Follow by Email

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Day 53 Maralal June 30, 2011

Greetings

It’s Thursday in Maralal and we are starting to progress further in the building of the desks.  The day did not start out as great as I would of liked but by the end of the day things were starting to look up.  On Monday we ordered the wood for the desk tops and the bench seats.  The owner of the shop told us that everything would be ready and delivered Thursday morning.  This morning we went back to his shop and nothing I mean nothing had been done so far.  The wood was just being delivered and it was less then a third of what we ordered.  We then agreed that he would finish the wood he received by that afternoon.  Well we went back at and he still had done nothing and then told us to be back at .  It was now time for another plan.  We decided to go to another place and see if we could get some lumber and find someone else to plane the wood for us.  The problem we encountered was that the other lumber shop did not have one by eights.  They had one by sixes.  We then decided that the bench seats did not have to be one by eights and could use one by sixes.  We have sixty pieces of one by eights at the first shop and we have found someone else that could plane the wood.  So now we have a mixture of one by eights and one by sixes to make the desks in.  We will have all our pieces tomorrow and we can continue to build desks.

Back at the farm we continued to cut and thread pipe.  All the pipe pieces are cut and we are approaching the half way point on threading.  Tomorrow we will continue to thread the rest of the pipe and as the pipe is threaded we will continue to put the frames together.  Our last piece of the puzzle was the flange that was needed to attach the pipe to the bottom of the benches and desk tops.  The guy at the hardware store was able to give us a price of 170 Ksh to fabricate the piece we needed.  At today’s exchange rate this is about $1.95 a piece.  Pretty costly but without it we would have to do a considerable amount of more work.  We will start to receive the flanges on Saturday and the balance on Monday.  This will enable us to start finishing some of the desks on Saturday and the rest on Monday finishing on Tuesday.  So this look like it will be completed before we have to leave here on Wednesday.

Joel and Kym were helping again today.  Also today Lawrence joined us to help with the cutting and threading.  Tomorrow two of the helpers will continue to thread pipe and we might be joined by another helper to start and fabricate the desk tops.  We did not make it to the school today to take measurements for the electrical work because it was too late and the weather turned for the worse.  We will go to the school in the morning and start this project as well.  We have four more days to get all this work done before we leave back for Eldama Ravine on Wednesday of next week.  Seems like everyday has been a challenge but with the grace of God we have been able to come through it and make all this work to help these young children have a better environment to learn in.  The school has been built.  There are now desks being built and electricity (generator) coming.  Ken tells me that the next step is to have Peter come back and pour concrete in the three classrooms and office.   
   
Take care and God bless

Dave

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Day 52 Maralal June 29, 2011

Greetings

Well I thought it was just Western Kenya.  I am here in Maralal writing my blog by candle light.  Susan was gracious enough to give me two candles maybe the power will come back on soon.  Ken is at the training center and is not here to turn on the generator.  Maralal has been fairly fortunate and the badly needed rain has been coming down every day.  Not a huge amount but enough to give the crops around town some water.

Today did not start out so well again.  At we were told our pipe would be coming in thirty minutes.  By my calculation ten minutes is an hour so we should expect our pipe around .  I had time to go into town and go to the bank.  Joel and I came back from the bank after ten.  The pipe finally arrived at about thirty.  By this time Kym had joined us and he was hungry.  He is a growing boy so I sent Joel and Kym off to lunch.  Poor Kym he had been on an eleven hour Matatu ride from Nakuru and was not feeling that well.  Kym was a real trooper today.  After lunch we started to cut and thread the mass of pipe that will be needed to make the desks.  Each desk has nine pieces of pipe and there are thirty six desks to be made.  I used my trusty stop watch on my phone and Joel and Kym were able to thread both sides of a piece of pipe between two and a half minutes and three minutes.  There are three hundred and twenty four pieces of pipe to manually thread.  By my math this is somewhere between thirteen and sixteen hours just for threading.  Joel did most of the cutting of the pipe and Kym did most of the threading.  I am not sure which is more brutal.  Kym finally conked out about five and Joel stayed with me until six cutting more pipe.  Poor Joel was using a hacksaw to cut the pipe because the battery on the reciprocating saw kept dying.  I put it on the charger and I was able to cut some more pipe after Joel left for the day.  I cut pipe until that battery stopped working.  Now the power is out and I am not sure if we will have any batteries tomorrow to cut the last of the pipe.

Joel and Kym threading pipe



The fabricated flange made with a coupling and sheet of steel with four holes



Ken and Susan have acquired a new member of the household.  His name is Mr. Binks and in his first couple of days he has managed to scare all the mice away.  Or at least we haven’t seen any.  Mr. Binks is a black cat with one white whisker.  He doesn’t like the thunder and he likes to sit by the screen door looking at birds.  He also meows a lot.  He is also a lover puss and loves to sit on our laps.  It took him a while to warm up to me but I think he now likes me and will sit on my lap.  I rub and scratch his head and under his chin.  He loves it.

