CCC Achievements so far…

Community Classrooms Collaborative has been engaging with Nyangidi Village and the surrounding community for the last 5 years with local-led projects in the areas of health, education, food security and culture. There have been many challenges but the following list showcases some of our amazing achievements.

  • 250+ mosquito nets delivered, significantly reducing the risk of malaria for 500-1000+ people,Helen Donates Mosquito Nets
  • 40+ village locals educated in basic organic agriculture (permaculture) methods and gifted seeds to increase food security,
  • 200+ trees planted and cared for,
  • New garden tools and wheelbarrows purchased for community use,
  • 1 compost toilet built,img_7981
  • 140+ children in Australia and Kenya exchange letters through the Rafiki Pen Pal Program,
  • 50+ village students learn traditional drum, song and dances at Cultural School, culminating in community performances and celebrations,
  • 150+ children and adults access the Learning Library educational resources.006
  • Built library and filled with books, games, educational resources, pens, pencils, paper
  • Sponsorship of 4 villagers to attend a ‘Train the Trainer’ Permaculture and Community Development Course.
  • Permaculture leaders are now being supported to teach in the local schools, increasing food security and dissolving negative stigmas of ‘farming’ in the region.Pencil Happy
  • 15+ people from Australia, Asia and America hosted for village-immersion volunteer experience programs.
  • Over 150 cloth nappies delivered to women and their babies.
  • Over 1200 reusable sanitary pads provided for young women so that they can continue their education without fear of embarrassment.
  • Set-up of local village sewing group to make the sanitary pads and other products and gain income from employment.
  • Deliveries of clothes, shoes, towels and other items to villagers who currently have no means to access these essentials for themselves.
  • Support of local village sporting teams and the hope this provides for impoverished youth.

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Growing the Permaculture Project

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We recently invested $3000 (AUD) into the Permaculture Project in Kenya to increase food security and sustainability in an area that suffers food deficit for 9 months of the year. 4 villagers travelled across the country for 2 weeks to complete a permaculture design certificate course with the Permaculture Research Institute Kenya. Now they can come back to Nyangidi village and train the community in organic agriculture and permaculture practices, growing more food and filling hungry tummies for years to come. Here is what they had to say,

“Renewing, spurring on and a real eye opener are my estimation of the trip to Laikipia permaculture centre. The team from here, that is the four of us, assimilated an experience that to be told as it should is simply to relive it all in implementation, to truly depict it. Laikipia centre where we were staying is a lesson in itself, with all its sorts of vegetation, elements and systems in place. A most striking and sharp contrast to the farms just next door, let alone the very vast range lands lacking in diversity, and in turn no sustainability. In a nutshell, we are not only talking permaculture now, we are living and breathing this concept now. The trainers with Joseph leading, our classmates, the food, the accommodation, the local community and just the travelling itself was a start-up call to think of the next generation now and today.

Our immediate plans involve putting a micro demo-site at the land by the gate, incorporating other systems and elements to Dongruok Ber Group Members’ Gardens. A long term vision is to be a permaculture trainer and in the interim to introduce the concept to standard 6, 7 and 8 at the local primary school.

My trip to Laikipia was an eye opener as I got a real time opportunity to witness coordination of various projects of the local community there with the permaculture centre as the hub, thus lending me and CCC to get a newer perspective. The relatedness of the sewing school, library, pen pal program and permaculture here to harness a common and unique empowered identity hit me. I am reenergized from what I saw firsthand. I loved it and truly the self-sustaining dynamics if rightly coordinated, every community can contribute uniquely to the wellness of the World and be appreciated for it.”

Amazing stuff! Knowledge is power, and we love supporting people in their own empowerment for a healthier and happier world.

If you are able to contribute, even a few dollars a week, to supporting the growing self-sufficiency in Kenya please email us at admin@community-classrooms.org and become a regular sponsor of this project.

Thank you from Sam, the whole Community Classrooms team, Nyangidi village and beyond xo

ted-tried-to-beat-the-indefatigable-jona-at-his-game-guess-who-lost img_7981 img_8139  Helen and Arlo 'hit the ground' digging when they first arrive in Kenya

Nyang’idi Village Update

Pencil Happy

In a recent letter from our Kenyan Coordinator Jona Otieno his first paragraph pretty much sums it up;

“On behalf of Nyang’idi Village at large, our Rafiki Pen pal Society and Segere High School, I express my deepest gratitude, for the hearts, hands and minds in Australia that have made it possible for us to be benefactors to such a wide range of opportunities.”

