Preparations for Aquinoe

Jean and Tina will be travelling to the Aquinoe Learning Centre in Kitale, Kenya on Monday 18th September 2017, stopping over at Dubai on the way, and therefore arriving in Nairobi on the following morning.

Unfortunately the daily flight to Kitale will be leaving before we set foot at Jomo Kenyatta Airport, so we’ll have to stay in a hotel for one night.

We’ve got loads of stuff to take over, so goodness knows whether we’ll even be able to fit half of it in the suitcases!

 

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Gatwick to Dubai to Nairobi

We used Emirates for our flights and, as ever, everything went smoothly. 

A couple of hours stopover in Dubai passed without incident, but arrival at Nairobi was a little more complicated.  We had thought that obtaining an e-visa well in advance would help with entry to Kenya.  Not so.  The queues of people buying visas on spot reduced incredibly quickly, while ours grew as people were sent from far and wide to the front of our queue!  Fortunately we were in no hurry so it didn’t really matter. 

We have always brought our presents and donations freely into the country before, but it seems there has been a change in the law and donated goods now attract taxes.  We were shown the legislation, and will have to abide by it on our next visit, but the officer was lenient with us this time, which was lucky for us. 

We are now ensconced in Velvet House in Nairobi and will advance to Kitale tomorrow. 

Aquinoe Arrival

It was an early start – 04:30 – as our plane was due to leave Wilson Airport at 07:15 and we didn’t really trust the taxi to arrive at the Velvet House on time. In fact, although we had been advised to check in half an hour in advance, it was a good job we were early, as there was a lot of admin and then a bus ride to take us to the departure area. 

After yesterday’s brush with border control and the new taxes on donations coming into the country, which ended with us being let off with a warning, we were fortunate again today. The baggage limit for the Kitale flight is fifteen kilos per person, and we had almost thirty kilos each, so we knew we’d have to pay for quite a lot of excess baggage. In the event, the guy shook his head when weighing the cases but charged us nothing! 


The plane was a twelve-seater, so it was quite a squash! Great views as we chugged along, though. 



Josphat and Lilian, the new chair of governors at the school were there to meet us. 


The drive to the school was partly familiar, and partly new, as there seems to have been quite a lot of new development. 

Rachel our friend of thirteen years, and stalwart staff member, was at the house to greet us, with lots of hugs and smiles. 


This afternoon saw us down at the County Education Office. It seems that visitors should not be in schools at the present time, because of the tricky election situation, as they may be interlopers who are trying to influence the election re-run. Josphat therefore asked whether we could go in and meet the county officer in order to be approved. Approved we were, and are welcome here! 

On our way back through town we stopped off at hardware stores to compare prices for water tanks. The charity is in the initial stages of installing rainwater harvesting equipment and Josphat would like to get it underway while we’re here. 

Morning at the School

Tina writes
We spent early morning visiting all classes with their teachers. From Baby class, Pre-school and classes 1 to 7. Class 8 was sitting exams.



Many of the teachers have moved on since our last visit in 2015. Some now work at Government schools (if they are called they will go). This is always disappointing as the best teachers are often called.

Then we toured other buildings: library, resource centre, dining room, kitchen, dormitories and administration block.

We met Barasa the new librarian, and will spend time training him next week.


It was a pleasure to see Sara, the special needs teacher, who has been at the school for 14 years. She was working with a number of pupils.

Of course all the children wanted their photos taken – a tricky business as they crowd around you, too close for photos, and then nearly push you over trying to see themselves on the screen. 


Reagan was cheerful as ever, and there are always of helpers to push his wheelchair.

Thursday 21st September 

Our first full day at Aquinoe and it was a busy one, not that we didn’t expect it! 
We toured the school until lunch time, visiting all of the classrooms and more besides.  

The new teachers, of which there are many, were understandably a little shy, it made us welcome, which was kind of them, as we interrupted their classes on our way round. 
We met Mitchell, who has only been at the school for a few weeks and arrived in a wheelchair, but after some physiotherapy sessions is now walking. 

See more on this story – http://aquinoe.org/the-news/

Then there was Charity, a pretty, confident, polite student who we met on our last visit, two years ago. She is intending to be a musician, song-writer, model and designer. I’d say she has a good chance of doing all of that! 

At the other end of the spectrum is Elizabeth, a shy, but lovely pupil who wanted to hold my hand at break time. She lives locally with her mother and is very disadvantaged, so is sponsored by Jean.  


Apart from meeting staff and pupils, we made a note of various ‘health and safety’ issues, which we hope to resolve (at least partially) before our return to the U.K., as well as checking the state of the solar panels.  There was no obvious debris to cut out the power of the sun.


Our afternoon activity was in town, where Tina sorted out some wifi problems, we bought a few provisions in a supermarket and I bought Elizabeth a new school jersey to replace her old one. 

Power, Rain and Parents

Friday 22nd September 

Jean writes: 
The electricity went off last night (Josphat’s house does not benefit from the solar power at the school) and was still off this morning when we rose, so it was a case of showering in the old style, using large bowls of water. Problems with power are often associated with rain storms and it certainly pelted down when we were in town yesterday, and then again last night. 
Power was restored before breakfast so all was well. 
There was more heavy rain late this afternoon, so hopefully we won’t lose power again overnight. 
Josphat accompanied us into school this morning and we met some parents. The first was the mother of Angel and Grace. I sponsor these two little girls, both of whom have cerebral palsy. The father has gone, leaving the mother to support four young children, two of whom have severe disabilities.  

I must admit to a misdemeanour here. Yesterday, while we were going round the school, we entered Angel’s classroom and I approached her, whereupon she started violently and began to sob. She has never seen a white person before, so I must have frightened her badly. 

Angel’s mother is so grateful for the sponsorship that she was almost in tears herself today.  
Later on, when we visited the Resource Centre to see the new physiotherapist at work, Angel and Grace were both there having treatment. The mother was also present to see how she can help the girls at home. I’m sorry to say that Angel wasn’t pleased to see me, although Grace was very excited and laughed a lot. 
Elizabeth’s mother had also come into school with her youngest daughter to give thanks for the jumper I had bought for her Elizabeth, which fortunately fitted her well. 

Noah also came to see the physiotherapist and had a session on the exercise bike. He needs greater muscle power in his legs, but struggles so Tina gave him some encouragement. Despite his difficulties, he’s a great smiler! 


Reagan is working on fine motor skills and when we arrived, he was threading large wooden beads. 

Josphat was keen to go to town to order guttering and pipes for the rainwater harvesting project and, while there, a stork flew down and perched in a tree nearby.