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Raymond's Visit to The Walk Centre, Nakuru. Kenya

Raymond has been sponsored by his employer Great Places Housing Group to volunteer at the Walk Centre which provides education, food and support to 340 children and their families living in the Hilton Slum in Nakuru in the Rift Valley, Kenya. Hi trip is taking place in April and may 2012.

Diary Entries

Thursday, 03 May 2012

Location: Nairobi airport, Kenya

Just a quick note to thank everyone for taking such interest in my trip and the work at the Walk Centre.

Did the final shopping for food and medicines yesterday. We had a good meeting about the project and the role of Great Places. Unfortunately due to the heavy rains we could not make it up to the land GP helped to purchase to resettle families from the slum to move to. However we talked about possible ways the company can contribute in future.

Today we met the District Chief Officer about encouraging the families to make the move off the dump site and onto the land. They want to move but are established there and need to decide if they are going to take up the offer. We will hear progress when Alex and the District Chief meet with the families next week.

Amy, Chris and I went to the centre for the final time this morning where we were given very touching letters by the children who sang and made thank you speeches. It was very moving indeed.

I'm now at the airport waiting to board the flight home.

It has been a truly amazing experience and I wish to thank the Walk Centre and Great Places for making it possible.

Thanks Raymond

Tuesday, 01 May 2012

Location: Kenya

Sunday 29 April

It was another early start and Alex took me to the Matatu station, just after 6am. I was off to visit Sr Paula and the nuns at who run a boarding school for local children and many orphan girls, a skills centre for 'low achievers' and a health centre. Their work is one of several projects supported by my Church in Sheffield.

The journey to Kimende about an hour from Nairobi went pretty smoothly, but when I got out of the Matatu I noticed how shabby and (poor) the town seemed. Mud roads strewn with rubbish, puddles, no hard surfaces ramshackle houses and stalls. It was about 8am and lots of people seemed to be standing around.. waiting for something or someone. There were several people in their Sunday best carefully choosing their steps to avoid the worst of the mud. I bought bananas and mangos for the nuns from the only occupied stall and with the help of a security guard was shown the matatu which would take me up the mountain to Kagwe.

The matatu had obviously been in a serious crash before as all the pillars of the vehicle had black scorch marks where the roof had been replaced. We wound slowly around the potholes and trenches on the road, dropping and collecting church goers as we went. The journey was probably less than 10km but it took 45-50 minutes. I was dropped at a track which had a sign for the convent and set off on the 2km hike with my bags of fruit. Although very rural amongst the tea plantations I was easily spotted and children came out of their houses to watch the Mzungo pass! Eventually the huge church came into view and I realised I was heading in the right direction.

When I got to the convent I was warmly greeted by Srs Paula and Cynthia. We had a lively chat over coffee and walked across to the church. The service was in Swahili and Kukuyu the local tribal language and the music and singing was amazing, I took a recording. The Youth came up the isle singing, dancing and clapping which I was later told was 'Dance for the Lord'. I managed to record most of the music.

After Mass I had lunch with the nuns who were very lively and humorous. After I was shown around the school, skills workshop (mainly sewing) and the clinic. We took a few snaps and the 4 younger Sisters insisted walking me back to the main road and took turns carrying my bag.

Back at the main road a crowded matutu picked me up and the passengers of the 14 seater grew to 29 with 4 guys hanging out the side door as we bumped down the mountain. Back in Kimende I eventually got a matatu back to Nakuru with many stops and delays by transfer to another bus took about 4 weary hours.

Monday 30 April

At school it was ugali and beans so there was not too much preparation or cooking. With time on our hands we started work on the final concrete floor. The high school boys were off school and worked really hard repairing the floor. They give much of their time helping at the centre as a way of repaying for the support they receive. Fortunately they were rewarded with a filling meal.