Mr. Binks with his one white whisker



Tomorrow we will continue to build desks and I will be going to the school site in the afternoon weather permitting to start the electrical work in the class rooms.  We have gotten off to a slow start however I believe by the grace of God we will be just fine in our schedule.  I believe the desks will be completely finished Monday or Tuesday and the electrical I would assume could be done by that time as well.
   
Take care and God bless

Dave

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Day 51 Maralal June 28, 2011

Greetings

Well today we started out on Kenya time.  Our supplies were supposed to be here early this morning and early turned out to be around .  The truck arrived and it was supposed to have foot sections of pipe but the count was only four.  We were supposed to have one hundred forty four elbows and seventy two tees.  The order was reversed and we accepted the seventy two tees and seventy two elbows.  The rest of the elbows and the balance of the pipe should be here tomorrow.  The wood planks should also be done tomorrow and delivered on Thursday.  We did run into a problem with the flanges and it now looks like we are going to weld a coupling to a plate and drill four holes in it to make our own flange. 

We did have a few pieces of pipe and we started to make pieces so we could make a prototype desk of what we are looking to build.  We then ran into another minor problem that took a few hours to resolve.  The die we were using to thread the pipe was defective and it took a couple of hours to figure out how to tighten the clamps so we could manually thread the pipe.  After we got everything working we made enough pieces to make our prototype.  I am a little worried about it.  The desk frame looks so small and I am not sure if it has enough support.  I might change the design a little to give it some out riggers so it doesn’t tip over.  It might be fine but you never know and it might be better to overkill it then have it tip over with a bunch of kids on it.

Tomorrow we will continue to build the frames for the desks.  We have a boat load of cutting and threading to do.  For some reason I am really tired today and I not sure if I over did it.  I was given a helper today and I worked him like a dog.  So I am not sure why I am beat.  I know he was ready to end the day after a couple of hours of manually threading small pieces of pipe.
  
Take care and God bless

Dave

Monday, June 27, 2011

Day 50 Maralal June 27, 2011

Greetings

This morning after breakfast Ken and I along with Kym went out to Lare-Oibor to visit the school site and kitchen that the construction team assisted with back in March.  It all looks very good.  The Chairman came by today to visit and expressed his thanks to all that helped make this happen for the children.  The children are now using the classrooms and the kitchen is in use.  However the children use the church benches for both seats and their desks to write on.  This morning we measured the benches and the children to get the measurements for the new desks.  A six foot long desk will hold up to small children.  These kids are tiny.  Presently there are 187 children enrolled in the three classrooms.  Our plan is to make a total of 36 desks which should hold 6 small children comfortably for a total of 216 seats.  The Mama’s were not on the site so I did not get a chance to visit with them to ask about the use of the kitchen.  Here are some pictures of the school and kitchen.

Inside the new kitchen



New School at Lare-Oibor



Breezeway between Church and School



Some of the children in a classroom



New Kitchen at Lare-Oibor



Front of the new kitchen with vent doors



After we left the school site it was time to go into town and visit the Home Depot and Lowes.  Our first stop was at one of the local lumber yards to place the order for the table tops and bench seats.  We need a total of 864 feet of one by eights planed to perfection.  Those of you that are reading this and understand lumber here in Kenya can understand that this is going to be a minor miracle if the wood that we have ordered will be fabricated properly.  After the owner of the lumber agreed to our terms we then went to our favorite hardware store.  The desks will have a pipe frame support structure to give it some durability and stability.  This will also help keep the termites at the school site from devouring the new desks.  The local Home Depot has no problem getting us the elbows, tees, and pipe.  The problem today was the floor flange that is needed to attach the threaded pipe to the wood.  You would think that everyone working in the plumbing section at Home Depot knows what a flange is.  Well it comes to be that there is no translation for a flange in the Samburu language.  We told the lady at Home Depot we would bring her a picture of the part we needed and she can show it to her husband when he comes in.  We told her that we would be back later and then went to the local Lowes to see if they had the flange we needed.

The part with no name 



While at Lowes I noticed what looked like a flange.  It had the center hole that was threaded but did not have the 4 screw holes to secure it to the wood.  Also this flange was much bigger then we needed.  I asked the lady behind the counter what this item was called and she told me that it had no name.  There is an item in their store that has no name.  How can this be?  I asked her what people call it when they come in looking for it.  She told me that they do not call it anything they just come in point at it and say they want it.  Kym came back from the butcher and I asked him what this item was called.  He did not know what it is called either.  Well to make a long story short we went back to the ranch.  I got online searched for a picture of a flange.  Printed it out and took it back to Home Depot.  We have found the flange in Nairobi and should have it by the end of the week.  I still do not know what it is called here in Kenya.

