Reflections from Reg on his second trip to Kenya

fhf-reg-1Reg MacDonald is back on P.E.I. after his second trip to Kenya as a volunteer with Farmers Helping Farmers.  Reg is a retired pig farmer and a member of the FHF board. As with his first trip to Kenya, Reg spent time teaching book-keeping to several women’s groups, including some follow-up with groups from his last trip.

He also visited FHF twinned schools, along with FHF board member Winston Johnston.

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Reg, Winston and Ken and Teresa Mellish visited groups where the women have received water tanks and drip irrigation, thanks to donations to the FHF Holiday Campaign. The farms with the new irrigation systems have dramatically better crops than before the water system was installed.

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Reg, Winston and Ken Mellish also met with several dairy groups, offering support to the dairy and to individual members.

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Reg has picked some of the highlights of his trip to share, along with some final reflections on his trip.

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Viewing the kitchen garden and discussing the needs of the school with two staff members of the Kiirua Secondary School.

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Members of the board of the Buuri Dairy, several of whom are proudly displaying their new glasses collected and sent over from P.E.I. The Buuri is one of the two new dairies that FHF has just started working with.

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Ken presenting a new printer to the board and staff of the Buuri Dairy.

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Reg and Leah Kariuki present a bookkeeping training session to the board of the Ngusishi Dairy. This is a dairy that FHF has just begun working with. They are a very enthusiastic group and plan to continue growing their dairy. Many members of the dairy attended the seminars put on by Dr. John VanLeeuwen and the AVC veterinary students.

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Members of the Ngusishi Board show the FHF team the newly drilled well on their property as well as the location for their new office and milk cooling building.

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Winston and Stephen Mwenda(centre) discuss  with the staff, the new computer lab at the Rugetene Secondary School.  It is newly twinned with Kinkora High School on P.E.I.

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Checking out the school garden at the Ruuju Primary School.

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Students at K K Ndege School excited to be having their picture taken.

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A very successful “drip garden” in the screen house at K K Ndege Primary School. The vegetables from the school garden will be used in the school lunch program.

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Reg and Winston  checking out the desks in a classroom at the Marinya School. At this school, while they had a good source of water, piped in from Mount Kenya to run the school and supply water for the school garden, we were told that the maize and beans, usually supplied by the parents for the school lunch,  would soon be in short supply. Because of the drought, parents were short of maize and beans and with nothing to sell, were also short of money.

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Leah, with Reg, presenting a bookkeeping training session, with the Happy Cow Group from the Naari Dairy.  This session was a follow up from training done with this great group of farmers in 2016.

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This is the “welcome dance” that Reg, Winston and staff employee, Leah, received on Friday from the members of the Kirima Women’s Group. This self-help group are very appreciative of all the help given them by FHF, including water tanks and solar lights. Members who did not have solar lights, received them from the group itself, and the Kirima WG is now working on supplying each member with a ” gas cooker”.  A real success story.

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On the last evening at the Naari House, our wonderful cooks, Vincent and Robert,  honoured their Canadian guests, Winston and Reg  with a  mango carved in the shape of a Maple Leaf decorating a delicious pizza. This signified the end of our three weeks working in the Meru area of Kenya. The days slipped by rather quickly, but each day had new and interesting experiences.

Throughout our travels, whether visiting farms, schools, womens’ groups or dairies, the main topic was the shortage of rain this year. Inherent in that was always the need for more water storage when the rains do come. As we left Kenya with its significant issues, we will always remember the welcoming, resilient and ever so grateful people that we encountered while there.

Asante Kenya.
Reg

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Asante sana to Reg and all the FHF volunteers and staff in Kenya. It is exciting to see the progress, and the difference that donations to Farmers Helping Farmers are making in the lives of Kenyan families every year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Enjoying the view: UPEI Education students week 2

fhf-teachers-hill-2We just had our first post from the UPEI Education students today, which you can read below. But we couldn’t resist sharing these awesome photos from earlier today (Sunday), shared by our great FHF staff Salome and Stephen Mwenda. They always do a wonderful job of making our FHF volunteers feel welcome, today taking them to church and then for a wonderful hike!

