Friday, November 28, 2008


In line with the SOS Kenya National Association development plan, the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is at the moment undergoing an expansion plan. Construction of an additional 3 family houses has already started in Eldoret village to cater for the rising number of orphans. This will bring the total number of family houses to 15.

Construction is also underway for an SOS Community Health and Social Centre inside the Children’s Village. It will address HIV/AIDS issues and serve as a VCT Centre, providing anti-retroviral treatment and counselling services to HIV+ persons. It will also provide basic services and rehabilitation programs for children in need of special protection drawn primarily from the Eldoret catchment area. The former craft center will undergo reconstruction to house the project.

The village is rearing cows as an income generating activity and the milk from the cows is being sold to the family houses and the youth homes. Each family house has a small garden where they plan to grow kale to supplement the family budget. A new electric fence was also recently erected to improve security. A new sentry house for the guards has also been built. The former chicken coop has been refurbished to house the craft centre, the laundry, workshop, youth leaders' office and a library.

A modern parking spot has also been erected near the administration block.

Friday, November 14, 2008


Two of our youth attended a peer training in Eldoret on 4th and 5th November that was organized by an Ex-Street Community based organization in conjunction with Save the Children. The thematic focus of this seminar was the area of child protection and covered sensitive issues such as child abuse and violence.

In total, 18 participants attended the two day training. Participants were always on time, allowing an accurate adherence to the schedule. Common lunches as well as tea breaks allowed the participants to mix informally and share experiences. One of our youth, Leah Nyambura who attended the training aptly puts it this way: “The two days were very exciting as we learnt many things that concern children and youth. I learnt new things and gained so much in this seminar. This has had a huge impact in my life”. “We were given advice on how to interact with children in an appropriate way - by building confidence, listening patiently and placing oneself at the same level as the child”.

Simon Wambua equally describes his experience during the group tasks as humbling. “The facilitators guided us through the definition of a child and described the distinct phases of childhood development. They explained that children had specific needs that depended on their age and that fulfillment of these needs was vital for the child to fully develop”. “We engaged in group work to list the effects of child abuse on children, families and communities. We also discussed how events affecting the latter two groups could have an indirect impact on children, who were thus exposed to triple danger (once directly, twice indirectly). They both promised to share the knowledge gained with the children and fellow youth.

All participants who attended the seminar in its entirety were awarded a certificate.

By Fredrick Ochieng, Youth Leader Coordinator

Dreaming beyond the Horizon

Maureen Mueni is a celebrity among her folks both within and without the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret. Growing up, Maureen has been a quiet young person but she has always been an enthusiast. Her quick wit and academic determination to succeed has served her well. She has been dreaming of a better life. She dreams of becoming someone someday. How? She is not sure but she knows the first step is an education. Maureen recently graduated with her Diploma in Mass communication and has already registered at the Moi University for a degree programme on the same. Such is the passion for career progression that this 22-year old youth from house 2 has for her future.

Maureen is quite philosophical and envisions challenges for those who want to live an easy life. Whilst she appreciates that the desire to be successful is what motivates humanity to take action, she advises that one must have raw determination in order to make progress. “I always believe I can succeed because what my mind can conceive can be achieved”, she says. “I remember when I was growing up my mum used to tell me and my siblings that success only comes to those who plan, prepare; to those who are persistent and to those who are willing to endure pain to achieve their goals”.

I can say that I did get what you would call a head start in life. I got everything I needed to enable me attain my dreams. I attended the best schools and got the best in primary and secondary education. After my “O” level examination, I did not attain the required grade to join university and I almost gave up because my dream was to join a public or private university to pursue a course in Communication or Law. I had interest in Journalism or Media Law but I wondered how this going to happen with the results of my “O” level exams not quite what I anticipated.

She recalls those moments when they would be asked by the Mothers and the Village Director what they wanted to do and to be in future and they would tell them all the careers that they thought were “good”. “I would change from nursing this year, to teaching, journalism and so forth just because I knew it will make my mum happy, she says. But gone are these days and times have changed so fast you’d better be realistic in your goals. I settled for my dream career-Journalism.

In 2006, she received 5 admission letters for different courses from different colleges. She did not know for sure what to settle for and decided to talk to her mother and the Village Director who told her one thing-follow your dream. Maureen then joined Aphax College to pursue a Diploma course in Mass Communication and Journalism. The course took 1- 2 years and last month during her graduation, she got exemplary certificate in the high achievers category with a distinction emerging top in the 2006-2007 Journalism class. This enabled her to secure admission at the Moi University to pursue a Bachelor of Science Course in Communication and Journalism.