Tomorrow morning Home Depot will deliver the pipe and fittings they have and we will start to build the frames for the desks.  The wood will be delivered later in the week.  It will take some time to cut all the pieces of the pipe and fabricate the frames.  The flanges are the last of the pipe work before we attach the frames to the desk tops and bench seats.    

Take care and God bless

Dave

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Day 49 Maralal June 26, 2011

Greetings

This morning we left Eldama Ravine at for the five and a half hour drive down into the Great Rift Valley and back up the other side to Maralal.  As the crow flies its 98 miles from Eldama Ravine to Maralal.  By road it is much longer.  There was maybe an hour on the tarmac road until we got onto the dirt road.  Granted the tarmac road was not the best but there were some good sections.  Once we got on the dirt road it was like what I thought Africa should be like.  We were now in the bush and in the middle of nowhere.  Very beautiful country and this area is very sparsely populated.  Along the way back up the east side of the Rift Valley there were some excellent views of Lake Baringo going up the escarpment.  I think we went though maybe one or two villages along the way.  During the 4 or 5 hours on this road all the way to Maralal I think we came across no more then a dozen other cars along the way.  This was not a place where you would want to break down.

After we arrived in Maralal we unpacked the Land Rover and had a quick bite to eat.  Talked about the week ahead and made the decision to make the new school desks for the children at the school out of Cyprus and threaded pipe.  There are three classrooms and each class room will have twelve six by two bench desks with a two foot aisle in between.  This should accommodate somewhere between 60 to 72 kids per classroom.  We will also need to make some tables for the teachers and some office furniture for the office.  Later in the week we will have an electrician come in and set the breaker.  I guess this has to be done for the certificate then I can wire the classrooms and office as needed.

Tomorrow we will go out to the school and kitchen site to get our list of items that we need.  Then we will head into town shop for the items we need and start to build some desks.  We plan to have two one by eight by six boards planed down flat with another one by eight by six underneath for support.  Then we will put a four hole flange (if we can find them) with ½ inch pipe and make a U shaped structure support from the table to the one by eight by six bench seat.  Should be fairly simple and sturdy for the children.  The children are all pre-school and are so tiny.  They presently sit on a bench and write on another bench.  The kids will be so happy to have real desks.

Take care and God bless

Dave

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Day 48 Eldama Ravine June 25, 2011

Greetings

Well we made it to Happy Acres here in Eldama Ravine safely.  Well it is not really called Happy Acres it is called Sunrise Acres.  The journey lasted about 3 hours from Kakamega.  The resort is run by some AIM Missionaries and is a favorite resort for many missionaries here in Africa.  It reminds me of one of those campsites up in the Pocono’s that we used to go camping at years ago.  It has an above ground swimming pool, mini-golf course, ping pong, playground for the kids, etc.  The cabins are really nice and it is so quite here.  I can see why people love to come here.

Today we spent most of the day sitting around talking about what is going on in Maralal and the opportunities to do some micro-finance there.  There are some real challenges to Maralal but I believe that we will be able to find something to do up there. 

Tomorrow we will leave early in the morning for our long bumpy journey to Maralal.
                                                                                                 
Take care and God bless

Dave

Friday, June 24, 2011

Day 47 Kakamega June 24, 2011

Greetings

Today the power was going in and out before the daily storm arrived.  So I thought I better start writing because the storm is on the horizon and it sounds nasty.  Doesn’t matter I lost power anyway.  This morning I decided to go out and see if I can get a reduction in the cost of the support wire for the passion fruit.  I had purchased the first wire for 250 Ksh a kilogram.  I found out if I can buy it in larger quantities I can reduce the cost to 150 Ksh a kilogram.  I also found out I can reduce the seedling cost and the cost of the lumber considerably to plant much more acreage if bought in quantity.  Where we were paying 80 Ksh to 100 Ksh for timber the cost can be reduced to possibly 60 Ksh to 80 Ksh even for larger end posts that we are proposing.  The total cost of the widow's orchard is as follows.

6090 Ksh Passion fruit seedlings              
5400 Ksh Support posts
1650 Ksh Support post holes                   
1680 Ksh Fence posts                             
3100 Ksh Barb Wire
6875 Ksh Support wire
2000 Ksh Preparing the plot
2000 Ksh Plowing the plot
3650 Ksh Fertilizer
800 Ksh Fence work
510 Ksh U-nails

Total   33,755 Ksh or about $400 depending on the exchange rate.

If we were able to buy some of these items in bulk there is no doubt we could have planted this orchard for about $300 including the fence.  After my shopping this morning I returned to the guest house and waited for Pastor Robert Wafula to come and discuss what he had found out at the bank.

