Donors, Partnerships and Hospitality at the Core of Farmers Helping Farmers Success

by Liz Townsend, Farmers Helping Farmers board member
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The Kenyan delegation on P.E.I. in the fall of 2016

The success of Farmers Helping Farmers (FHF) for over 35 years depends on our generous donors and on long standing partnerships between Islanders and Kenyans mainly based in two communities north of Nairobi, Mukurwe-ini and Meru. Twinned schools in and around these communities build partnerships as Island and Kenyan pupils write letters back and forth supplemented by Island pupils raising funds to buy items such as solar lights for Kenyan pupils studying where there is no electricity.
In October, 2016, five Kenyan members of the Meru Assembly visited PEI to learn more about us, and experience Island hospitality in our cool weather. Jennifer Murogocho (red coat), who chairs the Meru Assembly Committee on Education, and the others visited many Island locations, for instance in Belfast where they stopped in at Peter Penny’s strawberry farm to see mixed farming and a small soy bean operation (with Reg MacDonald and Liz Townsend of FHF).
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 In February and March 2017, four small teams of Farmers Helping Farmers members were treated to outstanding Kenyan hospitality.  In the warmer Kenyan climate, Carolyn Francis and Liz Townsend, FHF Board members, were hosted by Ayub, a member of the Meru County Education Committee. In the PEI photo, Ayub was in a brown parka looking like he understandably felt the cold!
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Ayub took time to take Carolyn and Liz to the Gitune Sacred Heritage Forest in his home community near Meru where we met his 92 year old grandfather who started an amazing Kenyan museum of heritage artifacts and traditional buildings. We were given a rousing welcome from local women with speeches by Ayub, Jennifer, Carolyn and local women who told us about the impact on their lives of this year’s drought. Then Ayub hosted us for lunch and, on another evening, invited Carolyn, Liz, the UPEI student teachers, and Jennifer to a home-cooked dinner with his family.
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Jennifer Murogocho hosted four UPEI Bachelor of Education pre-service teachers at her own home during their 6-week practicum in Meru District schools, and also hosted Carolyn and Liz there for the last week of their 3 week Kenyan visit.
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 Jennifer helped to set up visits and travelled with us on the Safe and Inclusive Schools (SIS) project.
SIS is a project to collaborate with teachers in using positive discipline (instead of corporal punishment which is now banned in Kenya) and to support the inclusion of pupils with special needs to get an educational start in primary schools.
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Islanders who visit Kenya pay our own way for transport, accommodations, and food. But we are privileged and humbled by the time and open welcome given to visiting Islanders by our Kenyan hosts who help to organize visits and often travel the roads with us.
Thank you to our many Kenyan partners, including Gerald and Grace Kariuki, long time partners with FHF, who farm on spectacular yet difficult hills outside Mukurwe-ini. They hosted Carolyn, Liz and Wendy MacDonald for their first week in Kenya.
We continue to be overwhelmed by the generosity, hospitality and hard work of our Kenyan partners!

‘Living an episode of Plant Earth’: UPEI Education students have a safari weekend

We are sending this blog post specifically about our trip to Sweetwaters Game Park for a 3 day long safari on the weekend of March 3,4 and 5. We had a great time spending the safari weekend with Carolyn, Wendy and Liz. Faces from home are always nice to see and they made for really great company. The journey there took about 2 hours, and along the way we had some great views of the Kenyan countryside. On arrival at the Game Park, we elected to head straight out for a nighttime game drive. The views were absolutely stunning! Throughout the course of the weekend we had the opportunity to see many animals such as giraffes, elephants, black and white rhinos, baboons, chimpanzees and many more – at times, it felt like we were living an episode of “Planet Earth.” The accommodations and food were top notch, and we took the opportunity to enjoy all of the many amenities that Sweetwaters had to offer. Three of us elected even to take a camel ride! As we draw this post to a close, we have to mention our safari guide and driver Peter from Sportsmen’s Safari. He was absolutely wonderful! He was so knowledgeable and was very enthusiastic for the entire drive. He did an amazing job ensuring that we got the most out of the safari weekend that we possibly could. Hopefully the groups that go in future years will get to have a drive with him as well. In summary, it was a fantastic experience and one that I hope to have a chance to partake in again!

Alex, Christina, Helen, and Nikki

En Route to Sweetwaters Game Park



Water Buffalo gather at a watering hole during our nighttime game drive Mar 3rd


A tree full of baboons!


Helen and Nikki feeding a rhino!


Alex, Christina and Helen take a camel ride


Alex, Christina, Nikki and Helen on the equator!


