Following my fabulous trip to Cambodia last year to work on projects with our chosen charity B1G1, I was delighted to get the opportunity to take part in another incredible journey, this time to Nairobi, Kenya with my colleague Elke Kramer, who manages the German office.

Aberdare Rangers Primary School

On the first day of our amazing tour, we met the 1080 students at the Aberdare Rangers Primary School near Nakuru, funded by the not-for-profit organisation ‘So They Can’. In 2009 ‘So They Can’ negotiated a Memorandum of Understanding with the Kenyan Government to establish and operate the school as a private/public partnership, a first of its kind for the Kenyan Government. ‘So They Can’ funds 85% of the school and they run a nutritional program that provides all of the students with two hot meals a day, designed to fulfill their daily nutritional requirements. For many, this is the only food they will receive.
The students are selected based on a set of criteria, designed to determine the poorest children. They were such lovely, happy children, so grateful for the support they have been given. The school is the highest performing in the area with 100% of the students graduating, moving on to secondary school.

The school started with just one class 9 years ago and now has 30 classrooms! Due to the school’s success, the plan is to support other public primary schools in the wider Nakuru district and see how much the children have benefited from ‘So They Can’s’ help and support I really hope this happens.

New Canaan Village

We also spent time at New Canaan Village, connecting with its people and children whose lives have been transformed by the amazing work of B1G1 and ‘So They Can’. The people that live at the New Canaan Village fled there looking for peace, following post-election riots.

In 2011 ‘So They Can’ opened a medical clinic in conjunction with the Kenyan Ministry of Health. The health clinic serves the wider local community of 20,000 people, including all students from Aberdare Ranges Primary School. The clinic is very important because one of the village’s main struggles is clean water. Since the clinic was set up, the health of the community has significantly improved.

Most people in the community are also unemployed. As a result, a business school was set up to alleviate the poverty that exists in the village. The business school teaches skills to the poorest women in the community and empowers them to take out microfinance loans to start their own businesses, generate income and improve the standard of living for their families. The women have to take 8 hours of business classes in order to be considered for a loan and are trained on not only business skills but life skills and healthcare. So far 380 have been trained – a great achievement.

We also visited an orphan village, which was extremely moving. The children are orphaned due to their parents being killed in riots and also as a result of AIDS. ‘So They Can’ have established family-based care for orphans and children, whose parents are not able to take care of them. There are 15 homes so far, where 1 mother, employed by ‘So They Can’ looks after 8 children.

We had an eye-opening first day and were overwhelmed by the positivity of everyone we met.

Day 2 Rhonda Slums

Following our incredible visit to Aberdare Rangers Primary School and New Canaan Village, I was very excited about Day 2 of our journey, visiting more projects managed by ‘So They Can’ in Nakuru.

We drove to one of the biggest slums Rhonda — an informal settlement in Nakuru with mud-thatched houses squeezed next to each other. Most of these residents are extremely poor due to lack of employment, poor infrastructure, and sanitation.

‘So They Can’ started supporting its Primary School 6 months ago. The school has 1,200 students and 24 teachers. A lot of the students suffer from malnutrition as their parents can’t afford food, due to the high levels of unemployment. It was sad seeing the poverty-stricken families. The clothes they were wearing were muddy and torn and a lot of them suffered from illness.

It was a very emotional day. We played with all the children who were so happy to see us and thanked us for our help and support. Each of us was surrounded by at least 30 children, who wanted to hold our hands and play. They didn't want us to leave and to be honest, I didn’t either!

We visited another school, with 800 students, located near to a rubbish site. The school has a special facility for blind students, which also live there. It was sad to hear that only 10% of parents could afford school lunch for their children. The rest don’t get a meal at school and so search the rubbish dump every day trying to find something to eat. Hearing this made me realise how important these projects are in giving families the nutrition and education they deserve. No one deserves to live like this. ‘So They Can’ is bringing so much change to struggling communities, giving them a brighter and better future.

