A week at Marongo PAG, Kisii, Kenya

So here we are, having made it to holiday week and a well deserved break after what has been perhaps the busiest and most stressful week for all PW’s across the three sites. We, the dynamic duo of Jordan and Sabina (or for the purpose of this blog, Jorbina) are going to update you on our experiences of our fifth week in Marongo PAG Secondary School, Kisii.


This blog is the story of ‘5th week’, the week before ‘holiday week’

With all central pot funding received, week 5 is the time to kick off the big projects we plan to deliver within our school in order for them to finish on time. It is also the last week that students are in school before they break for holiday, meaning any of the ‘softer’ projects we still have to do need to be completed by now.

Monday began with Jorbina still in Kisii, having arranged a meeting in the morning with Bianca, a local volunteer at the Vinbel Foundation. The Vinbel Foundation is an NGO that focuses on health (particularly on menstrual hygiene) and female empowerment by running workshops in the community, visiting schools and providing sanitary pads at cheaper prices. The meeting was a successful one, with an arrangement for volunteers from the Vinbel foundation to visit Marongo PAG on Thursday to run health workshops with students. At this point, the dynamic duo parted ways, with Sabina heading back to Maroba to check on the progress of the library, with Jordan staying at central house to meet with an engineer to discuss and purchase materials in preparation for our main water project that we have planned.

Tuesday was a frustrating day for Jordan, with his planned meeting with the engineer firstly moved from 10am to 3pm, then cancelled and rearranged for the following day. This did, however, give Jordan the chance to ensure project planners were up to date, an important yet time-consuming part of the EPAfrica program, which in previous years has often been left until the last minute to complete. Meanwhile, Sabina, having stayed in Maroba (along with Douglas the mouse who is a frequent visitor), and was in the school to check in on the library project we have begun.


The room we are turning into the library before work began

When we first arrived at the school, the library was based in the science lab, moonlighting as a storage room for science equipment, with nowhere for students to sit and study. For our project, we have plastered an empty room, painted it and employed a local fundi to build a shelf to store the books as well as tables and chairs to create and encourage a safe space for students to study quietly after school hours. Feedback from Sabina around the progress was positive, and the schools vision of having a dedicated library space was beginning to take shape.

On to Wednesday – yet another day of frustration for Jordan, as his meeting with the engineer was cancelled again. With not much to do, Jordan took his frustration out by heading to the Kisii sports club to spend the afternoon sitting in the sun by the pool, much to his annoyance. Jordan will be heading to the school during holiday week to check in on projects to make up for this unforeseen day of rest. As for Sabina, another night in the village with Douglas was complete and into school for a 7am meet to pay the carpenter money for materials and labor for the day. It was also a chance for Sabina to mingle with the students, who have taken a strong liking to her due to the apparent Swahili roots of her name. Jordan has not yet been given a Swahili name, although due to his scruffy beard he is often heckled in Kisii town by people who feel he bears an unfortunate resemblance to a well-known deceased terrorist.


Current Water tank and guttering at Marongo

Moving swiftly on… and finally some success for Jordan who was able to meet the engineer at 7:45am in Kisii. After 3 ½ hours of haggling down prices for material and transport, all was in order, and off Jordan set to Marongo with the engineer to deliver the goods. After a very bumpy journey, we made it to the school and final preparation was completed in order for the engineer to start work on Monday during holiday week. The project is expected to take around seven days to complete. The project itself costs around £1000 or roughly 140,000KSh. Marongo currently has only one water tank with (rather questionable) guttering in place. The school has a further two water tanks, but does not have the funds to install these. Given the inadequate rainwater collection, the students are taking time off lessons daily to walk 3km to fetch water from the nearest source. Our plan is to install the two 5000L tanks and required guttering, as well as replacing the old guttering. We have also bought a 2000L water tank which will provide water to the science lab. Alongside this, we are also purchasing two water filters for the school, meaning that students and teachers will have access to clean drinking water.

As with all the projects we complete at EPAfrica, sustainability is of vital importance and for any project to be sustainable, it is imperative that the school is invested in each project we undertake. This can be harder to achieve with certain projects, but fortunately for Jorbina, Marongo PAG has a very passionate headteacher and deputy who have been involved in each step of the process in relation to the water project.

In fact, our job as PW’s were made easier by this partnership, as our headteacher had already thought about the best location for the water tanks to be installed to be most beneficial for staff and students alike. These ideas suited Jorbina just fine, as they were aware of who the ‘experts’ are in this scenario. The school have also been involved in providing fundi’s and materials from local resources, such as timber.

So with this all in order, Sabina joined Jordan at the school in the afternoon, ready for the visitors from the Vinbel foundation to arrive. Five volunteers in total came to the school, varying in expertise and experience. Every student at the school piled into one classroom for the first hour, with the Vinbel volunteers tackling many difficult subjects from HIV to drug abuse. The students were clearly engaged throughout. At the end, there was an anonymous Q&A section, where some seriously open questions and issues were addressed and suitable advice given – including a chance for the uncomfortable Jordan to answer some rather difficult questions around the male reproductive organ. The boys and Jordan then left the room, giving the girls a chance to discuss issues such as menstrual hygiene. The feedback from Sabina and the students was very positive, rounding off what was a successful day and week for Jorbina and the school.


Bianca from the Vinbel Foundation speaking to students answering students questions about health.

As well as inviting volunteers from the Vinbel foundation to come and speak with the students, Jorbina also invested in some discounted sanitary pads that will be sold in the school shop. In order to make this sustainable, the school  and Jorbina have set an affordable price of 20KSh for each pack to be sold, with this money going into a separate pot purely to be used for the purchase of more sanitary pads from the Vinbel foundation. At the end of the talk, contact details were exchanged between the volunteers and the deputy headteacher in order for this project to continue after Jorbina’s departure.

On Friday we headed back to Kisii for the mid-summer meeting taking place on Saturday and then on to holiday week. Sabina will be visiting the Masai Mara and going on a safari in a joint venture between the Kisii and Kakamega group. Jordan will be bronzing his non-existent abs at the sports club, with a few rounds of golf planned as well as visiting the school to check in with the projects. With less than a month to go, it is great to see all the planned projects coming to fruition for the PW’s and the sustainable positive impacts these projects will have on the school. Keep an eye out for next weeks’ blog, as the crew on safari we are sure will have a plethora of exciting and incredible pictures – if not, you can just search for images of ‘safari’ on Google and get the idea.

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