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UPEI Education Students in Kenya: Week 1

UPEI Education Students in Kenya: Week 1

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We (the UPEI teachers) finally made it to Kenya! We are so grateful to Susan and the driver from Sportsmen’s Safaris! They stayed up late to collect us from the airport at 4:30am after our plane was delayed, helped us fill out a missing baggage report (since none of our eight bags made it to Nairobi), and organized everything to get our luggage to Meru when it arrived. Asante sana Susan!

We arrived in Meru about lunchtime thanks to Isaac, another driver from Sportsmen’s Safaris, and were greeted by the warmest welcome imaginable from Jennifer. She is truly our “Kenyan mum” and is taking such good care of us. She accompanied us to our first day of school, at both Kiirua Primary and Mitoone Primary. She introduced us to our Head and Deputy Teachers. Everyone was so welcoming and we paused for several more introductions, handshakes, and ‘karibu’s’. Since neither of our schools have hosted teachers before, there was a bit of downtime while they tried to figure out what to do with us. Luckily we have had some amazing training, thanks to the UPEI Education program, and we were up for anything! We were placed in a mix of English, Science, Phys Ed, Social Studies and Math classes in Standards 4 to 8. On a quick tour of the Kiirua Primary School grounds, Alex and Nikki stopped by the cookhouse which was officially opened by Teresa and Liz last year with funding from the Village Feast, as well as the school’s water tank which was donated in honour of Teresa’s 35 years of service with Farmers Helping Farmers. Christina and Helen got to see the water tank, cookhouse, and vegetable garden at Mitoone Primary, which is doing very well after elephants ate it up last year.

Our first few days at school were so much fun, and so enlightening! The Kenya teachers could not be more gracious or generous, in everything from sharing their pedagogical knowledge to the huge portions of lunch they serve us. We are excited to get into the swing of things with our lessons, and most importantly to start learning our students’ names! Asante sana and kwaheri!

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Pictured above: our first Kenyan sunrise!

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Pictured above:

Christiana, Helen, Alex, Isaac, Susan and Nikki, just before we head off on the 5 hour drive from Nairobi to Meru.

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Pictured Above: Christina getting to know her new colleagues at Mitoone Primary.
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Pictured Above: Helen and Christina on their first day at Mitoone Primary.

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Pictured Above: Standard Four students being creative.

 

Saying “Asante sana” and “Tutaonana”

We’re checked in, through security, and ready to depart from the Nairobi airport, but we’re far from ready to say goodbye to this wonderful country! It’s time to fill you in on our third week of activities.

On our return from a fabulous weekend at the Sweetwater Game Reserve, we welcomed two new veterinary students from the University of Nairobi, Edward and Francis. We became fast friends and they were a great addition to our team for the week!

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Our final week in Kenya consisted of seminars around Meru county. Monday was spent at the Ngusishi Dairy Group where we gave another seminar to a record-breaking crowd of over 160 farmers. It was really encouraging to have so many farmers eager to learn and asking great questions! They enjoyed the demonstration by Matt and Stephen of how to heart tape a cow to estimate a cow’s weight (see photo). They even gave us amazing gifts, consisting of beaded purses, Kenyan hats and certificates of appreciation, to show their gratitude for the work of Farmers Helping Farmers. We were so touched and will definitely treasure these gifts.

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We travelled back to Ex Lewa on Tuesday to see lots of cows with problems and we gave our first seminar in the area. There was a big crowd of farmers and we enjoyed seeing all the people we’d met last week again. At Ex Lewa we were also given another token of appreciation, shirts and scarves! The generosity and kindness of the Kenyan people never cease to amaze us, and we are so grateful to have such lovely gifts to bring home.

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On Tuesday night our team split up to spend the night in three separate farmers’ homes as a “billet night” to become even more familiar with the local community and how everyday life in Kenya works. We all thoroughly enjoyed our nights with these local families and we’d like to extend a big “asante sana!” for their hospitality. We were all up bright and early at our respective billets to help milk the cows (by hand!) and deliver the milk to the pick-up station nearby.