Fred and I made up food packs for the five most vulnerable families. The whole school was gathered in the yard and it was moving to see the difficulty Fred and Gladys the head teacher, had trying to select the children who's families we would visit. We gathered the children and the bags of food and headed off to meet their families. Despite seeing difficult conditions here over recent weeks, I was still shocked to see the desperation of the families we visited. One case had 7 orphaned children looked after by their very elderly, frail grandmother in a single room mud house in serious disrepair. Another family a single mother of 7 who's house floods every night during the heavy rains. Truly shocking.

Fred and I then planned how we should spend a new donation received in my account, this is being spent on more food for school and medicines for one mum who is severely ill at present with complications brought on by HIV.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Location: Nakuru, Kenya

Saturday 28 April 2012

It has been an eventful few days, busy at school. I have now taught the senior class (who are on holiday from school, but come for lessons and food at the centre). Friday was geography, I drew a world map on the board and we discussed the oceans, continents, Equator (which crosses Kenya about 40km from here), the poles etc.
I enjoyed it and really hope the children got something from it. Today Fred and I went to the veg market to buy the vegetables for todays meal. I love this place which has to be one of my favourite places here. It is so busy noisy and good humoured. The children had another Saturday meat treat.

After lunch Fred & I hired a motorbike and went up to the Menengai crator it is a few km from here and is the worlds second largest. Half way up the chain came off the bike I looked on making very unhelpful concerned noises and held the wipes for Fred to clean his hands. We started again but it was too risky over the rocky terrain, so he stopped, we went back down and waited for his friends to come with another bike. Eventually we made it to the top on the new bike.

The Crator was spectacular it is over 90km and falls 485m from the edge. In the bottom are 3 natural geysers steaming constantly. And the bowl is full of thick lush vegetation. On the way down I recorded video of the the top part of the decent but it was too hazardous to continue so I had to cling onto the bike with both hands.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Location: Kenya

Wednesday 25 April

Lots of excitement at school, all the children were asked to wear uniform today as Amy, Chair of the UK Walk Centre Charity, who is here, wanted to take photos for the website and newsletter. The children looked very smart, the Choir sang and all the Primary and secondary school children the Centre sponsors were there too. The numbers supported is much larger than I would have expected. I had a full class of about 35 children from 10 to 15 years, again I was impressed by their intelligence and commitment to learning.

I spent most of the afternoon roaming Internet cafe to cafe trying to download previous research I had done in the UK so I can work of line at home. Eventually I had to phone the IT help desk and Clare who came to Kenya, and knows the internet problems, was a fantastic help. She set up a googlemail account from which I could download my documents. Unfortunately by the time I could access them the battery on my laptop ran out.

Amy and her boyfriend Chris had taken the family out for dinner so I had a good chat with Boniface who cooks at the house. Boniface is a very bright 17 yr old who is sponsored by the Walk Centre. He was orphaned when we was 10 and was separated from his 3 sisters who he has not seen since as they live in Western Kenya, he lives alone in a 1 room house. He wants to be a Psychiatrist to 'rescue people in despair' he is exceptionally clever and later Alex told me he came within the top 5 in his class of 87 children. Boniface told me he was saving for a 2nd hand push bike so he can see his elderly grandparents and cycle to school. I was delighted to make a contribution to help him with his goal. I hope to see his bike before I leave.

Thursday 26 April

I arrived at school at the start of assembly and the children were singing. Caroline, one of the teachers asked if I would inspire the children or recite a biblical story. Clearly I was unprepared and had to come up with something for the expectant eyes of 130 children! Simple is best; so I told the children, God wants us to recognize the talents he has given us and use them to the best of our ability, whatever these are. I emphasized the Importance of them working hard at at school and helping their families. I think they got it once they had been given the Swahili translation!

After class I walked to town alongside the railway track, Sam Cooke's 'Stand by me' came to mind as I remembered the boys from the film doing the same.

