2012 Report from Richard Bradbury, Territorial Projects Officer – Kenya East Territory

2012 was a year of great transition for the Kenya East Territory, when we said farewell to our Territorial Commander, Chief Secretary and Secretary for Programme. The Projects Office also saw some new faces as I took over from Marshall Currie and my wife Heidie re-commenced the Territorial Health Desk as part of the Projects Team. Despite all these changes, the work support of the Kenya Trust remained truly consistent and amazingly generous.

This year the main focus of The Kenya Trust’s work has been in the urban slum of Mathare in Nairobi. According to UN statistics, Mathare slum is one of the largest slums in Africa with more than a million residents who struggle with limited access to clean water, sanitation, healthcare and education. (1) Mathare slum was also one of the worst affected areas in Nairobi during the post-election violence of 2007 and gang culture and illegal activity remains a significant issue for residents as demonstrated by recent outbreak of civil unrest in December 2012.

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(1) unhabitat.org

There have been three main projects in this area;

  • Rebuilding Mathare Kosovo SA Community School
  • Mathare Sports Project
  • Toilet Renovations at Mathare North Corps

Mathare Kosovo SA Community School

When I first visited Mathare Kosovo School with my wife in April we were both amazed and shocked in equal measures. Amazed that The Salvation Army community wanted to do something about the lack of education for the local children and had started a free, community school for some of the poorest children in Nairobi. Stunned because we found 250 children squeezed into badly lit, flooded, poorly constructed building with no electricity or running water. There were also no working toilets!  One month later we returned on an assessment visit with Wes and Hilton in May, who immediately responded to the need.

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The result? Mathare Kosovo School was completely re-built and can now claim to be the only school in the vicinity to have toilets and running water. Electricity has lit up the classrooms and the buildings are safe and more comfortable.  We are still working on the project but nearing completion – building in a slum area has not been without its complications! Through careful negotiations some of the young guys who tried to threaten and extort money from us at the start of the project, ended up building the school!  We are also grateful for a subsequent grant given by The Kenya Trust which will now enable us to provide resources for the school in 2013.

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Mathare SA Sports project

Mathare SA Sports Project was commenced as part of Mathare North Corps youth programme. The Corps and local community held a series of community discussions in July 2012 and identified a need to gather some of the young men of the area together, the majority of who are unemployed. The aim was to offer meaningful activities for the young men in the early evening that would be beneficial to them. At the same it aimed to provide an engaging activity that helped young men avoid simply hanging and getting drawn in to gangs and illegal behaviour, especially with an election looming in 2013.

After further discussions with the young men in the community, most aged between 15-21, a football club and volleyball club were formally introduced and now meet every evening of the week. They use a nearby field to train two evenings per week and the SA corps compound on the other three evenings. During the weekends the football team usually play friendly matches or take part in official tournaments.  I have met with the sports project leaders and the team members on several occasions and witnessed how effective and impressive this set-up is. It is clear that whilst this is essentially a recreational activity, its impact reaches much further. The Corps Officer is the chaplain to the team and provides pastoral and spiritual support on a regular basis.

Attendees of the Mathare Sports Project during a discussion session with THQ Projects Officer

‘We have cleared secondary school education and have no employment; the football club keeps our minds occupied with productive activities during the evening hours’

‘It helps many of us avoid the bad company and groups that have been established in this area’

‘The football project provides support and there is much interaction of the older [mature] members and the young ones for exchange of ideas and advice.’

‘We help one another in this tough and challenging life in the urban area’

During the last three months of 2012, a conversation continued with the members of the project and they expressed a desire to explore the possibility of extending the group to provide more assistance in employment, health and leadership. They wanted forums and workshops for members that would help equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to develop further.

Through the work of The Kenya Trust we have been able to fund equipment such as balls, football and volley ball strips, nets and whistles. Alongside this the trust has provided funding for a series of one-day workshops entitled Saturday Seminars which will commence in February 2013. The subjects have been identified by the young people themselves and include;

  • Career guidance (e.g. interview/CV writing skills /further education opportunities,)
  • HIV/AIDS,
  • leadership skills
  • healthy relationships
  • family health
  • business / income generating activities
  • alcohol and drugs education

As the volunteer leader of the project stated:

‘We have the aim of ensuring the youth realise their potential and talents, to nurture and develop them to their full potential’
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Research(2) indicates that young people involved in meaningful activities, who have good, stable relationships and are connected to the church are considered the most resilient within Nairobi slums and most likely to avoid criminal activity. This has been our experience to date with the Mathare Sports Project.

Perhaps even more impressively, the group have also started to engage in community activities. For instance, the project members worked with the children in the Corps and community during the recent school holidays, providing training activities and competitions.