Pastor Robert arrived a little after and was joined an hour later by Dr. Moni Wekesa one of the board members of Wamula International.  Dr. Wekesa is the Dean, School of Law at Mount Kenya University in Nairobi and is Wamula International’s legal advisor.  Pastor Robert is also a member of the National Council of NGO’s here in Kenya.  So between the two of them I should be able to get the answers we need to move forward.  We had lunch and discussed the details of the micro-finance operation and our desire to have the internet banking control key with the signatory in the United States having sole authority of distributing and receiving funds.  I am told again not a problem.  Dr. Wekesa believes that this should not create a problem and because the NGO is international in scope the control key can be in the United States with sole authority.  He told me that he used to be the Kenyan representative with the Special Olympics here in Kenya and is used to having authority and money coming from the US.  He seems to be familiar on how the international banking system works.  I am so glad because I do not.  I believe the next step is to get the account open and bring the internet banking key to the United States.  I am looking to open the account on the ninth of July at the Mumias branch of Equity bank.  Dr. Wekesa will also review all the loan documents that we are to use and make sure that they meet the legal requirements here in Kenya.  I guess it is good to have a Lawyer on the board to help reduce the costs a little. 

After about a couple of hours going over as much as possible we ended the meeting and I thanked them both for coming and I am hopeful that we can get this partnership to work properly.  You know sometimes I just don’t know how to react.  These last few years have been extraordinary and sometimes just down right mind numbing.  How can this be I am so out of my league but yet it seems to be coming together.  I don’t know why I keep doubting all of this.  I can see that I am not in control, I wait and the answer is revealed.  However in my little pea brain I keep thinking this is all too good to be true and you know what happens when we believe things are too good to be true.  They are too good to be true.  I can’t help it but I feel that something really bad is going to happen to disrupt all this. 

Tomorrow morning it is off to Eldama Ravine to meet up with Ken and Susan for a trip up to Maralal in Northern Kenya.  The trip to Maralal is long so I assume we will be leaving Sunday morning.  I need to pack up but it is dark in my room.  Why can't the power go out in the daytime?        
                                                                                                 
Take care and God bless

Dave

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Day 46 Kakamega June 23, 2011

Greetings

Storm came as scheduled but the power did not go out yet.  Let’s see if I can make it through this without getting caught up in darkness.  This morning Hezron, Melissa, Bishop Moses, and Morris picked me up at the guest house to finish the process of opening up the micro-finance account for Freedom Ministries at the Co-op bank.  This account is for the micro-finance operation that Freedom Ministries set up a few months ago to assist their churches with small loans.  This is different from the NGO micro-finance account that we have yet to set up.  We are looking to have Freedom Ministries administer smaller loans within their own micro-finance operation instead of having the NGO based micro-finance operation operate such small loans.  These loans are in the 500 Ksh to maybe a few thousand shillings.  The money that had been donated to fund these few small projects we have started are going to be returned into this account so they can continue to provide small loans that might not fit into the NGO micro-finance model.

Today my C-notes were not accepted at the bank.  I went into the Co-op bank and gave the teller 7 Franklins and he would only accept 3 of them.  I left the states with what I thought was plenty of cash and I tried to make sure they all were dated 2003 or better.  Well the bank will not accept any bills older then 2006.  I guess they are just worthless pieces of green paper here in Kenya.  I just can’t figure out how my Franklins are worthless here.  I did find that the dollar is going much further then it was when I arrived just 6 weeks ago.  I think the exchange rate was 80 Ksh per dollar upon arrival and now it is up to 88 Ksh per dollar.  Last year when I was here the worst exchange rate I received was 68 Ksh per dollar.  On a hundred dollars this is a considerable amount so if you are looking for a cheap vacation you might want to consider Kenya.  The flight is a little expensive but once you are here the costs are pretty low.  Today I bought an avocado at the Nakumatt for about 20 cents and it was pretty large.  I have been told you can buy them for less then a dime on the side of the road.  I am going to try and make some guacamole tomorrow with some corn chips.  I think they are corn chips.  Yummy!!

After the bank I asked Hezron if we could go back to the orchard so I could see if the 18 plants that I was concerned with are going to hold up.  We went back to the site with a little map of the concerned plants to re-inspect them.  I am happy to say that it looks like we will only have two that might not make it.  The Chairlady, Pastor John, Hezron, and the widows will keep an eye on all of them to make sure that they survive.  I should be back in a week or so and hopefully all of them will be moving up the support posts.  I am under the impression that they move pretty quickly once they take root.  Here are some pictures of the plot at the beginning and after the planting.

