SR article

Week #2: Barpello

Barpello, Baringo County, Kenya

At the end of last week, we finally reached the location where our project takes place! First, we finished our appointments around Nairobi, which included a very interesting and inspiring visit to the Skills Centre Vocational Training School. Then we left Nairobi, to travel to Molo, a small village in the mountains where another mission the Incarnate Word Sisters is located. We stayed in Molo for the weekend together with the sisters and our fellow students from the Molo project. On Monday, we prepared ourselves for a long and bumpy trip to East Pokot.

Since a few days we are staying in Barpello at the mission of the Incarnate Word Sisters. We used this time to discover the area and meet some of the people of the Pokot community. Moreover, we established a very clear strategy for the needs assessment we want to conduct in the next week. Also, we have been approached by the national radio station (Radio 1), because they would like to follow our project on the radio in the next couple of months. Short, weekly interviews will be published also on their website. Last Sunday was our first time on the air! We hope this publicity will boost our project financially and will help us to find financial resources when it’s time to realize our final design.

Overall, it has been a week full of exciting and useful experiences! Here we give an overview of the main activities this week:

Skills Centre
The Skills Centre Vocational Training School comes from a collaboration between the Technical University München (TUM) and a Kenyan NGO called Youth Support.

The centre is meant to be a training centre for the youth in Kenya, especially for those who can’t afford high education. In six months the students can learn one skill, such as electrical wireman, carpentry, dress making, hair dressing etc. They also teach additional skills, such as leadership, entrepreneurship, communication and computer skills. After 6 months the students do a national exam and when they pass, they receive certification which provides the opportunity to get a job somewhere or even follow additional education.

The architecture students from Germany made the designs for the centre (from October 2010 to February 2011) and some also came to help with the construction of the skills centre from April to July 2011. The centre is located far from the road, in the middle of dusty and windy plain. The building looked very well designed! The way it was constructed makes the building perfectly suitable for its environment, the rooms are not too warm and they took also wind and ventilation into account. Several advanced technologies were used, such as solar energy and dry toilets. We were very impressed and inspired by this project. We might want to use some of this knowledge when we design the water supply and sanitation for the resource centre in Pokot.

Construction site IWS Education Centre
The day after we arrived in Molo, we visited the location where our contractor (Johnways Builders LTD) is currently building a new primary school for the Incarnate Word Sisters. Johnways himself was not around, but we had the chance to go inside with the foreman and see closely how they construct the building. At that moment they were deciding on how to implement a water supply system for this school. The sisters asked us to help with this challenge and to give our own ideas about the water supply system. We spoke with a water engineer from Nairobi, who explained his plan. That afternoon, we discussed the situation together and we came up with some other solutions, which we translated in some rough drawings. We didn’t have time to look at it closely and make actual calculations, but still this was a good exercise for our team.

The next day we were invited in the house of one of the villagers to drink thee with his family. We ended up spending a few hours in a very crowded living room, with many neighbors and friends who all wanted to meet us. This was our first community conversation through a translator, which was a special experience.

The mission in Barpello
It took us a whole day to travel from Molo – through Nakuru - to Barpello. The road ended soon after passing Chemolingot, because the last part of the new road (B4) is not yet finished. The last part we had to drive at rough terrain in the dark, until we finally reached the sisters house in Barpello, East Pokot district. ‘The mission’ is what they call the house where the sisters of Barpello stay. On average, 6 sisters of the IWS are living and working here in Barpello. Most of them are teachers, one of them (sister Modesther) is leading the Medical Project. The house is similar to the houses we have seen in Nairobi and Molo; They have some cattle (chickens, goats) and they harvest rainwater in large water storage tanks. Food and water have to be managed accurately, since the sisters buy their food in Nakuru approximately once in a month. Water and food are scarce in this area, which makes malnutrition one of the many issues within the Pokot community.

Barpello area
Barpello is is part of a large valley, surrounded by many hills. Barpello area covers 33 villages, in each village live around 10-25 households. Along the main road (they call it highway) you can find some small shops and ‘hotels’, but nothing what we would call a ‘store’ or a ‘super market’. This area belongs to the Pokot community, many of them still live in traditional huts with roofs made of grass. Goats, cows and camels are walking everywhere looking for pasture. There are not many signs of agriculture activity. The area is very dry, the main vegetation consists of cactuses, low bushes and some trees. The people rely on few water sources, including a natural spring and some river dams. Barpello has some schools, medical dispensaries and churches, most of them founded by religious missionaries. Very few facilities are provided by the government.

Barpello Primary School
Some of the sisters are teachers in this school. Barpello primary has several buildings for classes, staff room, administration office and a kitchen to cook lunch for the children. They have 8 classes in total, with class sizes variating from 15 to 50+ children. The teacher says that more and more children attend school (approximately 450) and the school is going to expand. Still they are face many problems, such as lack of capacity, lack of water, inaccessibility and early dropout.

Barpello Health Unit
This medical dispensary is owned by the East Pokot Medical Project (EPMP). It’s a place where people from the area can come for basic medical help, for example stitching, blood- and HIV testing and immunization of children. They have a room for consults, an office, a small laboratory room, a storage for medicine, a kitchen and a small hut with several beds in it. One in the two weeks the medical staff goes for mobile clinics, which means they travel each day to different areas around Barpello to provide medical help. They have one ambulance (basically a normal jeep without additional equipment).

Barpello Honey House
Close to the mission there’s a building where several women make honey from honeycomb. The honey project is funded by the EPMP, who provides machinery and helps the women to sell their honey. The honey project makes it possible for these women to generate a small income. In the honey house they fabricate, clean and pack the honey, so it is ready for sale. Also they organize training on bee-keeping and honey production.

Meeting with the youth of Barpello
Now the schools are closed, some of the youth are helping to renovate the church. They meet every day, except for Sunday. One time we went to the church to introduce ourselves to the youth and have a first conversation with them.

Family visit Barpello
We visited some homestays in the area around the mission. We met some people on the way and we were invited in one of their tiny huts. We were introduced to a very old lady, who asked immediately what we had brought for her. We noticed many children were alone during the day, while their parents were busy with other activities. And we saw most families did not have a lot of possessions, we saw many children wearing clothes that were dirty, damaged or some of them had no clothes at all.

This week gave us so many new impressions, our heads are full of all the information we already received. To start with the needs assessment; We want to use our first week in Barpello to get to know the community, to meet people and interact with them. We will plan some activities for that and also we will walk around the area and observe. The second week we will start with meetings for Focus Group Discussions and we will do key informant interviews.

Upcoming events
• Visit building site of resource centre + new medical dispensary
• Start mapping the environment (facilities & water sources)
• Meeting with mothers
• Climb the hills with some of the youth
• Seminar for the community men
• Meeting with the youth in church
• Shoot movie for Team Pokot (charity night)

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