These opportunities include;

  • 100 packs of REUSABLE Sanitary pads for girls at Segere High School, enabling them to continue their education.
  • 60 more mosquito nets to keep people safe from malaria.
  • Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC) Training for 4 villagers so that they can teach the community to increase food security and sustainability.
  • A laptop, story books, textbooks, pencils, pens and more for the community learning library.
  • Materials and financial support for the sewing group to develop a sustainable business and train disadvantaged women in sewing skills that will empower them and their families.
  • Village visits from 2 families from Australia creating bridging cultures and creating friendships for life.

(AND THATS ALL IN THE LAST 2 MONTHS!!!!)

From the depths of my heart I thank everyone who has supported these positive change in Kenya.

Love,

Sam xo

Helen Donates Mosquito Nets

Rafiki Pen Pals Newsletter Update December 2015

December 2015

Summer Newsletter

Dear Friends and Families of the Rafiki Pen Pals Program,

Thank you for your continued support and participation! We are so excited with how our number of Rafiki pen pals has grown and we now have over 180 children participating in Australia and Kenya. If you are new to the program then check out the website for more information about the positive benefits for families in both countries and see how you can contribute through child sponsorship, fundraising, volunteering or one-off donations. <http://www.community-classrooms.org/projects/rafiki-penpals/>

With no stationery, children use a stick to practice writing in the dirt. Your contribution helps school kids enjoy new, colorful learning resources and stationery.

Our Australian pen pal families make a positive difference in the lives of their Kenyan pen pals through donations and fundraising. Your contributions go towards pencils and paper (so that the village kids can write back), educational and art resources (such as colouring pencils, paints and puzzles which many of the children have never been exposed to!) and books for the new library. Any additional funds are channeled into participatory community development projects in Nyangidi village and surrounds in the areas of health, food security, education and culture (such as providing mosquito nets, permaculture gardens, fruit trees, seeds, tools, instruments, food and more).

As part of our monitoring and evaluation of the programs, we have undertaken academic research into the impacts and significance of projects in Nyangidi village. The results are extremely promising! All projects scored a ‘high’ to ‘very-high’ community significance rating which means that people value and appreciate the positive changes that are occurring. All of our projects aim to be participatory (involving and driven by needs of the local people) and sustainable, so these research outcomes are a reflection of that. A copy of the full report will be available to those interested soon.

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(This is what 100 trees in a car boot looks like! See the happy smiles and high fives from people behind.)

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(Traditional womens’ singing group after their performance at our Cultural School Community Show)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So far we have collectively raised over $15,000 (AUD) and some of the measurable impacts are:

  • 30+ mosquito nets delivered, significantly reducing the risk of malaria for 60-120+ people,
  • 40+ village locals educated in basic organic agriculture (permaculture) methods and gifted seeds to increase food security,
  • 100 trees planted and cared for,
  • New garden tools and wheelbarrows purchased for community use,
  • 1 compost toilet built,
  • 180+ children in Australia and Kenya exchange letters through the Rafiki Pen Pal Program,
  • 50+ village students learn traditional drum, song and dances at Cultural School, culminating in a community performance,
  • 150+ children and adults access the Learning Library educational resources,
  • 2 sewing machines and material delivered for a sustainable enterprise sewing business for local women,
  • 1 operation and aftercare provided so a little girl can walk.

These impacts have many indirect outcomes such as increased productivity, community cohesion, cultural learning and exchange, increased awareness and conservation of the natural environment, preservation validation and celebration of culture, an increase in activism and social responsibility as well as many more.

006 A wonderful example of how cultural exchange can lead to positive social change is the story about a couple of Aussie kids and their super supportive mum. Lachlan and Zander, from Yeppoon, enjoy writing to their Kenyan pen pals and in one letter earlier this year they decided to write about their new favourite hobby, soccer. They drew some pictures and sent a photo of themselves proudly modeling their soccer kits. They were shocked when their village friends wrote back that they also loved soccer (they call it Football in Kenya) but they didn’t have any balls to play with! The boys asked their mum if they could send their pen pals some balls so that they could play too.

