Ramula Shopping Centre – photo gallery

 

Situated right on the Equator, Ramula is a colorful, little, rural Kenyan trading centre that  I love to wander around and take photos.  So much character. Friendly people living what appears to be simple lives but that are really quite complex given the challenges they face getting from day to day.

Here some photos of some of the shops that operate in this rural Kenyan “shopping centre.

 

This dilapidated van has been sitting here for the last five years, looking like this. In front of the “Palace” kinyozi (barber) hardware and beauty salon.

This fellow makes wooden tables, doors and cabinets using all hand tools. I contracted him to make a crib out of cyoress wood for little Heather Maddie at a cost of 6000KES ( $80 Can)

I asked these guys who were the other nine of the top ten.  There were no others.  Guess that makes this one number one.

The fellow hidden in this kiosk cage also can make deposits and give money from your Equity Bank account.  In his spare time he does construction and cuts hair.

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This is where the fellow above gives haircuts.  The little sticker in the upper corner says “Trust in God”.  Advice for clients who may not feel his skills are up to par?

And for the ladies…

 

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The Place Pub, complete with smoking zone outside.

Nyumbani – Home

When I posted to my Facebook page that I was back in a Kenya I received a number of comments from my many African friends that could be summarized as “Welcome home.”   The Swahili phrase is “Karibu Nyumbani”. ” Come and visit.  When will I see you? I hope we can have lunch?  Are you coming my way? ”

This social media welcome extended to our first couple of days here where school principals were asking if we could visit them.  Even the students at one secondary school we anxious to have a school assembly to welcome us and they insisted that all of them get in the picture.  

Africans are generous and excited about welcoming visitors.  They extend that greeting to me but it feels more like family to me in so many East African communities.

I have a theory that there is some of my DNA that recognizes this as a place of my ancestral origin. If Monarch butterflies can find their breeding ground in Mexico without ever having been there or salmon can swim back to their birthplace to breed,  I am sure that there is some little chemical part of my genes that know this as the place where my genetic being began.

Over the next three weeks I will visit at least ten communities and will try to share some photos of my visits.  On Friday we went to the St Catherine School to open a new classsroom building and to the Ramula Secondary School where we constructed a new kitchen several months ago.  Both are well maintained and are serving the students and teachers well.   They are all grateful for the support of the  many donors to the CanAssist African Relief Trust that have made these improvements to their communities possible.

Yesterday we attended a basketball tournament in Kisumu – food for another longer story. Stay tuned.

Today we are heading to “the rural” for an overnight with Dan Otieno’s grandmother, Ann.  How fortunate I feel to be able to experience this association with my numerous African families.

We cross the equator every day going from Kisumu to Ramula. In fact the Ramula Secondary school is situated on the Equator!

These are the students at Ramula Secondary School, taken near the water tanks, installed with CanAssist donor support. Before these tanks were put in, the water for the school was brought in by donkey from a stream. The student have much less gastrointestinal illness with this clean water available.

Nancy looks out through the window of one of the new classrooms at St Catherine school as the kids sing and dance in celebration in the yard.

When I visited this community two years ago there was nothing here. The kids learned under a tree. Now there are six classrooms, an improved latrine, rainwater catchment and school furnishings at the St Catherine school, thanks to the support of CanAssist donors.

Signing the guest book at St Catherine School in the principal’s office. The last time I signed a document here it was in his office on a table under a mango tree.

Cutting the ribbon to open the new classroom at St Catherine school with a butcher knife. No scissors available.

TIFF Day 4 – An elephant in the room

There are over 400 movies at TIFF, including documentaries and short films.  My penchant for things African led me to see The Ivory Game, a recently-completed Netflix-produced film about the rapid decimation of the African elephant population  that, sadly, is threatening extinction of this largest of land animals.   The figures are startling.   The number of elephants in East Africa declined by 30%  or about 150,000 elephants, from 2007 to 2014 and continues at a rate of about 8% per year.  Part of this stems from human-wildlife conflict as human development  encroaches on previously protected areas. Elephants know no boundaries and may destroy gardens and local agriculture so people living in villages near these animals turn to killing the animals to protect their crops.

But the bigger problem is poaching of the animals for their tusks.  It seems that the main trade in elephant tusks is through China where ivory trinkets or carvings are seen as valued pieces of art.  And poachers, gang leaders and corrupt officials can make a lot of money selling illegal ivory.  They are even banking on the approaching extinction of the elephant, a boon to their profit as ivory becomes increasingly scarce.

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In addition to educating about this crisis, the film turns into a real-life spy thriller as it follows undercover agents as they try to gather information to help capture and convict the poachers, including one of the  kingpins aptly nicknamed Shetani – “the devil”.

It appears that the only way for elephants to survive is for governments around the world to make sale of ivory totally illegal.  Until that happens the poaching will continue and the number of African elephants living in the wild become dangerously threatened.