After the first plowing a few weeks ago



Orchard planted only 6 months to some income for the widow's



Another view of the orchard



From the side


One of the 169 passion fruit seedlings



Check out the ladder Hezron built so I could reach the top of the support posts



Tomorrow I plan to talk with Pastor Robert on his progress with the NGO accounts at Equity Bank.  The Mumias branch seems to have no issues opening an account with a signatory without a work permit.  The branch in Kakamega will not open one with a signatory that does not have a work permit.  I am anxious to get the answer to this.  I assume this is some sort of language barrier either between me and Robert or me and the Account Supervisor at the Equity bank in Kakamega.  Hezron had a conference at Lumakanda tomorrow and I told him that it would be best if I stay in Kakamega and finish up with the details of these projects we started.  Hezron will pick me up early on Saturday morning to deliver me to Eldama Ravine so I can meet up with Ken and Susan Black.  The next week or so I will be in Northern Kenya to assist with making some desks for the children in the new school that was built this last spring.  I also believe that Ken wants power run from a generator to all the classrooms, office and church.  If time allows I will work on any other projects Ken might want done. 
 

Take care and God bless

Dave

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Day 45 Kakamega June 22, 2011

Greetings

It’s like clockwork I am writing this blog in the dark again.  I had to go to the office again and get two more candles.  I hope I can get this done before the computer runs out of juice.  This time the power did not go out until about 3 hours after the storm had passed.  At least we got to eat before the power went out.

Yesterday we went to the bank in Mumias and we got great news on the micro-finance venture and the ability to control the funds from the states.  I still had some questions so I went to the Equity bank here in Kakamega and talked with the branch manager here.  He answered all the questions he told me no problem everything can be controlled by one signatory from the states the money can flow back and forth with no problem.  We would have one main account and the signatory would release the money to associated second accounts such as a ministry or church.  Once the money starts to be repaid back it goes into the main account and the signatory can either take it back to the states or transfer it again as another loan.  I think all the bases are covered.  Once I got all my questions out of the way I felt we were ready to go to the next step.  I asked the branch manager what I would need to do to have our signatory(s) open the account.  He then told me to stay in his office and he would get the supervisor of accounts to give me the information I needed to proceed.

The accounts supervisor comes in and we tell him what we want to do and how the process is going to work.  He tells us it can work.  Then he starts to ask questions.  First he wants to know if the signatory is a Kenyan.  I said no.  Then he asked if the signatory had a work permit.  I said no.  He then told me we had a problem.  I then asked him if there was anything I could do short of bringing the signatory to Kenya.  He called Nairobi and they seemed to concur with him that the signatory needs to be in Kenya with a work permit or be a Kenyan citizen.  I called Robert at Wamula and he just happened to be in Mumias and he went back into the branch in Mumias and they told him the same story as yesterday.  They gave Robert the information he needed to make this legal and allow the signatory to be in the states and control the money.  Robert is holding an emergency board meeting tomorrow morning to perform the tasks required by the bank to the board and add the signatories to their board of directors.  You know I am anxious to get this going but how can two different branches of the same bank have two different policies concerning signatories.  Something is rotten in Denmark.  No offense to my two readers in Denmark.  It’s just a saying I heard when I was younger.  I was telling Hezron yesterday on the way back from Mumias that things were going just to well and that Satan was going to do something big to slow this down.  Today I told Hezron that there is a big boulder in the road and not to worry we will go around it.

The day was not at all bad news.  The orchard is completely planted and the sticks for the vines are in place.  Everything is tied up ready to grow.  We have planted a total of 169 seedlings.  During transport we damaged a few and replaced them in the holes.  There are also about 4 that do not look healthy and there are another 14 that we need to keep an eye on.  We still have the five extras that we could not plant plus another 19 left over that Pastor Robert gave us for free.  They were not meant to be put in the trunk of a car for transport but we used what we had.  I made a chart of the 18 I want Pastor John to watch while I am away in Maralal.  Once I get back in a week or so I should be able to tell if the vines are going to survive the transplant.  We have extra seedlings just in case.  It is now up to the widows to keep this going.  We have a three day seminar set up starting on July 11, 2011 for the widows and some of the future local farmers on proper care of the orchard.  When I come back later this year I want to see some purple fruit or close to it.  Just before I was going to take a picture the daily storm came in and we went inside the house to ride it out.  There was a break in the storm so we quickly left and went to Pastor Morris’s home to measure his plot for another orchard.  It looks like we have 8 plots for a total of about 3 acres that I would like to have planted by September here in Kakamega.  I hope to get a picture tomorrow and give you the before and after of this plot.

Bishop Moses from Freedom Ministries in Uganda came to visit today since my schedule probably will not allow me to go to Uganda.  If we can plant passion fruit for widow’s we can do the same with orphans.  My assignment for Bishop Moses when I left a year ago was to get me an idea of what it would take to get an orphanage for 300 kids.  I believe his ministry in Uganda has over 500 orphans scattered all over the country in people’s homes and churches.  After the orchard we headed back to the guest house had dinner and discussed what he had done.  He gave me a paper report of what he has done and I will review it tonight after I finish this blog by candle light.