 

011Mum Nichola was very supportive of her boys’ generous wish and what started with a handmade poster spiraled into an amazing effort of raising nearly $2000 (AUD) for soccer balls for the whole of Nyangidi village and surrounds. Their friends, family and local soccer clubs were very supportive in addition to the Australia-wide homeschooling community and others who donated online. They were also featured in newspapers and on the television news! Mum Nichola said, “we are so excited that our little dream is becoming a reality and seeing those joyous photos gives me goosebumps. The boys have learned so much from the experience and couldn’t wait to write and ask their pen pal friends if they liked their footballs!”

Now the balls are being delivered and are having a profound effect on youth across Kenya. We have teamed up with a project to reduce hooliganism and empower youth through access to sports equipment, and music. This provides celebration and cultural validation leading to more collaboration and peace in these regions. The footballs are bringing hope to many children who will probably receive nothing else for Christmas, at best a decent family meal and a second-hand piece of clothing from the markets (usually sent from a Western country and sold to local people). To further share the Solstice and Christmas spirit of giving and abundance we are holding a Christmas party for the children in Nyangidi village. If you would like to contribute towards this exciting first-time event then please be in touch or donate through the website www.community-classrooms.org

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In October, we enjoyed a wonderful day of cultural celebration and sharing with our Australian Rafiki pen pals and their families. The charismatic Sam Okoth (who was born in Nyangidi village) facilitated some traditional African drumming, dancing and singing for the group to enjoy. Everyone had so much fun and together we made some great music! The children and parents watched footage of our time in the village on the big screen and were amazed to see the lives that their pen pal friends lead; collecting water from the well, digging and planting in the field, climbing mango trees, collecting and chopping firewood and playing just as all children do. Many questions were asked, as they wanted to find out more about their friends living far away in another country. Letters from Kenya were delivered and we welcomed many new families into the program. Together we ate some delicious traditional Kenya food; uganda cod mchele (beans and rice), sukumawiki (fried kale) and ugali (a squidgy maize concoction similar to playdough consistency and used as cutlery), it was an all round sensory experience! Children and adults all enjoyed the feast and we look forward to holding more days like this soon. If you have any ideas or would like to host an event then please be in touch!

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On our trip to Kenya earlier in the year we planted some gardens according to permaculture principles on dry barren land. Most in the village said that nothing would grow due to poor soil and low rainfall. As you can see from the photos a mini microclimate was created and there is still plenty to eat while they never need to water! This little garden has become famous in the area for those wanting to plant food in harsher times. Many families have harvested from the garden and it still continues to flourish! We love permaculture and want to bring practical education to the whole region to increase food security and resilience.

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Such wonderful achievements have been made co-creatively with the Nyangidi community and we look forward to what the future holds. The following seven points are some goals we have over the next 3 years.

  1. Support more children to join the Rafiki Pen Pal Program and develop educational resources to deepen learning in both Australian and Kenyan contexts,
  2. Employ a full-time social worker in Kenya to coordinate the growth of the Pen Pal Program and report on the health of village children, diverting resources to those most in need,
  3. Build a cultural centre and performance facility to showcase Cultural School and present performances and workshops for the local community and international visitors, with direct and indirect impacts for thousands of people,
  4. Employ elders locally to teach traditional arts,
  5. Build a permanent facility to house the Learning Library full of books, learning, art and sports resources,
  6. Employ a local teacher to hold classes from the library for villagers of all ages,
  7. Purchase a motorbike and trailer to make a mobile ‘library on wheels’ to service other rural villages and schools. It is projected that more than 2000 people will gain educational benefits from this project.

The impacts are projected to be widespread across an increasingly larger region, improving health, food security, educational opportunities, environmental conservation, and cultural preservation, validation and learning for several thousand people, spanning into future generations. Overall, these projects are ethical, sustainable and aim to show how a community can thrive in harmony with the natural environment, if listened to, valued and gifted some extra knowledge, tools and resources. To achieve these goals we need more funding, employees and volunteers. For a healthier and happier world, please help in anyway you can!