Wendy, Carolyn, Liz and our excellent driver Peter


A beautiful giraffe enjoying a drink at the watering hole

Safe and inclusive schools part two: Meru workshops

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Safe and Inclusive Schools (SIS) is one of the latest of Farmers Helping Farmers projects. The purpose is to support Kenyan schools in their efforts to eradicate corporal punishment and promote social inclusion of pupils with special needs. Teachers, head teachers, and a member of the Board of Management gathered for the first workshops in Mukurwe-ini almost 3 hours north of Nairobi. Lively discussions energized us all, including the SIS project team and Farmers Helping Farmers Board members Carolyn Francis, Liz Townsend, Wendy MacDonald.
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Carolyn, Liz and Wendy held the 2nd round of workshops in the Safe and Inclusive Schools (SIS) project in Meru. About 20 teachers, head teachers, and a Board of Management member came together for 2 full days.  We started with prayers before class and at meals to wish us well for holding workshops that were similar to the 2 full days held in Mukurwe-ini.
As in Mukurwe-ini, participants were enthusiastic and amazingly open about the struggle to stop caning students when tradition, parents, and even pupils expect caning to be a regular part of school discipline.
The focus was on engagement with lots of flip charts, sticky notes for everyone to express ideas, and everyone having a chance to speak. A group photo is always required to mark the gathering!
Jennifer Murogocho, Chair of Education for Meru County  Assembly is a long time supporter of Farmers Helping  Farmers. She took time from an incredibly busy schedule to join us for most of the first day of our 2-day Meru workshops.
The four UPEI students in Meru to do their Bachelor of Education pre-service teaching spoke with great passion against corporal punishment which has been against the law in Kenya since 2010. Participants were keen to talk with the students who facilitated exercises and generally mingled with everyone. A great collection of bright minds!
In both Mukurwe-ini and Meru, Carolyn, Liz and Wendy met with 10 youth to hear their views on corporal punishment and special needs. We were so lucky to meet them and gradually hear their stories of school life. Group photos were a great hit!

Making new friends

Hello Again!

from UPEI Education students Alex, Nikki, Christina and Helen

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In this blog post, the teachers have teamed up with the other group from Farmers Helping Farmers (Carolyn, Liz and Wendy) as they carry out their work on promoting safe and inclusive schools in Meru (a continuation of their work in Mukerwe’ini). We attended the workshops on Thursday, Friday and Monday (March 2nd,3rd and 6th respectively) which were held at the Kaaga Synod MCK guest house in Meru. These sessions included teachers, headteachers, PTA members and representation from the County Assembly (our wonderful Kenyan Mom and great friend of FHF Jennifer Murogocho). We are sure that the ladies will have much to share about the exciting work they’re doing during the workshops in future posts. From our perspective, the workshops that we attended were quite successful and a very big step in beginning to foster a safe and inclusive learning environment in all Kenyan schools. Way to go Carolyn, Liz and Wendy!!

On Thursday, Alex had an opportunity to spend the entire day getting to know a student from K.K Indege primary school who arrived at the workshop on the wrong day. Kelvin is an exceptionally bright class 8 student with an awesome personality.

Making the best of the day, Kelvin and Alex visited the Kaaga School for the Hearing Impaired for a couple of hours on Thursday, as it is right next door to the guest house where the workshops were being held. It was an incredible experience for Alex and Kelvin, as neither had ever visited a school specifically for those who need to communicate using sign language. For Kelvin, it was the first time he had ever met someone who talked using sign language. It was an eye-opening learning experience for the two, and one they are unlikely to forget anytime soon. To see the caring and dedicated teachers at work was quite inspiring.

Alex spoke so highly of his experience that Christina, Helen and Nikki made a visit to the school the next day without hesitation. Incidentally, Kelvin was asked to speak to his peers about his experience the next day at school, where he told Alex that many were quite interested to hear about how similar, yet different the learning environment was to their own. We have now run in to Kelvin on several other days, and are always happy to see our new friend. He has told Alex that he would like to be an author when he grows up, and we are looking forward to reading his work in the future! Alex has also asked Kelvin to stay in touch and hopes to receive a letter from him sometime in the coming weeks or months. We think that the two have become fast friends!

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Above: Masonry students at the Kaaga School for the Hearing Impaired pose for a picture with their work.


teach again 3Above: A picture of the carpentry workshop in the vocational area at the Kaaga School for the Hearing Impaired.


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Above: Christina looks on as cheerful students from the school have a look at some pictures.

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Above: The students are full of energy as Helen and Nikki give out some stickers to the class.

