We have carried out a number of workshops in 2012 to gain a better understanding into the challenges our members are facing, as well as providing them with knowledge and skills to help face challenges such as household food insecurity in a context of high levels of poverty, increasingly less predictable timings of seasons, and extreme drought and rain events.
In January we held a workshop on nutrition and what makes up a balanced diet. We learnt that many of our households were selling vital protein sources (beans and milk) to be able to purchase less nutritious foods such as maize meal (ugali) that are essentially belly fillers. This can lead to malnutrition such as kwashiorkor and marasmus in extreme cases. Workshop participants admitted that they had not really thought about meals in this way before and the different nutritional values of the foods they are eating/feeding to the children in their care. We provided them with a list of food types with associated vitamin content, and discussed the portions of each food type that should ideally make up a well-balanced diet.
The nutrition workshop fed nicely into a home gardening workshop we carried out in February with the same participants. We showed them how to make the most of a small area of land to grow nutritious crops for use within the home, and were happy to hear that a few of them began practising what they had learned on their own land soon after.
In June, we ran a workshop to discuss climate change and vulnerabilities with some of our group and discovered that soil erosion and water management are key areas to look at in the future. We arranged a couple of days out to training farms in nearby towns in order to faciliate exchange of ideas and information and this has proved really worthwhile with lots of inspiration for the future!
As well as workshops, we have had group meetings to come together and discuss ideas and to distribute foodstuffs and clothing when necessary. We needed to create more of a structure to work through so we arranged a meeting with the guardians in our group to nominate a Project Management Committee of three grannies and three grandpas to help us implement things on the ground and provide support to Martha who up until this year was operating single-handedly with support from Genevieve in the UK. Since establishment, our Project Managment Committee have been contributing great ideas and a huge amount of energy to make our organisation work well. With this sort of support, we can achieve all that we set out to do, and it's been wonderful for Martha to have people around her who believe in what we are doing as much as we do.
In September, we had a number of meetings with the children and their guardians on separate days. With the older children, we asked them to nominate a Youth Committee to be made up of three girls and three boys so that they have a channel through which they can voice their views and give us their ideas for future activities. We realised that the children weren't speaking up whilst their guardians were present, so we wanted to make sure they were able to talk to us openly and create a space for this to happen.
We will hold regular meetings with the Youth Committee as well as the Project Management Committee to ensure we are moving in the right direction and their needs are being met as best we can according to the resources we have available.
This year we were able to initiate a small project to provide our most needy households with chickens to ensure they have a regular source of protein in their diets. In May and June, we gave five of our 36 households each 4 chickens, 1 cockerel and a chicken house for them to be kept safely. The aim is for them to not only eat the eggs but also to save some of them to hatch and share with the other members of our group so that the benefits of the project spread outwards and multiply. We have had to recently give two of the households layers mash to get the chickens laying as they didn't have any spare scraps to feed them, and now all five households are getting a regular supply of eggs. This was a very simple project but has had great results - not only in terms of dietary needs but it has given the children something to keep them busy after school, which the grandparents have told us has had a positive affect on their behaviour.
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Despite facing some challenges at the start of this year we are continuing to support our teenagers through secondary school and those doing vocational courses with money we have managed to fundraise from family and friends. We're in the process of making grant applications to ensure we can continue our work into the future. Sad news this month is that one of our grandmothers has passed away leaving behind the two siblings she was caring for, we will do our best to support them as they go through this difficult time.
We are currently supporting 15 teenagers through the third term of secondary school, with two more being sponsored by Equity Bank. In August we ran two sexual health workshops, one for our guardians and members of the wider community, and the other for all our teenagers 11yrs+. This was in collaboration with the ABCs of Sex Education who did a fantastic job, bringing a great sense of humour into an otherwise serious topic. We have also run four more successful workshops this year in April, May and August. Theatre, art, music and counselling through this medium is having a transformative effect on all our children. They are noticeably less depressed, more confident, and building strong relationships with their peers and guardians.
This month we're holding two workshops during the Easter holidays for our youngsters - one is a 10 day residential theatre and art therapy workshop and the other is a four day music workshop. We're excited to be able to give the children this opportunity to learn and grow in such creative spaces!