After breakfast Wednesday morning, we said our goodbyes and headed off to the Buuri Dairy Group for a long seminar in the hot afternoon sun. The heat was worth it though as it was a great seminar with many engaged farmers and we were joined later in the day by some colleagues from Vets Without Borders Canada! This group arrived in Kenya on Sunday and will be travelling around the Meru area for 3 weeks, doing work very similar to ours as they assist and educate the local farmers. After the seminar, we saw an interesting case of a cow that occasionally stumbles as she walks and has been doing this since she was a young heifer. Other than her clumsiness, she was in great condition and a happy cow so we just gave advice on how to manage her so she doesn’t injure herself. The Buuri Group, in true Kenyan style, was once again too kind and sent us on our way with Kenyan hats to wear proudly! Asante!

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On Thursday, we were joined by our friends from Vets Without Borders as we travelled to the Muthiru area to see some sick cows and visit the dairy again. On our last working day in Kenya, we got to see our first case of Lumpy Skin Disease, a common viral condition that causes skin lumps all over the body. Fortunately, this cow had been treated and was well on the road to recovery! After a long day on the road in Muthiru, we said goodbye to our friends Edward and Francis who took a matatu back to Nairobi. It wasn’t too sad however, as we knew we’d be seeing them the next day when we took a tour of the vet school. On Thursday night, we were treated to an amazing “going away” party by our friend Jennifer in Meru. The food was amazing, the drinks were cold, and the company couldn’t have been better. It was the perfect way to end the best three weeks!

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We were up bright and early this morning, Friday, to make the long drive back to Nairobi, where we were greeted at the vet school by our friends Maseka, Makena, Edward and Francis! We were so excited to see them all again and they gave us a grand tour of the campus, including the small and large animal clinics, the post-mortem room, the lecture theatres and the beautiful grounds. It’s such a big campus compared to ours, and of course much warmer.

As we sit in the Nairobi airport, waiting to board our flight to Zurich, we can’t believe that our three weeks have already come to an end. This rotation has been planned for and dreamed about since this time last year and the reality is better than we ever could have imagined. In addition to being an incredible clinical rotation full of Kenyan cows and calves, we met amazing people whom we will never forget, learned new words and customs, enjoyed new food, and saw stunning animals and landscapes. Thank you to Farmers Helping Farmers and John VanLeeuwen, AVC, UPEI, and our many supporters for making it happen. All that is left to say is, until next time Kenya, tutaonana!  

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Goodbyes – and hellos. Kwaheri and habari as our teams arrive and depart!

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It is hard to believe that for the first team of vet students and Farmers Helping Farmers volunteers, their time in Kenya is over.

It has been a busy time for all. More highlights to come below. But before they left, they enjoyed the hospitality of the wonderful Jennifer Murogocho at her home in Meru. It’s always important to have the social events as well as the work, to share stories and reflect on the experience.

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And now a new group has arrived. They are four preservice teachers from UPEI’s Education program. They will spend six weeks at FHF twinned schools. We look forward to their blog posts, coming soon.

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Winston Johnston, FHF staff Salome Ntinyari and Reg MacDonald introduced the UPEI teachers to the schools where they will be spending six weeks in the classroom.

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Here are some other highlights from the FHF team’s time in Kenya.

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Reg MacDonald (left) and Winston Johnston (seated) spent a lot of time visiting the FHF twinned schools, checking on the status of water tanks, screened gardens and cookhouse kitchens. Here they are having morning uji, or porridge, with students at Kamuketha School.

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Reg and Stephen Mwenda in front of one of the water tanks donated to schools through Farmers Helping Farmers.

In the two photos below, Winston and Reg are speaking to students at King’O Secondary.

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Many of the staff and head teachers have been hosting visitors from Farmers Helping Farmers for years, so it’s like Old Home Week when we come to visit.

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They also visited some secondary schools, including Buuri Secondary, which is twinned with Three Oaks High in Summerside.

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In the photo below, Winston visits the physics classroom, where notes are projected on a screen, thanks to a projector donated to Buuri by Three Oaks.

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There were also several volunteers involved with teaching bookkeeping classes at dairies and women’s groups.

