A Travellerspoint blog

From the Agano school to the equator

The rest of the Monitoring and Evaluation team arrived last night and we had a chance to meet each other this morning during a brief meeting to start the day and then we headed back to the school . . . some eyes were opened as this was their first time in a slum...a little less traffic going in and a lot less leaving as things start to shut down even in the slum on Saturday afternoon as thoughts turn to family...yesterday we saw a boy of about 12 jump on the back bumper of a truck for a free ride and no sooner had he hopped on and the truck hit a bump and he went down hard on the road, fortunately Benson stopped in time and the boy ran off a little worse for wear . . .
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Oliver, Susan and Josiah had a chance to talk to the M and E team this morning and they handled themselves well . . . they are anxious to start their businesses however national exams are held next week and we are trying to keep them focused on that first. the team looked at the structure of the school to see if a third floor can be built on to expand the school, it was decided that an engineer will have to make that decision . . . we left the city in the early afternoon and drove four hours to Nanyuki which is close to Mount Kenya . . . beautiful drive through some lush areas, a stark contrast to the city. we passed a huge pineapple farm owned by Del Monte . . . during breakfast this morning one of the guys told an interesting story . . . he woke up looked at his watch and hit the shower and came down for breakfast, as he neared the hotel office a young woman in tight clothes asked him what he wanted . . . she was soon chased off by a security guard who also asked what he wanted and he said breakfast, the guard laughed at him and when he rechecked his watch it was actually only 3 am . . . these 10 hour time changes really play havoc with us . . . many of the group myself included are waking up anywhere between a little past midnight and 4 am . . . I think there may be a few of us nodding off when we are returning from our second project of the day later this afternoon. We are right on the equator at this location and we are going to do a little experiment today regarding gravity on this spot . . . more on that tomorrow.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 20:51 Comments (1)

On the Road - Nairobi to Nanyuki

Picking through garbage for plastic bags and anything else useful

Picking through garbage for plastic bags and anything else useful

These white vans are the cheapest transportation and passengers often get off and on while the vehicle only slows down but is not stopped . . . all those who drive these poorly maintained vehicles are nuts!

These white vans are the cheapest transportation and passengers often get off and on while the vehicle only slows down but is not stopped . . . all those who drive these poorly maintained vehicles are nuts!

More business stalls

More business stalls

Another cart moving material . . . these guys fight for space with everyone else on the road - cars, trucks, buses and other carts

Another cart moving material . . . these guys fight for space with everyone else on the road - cars, trucks, buses and other carts

Infrastructure is lacking

Infrastructure is lacking

Each stall houses a business

Each stall houses a business

Quiet traffic day in the slum

Quiet traffic day in the slum

It is mind boggling how much material is moved on these carts . . . very tough hard work for not much pay

It is mind boggling how much material is moved on these carts . . . very tough hard work for not much pay

Setting up to sell at roadside

Setting up to sell at roadside

Posted by cnmcgeehan 13:39 Comments (0)

Decision day at Agano School

Grace Kasandi Injene, Director, Agano Development Centre

Grace Kasandi Injene, Director, Agano Development Centre

Benson

Benson

Plaque outside Agano Development Centre

Plaque outside Agano Development Centre


We set up the review, decision making and follow up process to enable the most success. There are four of us: Principal Grace who knows the children and their families, Benson who not only drives but also does ground work for ABW and understands the customs and small business side of things here, Martin who is a teacher at the school and who will work with the children and their parents on having proper record keeping and myself. We have decided that each loan will be granted a three month grace period before they have to start repaying the loan, we believe this grace period will allow each business to get established and generate some cash flow and then repayment of the loan with be one third in the fourth and fifth months with the last portion of the loan and the interest paid back on the sixth month. As repayments are made in the fourth month the money will be put to use providing a loan for the next best business plan. We all believe that early success is vital for this program to succeed and grow. Two important criteria for an applicant to be successful are that they must show that their business can be profitable from the start and sustainable in the long run and that the child and their family are quality people committed to the success of the business. One final note is that if two business plans and children are comparable, we will choose the child with the greater need.