Tomorrow it is back to the bank to open an account for the micro-finance portion of Freedom Ministries.  I told Hezron that this account should be separate from his regular Freedom Ministries account so we will open another one.  I do want to pay another visit to the orchard to make sure that these storms are not doing any damage to the plants.  Yesterday’s storm had some serious size hail coming down.  They were so big they were like mini snowballs splattering on the windshield.  I am not sure if I am going to Lumakanda or not.  Bishop Hezron is having pastoral training for 4 days and has invited me to come and speak with some of the pastors assembled.  Some days I am not sure what my priorities are.  I am just trying to follow the way the Lord directs.  If the door opens I usually go through.  On Friday I might want to meet with Pastor Robert again to try and figure out what to do about the signatories of the micro-finance operation.  I will be heading to Eldama Ravine on Saturday morning to meet up with Ken and Susan Black for a week or so in Maralal to finish some of what we started back in March.

Why is it the power comes on just as I finish typing?  I still had about 10 minutes on my computer.

Take care and God bless

Dave

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Day 44 Bulimbo June 21, 2011

Greetings

Today we met with Pastor Robert Wafula of Wamula International to discuss partnering with them to establish a micro-finance operation to help bring in funds from the states.  We spent the morning and part of the afternoon going over the entire loan process and how this might work.  He took notes and is going to formulate the by-laws from his existing loan process to meet our requirements.  After he has it completed we will meet again to discuss further. 

One of our main concerns is how the money is going to be transferred from the states to the micro-finance operation.  After our meeting in Bulimbo we headed to Mumias to visit with the bank manager at Equity bank to discuss the process of having the money released from the main signatory in the states to the micro-finance operation here in Kenya.  Not a problem what essentially happens two accounts are set up at Equity bank with the first account attached to an account in the states through the Swift code system.  The signatory(s) of the first account will transfer the money to the second account.  Once the funds have been transferred into the second account the signatories of that account will approve the distribution of the loan.  During the loan repayment period the payments will be put back into the first account to be redistributed later.

After our visit with the bank we stopped to look at the motor bike the Associate Bishop wanted to purchase.  The motor was in great shape, didn’t smoke, and sounded good.  However the rest of the motor bike did not look that great.  It had a couple of broken wires that ran to the brake lights, broken blinkers, some busted welds, loose bolts, and other cosmetic problems.  The owner wanted 45,000 Ksh for it.  A new motor bike is around 80,000 Ksh.  They asked me my opinion and I told them around 20,000 to 25,000 Ksh.  I told them to offer 30,000 Ksh and see what happens.  After we left the motor bike we quickly went by Victory Furniture Designers to pay Mathew for the balance of the support posts he made for the widow’s passion fruit orchard.

We left Mumias to head back to Kakamega to check the progress of the orchard.  Once we got there the afternoon storm was coming in fast so we decided to leave.  The widows still have about 23 seedlings to go.  They were not able to find enough sticks to support the vines to the support wire.  We will be back on site tomorrow to finish.

Another area of concern in the micro-finance operation is that the need is so huge and the funds are limited.  How are we going to decide who gets loans and who doesn’t?  Take passion fruit for example let’s say we have 50 passion fruit orchards to be planted but can only fund 30.  Or we have projects in Western Kenya, Central Kenya, Northern Kenya, or even another country like Uganda that are all viable but only have the funds to help one or two regions.  Within the micro-finance institution there has to be a mechanism that does not discriminate and stays non-biased.  One of our main objectives is to make sure we do no harm.  We have to understand that this is Kenya and within the country there are cultural differences among the people.  I would like to say that we will look at all Kenyans as Kenyans but that is not necessarily how our actions might be perceived.  The people of Kenya understand their differences (I do not) among themselves and have very high expectations that their new Constitution will break themselves of their bad habits towards each other.  We are here to glorify our Lord and the last thing we want to do is cause any problems.  As we get further along in this venture I am sure that the right answers will come.

This is my third trip to Kenya.  I have taken in so much information my head hurts but for some reason I just can’t seem to get Swahili.  Sometimes I feel like a complete idiot why can’t I catch on.  I hear it enough, and it is explained enough but it will not stick in my head.  I have come to the conclusion that I need a mental cleansing of my brain to get rid of the useless information that is stored in there so I can learn to communicate with these people in their own language.  It’s just plain embarrassing when someone comes up says something in Swahili and all I can do is smile.