More internet frustrations in town, so after a bit of business, I took a motorbike taxi to Hyrax Hill a neolithic site where archaeologists Dr Leaky & his family discovered the oldest remains of homoerectus providing evidence that East Africa is where modern humans first evolved. It is a beautiful site and I was alone enjoying a 360 degree view over Lake Nakuru, the town and in the other direction views of the Menengai volcanic crator. I walked back to the main road where I got a very slow and jerky motorbike ride back to town.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Location: Kenya

Tuesday 24 April 2012

I left the house and was greeted by two of the children from school i wanted to get there early so i could help the teachers reorganize their classrooms as we has piled the desks and chairs so we could concrete the floors. Iscaiah and Ruth were walking very slowly so I decided to lift Ruth onto my shoulders. It was at this point that i noticed the cold sogginess of her shorts on my neck but obviously it was much to late. When i lifted her off my shoulders at school I has an increasing number of flies around my head and neck! Fortunately I had my wet wipes to clean up. When i turn my head I can still smell the wee on my collar!

Today I was teaching Maths perimeters and areas, chaos descended when i asked the children to measure the classroom 30 children sharing two measuring tapes. We agreed on the measurements but they couldn't concentrate as they were hungry so I have set the calculation of the area as homework.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Location: nakuru, Kenya

Thursday 19 April

Fred collected me from town after updating the blog and we went to the barbers on the slum where I had a cut, head and neck massage face scrub and about 3 other treatments for about 90p, great value. We then went to Freds for a meal of chicken stew, spinach and chapattis delicious. The evening was rounded off with word games, hymns and a blessing from Alex.

Friday 20 April

I was collected from the house at 7.45 by Julius one of the drivers, as it turned out he is a freelance tour guide and gave me a fantastic insight to some of the tourist and archaeological attractions en route from Nakuru to Mai Mahiu. We arrived on time at 10am but my connection minibus had not arrived so I had some time to browse the souvenir shop and got into an argument with the attendant about the ridiculous prices she started her bargaining at. It’s so much simpler when prices are labelled and it certainly makes shopping less exhausting.

Soon after I met my fellow travellers who had come down from Nairobi: These were Sara and Andy, a German couple travelling though Africa, two American women Gwyn and Robin who were en route to a World Health Organisation conference in Ethopia and Dan from Huddersfield, recently retired from 16 years in the British Army. We dove along the floor of the Rift Valley (see early photos) to the town of Narok where we had lunch.

After about another 30km the surfaced road ended and we were onto red dirt tracks of rocks and mud, it made for an uncomfortable ride where we got bumped and bruised against the side of the van. It then got worse as bridges had been swept away and we had to drive across the rivers. The Masai waited on the banks ready to push us out if we got stuck.

Finally we arrived at the camp were shown our tents and after a quick tea we were off to the Masai Mara National Reserve with the roof of the van up for viewing. It is really beautiful with rolling hills and plains framed by dark wooded mountains; it looked like Jurassic Park so I wonder if it was filmed here? Immediately after entering the park we saw Zebras, gazelles, vultures, buffalo, Giraffes and Elephants. The there was a different family or group of animals every 100 – 200 meters and often interspersed amongst each other grazing or lazing.

We did a circuit of the north west of the park spotting for about two and a half hours before heading back to the camp for dinner and chat. It rained heavily through the night and with the frog/toads and other animal noises it was difficult to sleep.

Saturday 21 April

Another early start and we were out in the van, by 7.30, we saw lots of different species and within 30 minutes we were about 30 meters from a pride of 11 Lions who were eating their way through a buffalo they had taken down shortly before we arrived. We could hear the growls and tearing of flesh as they tucked in. They started playing with one another once they had eaten what they wanted and would then return for another nibble before retiring for a snooze under the bushes. It was an amazing spectacle we watched them for about 90 minutes before moving on.

Shortly after Issac our guide noticed a leopard sitting in a tree, when we got closer there was a gazelle hanging from a tree where she had dragged it after the kill, it had a leg torn off and its intestines were hanging out its front. She was obviously very tired and was having a good rest and keeping an eye on her prize to make sure nothing else came near.