Teresa Mellish and FHF staffperson Stephen Mwenda are seen here with members of the Joy women’s group.

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Ken presented the Buuri Dairy Cooperative Society with a new printer- so they can provide a printed statement to each dairy farmer at the end of each month showing how many litres he/she delivered to the dairy that month and the price paid per litre along with the total paid to the farmer.
Reg introduced the directors of the dairy to the farm bookkeeping course we offer and they would like to have all of their farmer trained in farm bookkeeping. The Buuri Dairy Cooperative Dairy is one of two new dairies we are starting to work with. They gave Ken and Reg a beautiful red Masai blanket!

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As always, our intrepid FHF team is always interested in seeing how different crops are doing in the area of Kenya where we work.

Seen below: mangoes,coffee,vegetables,black beans,sunflower,dairy farming and orange fleshed sweet potatoes – which all do well in Kenya!

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Asante sana – many thanks – to our Farmers Helping Farmers team who volunteered their time to travel to Kenya, at their own expense. You can see the amazing partnership that we have with the people we have met in Kenya, and these visits keep us connected.

Asante also to our wonderful FHF staff in Kenya who take photos and share them with us back in Canada. Asante Stephen Mwenda, Salome, Leah, Stephen Chandi and Douglas Gikundi.

Here are a few more photos of our team in action.

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Exploring Kenya – and more cows

The vet students are back with our second blog post, coming direct from the Sweetwater Game Reserve where we are enjoying a much-needed weekend of rest and relaxation!

After the walk-in clinic on Saturday, we took a break on Sunday. The day involved a sleep in, and then a climb up a local hill, where we had the most spectacular view. Later, we had a delicious early dinner at Jennifer Murogocho’s house in Meru – she is such a nice lady.

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The work week started off with a trip to the Buuri Dairy Group to deliver a “basics” seminar. The Buuri Dairy is a new partner of Farmers Helping Farmers, only about 9 months into the partnership. After visiting several local farms to address specific cow problems, we headed off to the seminar. There was a large group of farmers and we had the chance to practice our presenting skills by answering a few of the questions on our own, with the help of a translator of course! We went on our way from the dairy with two huge bags of potatoes and some sweet peas as a thank you from the group. Delicious!

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Tuesday was a visit to the Lunuru Dairy Group where we were greeted with the most wonderful “welcome” song from the farmers, who were primarily women. It was so joyful and made us feel very welcomed and appreciated. We had to cut our time there slightly short as we were followed by rain for the 3rd time in as many days. Is wasn’t too much of a disappointment, though, because as our friend Ken Mellish likes to say “the rain does more for the farmers than we ever could!” The rain stopped, and so we did go out to see some cow cases before heading back home.

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We spent the day Wednesday with the vet tech employed by the Naari Dairy Group, Bernard. We visited many farms in the area, seeing sick cows, performing artificial insemination, and also touring around some of the top farms, with breaks for tea on the farms occasionally. The number one farm in the Naari region has 22 milking cows and produces around 350 L of milk per day! Impressive. One cow had diarrhea and Terra learned the hard way that you don’t want to stand behind such a cow, especially when they cough.

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On Thursday our group enjoyed a cultural day where we visited St. Theresa’s Mission Hospital in Kiirua and had a tour around. The hospital was very busy and we were so impressed with the staff and the facilities. The doctors in public hospitals are currently on their second month of a strike so private hospitals like St. Theresa’s are absorbing all of the people who have nowhere else to seek help, often at reduced or no cost to the patients who often cannot pay. We also went to see the students of Mitoone Primary School, which is very close to our house. The students were all incredibly dedicated and intelligent – it definitely brought back some memories of long division and geography! The day finished at the St. Theresa’s Children’s Home, which is run by the same group of nuns as the hospital. We spent time feeding babies – probably the most challenging task we’ve faced so far – and playing with the children who live there. It was heartwarming and humbling to see their smiling faces and the compassion of the sisters who take care of them.