Take care and God bless

Dave

Monday, June 20, 2011

Day 43 Kakamega June 20, 2011

Greetings

Today was a most awesome day it was the first time in my life that I had bought three wheel barrows full of cow poop.  I even got to mix the cow poop with DAP and dirt by hand.  Hezron picked me up at the guest house early this morning and we stopped by the agriculture store and picked up a hundred pounds of DAP.  This should be enough fertilizer to last for at least a year.  We arrived at the orchard site and some of the widows were there.  We gave them the instructions on the size holes and they commenced to digging.  As the morning and afternoon wore on more and more widows showed up.  We ordered three wheel barrows full of cow poop to mix with the fertilizer and dirt from the ground.  We finished out the spacing of the plants and I lost another 5 plants to spacing.  We have finished digging the holes and it came out to 169 plants.  Today we were able to plant only 76 plants because we ran out of sticks and the afternoon storm was coming in.  Tomorrow the widows will all bring 5 sticks and they will finish the planting of the orchard.  We dug holes about 2 feet cubed and then mixed the top soil with the cow poop and DAP as instructed by Pastor Robert Wafula at Wamula International.  We put in about a handful of DAP with a couple of big scoops of poop per hole and mixed it all together.  We filled the hole to about one inch below ground level to collect the rain to help dissolve the DAP into the soil.  In two weeks time we will mix the remainder of the top soil with the DAP and cow poop mixture and finish filling in the hole.  After we had planted all the seedlings we then secured the seedlings with twine against the support posts or sticks so they can make it up to the support wire.

Widow's passion fruit orchard ready to plant



Starting to dig the seedling holes



Getting done with lunch it's time to get back to work


Kakamega County Councilor Biana (her title would be similar to our State Representative or Senator) also came by this morning to express her gratitude and excitement for the widows to finally have something that can possibly get them some real income.  In fact she was so excited she came by to tell me she is donating a third of an acre for the widows to use.  If this goes well and the money proves to be what was promised then Biana and her husband would be willing to add another 18 acre plot and 3 acre plot to help support widows and orphans.  I would assume that they could use some of that income as well.  I told her that would be wonderful but we are quite a way from planting that many acres.  We want to take baby steps at first. Twenty one acres would require a whole different level of management and it would most likely require a paid staff to maintain it.  She understood and said we can talk about it at a later date.

Councilor Biana greeting the widows at lunch time



Third acre plot that Coucilor Biana and Husband donated to widow's



Tomorrow Hezron and I will be going back to Wamula International to talk with Pastor Robert about his NGO and how we can partner with them to provide the means to bring micro-finance funds into Kenya.  Robert has already said that his micro-finance objective is in the NGO Constitution but has never formalized it.  Whatever we want he is willing to help and let us use his NGO.  There are some details to work out to add some of our people to his board, create a bank account, notify the government of changes, and of course pay some fees.  It’s always about the money.  Also we will discuss the application process, distribution of funds, and how the money is to be paid back.  I have already checked the NGO status of Wamula International and every thing looks great.  Hopefully this process will not take too long to set up.

After we end our visit with Pastor Robert we will then head to Mumias and meet up with the Associate Bishop of Freedom Ministries to look at a used motor bike that he has found.  You remember he has been paying 300 Ksh a week for 3 years and has bought a used motor bike at least 6 times with his rent money.  A good used motor bike goes for around $500 or 40,000 Ksh.  He pays over 93,000 Ksh in rent per year on the motor bike he rides around on.  It is his source of income and in order to make a living he has to pay his 300 Ksh per day in rent and if he makes 600 Ksh a day his portion still has to pay for fuel and maintenance.  If he could own the bike and make lower payments his income would increase.  After the loan period he could then save some money and then sell his motor bike and buy new or even buy another used one and rent it out.  After we look at the motor bike we will then go and pay the balance of the support post money to Mathew.  After Mathew we will then head back to the orchard site to check the progress of the widows and hopefully they will have the site finished. 

I want you all to know today I watched these women work so very hard.  I took some pictures but they cannot show you the excitement, the gratitude, the joy, and the feeling of hope that these women now have.  I wish all of you could be here to see them, hear them, and talk with them first hand.  It’s enough to make you cry or at least I do.  Between them all they had nothing and now they have something to rally behind.  The orchard is taking shape and will be completely planted tomorrow or Wednesday.  With their nurturing of these plants they will start to have an income in 6 months time.  I am planning to be back here in Kenya for the first harvest or sometime near then.  I might have to even make a trip back in September or October time will tell.  I cannot tell you how blessed I am that God has brought me here to help these women.  They constantly thank me for what I am doing for them and I do appreciate their kind words but it’s not about me.  It’s about Him.  I continue to struggle with this and believe me if it was about me I wouldn’t be doing this.  I am so out of my comfort zone and as of today I still cannot believe I am even doing this.  There is so much faith wrapped into this and I always feel I just don’t have enough of it to keep me going.  However its days like today that my faith strengthens when I can look at these women and see their happiness I know that God has his hands on these women.  I am so happy to be a part of it.