We also saw a family of elephants chasing some lionesses away from their calves, when we followed the lionesses they had 4 cubs and were obviously living separate from the pride until the cubs are older.

We stepped into Tanzania where the Massai Mara becomes the Serengeti and then went to see Hippos and a crocodile at the side of the Mara River. We travelled about 90km through the reserve and saw too many animals to list but a few km nearing our approach to the exit we saw two lions mating which was somewhat unexpected!

On our return to camp we were taken by some Massai tribes men for a tour of their village and they talked about their traditions including herbal remedies, passage to adulthood, invited us inside their mud houses, (different from Miriam’s). One of the highlights here was the Massai dancing the men dances and invited us to dance and jump with them. The higher they can jump the less they pay for their wives. They gave me a massai blanket to wear and their weapons and imagining how hideous I looked I couldn’t stop laughing as I danced and jumped in the mud and manure. (I promise pics when I get the time).

Sunday 22 April

A 6am start for an early game drive, this time we were looking for morning kills and rhinos. We found neither but did see an ostrich, giraffes, elephants, lions having a rest, meerkats, mongooses, vultures, a hippo running… very funny (remember Reggie Perrin’s mother in law). Back for breakfast and then the long drive back to Nakuru.

Monday 23 April

At school I took the oldest children for an English lesson, past, present and future tense. They were very good and the teacher was on hand to explain some of the lesson in Swahili, it seemed to go well. We sent the children home after lunch so we could, concrete the classroom floors. I went home to explain I wanted to use the internet and would be late home for dinner. Its now 8.30 and I’m off home I have a maths lesson to prepare for the morning. Lets hope the concrete sets!

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Location: Nakuru, Kenya

It is a short update today. I have just wasted almost an hour trying to upload 3 pictures but the thunderstorm and power cut (very common) put an end to that.

Today i paid the housekeeper extra cash to do my laundry as me clothes were so filthy from the mud. I spent most of the morning in the kitchen, as the students left we decided it best to pay some of the locals who helped on the build, to finish the house which looks amazing. I was hoping to post a picture of Miriam outside her house but as you know that hasn't worked.

Another big decision was made today, to fund the next semester for James 20yrs who is one of the former Walk Children who is now at business school. He has missed 3 weeks and cannot return until he pays his fees. the walk cannot afford this at present so i have decided to spend Val's generous donation on this. Thanks Val Im sure you will approve of this use! I have asked James to keep us posted of his progress.

Fred and i met with Gladys the headteacher to go through her list of needs which includes stationary, copies of the national Syllabus which the education dept do not provide and sanitary towels. We have again been shopping this afternoon to get the things which are needed.

The last big project we are doing with the funds is putting electricity in the dining hall for use as an after school homework centre (Yes, just like Wybourn) as the high school children do not have the space, peace or light to do homework at home. that will cost about 70 pounds.

Tomorrow i'm off early to the Maasai Mara for safari, so whilst i might make a hearty meal for a pride of lions, i hope to return on Sunday to update on my news later on Monday.

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Recent Messages

From Dorcas
hi Ray,
are you out of the countryhope you enjoyed nakuru?
i would have loved to meet and help out at the walk
Response: Hi not been on this much since mt return to Sheffield. The walk centre are will always welcome volunteers if you are still in kenya.
From Ian
Safe journey xxx
Response: thanks. not logges on in ages back home safe as you know.
From Stephen Savory
Hi Raymond,was given your blog site by Cathy.Didn't realise that Great Places were involved in this sort of thing.The group and yourself are doing a great job.keep up the good work.
best wishes,steve.
Response: Thanks Steve. This trip has given me a new insight into real deprivation.
From Lesley Tindall
Hi Raymond,
just been reading the blog and looking at the photos, just wanted to say what a fab job you are doing and what an amazing experience.
Response: Lesley, thanks for your interest. It has been wonderful.
From Cathy McCormick
Hi Raymond

Still can't believe how much you've achieved in such a short period of time. Enjoy your last week and we'll look forward to seeing lots more photos (when there are no downloading issues) soon.