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Friday completed our week with a visit to Muthiru Dairy Group where we delivered another “basic” seminar to a group of mostly new farmers. They were eager to learn and we got more experience answering questions about mastitis, nutrition, reproduction and general husbandry. Friday afternoon was also time for a resigned “see you later” to our friends Maseka and Makena from the Nairobi University as they headed back to Nairobi to allow two new students to join us Sunday night. We had such a fun time with them and got to know them pretty well over the 9 days; we even stopped at Makena’s home on the way to Muthiru to meet her parents, see her home farm, and admire the huge mangoes they had on their mango trees – and they gave us some as we left. Yum! At the end of the day, we were very sad to see them go, but we will be joining them at Nairobi University next Friday for a tour of the vet school before we head home. On our trip back from Muthiru, we hit a small snag thanks to a flat tire, but our driver David expertly changed it in no time and our brief delay was rewarded by a family of elephants standing roadside just outside of Kiirua! We stopped and watched them for nearly half an hour, completely awestruck, and were treated to the sight of a very young baby elephant as well. What a great warmup before our weekend in Sweetwater!

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And so our second week draws to a close! We’re currently debating whether to hit the pool or continue enjoying the view of Mount Kenya with a herd of zebra and a sleepy rhino just outside our tent. With one more week to go we’re excited to see what else this amazing adventure brings us. We’ll be back next week with our last post!

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From Canada to Kenya: Helping girls stay in school

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Farmers Helping Farmers is excited to be teaming up with the Empower Sewing Group in Guelph, Ontario to produce Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits. They will be distributed to our FHF twinned schools to girls who may otherwise stay away from school when they have their periods. These kits will give days to girls – valuable days in school – that will help them pursue their future.

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The story starts with Jean Hume, whose daughter, Janice Whalen is a past president of Farmers Helping Farmers. Jean’s grandson, Daniel Whalen, travelled to Kenya in 2015 as part of the FHF Youth Tour.

Here is how Jean tells the story of the Days for Girls kits:

Days for Girls is an International Charitable Organization  with headquarters in Washington D.C.  Days for Girls Canada, has their headquarters in Red Deer, Alberta.  The goal of this organization is to permit girls in developing nations to attain an education in a dignified way. This is possible through access to quality, sustainable, feminine hygiene solutions and community-based health leadership programs.  

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A year ago, my friend , Anne Parsons attended a quilting workshop and at the event  the Kitchener /Waterloo Days for Girls Chapter had an exhibit as they were appealing for donations of quilting cotton.  The program captured Anne’s attention and she proposed it to me as a possible undertaking to establish a team here in our retirement community,  Village By The Arboretum, in Guelph.

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There are beautiful facilities here in our community so we applied for space and time to use the Hobby room.  We advertised with an explanation, that we would be meeting on Wednesday mornings and that we needed volunteers to come and help us prepare the kits. There are jobs that do not require sewing so all women were welcome to join.  

We were thrilled with the interest as women from all across the “Village” came. Many had spent time in African nations and other developing countries in some form of teaching capacity. One of our members is over 90 and still able to set the work pace for all of us!  She has made 16 trips to Uganda working with teenaged girls. We discussed our needs and materials and thread and equipment and financial donations came in from themselves and their friends.

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The kit contains two shields, made of quilting cotton, PUL (poly laminated urethane, prevents leakage) and two snaps, eight flannel insert squares that form the pad when folded in thirds, two panties, one facecloth, one bar of hotel size soap,  two litre-size ziplock bags and an instruction sheet. All of the components must meet the specifications of the Days for Girls Kit. These are then packed into one of the zip locked bags and inserted into a cotton, draw string bag made also by the women.   As the snaps and zip lockbags, facecloths and panties and PUL all have to be purchased, donations of money are essential.

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The sewers have enjoyed the fellowship of working together especially with women whom they have really not known.  So for some it is a social outing.   Many have been quilters but have saturated their families with quilts and this gives them the satisfaction of creating something that will benefit young girls and really in return, as the more empowerment that women achieve, the better equipped this world will be.

The 300 kits will last approximately three years.  With an average of 12-14 women coming every week, it took us about 9 months to accomplish the 300.  Bear in mind there was a learning curve to meet the standards!!! 