Wrapping up the day before the daily storm comes in



All the holes are dug and 76 passion fruit seedlings planted



A passion fruit seedling ready to grow



Group photo of widow's and some area pastors


Be blessed and consider your blessings they can be gone in an instant.

Dave

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 42 Kakamega June 19, 2011

Greetings

It’s the weekend here in Kenya and it’s a slow news day.  Today was just a day to sit in the gazebo and work on the computer and wait for the rain.  I worked on pricing for Pastor John’s other ½ acre plot that he would like to convert to passion fruit.  This plot presently has maize on it and will not be ready to plant until later this summer.  I am so glad that I was able to see the other orchard in Bungoma.  It has become apparent that the costs to plant orchards could be considerably less on larger plots by using the large posts at the end of the rows and much smaller posts in between.  John’s plot is 22 meters by 92 meters and the contour of the plot requires the rows be 92 meters long.  Following the KARI guidelines this would have meant putting a support post every 6 meters and would require 16 posts per row for a total of 160 posts.  At 100 Ksh a post this is 16,000 Ksh or $200.00 for posts.  As with the picture below we could just put in the braced end posts with one or two support posts down the row to hold up the wire.  Each plant will also have a branch or something stuck into the ground that will take the vine up to the wire and provide added support.  I would assume that we could make the end supports for around 200 Ksh and the center posts for 80 Ksh.  We can also drop the height of the posts to 8 or 9 feet vs. 10.  So now the total for the supports is less then 5600 Ksh or about $70.00.  I believe that we could also drop the gage of the support wire and reduce that cost considerably as well.  Once we start to buy large amounts of seedlings I want to be able to get a better price for them.  Especially if they have plenty of time to make them.  I would really love to be able to get a half acre planted for around $500.00 to make it simple.

Larger end posts and smaller gage wire



Center posts and twigs for vines to grow up to wire



I need to start working on these blogs in the morning it seems like every time I start to write the power goes out and I end up writing in the dark.  Tomorrow we will be going back to the orchard site and start the process of planting the passion fruit.  I hope the seedlings survived the weekend at John’s place.  I can imagine going there in the morning and they have all been eaten by his goats or cows.  On the way to the orchard we will need to pick up some fertilizer and find some cow poop to mix in with the top soil.  We have 174 seedlings and each plant will need a 2 x 2 x 2 foot hole dug.  The top soil will then need to be mixed with a handful of fertilizer and a cow patty or two.  Then the hole must be refilled with the mixture and inch or so below the surrounding dirt to collect water for a few weeks.  Then the rest of the mixture will be added at a later date.  Once we put in the seedling we will have to cut a long branch or twig to guide the vine up to the wire.  I believe that the planting will take some time.  Tomorrow looks to be another exciting day playing with cow poop and dirt. 

Take care and God bless

Dave

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Day 41 Kakamega June 18, 2011

Greetings

Today I met up with Pastor Ososo again here in Kakamega.  He was in town to bury his sister who died a few weeks ago.  Pastor Ososo came by the guest house this morning before the funeral and then again afterwards.  We discussed the possibility of putting passion fruit on his 3 acre farm in Busia and the ground nut/simsim project at Matasia UMC church in Nairobi.  He has expressed a desire to take part in putting up some land to plant a passion fruit orchard.

Pastor Ososo has told me that the ground nut and simsim project is moving along nicely.  They have rented a store on the main road to Ngong right at the Hotel Camp David where I stay while I am in Nairobi.  I can’t wait to see it.  They have the funds to purchase the new jiko and registration.  Today we went and bought the bag sealer for sealing the bags.  It will be able to seal three bags at one time.  Hopefully no one will burn their fingers.  He was amazed to find the sealer in the Nakumatt for 2100 Ksh versus over 5000 Ksh back in a local shop in Nairobi.  Usually the Nakumatt is much more expensive.  The Nakumatt is the Wal-Mart of Kenya but the poor cannot afford to shop there.  He will meet again with the Matasia UMC church this coming Saturday to explain the loan process to them and then will distribute the rest of the funds to get them to the next step.

The other day while I was in the Nakumatt I was going through the Indian aisle and I noticed some dates on the shelf.  It was like a full pound for a buck fifty.  I love dates and I was yearning for something sweet.  Today I was admiring how good these dates tasted and I picked up the container to see where they came from and I noticed they came from Iran.  Such a shame I do not remember the California dates tasting as good as these and the price can’t be beat.

Also today I worked on the numbers again for the passion fruit.  I do not know what I did to my excel spreadsheets but they are all corrupted with data from all the other sheets.  It is such a mess and I gave up on it today.  Tomorrow I will clean up all the data and continue to work on the cost analysis of each size orchard.

Take care and God bless

Dave