  • Consider holding your own fundraising efforts like the Spooner family and see where it goes,
  • If you are able set up a direct deposit to sustain support to the projects in Nyangidi village until they are self-sufficient and we can expand into other areas, if all of our pen pals gifted just $1, $2 or $5 a week to the program, we can co-create continued empowerment and positive change one village at a time,
  • Visit our online store to purchase a Gift that Keeps on Giving for Christmas or Birthdays (such as seeds, fruit trees, tools, books, sewing materials, water filters, mosquito nets, sports equipment and more) for ethical and sustainable presents at community-classrooms.org/gifts

Thank you for all of your continued support in our sustainable community development initiatives. We are proud to promote poverty alleviation through sharing cultural celebration!

If you have any questions or ideas on how to improve the program, or if you would like to volunteer some of your time to help with coordination, promotion, fundraising, grant or letter writing, please be in touch.

Asante sana,

Samantha Willcocks, the Community Classrooms Team and families of Nyangidi village.

Xoxoxo

group photo

Rafiki Pen Pals Newsletter – Update March 2015

Dear friends and families of the Rafiki pen-pal program,

We have been enjoying a wonderful time here in Kenya, East Africa. Our village is called Nyangidi, sub-location Kochieng B in a county called Siaya, which borders the Great Lake Victoria (the beginning of the river Nile). We are in the very West of Kenya, close to the countries Uganda and Tanzania. People here are of the Luo tribe and most live in mud or mud-brick homes with grass thatched or iron sheet roofs.

It has been a long dry season since November and so most of the grass has disappeared to dust and not much food is growing. We hope that in future years, more permaculture knowledge and access to infrastructure such as swales, rainwater tanks and dams can help store water in the area and provide food even in times of drought.

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Local kids (use their new tools to dig a garden in the dry soil.

In late January, after the teacher strikes in Kenya ended, most children resumed school. Since then, during the weekend writing days many children have visited us to collect their letters from Australia, receive a gift and write their reply letters. They also played with the Community Classrooms new educational resources, ate snacks such as fruit and yoghurt, sang both English and traditional songs, and participated in some yoga, dancing and ball games.

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Jojo slowly pulls things from his box as his friends watch in anticipation.

The word of Australian pen-friends has travelled to neighbouring Sogo village and 20 new pen pal children have been welcomed to the program. After writing their letters the children posed for a photo and received exercise books, pencils and pens.

We are working with the new project manager for Community Classrooms Collaborative, a local village elder, to develop some guidelines for gift giving and personal requests in letters. This last letter-round some children from Australia sent shoe-boxes full of gifts to their pen pal, but because there were so many village children and only a few boxes we encouraged the children to share the gifts inside and also had an extra bag of goodies (clothing, shoes and stationary) to make sure that everyone received something.

Watching the kids open their gifts was so heartwarming, these are children who would normally not receive anything for their birthday or Christmas and may only have one change of clothes. Many had tears in their eyes and exclaimed, “amor kabisa!” which translates to, “I am happy completely!”

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Children of Nyangidi village open boxes of gifts from their pen friends in Australia.

Although everyone received something, unfortunately not all gifts were created equal and some children saw that others got ‘more’ or ‘better’ than what they did (the balls, storybooks and packs of Faber Castell pens were a BIG hit). This has resulted in some children (especially the new ones) ‘asking’ for things in their letters. So our apologies if your pen pal has requested something in their letter and it makes you feel uncomfortable. In the Luo culture people can freely ask each other to give them things without attachment or expectation that the thing will actually be given. I know it is different in Western culture where we do not usually ask things of each other and if someone does ask we often feel obliged to give. We are working with the children to be more culturally sensitive and write about what they like, have or don’t have and not just what they want to receive.

We also want to empower them instead of providing handouts, which can imprison people into cycles of dependency. We are treading lightly and want to introduce things slowly and observe how the community responds. Perhaps minimal personal ‘stuff’ and more collective ownership or investment in community projects is the way forward.

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Many children crowd around to look at the colouring pens and clay.

We have created a Community Classrooms library where children can come to read books, explore various learning posters, use colouring pens and pencils, paints and even play with instruments, board games, puzzles and different sports balls (volley, soccer and netball so now we just need to make goals and nets). Teachers in the local area have also been invited to borrow resources from the library for their classes that are usually extremely full of students and under-resourced.

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Local children love playing the new traditional drums Ohangla style.