Throughout 2012 there were regular reports in the media about the groups/gangs beginning to mobilise and recruit young people in the Mathare slum area ahead of the forthcoming election. Whilst we recognise The Salvation Army cannot stop this from happening completely we are working alongside 40 young men and believe their story is a good news story. All have avoided criminal activity and are participating fully and positively in their community. 

This is an innovative project and is raising a lot of interest across Kenya, so much so that in 2013 we are aiming to run a Sports Ministry Conference for Divisional Youth Officers and other youth leaders, in conjunction with the Youth Department.  We are grateful to The Kenya Trust for investing in these young people; they feel genuinely blessed and motivated.

(2) ‘Making It: Understanding Adolescent Resilience in Two Informal Settlements (Slums) in Nairobi, Kenya’ published in the Journal, Child & Youth Services Vol.33, Issue 1, 2012.

Mathare North Corps Toilets

As a direct result of the investments and the faith shown by The Kenya Trust, Mathare North Corps has also started to engage in this process by improving the facilities at its premises. The Home League has worked hard to install running water (including a 5,000 litre storage tank) and the young people have built a hall for youth activities. To compliment this work, The Kenya Trust has provided funding to improve the washroom / toilet areas. This will greatly benefit the whole Corps and community and in particular, assist in the development of other project opportunities, such as the proposed community health programme for mothers and children and the micro-credit programme for widows.   Below is a picture of the old pit latrines and the fully completed new toilets. A smaller project which will undoubtedly have a big impact!

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Mombasa Appeal

In September 2012, Mombasa Central Salvation Army Corps was badly damaged as a result of rioting and vandalism by religious extremists. It would appear The Salvation Army was deliberately targeted due to its community outreach and open-air activities.  Parts of the Corps building were badly damaged by fire and all the senior band instruments were either stolen or badly damaged.  The Corps Officers and their family, who lived in the compound, were also injured.

We are grateful to The Kenya Trust for their willingness to co-ordinate the appeal for musical instruments to replace those damaged in this incident. We have been able to obtain funds to repair the building but much of the equipment has not yet been replaced.  Mombasa Central Band is one of the largest and well established bands in the territory and the THQ leadership was keen to support the Corps as best they could in getting back on its feet. I know planning is well under way to send all the collected instruments to Kenya in early 2013 and they will be gratefully received by the Corps there. It will be a real encouragement for all associated with Mombasa Central Corps.

Other projects

During our initial orientation visits to institutions, Heidie and I noticed that a lot of essential equipment that was required for the running of the programmes for vulnerable young people was either broken or missing.  Therefore through the funding of the Kenya Trust, we are pleased to report we have provided or repaired the following equipment;

  • All the knitting machines repaired at Nairobi Girls Training Centre which enabled all the second year students of this residential programme for vulnerable girls to complete their final exams. All the girls in the centre subsequently gained employment following the successful completion of their certificate course.
  • A new Knitting machine for Variety Village, a vocational training centre for young people with physical disabilities. Not only does this enable to young people to learn new skills but it is also part of the rehabilitative programme for many as it necessitates use of the hands and fingers.
  • A new lawnmower for Kabete Children’s Home. Again, all grass cutting was being done by hand by the grounds man using a sithe. This will improve the environment for the children and help make a straightforward job much easier.

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  • A new industrial washing machine for Mombasa Children’s Home. With 62 children and no washing machine, all washing was done by hand. During the course of year, we have greatly improved the washing facilities with the help of this grant.

The Kenya Trust also contributed to the Christmas Outing for the children of Kabete Children’s Home by providing the funding for 2 coaches. This enabled the kids to travel to the Elephant Orphanage and Carnivore Restaurant. As well as providing bags and stationery for the children’s goody bags.  This very special day was a great success for the children, many of whom do not leave their compound during December break.

The work continues…

As indicated we still have a number of projects to be undertaken which have been funded through The Kenya Trust. These will be done in the first 3 months of 2013 and include;

  • Providing furniture and educational material resources for Mathare Kosovo School
  • Repairing the badly leaking roof at Nairobi Girls Home
  • Providing tools for Thika Farm in order to make it productive and provide some financial support to our learning institutions in Thika.

Finally…

On behalf of the Territorial Commander and the Kenya East Territory, I would like to thank The Kenya Trust Trustees for their ongoing support. We have witnessed first-hand how The Kenya Trust has demonstrated a practical and caring concern for others, helped to build up communities and institutions, and brought hope to some of the poorest people across Kenya.  I am continually amazed at people’s generosity and kindness and we thank God for His provision through His people! Thank you so much for all your hard work and commitment. May God bless you richly!

Asante Sana!

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Richard Bradbury

Territorial Projects Officer

Kenya East Territory

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