A new cookhouse – and more!

FHF open 5It was a very exciting weekend in Kenya as our Farmers Helping Farmers volunteers and UPEI education students participated in the opening of our newest cookhouse, thanks to the incredible efforts of the Souris Village Feast.

The cookhouse is located at Michaka Primary School – which is twinned with Stratford Elementary School. FHF board member Lydia MacKay is a teacher at Stratford Elementary and the chair of the Education Committee so we are sure this cookhouse is especially exciting for her to share with her students!

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FHF board members Carolyn Francis, Wendy MacDonald and Liz Townshend were also on hand to experience the opening of the cookhouse.

Carolyn Francis was at Michaka in July 2015 with the P.E.I.-Kenya Youth Tour and presented a map of the world, on behalf of the students and teachers from Canada who were on that tour.

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The students at Michaka also received some books-thanks to the 2016 Farmers Helping Farmers Holiday Campaign.

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To finish up the day, girls in the upper grade levels were presented with Days for Girls feminine hygiene kits. They were prepared by Jean Hume and her volunteers in Guelph, Ontario. They will help these girls to be able to stay in school and study when they menstruate, as compared to the past where they often had to miss valuable class time.

Here, three of the UPEI Education students explain to the girls how to use the kits.

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It was another weekend of exploring and learning about Kenya for the UPEI Education students.

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Asante to all who made this a very special day for Farmers Helping Farmers in Kenya!

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Outdoor adventures: UPEI Education Students in Kenya Blog Post #2



Hello again from the Education students! We hiked a hill near both Mitoone Primary School and Kiirua Primary School on Sunday after attending a church service with Salome and Stephen. It was very interesting to see the difference in our lung capacity in Kenya compared to PEI. The air is much thinner here,  so it is harder to breath. We ended up getting tired because of our lungs instead of muscle fatigue. The view was entirely worth it. We could see so far over the beautiful Meru landscape and we were able to spot both of our schools. Seeing the clouds appearing so low is very different from PEI, due to the altitude. During the hike we got to see a few of the students from Kiirua. It was great to see the students outside of a school setting, they were very excited and happy to see us.


The  vegetable garden that was destroyed by elephants last year is now thriving thanks to Farmers Helping Farmers. It provides nutritious vegetables that are incorporated into the students and teachers meals every day. The schools are so generous with their food and make sure that we are all very full every day. The two amazing cooks that feed well over 200 students and teachers daily make good use of the school’s vegetable garden. Kenya is truly a kind nation.



Pictured Above: Screened in vegetable garden at Mitoone Primary School that was destroyed by elephants and rebuilt by Farmers Helping Farmers, thanks to a generous donation from West Kent School and Island Lime.

fhf-edu-2-inside-screenhousePictured Above: Screened in vegetable garden at Mitoone Primary School, planted with kale, carrots, onions, cabbage, tomatoes, and spinach.


One of the biggest challenges, especially with our younger students, has been the language barrier. We have been creative and the students have been very patient in helping us to find ways of understanding each other. Learning some keys phrases in Kiswahili at our orientations was key, and has helped us to bridge the gap. The students in Kenya are so enthusiastic and excited to learn, it is very rewarding.


Pictured Above: Helen taking a break from teaching Physical Education with students at Mitoone Primary School.


Pictured above: Nikki leads the students in some new yoga moves during PhysEd at Kiirua Primary.



Pictured above: Alex plays some tunes for Kiirua Primary pupils during lunch break.



Pictured Above: Christina teaching Physical Education to all grades of Mitoone Primary School.


Farmers Helping Farmers launches safe and inclusive schools project in Kenya

Farmers Helping Farmers has just launched a new project in Kenya, in partnership with the Education Committee of Meru county. The project will focus on promoting safe and inclusive schools. The idea is to begin conversations around positive discipline methods and the needs for transportation and equipment to include students with disabilities. This is the first in several stages for these integrated projects.


FHF board members Carolyn Francis, Wendy MacDonald and Liz Townsend kicked off the project meeting with educators and the school community, beginning in the Mukerwe’ini area where Farmers Helping Farmers has nine twinned schools. The group held three days of workshops.

Wendy MacDonald writes: “We had a wonderful group at our workshop in Mukerwe’ini. All nine twinned schools were represented by their head teachers, as well as senior teachers, deputy head teachers, and classroom teachers. We also had representation from Board of Management chairs, parents, and the district office. We had great participation, rich discussions, and strong support to move forward.”


The first to arrive at our Mukerwe’ini workshop were longtime friends of Farmers Helping Farmers Esther and Dorothy.