Response: Thanks it has been a fantastic experience.
From Ian Hollender
Hi Raymond have just read your diary since you have been away; moving stuff - WOW life changing I don't know what to say it brings a tear to my eyes, whatever you do will make some difference, we in the so called developed world have a lot to feel guilty about! xxxxxxx Ian
Response: Thanks Ian. Lots to report back hope to see you soon
From Kirsty and Nick
Thouught i;d do a catch up, however it seems you just seem to be doing more and more amazing things. Now reaaly, please stop, cos this lot will keep you in anecdotes forever and it's hard enough to stop you talking at the best of times! Do us a talk in the parish rooms when you get back????????
Are u sure the lovely nuns really insisited on carrying your bags or were they ensuring that you left btw?? Might not get chance to msg again but have a safe journey home and see you soon. Love from Nick, Kirsty, Grace and Martha xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Response: Yes you will have to give me a time slot. I will be reporting ill
Yes the nuns really insisted.
From Jill
oh and by the way... your blog is the second most visited blog this month according to the planet ranger website!!!!!!
Response: Really!
From Jill
Great blog. A real eye opener. Look forward to seeing the pics.
Keep up the good work. The office isn't the same without you?!?!
Response: Thanks I'm with you always!
From finlay
why did you fight the lions
Response: Because they growled at me! See you tomorrow after school.
From Michele Daw
Hi Raymond, just been catching up with all you've been up to. Sounds absolutely fascinating. You're doing an amazing job and should be very proud.
Response: Thanks Michele it is very humbling to do little things that make a difference, the people are so warm and appreciative of the support the Walk Centre provides.
From Lindsay 'Bluetail' W
Hi Raymond
I have really enjoyed following your adventure and it has brought back some happy memories for me. Glad to hear James is continuing at Business School and hopefully Vincent passed his exams which he was about to sit whilst we were there? It was funny to hear about the 'timeliness' I remember waiting a long time to go to church.. and shopping really isn't a rush job. Say hi to everyone from me and keep up the brilliant work, I remember Miriam's house and I'm glad she has a new one :)
Response: Thanks Lindsay, James is very excited to have been able to return to business school and gave me a lovely letter which i have forwarded to a doner, who's contribution made this possible. Vincent is still in school and i think did well in his exams. he still hopes to study Law at university. Keep reading. Thanks
From Lynda
Hi Raymond, just updated myself on your blog again, we are in Portugal so I hadn't the same opportunity. The safari sounded great but just wondering how you have spent this weekend. I'm sure, whilst you will be looking forward to coming home again it will be difficult for you to adjust. Clearly we do a lot of needless spending and get caught up in trivia. Came to Portugal last thursday morning and we leave again in the morning. Weather hasn't been good but we have had great crack anyway. Hugs and kisses, Lynda.
Response: Thanks, i bet you had a great time. Thanks too for your additional donation, it has been spent on food for the school and HIV medicines for one of the Mums who is very ill at the moment. I went to the Crator after school on saturday and Sunday i went to the Convent about 4 hours away, where there is a school and clinic supported by our parish.
From Eileen
It looks like your getting lots of practice at building and repairing which is great news ...about our back wall ! X
Response: Mmmm perhaps i can import some labour for that little job. see you soon. R XXX
From joanne and tony
Hi Raymond, Eileen and kids came for tea and we had a read of your blog. It sounds and looks amazing. Cant wait to hear your stories when you get back. x
Response: Thanks for entertaining the family. Oh yes there are plenty of tales to tell on my return!
From Orla
hi dad finlay meant that he hopes you didnt get eatan by the lions and other animals on safari!
Response: No i'm still here, and will be back at the end of the week.
From Finlay
to dad hope you aren't dead
from finlay
Response: Hi Fin. I'm still alive although i had to fight a few lions.
From Clare
Oh Raymond how fab are the motorbikes I miss them a lot.