Day 3 The Mama Ann’s Odede Community Health Centre 

We spent two days in the village of Odede, home to Mama Ann’s Community Health Centre sponsored by World Youth International. The Centre aims to provide the village and surrounding areas with much-needed quality health care, serving an estimated population of 20,000 people, the 3rd biggest tribe in Kenya.

The Odede Community Health Centre treats up to 200 patients a day. In addition to basic treatment and consultations, the Health Centre offers laboratory testing for malaria, typhoid, and pregnancy. It also has a pharmacy that provides vaccinations to babies and children and there is a strong emphasis on community outreach and education. The center has reduced the number of cases of Malaria but distributing mosquito nets to the community. Expectant mothers can also deliver their babies there instead of home, which is fantastic as a lot of mothers die during childbirth due to the lack of sanitation and medical equipment.

Odede is one of the most impoverished districts in Kenya and suffers from some of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country. HIV tests are mandatory at the Centre and they conduct the tests there and then, offering the results within 15 minutes. If positive, the patient receives counseling and medication. If expectant mothers are tested positive for HIV and this is identified early enough it is possible for the baby to be HIV negative when born.

We were all very impressed by the professional setup of the health center and its dedicated staff members. Thanks to the work undertaken by World Youth International and B1G1, mothers, and fathers of Odede can now put more food on their tables, keep their children healthy, and ensure that they have the best possible start in life including a proper education.

In the afternoon we visited a microfinance project of 19 women (you can find out more about business schools for women in my Day 1 Blog). They leased some land to produce vegetables. While we were there they were in the process of building a green-house. That evening we spent a wonderful evening in some of the villager’s homes who cooked us a lovely dinner, using the produce they grow. 

Day 4 Mud Hut Building in Odede

On Day 4 of our Kenyan journey, we spent a very rewarding day building a mud hut for a young family in Odede, which we also financed. It was extremely difficult working in the intense heat, but due to a great deal of teamwork, we finished building the hut in record time.

The mud-hut was for a young family (Evelyn and John and their young daughter), who returned to the village after losing their house in a fire during some political unrest in Nairobi 3 years ago. Their temporary home was very small and leaking water.
As a result of us building them, a new mud-hut Evelyn and John told us that they can now ‘fully live their dreams’ as their new baby will be born and raised in a proper home. 

Day 5 Mango Tree Projects

The Mango Tree is a non-profit organisation that supports orphans, vulnerable children, and their communities in Africa by supporting and funding programs that nurture and improve lives, promote self-reliance and create independence.

It started in 2007 and since then it has supported around 4700 orphans and vulnerable children as well as local rural families.

Thanks to the project many children have now graduated from a range of training colleges and universities and are now in employment, meaning they can provide and support their families.

We visited one of their farms where they are planting mango trees. They have cleverly grafted local mangos with exotic mangos, resulting in bigger fruits, providing them with a bigger income. Giving just one mango to a family means they can plant its seeds, resulting in a sustainable income that will last them a few years.

They are also establishing fish farming for women and producing honey for beekeeping.

Later that day we drove to a small village to find out more about B1G1’s Goat Project. A goat can make a huge difference to a Kenyan family. They can sell anti-HIV goats milk and goats meet and in the long term, the production of other products such as soap, cheese, and yogurt, which they can sell at local markets for additional income. So far, Slumbersac has given 40 goats to families in need.

We also had an emotional visit to the house of a widow, who is looking after 9 orphans. Her own son and daughter are now able to go to university thanks to the help and support of the Mango Tree Project. Mango Tree projects are changing the lives of families by building greater confidence, social responsibility and providing the skills and knowledge necessary for communities to recover from the collapse of the rural economy.

Elke and I had the most incredible experience in Kenya. It is proof that businesses really can have the power to change lives. We have seen this first hand and are so glad that Slumbersac is part of B1G1. Every time you buy a Slumbersac product, you are bettering the lives of those less fortunate and giving them a future.