I believe for me to reach the port of success, I have to sail, sometimes against the wind, while other times with the wind. Either way, I have to sail and not lie at anchor because success is not reaching a goal but it must continually be won and is never finally achieved. I attribute my success to my perseverance and determination not forgetting the support and encouragement of my mother, the Village Director and the Youth Leaders. I also thank the SOS Fraternity for giving me this chance to advance my studies to the degree level.

By Fredrick Ochieng, Youth Leader Coordinator

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


There was jubilation, song and dance during the graduation of two of our youth, James Marema and Michael Mwangi. It was one of those moments that the entire SOS Children’s Village Eldoret went into a celebration mood to honour our youth who, after several difficult and challenging years at the Kenya Methodist University, successfully completed their studies and were declared ready to commence a new, productive and exciting but challenging life in the real world of work. It is was an occasion when our youth felt that their joint efforts were not only successful, but inspiring.

The graduation ceremony was a historic moment for us because we were witnessing the graduation of the fifth cohort of youth at degree level in the history of the village. The floral decorations at the graduation square and stage set up were impressive; the crowd arrived early, toting gifts, balloons, some very large pictures of individual graduands and, of course, cameras of all kinds.

There were exuberant displays of celebratory dances in diverse styles, jubilant shouts, hugs both modest and engulfing, thrown and blown kisses— all of which drew increased response from both graduands and the audience. The celebration continued with dancing, eating and fun. During the dinner the two graduates were congratulated by all present including their Village Mothers, brothers, cousin, uncles, youth leaders, educator, retired mama Gitahi and Mr Peter Wambugu the Village Director of the Meru Village.

They were advised not to be choosey in jobs, to have respect to all and not to forget their brothers and sisters in SOS. Their uncles gave a very touching speech on how they should be thankful to SOS and their mothers for guiding them through their academic journey. We were also privileged to have in attendance retired Mama Gitahi who also advised the two graduants to remain focused in life.

The two graduates, James and Michael, expressed their sincere appreciation and were thankful to the organization for enabling them go through their education from the kindergarten to the SOS Herman Gmeiner International College and now the Kenya Methodist University where they graduated with Bachelors of Business Administration in Human Resources and Management Information Systems respectively. For them, this was an accomplishment worthy of celebration. And there was no better time than now to their caregivers and teachers, whose love and support brought them to this day.

The patience and endurance of the mothers who had waited for a minimum of 4 years for this momentous event in the lives of the youth finally paid off. Mama Namale recounts her experience and feelings about her son’s graduation. "I have attended other people’s graduations but it felt very different when I attended my son’s graduation. It is the best feeling I have ever felt. To see my own child’s efforts being blessed and the fruits of my work being rewarded, I feel a lot of joy in my heart as a mother. It also confirms the saying that Kuzaa si Kazi, Kazi ni kulea (meaning 'Giving birth to a child is not a big task, the challenge is in raising a child'). It was very encouraging to have mothers, children and administrative staff, representatives from the other villages and youths coming to celebrate and to witness my son’s success. I was moved to tears when I listened to my son appreciate what I have done for him as a mother. We both shared our beautiful and painful moments. All mothers know the pain and the joy of bringing up a child and an SOS Mother is no exception.

Mama Stephen too had her story to tell. "We arrived in Meru that evening and met my son Michael and we got to talk and share what he felt as he awaited his graduation the following day. The graduation ceremony was marvelous, enjoyable and well timed. When their names were read out, we all shouted with joy and I felt proud of myself. I praised God who had seen him all though his studies. We talked a lot and shared ideas. When I looked at Michael and remembered how tiny he was when he joined my SOS family many years back and now he is here graduating. I feel so good and thank God for him."
By Fredrick Wills Ochieng Youth Leader Coordinator

Monday, August 11, 2008


Kenya is globally reputed as an athletic country with most of the runners emerging from Eldoret town. Before the post election violence there was an evident rapid growth of the infrastructure and business. Much of this is attributed to the principal of Urban-Rural investment, the spirit nurtured by our athletes. Eldoret town could only be compared to Nairobi Metropolitan City in terms of development; even economists prophesied that it was likely to emerge as a hub of socio-economic activities in Africa. All these prospects were shattered by the political upheavals in the town that witnessed potential investors change course.

