From the bottom of our hearts
In the Kenyan countryside, where poverty is still rife and many make a living from small-scale farming, From One To Another (FOTA) works to fulfill its mission, “Every girl’s right to education”. Educating girls is considered a waste by many, since girls are expected to be married and don’t need secondary education to take care of a home. Families are large, and if there is money for school fees, boys are prioritized.
In 2017, Enfo partnered with FOTA. We meet Kristina Lid of Enfo, who is just back from Kenya, where, together with four members of FOTA, she spent one week working on the Nikumbuke project and the women’s center in Lunga-Lunga.
"My task mainly focused on supporting and training the teacher in the computer training school at the center. Most of the participants at the computer training school are students who have finished high school and plan to continue studying at university. It is problematic that computer training is not offered at high school, while computer skills are required at university. Thanks to Enfo’s sponsorship, which covers the operating costs and the teacher’s wages, the computer training school can raise money for the operation of the center."
The circle of education
Project Nikumbuke is located in Lunga-Lunga in South-Eastern Kenya and is run by the leader of the center, Bendettah Thomas Muthina. Project Nikumbuke has offered educational and healthcare activities since its start in 2008. As of 2012, FOTA cooperates with Nikumbuke to improve women’s position in Kenya, and Nikumbuke means, fittingly, "remember me" in Swahili.
One aspect of the project is to provide mothers with an opportunity to support their daughters. This support is in the form of secondary education, so that the girls can give something back to their families and communities. FOTA grants scholarships to girls in secondary education and covers a part of the school fees, provided that the families contribute the remaining part. The concept used by FOTA and Nikumbuke is known as ”The circle of education” and based on providing education for daughters by also contributing to the mothers’ education. This in turn means that daughters can later support their families and communities, closing the circle.
Preparations before the trip
As the project manager of Enfo's Integration Days, which took place just one week before her departure to Kenya, Kristina was busy before the trip. Still, she managed to collect and buy some items, arriving with a suitcase full of hygiene articles, toothbrushes, reflective vests and used mobile phones from her colleagues at Enfo.
"I called Bendettah a few days before traveling and asked what she wanted us to bring from Sweden. Power adapters and computers, was the answer. Things one might assume a computer training school would have, however there were only 1 or 2 computers at the center, which students had to share. FOTA was able to contribute with computers, but they were far from new, and it was a challenge to get them to function in the prevailing conditions at the center."
Once on site at the Lunga-Lunga center, Kristina’s primary task was to write Office suite course materials and to support the teacher by suggesting teaching techniques and methods. She started preparations for writing suitable course materials in Sweden.
"I contacted ABF and met with Anders Lindberg who teaches computer skills to seniors! He shared training materials and tips on how he teaches computer skills to Swedish seniors, which I was able to use with the pupils at the center in Kenya."
There was a projector on site that the teacher had not been allowed to use previously, Kristina says. We started using it, and I taught him how it works. This made it easier to go through the theory in the various computer programs with the pupils.
Lessons learned from the trip
"The joy expressed for simple things - it is striking. There is so much scarcity, but there is also so much joy and gratitude. It makes you realize that we are not better off in Sweden just because we have more."
Kristina and the members of FOTA achieved a lot during the brief period they spent in Lunga-Lunga. Kristina spent most of the time in the center together with teachers and students. The other participants visited other villages that is part of the Nikumbuke project. But it is sometimes difficult to work with technology in environments with such limited resources.
"I often felt disheartened. It’s frustrating when nothing works, sometimes there was no power or Internet, so I couldn’t achieve as much as I wanted, or my full potential. At the same time, I understand that my small contribution gave the recipients so very much. It’s a strange feeling", says Kristina.
”So much remains to be done and I could have stayed longer to do more!”
By the time Kristina left the center, she had formed a deeper relationship with the members of the center, and today it is possible for the staff to contact Enfo in case of a problem or questions. However, sometimes it is difficult to provide remote assistance. Things that were easy for Kristina to understand and fix can be hard for the staff at the center. For example, a mobile router was installed to provide the center with functioning Internet.
"It broke just before we had to travel back home, and there was no time to fix it. I could have fixed it, but it was a much bigger challenge for those who staid. I would have been happy to stay and solve the problem, but the others were already seated in the bus", Kristina laughs.
Kristina is excited about Enfo’s future cooperation with FOTA and the Nikumbuke center initiative, and she hopes that a sponsor will be found who can contribute with new computers that Enfo can install in the center. She says she would be happy to return to Kenya and contribute more to the center in Lunga-Lunga, but that she wants to share the experience with her family next time.
"Someone else from Enfo should go on the next trip. It’s a privilege to contribute in this way, and as many people as possible should experience this. It’s great that Enfo has chosen to sponsor such an important project where we can really contribute and make a difference. For this reason, it is important to include everyone at Enfo who wants to participate and contribute. We do make a tremendous difference. The contributions made by these centers to society really matter."