Samburu Game Reserve and Lodge

After a full day of school visitations and driving, we arrive at the gates of Samburu National Reserve. I have spent time inside these gates before and consider it my Disneyworld. This park always brings back fond childhood memories of the movie Born Free as Samburu Reserve is one of two areas where Joy and George Adamson helped introduce Elsa, the lioness, to living in the wild.  It is also where the beautiful Samburu Lodge is located where I will spend the night.

Samburu Gate

Elsa sign

It is evening and we need to reach the lodge located along side the Ewaso Ng’iro River before dark. Our Toyota Prada is showing its age but thankfully manages to maneuver through the difficult road conditions presented to us.  Along the way we encounter giraffe and many elephant families. I never tire of seeing these majestic creatures in their natural habitat, living free. We finally arrive at the lodge where we are greeted with a friendly face, a wet towel and a glass of passion fruit.

giraffe

Samburu elephants

Something I look forward to whenever I visit Samburu Lodge is the familiar faces of the same employees time after time. This tells me it is a place where employees are treated well therefore I find them consistently happy and friendly.

The accommodations are charming thatched roofed huts with all the comforts of home.

hut

Meals are always buffet style and include many cuisine choices.

buffet

Entertainment for the evening always includes a visit from the local crocodiles and on this particular evening a visit from a genet, a cat like creature, roaming around under the tables. It is also common to see monkeys everywhere so the lodge has a full time employee armed with a sling- shot.

crocodiles

genet

There is also a very nice pool and hot tub on the grounds where the monkeys love to hang out. Beware! These monkeys are expert thieves.

Tomorrow we plan to do an Opportunity Kit delivery to Lerata Primary School, visit Laisamis Primary and Loglogo Girls Secondary School.

For now good night from Samburu, Kenya.

Hadi wakati mwingine (Until next time)

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School Visits Continue…

Our next stop is Meru School, a National High School located in Meru County, Kenya.  I have been hearing the term National School a lot so I am curious to learn the difference between a National High School and one considered not a National High School.  I am told this:

A National School is:

  1.  Government Sponsored
  2. KCPE exam scores are higher (KCPE is the exam given in Grade 8 to determine placement in high school)
  3. Students are from all over the country
  4. Better facilities
  5. Competition is high
  6. Students are more ambitious and focused

We currently have two students at Meru School, Kena (Form 4) and Ayub (Form 1).  I have spent time with both boys during KURA’s Mentorship Programs. Kena is from the village of Logologo and Ayub from Korr. I have a particular fondness for Kena as he happens to be one of the kindest young men I have encountered and is also a student I personally sponsor. Ayub is from the village of Korr and a very well liked young man as well.

While driving to Meru we discover there is problem. There has been a strike at the school. We learn the school has been closed by the administration and the students have been sent home. Through the grapevine we hear many students are disgruntled because of the new headmaster’s rules and policies. Sadly, we will miss our  visit to Meru School and our chance to see Kena and Ayub.

Meru StrikeWe continue our journey onto Chigoria Girls School, another National School located in Tharaka Nithi County on the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya.  A year ago Chigoria was noted as being the best school in the county with 21 students scoring straight A’s and 104 earning A- on their KCSE exams (Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education) taken at the completion of Secondary Education. Here we will visit the headmistress and three KURA students, Veronica (Form 2), Adiyahiso (Form 2) and Gumato (Form 1).

At this time of year exams are given universally though out the Kenyan schools so we meet with the headmistress while we wait for a break in between exams. The headmistress proudly shares Chigoria Girls has a 90% graduation rate with many girls going off to university. The good news for students fortunate enough to attend secondary school in Kenya is if they graduate with a C+/B- average, the Kenyan government will send the student a list of Kenyan Universities they can attend with financial assistance available. The most precarious time for young people in Kenya is secondary school when poor families cannot afford to pay the fees required for their children. Many are left behind in their villages with no opportunity to improve their lives or their families’ lives.

IMG_5412After a short wait, the girls greet us. They are as excited to see me, as I am to see them. Hugs are passed and I sit down to hear how school is going .  They each tell me they are happy and doing well. Academically they are all doing average work but are working hard to improve.

Veronica’s favorite subject is English and she is a member of the school’s Red Cross Club. Her dream is pursue a career in Veterinary Science. Adiyahiso is an avid football/soccer player for the school and Gumato’s favorite subject is Biology.

