A New Arrival!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009 — Mary’s first month at Ondati Girl's School, September 2009
A game of cat and mouse......

I have now completed my first month as Project Officer in Ondati taking over from James. On arrival I was warmly welcomed by the Odongo family with who I will be living for the next six months. A feast was prepared and Joshua and Karen informed me of their plans to make sure I leave Ondati as a ‘big, huge, fat and strong girl’. I am enjoying getting to know the family and several of the younger girls have become my Luo language teachers, enthusiastically repeating the name of every object we can find until I have learnt them all. I now know the Luo word for every household object from sieve (rachongi) to metal roof (mabat): unfortunately this vocabulary doesn’t really enable me to have very extensive conversations!

The first couple of days work involved completing the process to register the project as a CBO in Homa Bay, tracking down tractors in Awendo and meeting the staff. Registering as a CBO is important for the legal status it provides, as well as for enabling the project to receive funds directly. We feared that there would be more bureaucratic hoops to jump through before receiving the registration, so it was with some elation that we left the office with the CBO registration certificate in hand! The tractor was required to plough the field we will be using to grow napier seeds for the cows we hope to buy in January in order to start the Ondati Girls School Dairy Business. Finding a tractor that was not either broken or unwilling to travel along the bad roads to Ondati proved a difficult task – but one which thankfully has now been achieved! Completing these jobs, I experienced several different methods of traveling in Kenya: these ranged from being squished into a taxi with 16 people, a 200kg pig and a child hanging over my shoulder, to clinging on, white-knuckled to the back of a motorbike!

Our students started back at school during my second week in Ondati. It has been a pleasure to meet them and see their ambition and dedication to their studies. I was also pleased to find that Ondati girls have performed favorably in their recent exams when compared to students from nearby Ottoto school. It is of course very important that the school succeeds according to traditional academic standards as well as well as developing successful businesses.

On the business front, as well as preparing the field and planting the napier seeds, we have also been maintaining our grain stock and watching as the price of grain slowly starts to tick upwards. The challenge is to ensure that we don’t loose grain to rats or insects while we are waiting for the market price to reach its peak. Rats were initially kept at bay with rat poison until a first cat and kitten was bought (the normal way of protecting grain in Kenya). Unfortunately, the cat ran away and the kitten ate the left over rat poison and died…. we then had to return to using rat poison for some time until a new cat was bought. This time we are ensuring that it is well fed to stop it running away and that the rat poison is out of harms way! Hopefully, this will keep our grain safe until the selling begins!

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