexia Kagendo in class 3 are luckily being supported through school by her brother. Two of her kids; Merrick Madiba in Pre-primary 2 and Levy Sankara in Pre-primary 1 go to Hands of Love Educational Centre.

Updates – February 10 – 14, 2020

Our highlights for the sixth week of the term were: Mzee Moi’s burial, Mid-term assessment, Valentines’ Day and Mid-term break. Teacher Justus Kishoiyan, being the teacher on duty, was quite engaged with the learners throughout the school days.

Learners were excited to have a break on Tuesday after it had been declared a public holiday, for the country to mourn the death of Mzee Daniel Toroitich Arap Moi. Some of the learners were able to make it to Nyayo Stadium where the State burial was to be held. They even got to share in the bread and soda which had been promised to 30,000 early birds. Parents were amazed that their kids sang along to some of the songs which were sang on that day. These are commendable efforts by Teacher Justus who teaches them these songs during Scouts meetings.

Mid-term exams commenced on Wednesday, 12th of February. A total of 8 students were absent on the first day of the exams. Approximately six learners missed the exam entirely. Nevertheless, the assessment went by quite smoothly with Mathematics being the first paper done in most classes. The new comers in PP1 were really excited about the exams being that it was their first time. All the learners were provided with brand new pencils and rubbers which they used during the exams. One challenge experienced was by Teacher Lilian who noted that most of the exams in her class took longer than the stipulated time. Her students particularly had a problem in reading and comprehending the instructions given on the exam papers. In Mathematics exam, some of learners had a challenge following the instructions given. Webstar Kabochi, who sat a special exam also didn’t quite perform as well as she may have hoped.

By Thursday afternoon, all exams had been completed. Marking and revision was done in between Thursday afternoon and Friday.  Performance was as follows:

  1. In Grade 1A, 95% of the learners scored above average with only 3 learners scoring below average.
  2. Out of 15 learners, 13 managed to score above 300 marks out of 400 in Grade 2A.
  3. The highest marks recorded in Grade 2B was 384 marks and lowest was 139 marks out of 400.
  4. Teacher Monica Amolo in Grade PP2A had her highest score being 494 and lowest 453 marks out 500.
  5. The PP1 graders also managed to perform quite well. Most of them were being assessed for the first time ever.

Teacher Pauline observed that; the learners who did not have text books did not perform so well in their assessment. Some of her students like Beretta Lesly in Grade 2A did special exams. She was graded differently from the rest because of her learning disorder. She is gifted differently and her love for co-curricular activities especially football is on another level. However, she has a dyslexic condition that has greatly affected her fluency, decoding, recall, writing and spelling skills to an extent of not being able to copy things from the white board as they appear.

Unfortunately, Joseph Lola Sanya a student with learning difficulties in Teacher Justus’ class (Grade 1A) did not sit for any of his exams because his family had to move away after being locked out of their home for failure of paying rent that had accumulated to a total of three months. In addition to that, his mother was said to have been sick and admitted at a local healthcare center.

Otherwise, we wrapped up the week beautifully with Friday being Valentines’ Day. Kids were encouraged to spread joy and love to fellow learners. Some also had the privilege of using pencils that had special Valentines’ message during their examinations. Further revision on their exams was recommended to learners with the help of their parents. In addition to that, we also advised that they should be allowed to watch a lot of good kid content on TV both in English and Kiswahili, under proper parental guidance. This is important for their language development. Hopefully that will keep them busy through the mid-term break. Other than that, we wish that the learners take time to rest and spend time with their parents.

Mid-term Assessment

The mid-term exams kicked off today with 99% of learners being present for the same. We hope to have it run from Wednesday to Thursday afternoon after which marking, and revision will be done and completed by Friday.

All the learners were provided with the required stationery including pencils and eraser. We hope the good attendance will be maintained so that most if not all of them will be able to go through the assessment. The teachers approved that all the examinations were fair and were set within the covered scope of the syllabus. We expect nothing but good performance from our learners.

After completion of the midterm assessment, the learners will break for the midterm break on Friday, February 14and resume school on Monday, February 24.

My Holiday in Mombasa – Isa Mohamed (Grade 2)

Hi, my name is Issa. Last year, after we closed school in October, my parents took me and my siblings to Mombasa where we spent the holiday with my extended family. Travelling from Mombasa to Nairobi can be really tiresome especially if you travel on road. If you go by bus, it will take you around 7 hours to get there.  On the flip side, the road trip is pretty adventurous and the view on the road is amazing. One major disadvantage about travelling on road during such seasons is that many cases of accidents are reported and it was quite unfortunate that I spotted an accident scene on our way there.