Many children have written that they are in ‘standard x’ this refers to their grade or year level. Primary school here goes up to year 8. Children are held back until they know what is required to progress to the next level so many are 16 before they finish primary school. High school is called form 1-4 but a large number of children are not able to attend due to lack of school fees and necessary money for uniform, books and transport. Some older siblings helped write letters for the younger children who wanted to participate in the program and are still in nursery or pre-school (they call it ‘baby class’ or ‘final’). This is actually a small brick building set slightly away from the other classrooms. They are lacking resources but Teacher J (with her small baby at the back of the class!) does an AMAZING job with admirable enthusiasm to sing, dance and teach the basics to around 70 small children of age 3-6 years. On our last visit she had 7 pencils to share around the children (with innovation they sharpened both ends and snapped them in half) though many children still wrote their letters and numbers in the dirt. We hope that the library can be a useful tool to make learning more colourful and fun for these children.

Lots of children wrote about food in their letters. They all love fruit but often do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables, especially during dry seasons. There are many mango trees in the village so during mango seasons they delight in climbing the trees (ever tall ones over 3 stories high!) and finding fresh juicy mangoes. They also have jackfruit and guava trees in addition to banana plants. We are planting more of these and are looking for other types of trees (such as the moringa), vines and vegetables that will hopefully do well in this area. Special care is being taken to preserve and promote indigenous varieties such as cassava and many species of dark leafy greens.

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Delicious and nutritious ugali with greens.

A staple food in Kenya is ‘ugali’ and many children have written about this in their letters. Ugali is made from maize or cassava and millet that is grown locally, and then ground up into a flour. They heat water over a fire or charcoal stove called a ‘jiko’ and mix the flour in until it becomes a play dough consistency. This is a tough job, especially when you are cooking for many people. The ugali is eaten with a range of things and used instead of cutlery. People make a ball with it in their hand and then use that to scoop up their main meal which may be something like beans, fried cabbage, cooked bananas in a tomato soup, egg stew or fish. Many children were so very happy with the letters and gifts they received, they replied that they would like you to come to Kenya so they can cook a big chicken for you to eat and enjoy (sorry to any vegetarians out there!) This is a cultural honour that they reserve only for special guests and visits from important family members, chicken is not eaten regularly as they are more valuable for their eggs and manure.

Along with the other Community Classrooms projects we have been empowering and providing hope through the support of sports teams. Children at Osoro and Kochieng schools LOVE their new uniforms and balls. They wore them with pride and I am sure their game and teamwork improved immediately. If you know of any local sports teams who would be interested in sponsoring or doing a raffle fundraiser for uniforms and sports equipment for children in Kenya then please be in touch.

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Children at Kochieng Primary with their new sports uniforms and ball.

We hope to provide exposure and exciting experiences for children of the Rafiki Pen Pals Program, such as an excursion to the national park to see their unique animals like giraffe, zebra, lion, rhino, elephant, monkey and others. Very few children from the villages have the opportunity for these experiences and there is much evidence to suggest that environmental protection and care comes from appreciation. We would like to cultivate this appreciation of the natural environment in the early years through transformative youth empowerment, with the hope that it will flow through into the future to create conscious global citizens who will care for our planet Earth.

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The village children LOVE swimming on hot days but they only get to splash about in the filthy fish ponds (if the owners are not looking!) When we have shown them photos and movies of oceans and swimming pools in Australia their mouths open wide in disbelief. We hope to also take them on excursions to the Great Lake Victoria and a swimming pool in the closest city of Kisumu. These trips will be planned in the future when we have raised enough funds to hire a bus and cover the other costs such as food and accommodation.

We hope you can come to visit one day, to meet your pen pal and their family and to enjoy that chicken dish or fresh greens from the permaculture gardens J

Thank you for all of your continued support in our sustainable community development initiatives. We are proud to promote poverty alleviation through sharing cultural celebration!

If you have any questions or ideas on how to improve the program, or if you would like to volunteer some of your time to help with coordination, promotion, fundraising or letter writing, please be in touch.

Asante sana,

Samantha Willcocks, the Community Classrooms Team and families of Nyangidi village.

xoxoxo

Our first newsletter

Jambo! Our first seasonal newsletter is here. Read about the arrival of our Penpal letters in Kenya, a fundraising story of local Sunshine Coast child Rio, opportunities to support the organisation’s growth and stories of village success in social entrepreneurship and permaculture. Download link: http://bit.ly/ZbwXO4

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