There were almost forty plans submitted this morning and I was surprised and happy that more than half showed an understanding for writing the plan and then articulating their action plans to us in an interview. Please remember these are 13 and 14 year olds. A number of the children based their plans on raising rabbits, ducks or chickens and we discarded all of them based that an illness could wipe out their business in very short order...too high risk. Five children submitted plans regarding making jewellery, beads and bracelets and we saw some of their handiwork and it was good but as we talked to them we came to understand that it would involve other businesses giving them the materials and then paying them only 3 shillings for each piece. We explained to them that this was not really a business, just poor pay for busy work that others would benefit from. the real problem is that these kids did not have any idea how or where to sell their products. We rejected them however Grace felt she could find out where these items could be sold and she will work with the kids to re formulate their plans to be reflective of a real business and they would get consideration at a later date. The fact is that they could make some money when the end of the equation is found. There we some other good ideas like pleating hair, which is very big here, selling used bed sheets and blankets which received a lot of our consideration and selling clothes bought In a bale and resold...this also came very close and may make the next cut. This entire culling process was very hard and reminded me of cutting players when I was coaching hockey...so many are close but only the very best are chosen.
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Group of Successful Candidates

Group of Successful Candidates


So the three kids we choose submitted the following plans. Oliver submitted a plan to sell eggs. The idea is to buy a tray of 30 eggs for 300 shillings and then boil them and sell them individually for 15 shillings each and when the cost of charcoal for cooking is deducted there remains a profit of 90 shillings per tray and he can easily sell two trays each day deriving a profit of 180 shillings per day. Simple, easy and a high demand here. Oliver also plans to expand his saleable items as his success grows. The boy and his plan are good and he is in for the small amount of $1,100.00 shillings.

Josiah came in and just literally blew us away. His plan is to buy two shavers and two chairs and have his own barber shop. He plans to hire his brother and they will work the shop together...again this is a service that is high demand here. Benson asked him who would work the shop when he is in school and he said he would train someone and then have them work until his school day is over. His proposal included shaving adult hair for 50 shillings and when he was asked how much he would pay his replacement when he is in school...without missing a beat he said 10 shillings and keep the other 40 for himself. I love this kid and his entrepreneurship. He is in for $7,600 shillings and Grace says the whole family are quality people who can make this work.

Susan came in with a plan that Benson and I talked about when we were driving to the school for the first time. There were two such plans submitted and we chose Susan as she is an orphan...her father died last year. Her plan is to buy three different cereals in 25 kg bags and separate them into quarter and half kilo bags and then sell each bag for a 15 or 20 shilling profit depending on the weight. She also plans to sell cooking oil at the same time...same idea buy in bulk and sell small quantities for a profit. Susan was awarded $8,200 shillings.

The fact is I would have been happy to partner with nine of the kids, they all had a workable plan however we told them up front we would choose only three. Before I talked to the class on the first day about business plans I talked to them about success...how everybody wants success but most people only kind of want it and won't put the hard time in to increase their chances of success. I reiterated that to 5 kids today and I'm quite sure that at least several of them will rework their plans which means almost one third of the group already has a good chance to succeed. After we left the school today Benson told me that these kids have never been exposed to this kind of thinking and he believes it will change some lives. I just hope we have some success and create positive role models for the other kids and that in the long run we can grow the heck out of this.

Tomorrow the entire monitoring and evaluation team will visit Agano before we leave Nairobi and I will get a chance to introduce the three children to the team and leave them with our congratulations.
narrow hallways

narrow hallways

one of the school's toilets

one of the school's toilets

Photogenic kids at lunch in their classroom. . . hot lunch is provided for some . . . those who would otherwise not have a meal at all

Photogenic kids at lunch in their classroom. . . hot lunch is provided for some . . . those who would otherwise not have a meal at all

surrounding area as seen from the school's 2nd floor

surrounding area as seen from the school's 2nd floor

housing beside the school

housing beside the school

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Posted by cnmcgeehan 13:26 Comments (5)