While in Mombasa, I would attend Madrasa as from 7 am to 1 pm after which I was free to visit the beach and explore the coast. It was amazing to see so many boats in the ocean and the life savers in their cool life jackets patrolling. I particularly loved the times when me and my friends would climb coconut trees to get coconuts which is referred to as nazi in Swahili.

Mombasa is a very beautiful place and I really enjoyed my stay especially since I was around people who spoke in fluent Swahili which is not the case here in Nairobi. On a light note though, I found the people of Mombasa to be quite vulgar with their language.

Update on Emma Nyambura

Last year we made a special appeal for Emma a girl in our school who needed surgery to correct bowlegs. We are happy to report that Emma was successful treated at Kijabe Mission Hospital and after five months of convalescing she is now fully recovered and reported back in school.

Seeing Emma walking to school was a special moment for all of us at Hands of Love. The smile on her face, and the confidence in her gait testament to what can be achieved when we work together.

For just $1 a day, you can help us touch the lives of children like Emma, providing them with education, food and basic healthcare for a whole year. Please consider donating $365 – or any other amount.

Back to school

It’s now back to school after a long school break!

Yesterday, the first day of school this year, 71 children showed up, and today 114 were present. We hope that the long break allowed our children the much-required rest and that they are now fully psyched up for what we have in store for them this term.

Last year ended with our grade two students leaving Hands of Love. As the school community, we enjoyed every moment shared with them. We can only hope that the next step will bring more joy into their lives and open greater doors for them. We follow up on our children even after they leave Hands of Love and we will make a point of updating on their progress. We wish them success in all their endeavors going forward.

It is always a joy for us as teachers to watch kids grow and learn new things. Through loving and caring for our children we hope that they will grow up to be well-mannered, vibrant and healthy children who are all-rounded.

Most of our children got time to visit their grandparents over the holidays. For this first month, we plan on featuring a few of their up-country tales, so make sure to check on our school website for some good read!

Beyond Expectations

Our music club has put Hands of Love on the map, winning first prize at district-wide (Kasarani) competition and then at the regional-wide (Nairobi) competition. So, we will be participating at the Kenya National Music Festival which will be held at Kabarak University, Nakuru, August 5 – 9.

But the competition has been about more than just winning prizes. It has played an important role in uncovering and nurturing the talents of our children and giving them a platform for expressing their creative and artistic abilities.  For the children this has had a transformative – almost life-changing – effect

For example, Lydia Wambui lost her mother to death in early 2018, she really hadn’t come to terms with that loss. She’s been moody and bitter at school. Very irritable and often involved in fights with other children in class and outside. Then she joined the music club and it is as if she is a different child now.  It is hard to explain but the transformation is amazing. She jovial and happy and from being quiet and withdrawn she is now teaching songs to her classmates who are not in the music team. There is a Swahili saying that “muziki ni sabuni ya roho” (music cleanses the soul). This has certainly been true for Lydia.

The two wins have been a morale booster not only for the children but also for the teachers. There is a believe now that we can achieve anything if we put our minds on it. Teacher Lucy’s comment exemplifies the mood – “I lack words to express how happy I am as a HoL teacher, this is probably the proudest moment for me since I started working for HoL.” The most profound lesson for me as the director is the in which preparing our children for the competition has meant working with them and their families in ways that we as teachers, may never have thought about.

We are now preparing for participation at the national competition. The children are continuing with their training. And we are planning for travel, accommodation and food for forty children and teachers for two days. Through our connection with AFS alumni, we have managed to get a school in Nakuru that will host us for Ksh300 ($2) a day per person (including food). But we must bring our own beddings. Most of the children do not have a spare blanket at home, in fact many would be sharing bed with their parents or siblings and therefore asking them to bring beddings is out of question. We therefore need to get at least 20 sets of beddings at a cost of Ksh900 ($9) each. Travel will cost about Ksh60,000 ($600). The total cost is Ksh102,000 ($1,020). I am worried about these costs. We do not have a budget for participating at the national level. If we cannot raise the funds, then our children will not participate at the competition which would be a big blow to them.

Would you please consider helping us by donating?

Kisii

I traveled to Kisii to attend Justus Kishoiyan graduation ceremony at Kenyanya Teachers Training college on Friday May 24. It was a wonderful, colorful day. Lots of dancing, lots of fun.

Justus was one of the 296 teachers graduating from Kenyanya Teachers Training College. He also received an award for best actor.
Maasai warrior
…and the food was good