Have you met my friend Moses yet? If so please send my love and tell Haggi I hope he is still singing. And Fred that hes ace! "it is ok?"

Have you been down to Merica, they do great chips and their lamb chops are to die for!?

Hope you managed to get the documents from the gmail now, let me know.

Where is a link for your just giving I want you to give Moses something and get Haggi a dictaphone if you have time.

And I hope you have seen little Kelly, he gives the best hugs.

I'll shush now, enjoy every moment.
Response: Yes the motorbikes are great. I'll pass on your messages. Haggi is still singing and i know Moses well. I am always thanking Fred for all he does and he is so polite he laughs at all my jokes without fail. You can pay money to Karen Pugsley and she will pay it into my account. Just let me know how much you have paid and i will buy for Haggi.
From mum
glad the lions didnt have little fat raymond for dinner.D idnt catch up with your blog as problems with my computer on lindas they are in portugal.It must be rewarding to have your plans come together love mum
Response: Thanks Mum. No i'm still here and will speak to you on my return. Take Care. love R
From Clare
Just remeber!

'La, sitaki' - No its expensive.

And bargin like there is no tomorrow :)

And if they says its ebony its probably not.

And dont get slack on your mozzy spray.

And you'll be fine.

Speak soon
Response: Thanks for the shopping tip Clare. Thanks too for the technical support yesterday!
From Cathy McCormick
Hi Raymond,

Still loving hearing about all of the things you've been up to. It's hard to believe that you've only been there for 2 weeks with all of the things you've already acomplished. Time passes really differently there doesn't it? Hopefully Freddy and his Nakuru time isn't getting in the way too much of your Muzungu time!

How did you get on with the concrete? All set? And any word on Rufus the tour guide we used? Is he still around?

I hope she won't mind me telling you, but you may not hear from Jo again during your trip as she gave birth to a baby girl on Sunday. Baby Eleanor is being treated for a mild infection but Jo and baby are expecting to be home in a couple of days.

Keep bloging! Best wishes,

Response: Thanks Cathy, the concreting was tough going we completed three classrooms and finished at about 6pm. This is my first afternoon off so I'm trying to load photos which i have just managed to do. Yes i heard about Jo & Andy's news that's great. Rufus is not around Alex is working with another firm.
From Orla
Hi Dad, it's just like you to argue with almost everyone you meet! it sounds like you had fun on safari.

love Orla xx
Response: Thanks Orla, surely i'm not that bad!
From lynda
hi Raymond, great to read your updates and miriams house looks great. I sent another donation to Eileen which I know you will put to good use. If you havent been eaten by a pride of lions, I look forward to hearing about your adventures in safari. Was also wondering what you do in the evenings as I understand you have a curfew? lots of love lynda.
Response: Thanks for the donation. Ill let you know how it is used. Safari was great and i spend the evenings in the house with Alex and his Family. this week i am preparing lesson plans English and maths for the older children 11-14 yrs.
From yvonne kinsella
Hope you enjoyed the safari and returned in one piece!
I'm sure you saw some amazing sights.
Take care,
Response: Yep. i'll update on the blog. but there were a few highlights.
From Shelagh Freeman
Hi Raymond,

I think that what you are doing is really interesting. Well done for putting yourself forward - it's an amazing thing to do! I am impressed with the organisation that you work for. I hope that this model of sharing skills and abilities to help others is taken up by other employers as I am sure that it is the way forward. You are also blessed with the support of your family and friends. All the best, Shelagh x
Response: Aw thanks Shelagh. I am blessed with great support from family and friends and Great Places my employer has supported this charity for many years and sends volunteers and donations in the name of our founder the Bishop John Banks. Thanks for the support of both Greg and yourself.