The holiday season is a little different here. It has been 95 degrees all week, and Christmas was the hottest day so far! But we still enjoy holiday tunes, presents, and great food (we roasted a goat). And just like at home, the holidays are a great time to take a look at what we have done in the past year and what we hope to do in the future.
At Vutakaka, December always has a different feel – school closed on November 22nd and the clinic closed on December 16th so the staff can go home from Christmas (don’t worry, there is still care available in Takaungu over the holidays!)
That might sound relaxing, but we have to get ready for 2012! School opens on January 4th, so we have a lot of textbooks and school supplies to get delivered on time. A classroom is going up for our new Class 8, our first graduating class! We also have our plans in place to build 6 new toilets thanks to the Rotary Club of Darien – we should break ground on this right away in January!
Despite all the construction and supply purchasing, I have still had time to reflect on the great year we had in 2011. We had our first Class 7 students, which scored very well on their common exams. We are so excited for them to go onto Class 8, the last primary school class. Our teachers worked so hard this year, putting in a lot of extra tutoring time with kids that needed a little more time. The students got to do some great extra curriculars this year too: a big sports day was held at a local primary school, they went to Tsavo National Park on their field trip in February, and every Friday they played soccer with the local international school. It was another great year at school, and we look forward to having our full school (KG1 through Class 8) next year. We can’t wait to see how our students do on their Primary School exit exams at the end of next year! Our school farm is also up and running, thanks to a lot of support from American International Women’s Club of Genoa, the Rotary Club of Kilifi, and Emily Capello and the family of Carol Boland. It is so great to see the students and gardeners producing food for their lunches. It is definitely another step towards sustainability at Vutakaka.
The health department has had a busy year too! In June, we helped the government launch a 50 person volunteer Community Health team. The team collects data on every household in the villages and then tries to educate the families on better health practices. They can refer clients to the nurse, organize for emergency trips to the hospital, encourage HIV testing, and help pregnant women get proper pre- and post-natal care. In 2012, the focus areas for the health team will be pit latrine construction and malaria prevention. We are so excited about the CHW team and happy to be in partnership with the Ministry of Health!
We also looked at a new clinic this year, with the idea of opening new health services in the Mavueni area. This new clinic was built by a government program, but the Ministry of Health does not have the money to outfit it. The EAC would be able to finish it and hand it over to the government, who would then take up our staff and medicine costs. It also opens the possibility of a new Community Health team in that area, and the spread of our school health classes to more primary and secondary schools.
These transitions are the key to the EAC’s vision. We are working diligently to create a new kind of development – programming led by local needs, and built with local resources. In 2012, we look forward to reducing our programming expenses in health, and discussing strategies with the parents to find independent income for Vutakaka Junior School. Each year, we help more people with less money! So, thank you for being part of the EAC community – your help goes a long way towards sustainable change. Happy New Year from all the EAC staff in Kenya!