My favourite day so far …

By Jo Austen, Kakamega Project Manager 

My favourite day so far was the Wednesday of our ‘pre-summer’ preparations week. While Matt and Ellie were visiting 5 schools in a day (!!), with the help of our slightly bemused taxi-driver friend Joseph, I headed west, towards Mumias, to visit two schools that are new to the project this summer.The day started slowly, even by East African standards. Already running a little late, I happily clambered into an almost-full matatu, which immediately pulled away. Somewhat less happily, I watched through my fraction of the window as we swung off the main road and began winding through the back alleys, bumping and jolting past a succession of carpenters, garages and small shops. Sure that this really wasn’t the way, and clearly not the only one confused, I watched a chain of matatus ahead of us try to navigate the ever-deepening ditches. Matatus are many things, but made for world rally stages they are not, and when one became stuck fast, our driver finally had second thoughts and performed a surprisingly careful 20-point turn. However, his efforts went unrewarded, as his passengers promptly abandoned ship. Joining them, I asked a few questions and finally understood: the matatus had been trying (and failing) to skip a police road block – the president was passing through.Curious, and with nothing else to do, I joined the scores now lining the roadside waiting for Uhuru Kenyatta. This was the President’s first visit to Western Kenya since coming to power; the region largely rejected Kenyatta in the 2013 election, and sure enough, when the excessively large convoy roared past, the engines drowned out the noise of the few who cheered. Many watched in half-respectful silence, with several mutterings that the cheque for Mumias’ sugar plant was a vague attempt to buy up some votes. And then they were gone, the bodas revved, the matatu touts sprung to life, and finally I was away.

Very late, but armed with a decent excuse for an ice-breaking story, I made it to Mumias, from which I visited first St Elisabeth Bumia School, then Enjinja Secondary. Here were two new schools, both hugely proud and excited to begin working with EPAfrica. The twinkle in the eyes of all the teachers I met spoke volumes; that after four successful years EPAfrica is beginning to make a name for itself in Kakamega, that the work of previous project workers around the region has been well received, and that we are in demand. The potential to make really significant changes in both schools was clear, and both were completely sold on the way our model emphasises partnership between the volunteers and the school management. So to the project workers in those schools – Florin, Victoria, Amy and Emily – good luck! And to the wider charity and our many friends and donors, here’s to another great summer – days like that are why we all make the effort.