We were joined in Kenya last month by two of our Board, including our Chairman and a newly appointed Trustee, on their second and first visits to the region respectively, and we are delighted to share this report on their visit.
As part of our work to strengthen and improve the governance of African Promise, we now encourage new Trustees to visit Kasigau as soon as possible after their appointment to understand better our work on the ground. I remember how my first visit last year after my appointment as Chairman in December 2016 transformed my understanding of what we do – and why we do it.
During October, one of our new trustees, Gary Shiels, and I spent a couple of days with Charles and the team in the region. The communities, the head teachers and teachers, the buildings, the children and Charlie’s passion all worked their magic, as always, and Gary enjoyed that same damascene moment as I had experienced. In his words:
“The trip to Kasigau has brought AP to life for me. You have to be here to see the joy on the children’s faces when they are given the educational facilities that we in the UK take for granted. The environment in Kasigau is harsh – people queue for hours to get water, there is no formal public transport and access to each of the AP partner schools is via a dirt track. Just surviving and getting around is difficult. So, to achieve the quality of build that AP has done is truly special.
AP has developed a design and build approach which is distinctive and capable of being replicated to a far larger range of schools. It is not just the quality of build, nor the fact that it is very good value for money. AP has worked with headteachers, Board of Managements, parents and their children and local communities to obtain an understanding of how their facilities will enhance the whole community and how it will provide a good basis for learning. The three schools we visited each have the distinctive signature of AP but it was interesting to see how AP has refined its building techniques over the 10 years that it has been active in the Kasigau region. Ngambenyi represents a good example of AP’s current expertise and Kiteghe will be the next school to achieve this, hopefully by Christmas 2018.
AP can be very proud of what is has achieved for its partner schools over the last 10 years. As Trustees, our challenge now is both to raise sufficient monies to upgrade new schools but also to plan the management of AP’s existing network and sustain the great educational facilities so that they benefit future generations of Kasigau children.”
Our first visit of the trip was to Mkamenyi – a very old site which, as you may have already read elsewhere, we have identified as our eighth partner school. The buildings may be old and decrepit but the head teacher, Nicholus, is full of energy, passion and enthusiasm. Charlie has worked with him before, when he was head teacher of Jora and Kisimenyi, and the level of mutual trust and confidence is already high. We shared with Nicholus some of the computer-generated images of the proposed new school buildings. In line with the AP brand, these include new classrooms built around an open campus style space, separate sanitation blocks for girls, boys and staff as well as comprehensive water harvesting facilities along with a kitchen and dining hall to enable our feeding programme for all the pupils. Our opportunity to transform the education, security and welfare for the 600 children at this school is truly compelling!
We also visited three current partner schools: Kisimenyi, Kiteghe and Ngambenyi. More work or maintenance has been completed since my last visit and above all, Ngambenyi has matured wonderfully. Unsurprisingly, the local county government has declared it as a model school for Kenyan primaries. The quality of these three schools is exceptional and unrecognizable from the dilapidated nature of Mkamenyi.
Whilst in Kenya, we took the opportunity to have a couple of meetings in Nairobi. Firstly, with the Kenyan NGO Start a Library – with whom we will be partnering from next year – who have developed a fantastic literacy programme to enthuse children (and their parents!) to the joy of reading. We saw their inspiring programme in action at a government primary school in Nairobi and spent time with their team discussing how the programme will be rolled out across our partner schools. We are delighted to add our schools to the 150 that they already support countrywide and we will keep you all aware of how this exciting programme develops in the months ahead.
Finally, Gary, who was a partner with PwC, had arranged for us to meet with some of their team in Nairobi. The Operations Leader, Tax Partner and head of CSR all shared some valuable insights with us regarding possible local fundraising opportunities. They had all kindly researched AP prior to the meeting and we were humbled by their praise of the quality of our work. We hope this may become an ongoing association.
All-in-all, it was another hugely valuable time spent with Charles and the team. The passion and determination of Charles remains undiminished. Our visit serves as a reminder that our work continues at a pace, day by day and yet there is still so much for us to do; none of this can be done without the generous support we receive from you all. It is not comfortable coming to people requesting financial support but what I can say is that the wonderful results that are achieved from your generosity make that “ask” easier – and more importantly, you should all feel a real sense of pride in what you have enabled for improving the lives and prospects of many thousands of children. We will need to come to you again as we strive to raise funds for Mkamenyi. I thank you for whatever further contribution you can make to help us achieve this dream for another 600 worthy children.