IMG_5404

While each write a letter to their respective sponsors, I am introduced to a teacher who heads up the school’s mentoring program. She is aware of the need to have a place where girls can share their worries and concerns. She checks in with our girls individually and also heads up group meetings every other Wednesday to discuss topics such as peer influence, self- esteem, adolescence and loss.

me and Chogoria girlsIt was an enjoyable visit with these fun girls. I leave them comfortable knowing they are well taken care of, happy and getting a great education.

As we continue our journey north to Samburu, we receive word from Ayub. He is heading home to Korr because of the strike at Meru School but would like to see us.  He lets us know he will wait for us in Archers Post.

Ayub

After a couple hours of driving, we reach Archers Post and meet Ayub along side of the road. He hops in the vehicle and we get a chance to catch up. He fills us in on the strike at the school but is not fully aware of the details. However he tells me he is very happy at Meru School and that his favorite subject is Biology.  He also tells me that his best friend at school is fellow KURA Project student, Kena. This young man warms my heart.

The KURA Project believes education is the smartest investment one can make. When children like Kena, Ayub, Veronica, Adiyahiso and Gumato are educated, they will be able to contribute to the development of their communities and transform not only their lives but the lives of their families.

Hadi wakati mwingine (Until next time)

Linda, Kibirichia and Beyond

The goal today is to visit three schools: Kibirichia Girls, Meru School and Chigoria Girls. The first two are located in Meru and the third on the eastern slopes of Mt. Kenya.

As we drive along the tarmac that takes us from Nanyuki to Meru, I am forever amazed, amused and terrified at the driving habits here. First of all, how I have not witnessed a head on collision is a miracle. These drivers have no hesitation passing vehicles anytime anywhere. Secondly, I have decided they are gifted packers. Kenyans can fit more onto a motorcycle, car or truck then I ever thought humanly possible. It is not unusual to see up to four people sandwiched onto one motorcycle (of course no one wears helmets) or plastic crates strapped and piled five or more in height or huge bundles of grass expanding the width of the driving lane balanced like a tight rope walker, to name a few.  I decide to sum it up this way, “Where there is a will, there is a way” and leave it at that.

Our first stop today is Kibirichia Girls School in Kibirchia, Kenya where we plan to visit KURA student, Linda. Linda is a Form 3 (year three) student at this all girls boarding school.

Kibirichia Girls School & Linda

It is Monday morning and I find the girls on a tea break, each dressed in winter hats, coats and leg warmers. It is chilly here and coming from the state of Vermont I understand chilly.

It is exam day but we are fortunate to arrive during a break between exams and are able to speak with Linda and her headmistress. Linda is surprisingly shy when I see her. She is generally a smiling, happy girl so I am somewhat concerned. I begin to ask her questions. I learn her favorite subject is History and that she is a member of the Presidential Award Club. The Presidential Award Club participates in community service work such as planting flowers, feeding animals and visiting children’s homes. Linda also enjoys playing netball and runs track. Her specialty is the 100 – 200 meter.

It finally begins to dawn on me a possible reason for Linda’s shyness. Unfortunately Linda was not warned about our visit…it was a total surprise. If we can all go back to a time when we were called into the headmaster/principal office, the memory is most likely not a pleasant one. I for one recall a feeling of pure terror.

In addition to this unfortunate circumstance, Linda is concerned about her grades. Her performance is below what she wishes it to be so we take time to brainstorm with her headmistress on how we can together support her improvement. I am told Kibirichia Girls provides an adult mentor who is also a teacher. I am assured her mentor will take the time to be a support to Linda, to build her confidence and help her navigate her academics.

Headmistress and me

The KURA Project will follow up with Linda, the headmistress and the mentor to be sure things are going in the right direction. Visitations to Linda as well as each of our current 32 sponsored students will be made by a KURA representative three times per year. It is not enough to just pay school fees.  The student’s parents, KURA and the school need to work together for the best outcome possible.

Me and Linda

Linda comes from the village of Logologo in northern Kenya. She is far from home but is grateful for the opportunity for the Secondary School education she has been afforded. When Linda finished Primary School in 2015, she always knew she would either be married off or her father’s servant. Due to poverty there was not enough funds available to pay the fees required for a secondary school education. Thanks to the generosity of a family from Pawlet, Vermont and KURA, Linda has been given the opportunity to pursue her dreams.

Next stop, Meru School…