Observations by the only white guy in the Dandora slum

Benson laughed when I told him I was probably the only white guy in miles and he said he agreed as this is not a place for white men. I always felt comfortable here but that is mostly because the van was driven by a black man, I would not try to come here by myself, Benson agreed saying that too much trouble would come my way. ..in Kenya the kids always wave...when we stopped at the school this morning there were a bunch of kids playing outside and they all want to talk to and touch the white guy...I guess I really am a novelty here. there were about 20 of them and when I asked what they were doing one said they were getting exercise playing football. When I asked who was the best player all of their hands went up...I couldn't argue they were as convincing as ten year olds can be...on our way out of the slum we passed women picking thru garbage In a dump right beside where a sewer pipe had broken...no one should have to live like that...the next person that says Kenyans are lazy better not say it in front of me.
Benson and I had a talk about prejudice and he was surprised to hear that it exists in Canada...I told him that unfortunately it exists everywhere...when we talk it is not a white guy and a black guy...just two guys and I wish there was more of that. We have seen a number of herds of goats, Benson said they are being readied for Christmas as everyone here wants to slaughter a goat for the big meal. Much of the cooking done in the slum is fired by kerosene, paraffin or charcoal...they sell the charcoal in pails for 60shillings...one Canadian dollar equals 82 shillings...one way to financial success in the slum is to be able to buy something like cereal in 25kg sizes and then resell in half or quarter kg packages...25 kg is worth about 1500 shillings and that means the fine line between being able to get ahead financially or living hand to mouth is about $20.00...think about that for a minute...kids in the slum are like kids everywhere in that they are all interested in fun and they are energizing to be around.

Posted by cnmcgeehan 05:42 Comments (1)

A Fabulous day at the Agano School

About a year ago I was having lunch with my friend Mike Wanini, he is a native Kenyan and I was telling him I would go back to Kenya soon and he suggested that it might be a good idea to talk to people about small business and perhaps go into partnership with some of them. I talked to Nellie and Eric Rajah of ABW and both were on board so I emailed Principal Grace at the Agano school and she gave the project her blessing. The timing is perfect as school children have three one month holidays during the year and the next one starts on Friday. ..so Benson and I headed off to the school this morning with a plan to talk to the grades 7&8 children about business plans and then return on Friday to pick three or four children with the most workable plans, talk to them about some simple accounting practices and give them and their families enough capital to start their small businesses.

The drive to the school was an adventure as there was a protest going on at the entrances of the Dandora slum where the school is located and we were turned back at two roads before some locals helped us find a back road that allowed us to get to the school. The traffic as you might imagine was ugly, Benson told me that we have a saying in Canada about the right of way, in Kenya it is known as take the way. Sounds simple enough, just be aggressive, however in the slum we not only encountered aggressive drivers and lots of them but also people crossing everywhere, herds of goats and potholes (not actually correct as many of them are capable of swallowing large parts of our van) . The advantage for me is that I got to see a lot more of the slum as we were driving into it.

The word slum is associated with thoughts of poor people, crime and despair and it is certainly true however it is also a neighbourhood with thousands of people working hard every day to keep their lives moving forward. I'm amazed at the amount of commerce taking place...people living their lives...their neighbourhood is not as nice as yours or mine...however slums are vibrant areas full of the human spirit.

The main problem here is that people do not have access to capital...amounts as small as $50.00 can change the lives of entire families. about 30 per cent of children in this slum cannot go beyond grade 8 as their families cannot afford the cost of school on top of daily living expenses. we hope that we can kick start a program to help children start small businesses that would generate enough income to allow them to either continue their education or at least give them and their families enough extra income as to improve their living situations.

Charlie addressing Grade 7/8 students at Agano Development Centre, Nairobi Kenya

Charlie addressing Grade 7/8 students at Agano Development Centre, Nairobi Kenya

so this morning I found myself addressing 40 grade 7 and 8 children and I talked to them about achieving success and about how to form a simple business plan. We formed an example company selling pencils and we talked about many of the challenges such a business would present as well as strategies aimed at moving the business forward...and I'm happy to say that most of them understand. And that is the really neat part. These kids are engaged and interested in their success...their questions were thoughtful and in the interactive part of the lesson they answered some tough questions well. After the class about a quarter of them came to the office to clarify their thoughts and ideas. I'm looking forward to tomorrow morning to see what business plans they come with.

in the meantime, I need sleep and I plan to get it. I plan to re read the whole blog and fall into a deep and blissful sleep.
G'nite

Posted by cnmcgeehan 05:00 Comments (5)

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