Akili Trust Newsletter July 2013

Greetings from all of the Akili team.

Upcoming Events

Broken Wicket Cricket Tournament

Saturday 28 September

This annual long-standing tournament between seven local teams is once again fundraising for Akili. It will be at North Middlesex Cricket Club, Park Road, London N8 from 10am – 6pm. Come and watch and have a drink.

Man Overboard – A date for the diary

Tuesday 22 October

Man Overboard will be returning to do a gig for Akili at Lauderdale House, following the launch of their first album, All hands on deck. Details and booking arrangements to follow.

Quiz Night

November / December

This is being planned at the moment, but start thinking about putting a table of 8 – 10 people together to enter this, our first ever, quiz.

We have now taken steps to set up more local management in each library, so they now have their own bank accounts, annual budgets and reporting structures. This is a very exciting development for us and for the library management committees.

Fred, the librarian at Dabaso, has really embraced this new sense of responsibility and suggested that he visit Moi School in Eldoret, a very prestigious national school, to try to sort out some local difficulties we have been having about their accounting for school fees.

moigirlshighschool

http://moigirlseldoret.ac.ke/

Although the trip was tiresome and it took close to thirty hours to and fro, I laughed with much relief at last, forgetting how much I needed to sleep and rest. When I taxied into Moi Girls compound, it was early. So early that the students were still cuddled in a hall for thanks and praises. Tellingly, the school looks very beautiful from all quarters. A few teachers were walking into the compound. They carried briefcases and wore big jackets and coats on top of their well-pressed office attires. It was very cold so to speak and I was loosing steam after steam. I was directed to a closed door leading to the accounts office, my main point of concern. I sat at the step, anticipating. Suddenly the students buzzing in the hall walked away to class in long queues. I watched as they went past, very close so they threw dust in my face. I remained motionless, reading slowly the sports pages of a daily I bought in-town. My prolonged stay seemed exciting, painful and nervous. I was just laced up in numbness. I realized whenever I talked steamy smoke escaped my mouth as if I was a train engine. Then later, I would shiver a bit and then find my balance again… a man dressed in a faded suit walked towards my direction and said hi. I stood and shook his hand, and I too realized he was numb from the coldness, I kindly indicated openly that I needed to see the accountant himself. The accountant arrived and saw me waiting. After the introductory chitchat, he asked me my name and I followed him into his inner office.

“Remind me your name please.” he asked me once more I guess for clarity.

“Fred.”

“You said you come from Watamu and you work for Akili?”

“Yes, it’s very true Mr Limo (he had just told me his name). The Akili is a trust. This trust has its main base in the UK but has established libraries in the Coast of Kenya. I am a librarian at Dabaso Community Library and the trust sponsors secondary school students through these libraries. It happens that we have a student in this school, the only national school we have managed to send a student in our bursary scheme and we are very proud of that achievement indeed.” I stopped a bit and caught my breath and I saw him chuckle behind his desk.

I proceeded, “So Mr Limo, the trust has a local account at KCB Malindi branch. This is where the money is distributed to different school accounts, including your school. And we are very much amazed that there has been accumulation of arrears each time the fees are paid. I have therefore brought all the necessary paperwork from the bank as well so that we can from the school bank statement.” I paused once more.

Mr Limo studied the bunch of papers I handed him minutely and proceeded to retrieve a file and we carefully went through all the statements. To my amazement, he identified all the transactions they had ignored and receipted them all. The only problem we discovered was that Celestina’s instructions did not indicate the full names but all other details including the reference number of the payment was indicated. It was very helpful at last. I took the receipt provided and I was shown a lounge to wait and say hi to Celestina after her evening class.

To avoid future misunderstanding, Limo and I exchanged contacts.

East African publishing

Laura and I visited the Text Book Centre in Nairobi which has an excellent range of popular fiction for teenagers, published in East Africa and available in both English and Kiswhali. Akili is paying for two librarians to go to select books, a new experience for them, an they will make the trip during August.

Steve Grocott and Joan Lindeman’s accounts of their experiences during our trip last Autumn

Steve’s ‘Dabaso Days’

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I was very excited to be invited to Malindi to visit the Akili libraries, my first experience of Africa. One of my day jobs is working with teachers, improving their repertoire of songs and showing how useful they are in helping all aspects of children’s development. I have recorded three collections of songs on CDs that were to be my calling card along with sets of rhythm sticks and my trusty mandolin. I donated CD players too because the schools did not have them.