With the signing of the peace accord between the President and the Prime Minister, life seemed to return to normalcy in most parts of the country. However, the simmering discord between certain communities within town based on the resettlement process has held so many programmes at ransom. For instance, businesses are on their knees. Small traders cannot move on with life. The municipal authorities have determined the type of business to be carried out on the streets consequently locking out many ordinary business people from making their daily bread. The survivors have resorted to maize-roast that is thriving late in the evening after the municipal authorities have vacated the town and estates.

Uasin Gishu being a maize growing region already has the first harvests ready for sale. Retail traders traverse the villages collecting maize cobs at an average of five Kenyan shillings each (about 65 shillings to the dollar). After roasting the maize to a golden appearance, it is sold at a maximum of 10 to 15 shillings depending on the size of the maize cob. It’s exciting to see Kenyans queuing for a cob on a first-come first-served basis. One would be surprised that about eighty percent of travelers in a Matatu would be enjoying a hot nicely roasted maize cob on their way home. I sought to find out from Mama Mahindi why she has fully immersed herself in the maize business; “Most of my customers have changed their appetite from fruits due to the prices and cold weather; they prefer maize because they are cheap and fresh from the farm. This enables me to make quick profits without paying unnecessary taxes to the municipality.” With the rainy season at the door, she is afraid that her business will be adversely affected leaving her with few options on how to raise her young ones.

I have a deep seated conviction that once the political feuds subsides, the Eldoret Municipality will loosen its policies to allow small traders to carry out their businesses in order that they may support their kin. With free trade going on, money will exchange hands and youth will be self employed. This is the path that will enable Eldoret municipality to regain its glory and momentum as a fastest growing town in the region. With many tourist attractions including the Great Rift Valley, tourists are likely to flood into the town, consequently improving the country’s economy. Kenya can only achieve its vision 2030 when all Kenyans own the vision and actively contribute towards the process. I therefore submit that with political stability in Eldoret, all communities will coexist again and businesses will flourish including the smallest trader, Mama Mahindi.

by Simon M Mudi
Youth Leader, Eldoret.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A walk down the aisle…

6th April 2008 would continue to be remembered with fond memories for a long time to come as the entire SOS Children’s Village Eldoret was invited to the wedding of one of their daughters in Nairobi. It was a happy moment for the entire family of Mama Ngundi in Eldoret from where the girl had grown up. She had phoned out of the blue and told us that she had met a guy at the university. She had known him for a while and, he had asked her to marry him. She described him as being, short, brown, and handsome. Also he was a kind and gentle man.

Naturally, the mother, the youth leaders and “Baba” Mungai (Village Director) asked the usual questions. Her answer being, “Do not worry”. “I know what I am doing and I love him”. We gave her our blessing and began the wedding preparations.Eventually, the big day came. It was forecast to rain all day. We hoped and prayed to God that it wouldn’t rain on the wedding day for our daughter. We embarked on a long and bumpy journey from Eldoret to Nairobi for the wedding the following day. The church where the ceremony was to be held was decorated in maroon and white with fairy lights everywhere. Everyone looked so nice, you would have thought that we were attending a fashion show. All the women were dressed beautifully, many wore makeup and high heels, and their very colourful dresses and veils were lovely.

A cavalcade of vehicles lined up for the procession that snaked its way from the Nairobi village to the church. First down the aisle were the flower girls, followed by the bridesmaids and escorts to the sound of a piano playing. There must have been thirty people in the procession. Then the pianist started playing the bridal march and our daughter came down the aisle. She looked so radiant in a fitted dress scattered with hand sewn crystals, that twinkled when the light caught them. She was walked down the aisle by “Baba” Mungai to the hands of the priest who officiated.

After their arrival at the reception to a standing ovation, we were served dinner followed by speeches from both sides of the family. The 3 tier cake was cut and photos taken again. Everyone milled around drinking and talking and generally having a good time. The wedding was an incredibly a colorful affair. The cameramen and the photographers all frequently focused on the same thing, so it was a bit like being at the Oscars.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Rhythm dominates as music fest concludes

The two month district and provincial music festival concluded with the rhythms of the students from Herman Gmeiner Secondary School Eldoret creating the mood at Kericho Teacher College, the venue of the competition. This year the music club was eclectic in the choice of items for presentation during the festivals. This was boosted by great participation of the new students that were admitted in first term. The numbers were large enough to enable us participate in a variety of items from set verses to instrumentals. Emma Makoha, the music club patron at the Hermann Gmeiner School in Eldoret gives an eye witness account.

