Margaret, Lucyline and Catherine are great supporters of my work in Nkoroi. Today, they showed up early for one of the meetings we had with the vetting committee that is supposed to help propose names for candidates to be appointed in the leadership team of the community initiative.
We spent about 30 minutes chatting about some of the education challenges in the area before the rest arrived. Margaret openly says that one of neighbors has two daughters who have not joined secondary school since last year due to lack of fees, even after receiving admission letters to school. She further said that the area only has 3 secondary schools with over 5,000 kids leaving primary school each year. The secondary schools in the area will only admit kids with marks over 300. With a starting fee of over 20,000Ksh for the 1st term, it is almost impossible for most children to enroll. Catherine says that it is every parent’s dream to see their children complete their education, but they just can’t afford it.
They have one positive story though, the parents in Nkaimurunya primary school got together and raised money to fund kids in the school who did not have the support to register for their final (standard 8) primary level exam. They raised over 40,000Ksh. This story makes me believe more in this community.
There is a lot of hidden power and resource amongst local communities in Kenya to help find solutions for local problems/challenges. How can we help uncover that power and work together to use it in the most beneficial way?
Last week, I sat with our community organizers and taught the Collective Decision Making process. This is yet another tool we use in working with communities, one that involves allowing discussion and dialogue to create a path forward. It is a rather simple, yet complicated process that involves determining how decisions are to be made, creating criteria, brainstorming, narrowing down ideas, and final votes. The community organizers are using this tool to work with the community stakeholders to facilitate a decision about what issue/initiative they wanted to focus on.
As we sat at the table and discussed how the organizers have used this in past forums, and what needed to be changed for future forums, one of the complications that continued to pop up was people not understanding certain words: initiative, criteria, brainstorm and others. Which meant the organizers spent a lot of time explaining what these words meant, trying to translate them directly. Listening to them discuss this problem, I paused the organizers, and we stepped back and worked on explaining and going through the process in simple terms, translating it to Swahili. We learned the word criteria is not important, but the concepts behind it are what really matter.
Working in communities is all about adapting to the audience, shaping the program so that it gives everyone the opportunity to participate. It is incredible to watch this adaptation go on, and know that it could be done again and again in different communities around the world.
Rose has learned so much in the past few months and as she gets deeper into the Ngong community things become clearer to her.
One such thing she has learned is that the community has been supported by many organizations that were previously active and have now done more harm than good. For example, Jimmy, one of their volunteers, talks about an organization that used to fund a project that gave burserys to vulnerable children in the community so they could attend school. The contact person in the community was a woman who ended up just directing the money to her family members. The community was hurt by this women and in turn lost a great deal trust in organizations that say they are working to help.
Another group of people were robbed of over 18,000Ksh they gave for a water project that never came to fruition.
Ngong is a community looking to rebuild their faith in organizations and the leaders are chellenging Rose and Jacob on how Be The Change and Tatau are different. One of the first steps in any relationship is building trust and Rose and Jacob are willing to do what it takes to show this community that this work is about a community trusting eachother and supporting each other as they come together around child poverty.
Education is a challenge at any level in the Rongai community. Tony and James have uncovered one of the areas the proves to be one of the biggest issues.
They have heard from the community that once kids complete standard 8 in a government school, going onto secondary level is difficult becuase of fees. Many parents that can scrounge together enough money to pay for the not-so-free primary education just cannot find enough to pay secondary school fees.
Some challenges around this issue are dependancy and double sponsorship of children by other organizations working in the community. Both challenges are proof that these current organizations are just not working together and, in fact, may be hurting more than helping in some cases.
Tony and James are working toward bringing Rongai together so they are fighting one battle as one united front.
How can we, as another NGO, work alongside others? How can we find a common goal and bring in all of ourstrengths to acheive that goal?