You can read more about this at  www.theivorygame.com and the Great Elephant Census.

I give this documentary 4 stars of 5.  It was the only movie that I saw this year at TIFF that actually moved me to tears.  It will be on Netflix later this season.

I have peppered this page with a few of photos of elephants that I have been fortunate to see over the years in East Africa.  How many of these magnificent animals have survived the poacher, I wonder?

I took the above photo on my way to the airstrip in the Maasai Mara.  I was worried that having to stop as this herd of elephants meandered across the road would make me miss my plane back to Nairobi.  But even the small local airlines are on “Africa time” and the plane was an hour off schedule. Meanwhile I got to sit in a jeep and watch this extended elephant family enjoying their day.

And when I got to the air strip, the small plane was oversold by one – so I got to sit in the cockpit with the pilot.  A commanding view of the Maasai Mara and this memorable sight of another large herd of elephants crossing the Savannah.

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Safari 2016    Part 8. Ramula district.

Near the town of Ramula in Siaya District of Kenya, CanAssist has been working to provide infrastructure improvements to two schools – St. Catherine Early Childhood Development Centre (150 students) and the Ramula Secondary School ( 100 students). We received rousing welcomes at both schools. Last year at this time the St Catherine School yard was an empty field. It has been amazing to see the growth.  For Ramula Secondary, we provided much needed water tanks that have been very much appreciated. 

St Catherine School is a 30 minute hike into the valley.

   
 

   
 
  
 

This is the “kitchen” at Ramula Secondary School where lunch is prepared for 100 students. CanAssist plans to soon upgrade this kitchen.

 

Safari 2016  Part 7. Kamin Oningo beach community – learning about fuel-saving cooking

CanAssist has helped this fishing beach community to improve their sanitation with construction of latrines, a bathing building and hand washing station.  In conjunction with our visit to this village, Gabriella Zamojski has arranged to distribute some solar cookers and fuel saving stoves to some of the community who turned out in droves to see how these works and get a delicious, nutritious meal totally prepared using solar heat. 

  

Food was prepared in the morning, set out in the solar cookers amd by 1 full meals were ready to be eaten.

 

  

In addition to the solar cooking units for the community, Gabrella also facilitated the purchase of a fuel- efficient wood burning “rocket” stove for the S.P. Geddes school though CanAssist. The school reports that food cooks more quickly and with about 10% of the fuel compared to the open fire they were using before.

 Safari 2016 in Photos. Part 6. The Stewart Geddes School

I have been excited to introduce my family to the S.P. Geddes School in Osiri Villlage, Kenya and have them meet little S.P. who was named after my late father who generously supported the school through CanAssist as it was beginning. I also was delighted to introduce the school to Dad’s great granddaughter, Maddy. Here are some photos of the visit.

On the ferry from Mbita to Lwanda Kotieno

 

A musical greeting as we arrive at the S.P. Geddes school

 
   
  

  
 

i know Dad would be delighted that my brother Bob, his wife Lynne, his granddaughter Jenn and great granddaugher , Maddy were all able to join me in a visit to the school that bears his name.

  

  
 

Maddy and little. S.P. enjoying lunch ag the school. Asante Hugh Langley for the photo.

Safari 2016 in Photos. Part 5. Kisii Stone

Anyone who has frequented the 10,000 villages stores is familiar with the wonderful soapstone carvings that come from Kisii Kenya, known as Kisii Stone.  We visited where these are made, saw the artisans who make all this stone and send it internationally and got a chance to purchase some for ourselves.  The  quarry has a unique stone that is now known all over the world. 

   

  

  
    

      
    

  
 

  

Safari 2016 in photos.  Part 2 Ngong Hills

On our second day , some of the group went to a giraffe park and the Karen Blitzen museum while others went explored The Ngong Hills, including w Women’s Empowerment Centre CanAssist is constructing in association with Nancy Stevens, a hike along the ridge overlooking the Rift Valley and a visit to our longstanding friends, the extended Moiko family.

These women will benefit from the CanAssist/Kenya Help building that will house vocational training programmes to help them become more self sufficient.

 
 

No visit is complete without a trip to Baridi Corner and this tree in particular. One of my favourite places in the world.

 
 

Young people are similar all over the world. a Moiko boy selfie on our hike down the hill.

 
  
 

Happy to introduce my friends and family, including my brother, Bob, to the Moiko family and vice versa.

 

  

Cholera, then and now.

