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/>
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.
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.
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.
Mum 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
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!
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.
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.
- Support more children to join the Rafiki Pen Pal Program and develop educational resources to deepen learning in both Australian and Kenyan contexts,
- 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,
- 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,
- Employ elders locally to teach traditional arts,
- Build a permanent facility to house the Learning Library full of books, learning, art and sports resources,
- Employ a local teacher to hold classes from the library for villagers of all ages,
- 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.
Samantha Willcocks, the Community Classrooms Team and families of Nyangidi village.