Akili Trust Newsletter, March 2014

Welcome to our latest newsletter to update you on our work in Kenya

 

opera-alegria

Our next fundraising event is in partnership with Opera Alegria and will be on 1 April 2014 in St Marks Church in Camden. This will be a performance of Bastien and Bastienne and The Impresario, two Mozart one-act singspiels, moved to contemporary London directed by Fiona Williams.

Tickets are £20 from events@akilitrust.org

Bastien, a city accountant, tries to save his relationship with Bastienne, the beautiful girl from his local coffee shop (with no help at all from Colas, one of her customers), while further south Mr Booker tries to cope with agents, divas and pushy young singers as he puts together his new opera company.


I am very pleased to report that because of your involvement, we are moving to a stronger economic base for our work because of the diversification of funding sources. Dan, our new treasurer, has provided this visual to demonstrate this.

visual1

visual2

 

 

S/O = standing orders
HMRC = Gift Aid
EVENTS: we are really pleased with the range of activities that you have all contributed to this year

Jenny Pitkin’s news from her visit

I visited the libraries in November 2013 and had a wonderful time. Fred, the Librarian at Dabaso, had organised a full programme of meetings and activities for me and I was made to feel welcome and special everywhere I went. I had a number of encouraging meetings with the library staff and members of the respective management committees and was impressed by their professionalism and support.

The libraries are looking great: the shelves well stocked and arranged, the walls covered in posters and outside the makuti shelters offer welcome shade and a place to read and chat. The garden at Kakuyuni was particularly beautiful with its lush vegetation and brilliant flowers. But more importantly, both libraries are well used with regular visits from classes of schoolchildren and the local community who come to read the newspapers, borrow novels or pursue their own studies. They are also highly valued by the teachers from the schools. The libraries have huge potential to encourage a reading culture amongst the children and to improve their literacy skills. I was invited to hear a group of children from years 4,5 and 6 showcase their reading and writing skills. Their pleasure in doing so was delightful.

Last August both librarians, Janet (at Kakuyuni) and Fred visited the bookshop in Nairobi to choose and buy books for the libraries. They bought a range of locally produced books including Swahili story books which are particularly appreciated by the children. It was a memorable trip for both of them as it was the first time they had visited their capital city. Apart from finding Nairobi rather ‘cold’ they also found it friendlier and safer than they feared!

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The libraries also provide computers which, as one of the bursary students commented, ‘link us to the modern world’. The computers in Kakuyuni were in need of some attention and with the help of the IT Librarians, Caroline and Cornelius, we were able to secure a number of new parts and sort out the problems. By the time I left both libraries had a number of functioning computers with internet access. These are especially appreciated by the teachers who can use them to improve their teaching resources.

At Dabaso I had the pleasure of presenting certificates to those who had attended a computer course held by DOT Kenya at the library earlier in the year. This had been complemented by further training from Cornelius. There were about 20 participants including teachers from the school, Helen, the nurse from the local clinic supported by the Hutton Dabaso twinning project, as well as local people. It was a great celebration and the library is hoping to repeat the course in the future.

Janet ( on right) the librarian at Kakyuni with her new assistant, Caroline in the library
Janet ( on right) the librarian at Kakyuni with her new assistant, Caroline in the library

At Kakayuni, Janet has a new assistant, Caroline, who has young children at the school and is computer-trained. She also enjoys ‘storytelling’ and I am sure will be a great asset to the library. Janet, Francis (the chairman of the library committee) and I met the teachers and addressed the whole school to promote the value of the library and renew relationships.

One of the highlights of my visit was meeting ‘our’ bursary students: 20 local young people are funded by Akili. They are a delightful group of young people who were eager to know what life is like in the UK and we had a number of lively and interesting exchanges. They all wrote their life stories and reading them reveals the difficult circumstances they come from but also their determination to make the most of the opportunities they have been given through the bursary scheme and their appreciation of Akili. All the bursary students are required to help out at the libraries during their holidays. Most of them are boarders at their schools. Apart from giving them some useful skills, the libraries are also an important source of support. Janet and Fred try and visit the schools and attend parents’ evenings and take a real pride in their achievements. The libraries also provide a place of study during the vacations, as these are often lacking in their own homes. As Fred said there is a real sense of ‘family’ amongst the students and I was very impressed by the sense of responsibility they feel towards the libraries and the community in general to improve their own prospects and those of the area.

Jenny with some of the bursary students at Dabaso library
Jenny with some of the bursary students at Dabaso library

I also met some of their parents who all expressed their thanks and appreciation to Akili. There were some good ideas to come out of these meetings. We are planning to set up a special email address for the bursary students so that we can have more direct communication with them, to help support and encourage them and answer their queries. We are also hoping to develop some work experience for the students. They are often the first people in their families to have secondary education and as such have limited knowledge of the kinds of jobs they may pursue and the necessary contacts. I had very encouraging discussions with our local bank manager and the manager of a local Resort hotel who were happy to help in this. They also raised the issue of lack of financial assistance for those who qualify to attend university. A couple of the current students had gained sufficient marks for a university place but were frustrated by lack of funds. This is something we continue to review and consider how we can help. In fact there are developments in funding nationally and this is something we shall try and research.

The bursary scheme and the libraries themselves are making a real difference to the lives of people in these poor, rural areas of Kenya. I was impressed by what they mean to the young women in particular. Several of the bursary students wrote about the problem of early marriage and pregnancies and certainly sex tourism is a visible danger. Education is extending the opportunities for girls and it was heartening to hear from Esther Kutto, the energetic headteacher of Dabaso School, that an increasing proportion of girls are staying on to years 7 and 8 of primary school.

Bursaries and the Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust

The selection of this year’s bursary students has just been completed with rigour and thoughtfulness by the selection panels. We are extremely grateful to the Sir Ernest Cassel Educational Trust for the funding for four bursaries for the whole four-year period of schooling and we hope that this will be the beginning of a new partnership with them. Thanks also to the other individuals and organisations who sponsor bursaries. Just to remind you that this is a major priority identified by the local communities, particularly important as the uptake of secondary education in Coast Province is the lowest in Kenya. The average cost of a bursary is £270 per year, so please think how you can you help us with this initiative.

Thanks for your continuing support and interest and hope to see you at an event soon.