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Kingston Ontario’s history includes a cholera epidemic that, between 1932 and 1934, killed ten percent of the city’s population. Skeleton Park LogoKingston residents are all familiar with the downtown McBurney Park ( known locally as Skeleton Park}, now home to an annual summer arts festival,  where many of the victims of this epidemic were buried 180 years ago.  Kingston’s popular home-town band, The Tragically Hip, even have a song that references the outbreak. The Hip Museum website has a great summary of the cholera epidemic that basically closed down all the stores in town with the exception of lumber outlets to make coffins.

img_8862Cholera was then, and remains now, a serious consequence of inadequate sanitation and clean water. It was not until John Snow traced an outbreak in London to a water pump on Broad Street that we understood that the disease was spread through water exposed to fecal contamination from other infected people.

In Canada today, 99 percent of the population has access to improved sanitation and clean water. Cholera is a disease of the past. But for communities in developing world countries, including those in East Africa, where, by comparison, only 60 percent of people have access to improved sanitation, it remains a serious threat.

Just last week I received an email from Dr. Karen Yeates, a Kingston nephrologist who is currently with her family in Tanzania. She writes:
“I just managed a cholera epidemic over Christmas at the little hospital I am doing some part time consulting at. I never thought I would see it in my lifetime as a physician…..its incredible that we have the ability to do everything we can in this world with technology and medicine but, the poor and disadvantaged in sub-Saharan Africa struggle with diseases of more than a century ago. We have had over 30 cases but no deaths thankfully. We traced it to lack of toilets and clean water in the three communities where it came from. They had stopped boiling water due to lack of ability to afford wood for their fires…its a choice of make food or boiling water but not enough wood for both. Inflation is high here right now due to the strong US dollar and everything has become more expensive for families here.
I was thinking about CAN-ASSIST and how many toilets you have built over the years….we can’t forget about these simple things…..:). 

Keep doing what you all do so well. “

 

 

The CanAssist African Relief Trust continues to work to improve water and sanitation for schools and communities in East Africa. This week we are starting a latrine project at a school on Ukerewe Island in Lake Victoria. In 2015 we installed clean water supply and toilets in ten different schools, clinics or lakeside villages.

There is little specific treatment for Cholera other than aggressive fluid and electrolyte replacement. Prevention through sanitation, protection of water supplies and hand-washing remains the key. This YouTube video is in Swahili and aimed at instructing African people about the importance of these prevention measures. It is simply presented and without knowing a word of the language it is easy to understand the message.

A Facebook Harambee

Harambee is a Swahili word that means “pull together”.  It is Kenya’s national motto. There are times when their government should pay more attention to it. I want to tell you about my spontaneous Facebook Harambee experience this week.

Yesterday afternoon I saw a post on my Facebook News Feed from a friend in Kenya. Tobias Katete is the Beach Management Unit chairman in a small community on the shore of Lake Victoria, a little district that has become dear to my heart over the past few years through projects supported there by the CanAssist African Relief Trust.

Tobias reported a fire that had wiped out the home and all the belongings of a family tScreenshot 2015-12-29 22.33.46hat included a newborn infant in the remote rural village of Agok, Kenya. He appealed to locals to help find shelter for this family. His request for assistance was directed to  people in his region and I wondered how many of them would have Internet access.  This is perhaps a wrong assumption since I now correspond regularly with friends in Africa through email and Facebook and I notice that his Facebook friend list is 95% African faces.

I saw the post and wondered how I could help. At 3pm I shared it on my Facebook page asking my friends to either send me or promise $10 to help this family. Within 8 hours I had either collected or received an IOU for about $400.  By midnight I had sent 25,000 Kenyan Shillings to Tobias who I trusted with the responsibility of seeing that this money will be appropriately used to help this family recover.  Since I continue to receive notes promising support, this will be augmented in the next couple of days with another transfer. As I went to sleep last night I knew that this community would be waking up to the news that friends – strangers – in Canada have shown this compassion.  Several of my African Facebook friends have also offered support to this family. It chokes me up when I think about this sharing of our humanity.

It is now not even 24 hours from the time I read the initial post. Your money has been transferred and received in Kenya and Tobias had purchased construction materials and delivered them to the family devastated by their loss.  How cool is that?

I sincerely thank my friends for their response to this request.  It is the best Christmas present that I could receive.  Your generosity validates the work that I do in Africa and encourages me to keep it up, despite the many challenges.  Just as I have witnessed Canada’s welcoming reception of Syrian refugees, it reinforces my belief that most of us have goodness and kindness in our hearts.  Every day I become increasingly aware that we are, indeed, a global community, made ever closer by our ability to correspond and reach out across oceans and borders.

This has been a satisfying way to wind up 2015.   Best wishes to all in the New Year.

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(I have asked for only $10 from each person. As you can see, when we pull together – Harambee –  this adds up to something significant.  If you want to join us, the easiest way to send me $10 is by an Interac bank transfer or by PayPal. Message me for the correct email address to use for this. I promise that very cent will end up in Kenya to help this family recover from their misfortune.  This is a personal gesture, not an official CanAssist one.  CanAssist remains actively involved with community infrastructure development in this and other East African districts.  You can read more about CanAssist here.)