-Jean Hume
Guelph, Ontario

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Asante to Jean and her team in Guelph, Ontario!

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to create these feminine hygiene kits and get them to Kenya!

First, Jean’s son-in-law Jamie Whalen brought the five load hockey bags from Guelph to P.E.I. in his horse trailer!

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Then the kits had to be transferred from the hockey bags into suitcases for the trip to Kenya.

 

More on that from FHF board members Liz Townsend:

On Friday February 3rd, a coordinated effort by Farmers Helping Farmers Board members transferred Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits into suitcases that will be checked baggage from PEI bound this month for Kenya.

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Starting with large hockey bags full of kits, FHF president Rosemary Herbert and board member Liz Townsend packed the suitcases and loaded them into Liz’s car.

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Finally, they had one more transfer to the waiting van of FHF past president Carolyn Francis.days-for-girls-1

The suitcases will be taken to Kenyan girls by UPEI student teachers going for a Practicum and the Farmers Helping Farmers team of Carolyn, Liz and Wendy MacDonald going to work on a new Safe And Inclusive Schools project.

The journey for all these kits started with an amazing group of women in Days for Girls who actually sew and assemble these wonderful, reusable kits that enable Kenyan young women to stay in school as proud members of their families and communities.

Quite a journey to make a critical difference in the daily lives of young women!

More photos to come from Kenya.

Asante sana for this wonderful effort.

 

 

Reg’s update on bookkeeping sessions

by Reg MacDonald

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Reg, Winston and FHF employee Leah Kariuki recently held a bookkeeping training session with the Makena Mithatene Women’s Group.

Seventeen members of the group were present for the session, their first. Thanks to Leah for translating.

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The women were keen learners. While in Kenya, we have time only for that one session, but staff employee, Leah, will do a follow up session in a couple of weeks and will continue to work with the women in the future.

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Following the session, the women hosted the FHF group for a lovely lunch meal. Several group members then were happy to show us their kitchen gardens.

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Here is Reg again, this time with the Upendo Women’s Group.

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After the sessions, Reg and FHF coordinator Teresa Mellish enjoy presenting calendars from Canada to members of the women’s group who have helped to organize the sessions.

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Holiday Campaign cows making a difference

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Published by Teresa Mellish 

Yesterday we visited the ExLawa Dairy. We have been working with the dairy for four years and shared in their steady progress. One of highlights was seeing the “loan cows”. These are cows which are financed by our Christmas fund raising campaign. Donated money is given to the dairy and they loan it our as a revolving loan. We visited a farmer who had received a loan to buy a cow two years ago. The cow had milked for a lactation and was ready to calve again next month. The cow had milked well and this was aided by FHF staff training him to make silage to store his forage through the dry season.
An additional benefit was the farmer was able to use the cash flow from this cow to convince the bank to loan him money for an additional cow. It was easy to see looking at his small farm that things were progressing. He was completing his house and he had crops growing in his fields for the dry season.
Another Farmers Helping Farmers success story.

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A quick note from Daktari John – Dr. John VanLeeuwen

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A quick note from Daktari John
Things are going really well here in Kenya. Especially today because it rained for 2 hours in Naari, so the farmers and their crops and livestock will be thrilled, and healthier. A timely good rain can do more for more people than we can – a fact I am willing to accept. It has been dry so the rain will really help.
The 3 Canadian and 2 Kenya students are doing a fantastic job. Here are a couple of photos of seminars in Buuri and in Lunuru.
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While at Lunuru, we provided them with some of our dairy cattle management handbooks. They are very popular, and provide lots of useful and practical information for the farmers. There is a copy on our FHF website.

We had the pleasure of working with the new vet tech at Naari Dairy, Bernard. He is knowledgeable, hard-working, and very personable, so a good catch for the dairy group.
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It has been busy with long days (8 until 6 or 7), making time go by so fast. Only one more week with the farmers around Mt Kenya. The fresh ripe mangoes are keeping us going. Wish we could bring some home with us for you. I guess you will have to settle with some of the photos and memories.
Greetings from all our partners (friends) in Kenya.