I am sure that most people would agree that the English have very little to teach Africans when it comes to music so I was a little apprehensive about how well the material would be received. There was no need to worry, the teachers of the youngest classes Dabaso, Madame Christine, Madame Patience and Madame Florence, were using lots of songs and rhymes to teach English and were pleased to have new material to work with. The Three Little Birds rhyme I taught them on the first day was already being chanted with great gusto when I went back on the second day, as were several other songs. It wasn’t only one-way traffic. I recorded some wonderful performances of songs with dances in the local Giriama language which were translated by the teachers. They were songs of welcome and the importance of unity in the community. There is a lovely swaying dance and hand movements that everyone goes into the moment they start singing these songs.

I had a strong sense that I was bring something home as many of the Caribbean songs that have become a standard part of our repertoire in Britain have African origins. One song in particular, a Soca number called Tamboulay was taken up and could be heard echoing around the compound and even in town by members of our party.

Teachers and children were also very happy with the set of rhythm sticks. They have many uses – for tapping out rhythms and as counters for number work. The youngest children loved playing along to The Clock Song which teaches pulse and Play You One that introduces counting and playing beats to a visual score. We marched around the giant makuti shelter to The New River Train and shook hands and clapped to Dipidu.

Another highlight was the Dabaso Song which Cheryl, the writer on the trip, helped a group of older children to write to a framework tune from me. The chorus was very catchy and the whole school took up the refrain immediately.

At Kakayuni School I met the music and sports teacher, Mr John, who like me plays in a band. We had a great session with a large group of children, sharing songs and working together each leading a group in singing a round. The enthusiasm was very high, I don’t often have children climbing in through the windows to join in my sessions in England. Here again we were treated to lovely Giriama singing and dancing.

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It wasn’t all work – there was swimming in the Indian Ocean, hilarious evenings with the Akili trustees, a fascinating visit to Mombasa and a magical overnight journey on the Iron Snake train back to Nairobi. It was an unforgettable trip and I would go back tomorrow.

Joan’s ‘What impressions and memories do I take away from my time with Akili in Kenya?’

Joan working with Cheryl on poetry writing
Joan working with Cheryl on poetry writing

The gentle friendliness of the people I met, in the schools both teachers and pupils, and out and about.

The serious intent of the teachers to make a difference for their students.

The hard work of the Akili trustees – beforehand to clarify the important issues, and during the visit arranging meetings, reflecting, checking how staff were managing and how money is being spent.

The sturdy, colourful libraries which stand out in the context of shabby school buildings and few resources.

The impressive young bursary students – their maturity, serious attitude to their work, plans for the future, courage in being far from home, and sense of enjoyment of the extra curricular activities, especially the three girls I met.

Some of my most memorable moments were interactions with students I met outside the classes.

There was the boy of about 12 or 13 who was sitting in the library looking at a book about football. He was turning the pages, looking at the pictures in a rather unfocussed way and I decided to go and talk to him. Did he have a favorite team? Man U. What colour is their strip? What is their emblem? How can we find them in the book? I just keep turning the pages. Do you know how the teams are organised in the book? We spent half an hour chatting after working out that the teams were arranged alphabetically and reading about the Man U players. He spoke about his world outside school, helping with the family shamba (small farm) to produce the family’s food, and about his plans to be a woodworker, like his father.

There were the young boys sitting outside in the shade looking at picture books they had chosen from the library. I sat with them and we read ‘Mrs Pepperpot’s Christmas’ together until it was time for them to go.

A conversation with a boy, maybe 14 years old, who was the last to leave the poetry workshop. He told me he loves to write and would I look at something he had written for one of his classes. The teacher had given the group the last sentences of a story which they had to develop, with extra marks being given for figurative expressions. He was worried that I wouldn’t be able to read his writing, but that was no problem. I was impressed by his use of English (though I did suggest the use of the expression ‘kick the bucket’ was not quite appropriate to refer to the death of a village elder, although he was quite right that it did mean ‘to die’). He had used a dictionary and thesaurus from the library to create a vivid story of sibling rivalry on the death of their father, a respected member of the community. He hopes to be able to continue his education.

I found these individual interactions very touching and just hope that at least some of these young people, and the many others we met, will have the chance to develop their potential.

Annual Report for the Charities Commission

This is now available on our website. If you need a paper copy, then contact me.

Fundraising

Many thanks to all of you who have contributed books or fundraising recently.

Our next shipment is due to arrive in Mombasa on 11 August ready for onward transfer to the libraries. We are now collecting for the next one.

It’s really good to see Akili supporters coming up with new and different ways of raising funds for Akili.

Steve Grocott’s Pay to Play event raised £1,300, Jess and Will’s sponsored open water swim raised £700 and, with the help of Peter Hodgson’s plants, our stall at Garden Suburb Infants Fair raised £100. Every bit of this money goes directly to supporting the work in Kenya, so if you have any ideas however big or small, then do contact us.

If you want to help fund a student’s place in secondary school either by contributing to the general fund or for an individual student, then do contact us to discuss the arrangements.

Best wishes and thanks as ever for your support.

The Akili Team