At the district level, the club presented 9 items. These included four instrumentals, four set verses and one traditional dance from the Luhya community. The set verses were presented by Patricia Ngina, Christine Mwende, Brenda Akinyi and Faith Wariara, all from SOS Children’s Village. Six students qualified for the regional competition. Notably, the dance and all the instrumentals were placed first. Faith Wariara’s was placed at position two.

In the regional level we met schools from Uasin Gishu Marakwet and Keiyo district. Competition was stiff. The dance took position 2 out of the six dances presented. The stringed, wind and percussion instrumental, African and Western instrumental ensemble, percussion band, all took position one. Solomon Chege of Eldoret children's village played the marimba and came second. Faith Wariara, also from Eldoret village was placed at the third position. The provincials were scheduled to be held in Kericho from 1st July 2007 to 5th July 2007.

The team left for Kericho on 2nd July 2008 in the wee hours of the morning. We arrived at 10.00 am and we only had twenty minutes to present on stage the string, wing, and percussion instrumental ensemble. We were placed at position 5 out of the 12 schools that presented.
The second day, the team presented a percussion band (own choice) and was placed third of 12 teams. There was a difference of half a mark between the second team and our team. The team did not lose hope.

On the third day we had two items to present – African and Western instruments ensemble and barred or spoken instrument solo of own choice. Both of them were placed fourth out of twelve.
Our major item was performed on the final day. The Luhya traditional dance troupe was composed of children from the three Kenyan children's villages of Nairobi, Eldoret and Mombasa. Competition was very stiff compared to other classes because the class included dances from the Luo community. Schools from Nakuru, Trans-Nzoia and Nandi South were presenting dances under this class. Out of the fifteen dances that were presented, we were positioned fourth. The students showed a lot of gusto. It was a great achievement considering that this was the first time we were presenting such items during Music Festivals.

The club would like to thank the school administration and the entire SOS community Eldoret for the support it received from them. It was crystal clear that we have talent that we need to nurture. The team would also want to appreciate the extra energy and team work displayed by all those students who participated during this year’s Music festivals. This activity was an eye opener. It dawned on us that preparations should commence early and that to gain an edge, the club should envisage broadening its instrument capacity.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


SATURDAY 5 July 2008 was a special day in the village, continuing the tradition of celebrating the SOS Day. It's the one day of the year on which the entire SOS community has the opportunity to come together as one to commemorate the day and to honour the late Hermann Gmeiner. His outstanding achievement was to make the children’s universal right to a family his claim. He dedicated his entire life to creating a family-like-environment for abandoned children, which later evolved into SOS Children’s Villages. While the content of this day has changed over the years, some things remain constant: notably the spirit, time to reflect and sense of community generated on this day for participants.

Children from 9 children’s homes were invited for the occasion. During last year’s celebration, SOS Children’s Village Eldoret visited various children’s homes in a programme dubbed “Reaching out to the Community” and spent time with the children. These homes benefited from donations of foodstuff and clothes. This time round, we were playing host to these homes. It was a simple yet meaningful ceremony. The guests were allocated to each family house and had an opportunity to meet and mingle with the SOS children from each of the family houses throughout the day. Their faces radiated happiness as they strolled in the village, eliciting excitement from their hosts who welcomed them with a rose flower as they arrived.

Children from the invited homes mesmerized invitees and guests during the function, performing beautifully choreographed dances, songs and choral verses heavily laden with scriptural messages. It was the performance of a fashion show that displayed the power, talent, vigour and strength of the children, leaving the entire audience spellbound.

The theme for this year’s celebration “Children’s Responsibilities” was aptly captured by every speaker. The Village Director, Mr. Peter Mungai Muiruri enlightened the guests on the progress of SOS Children's Villages and highlighted the upcoming programmes and developments. Stressing the theme, he challenged the children to take advantage of the opportunities around them to learn and uphold good values that will make them worthy members of the society. He lauded the representatives from the various homes for complementing each other in the work of childcare.

Friday, July 11, 2008

When I grow up I want to be a musician

When I grow up, I want to be a musician.

When I was in school, I was deeply obsessed with music so I decided to join the church choir. Now I am playing the piano in the church and I am very happy. I would not mind playing any instrument and I will be content as long as I get to be a musician. However, I love playing the piano.

I have wanted to be a musician since I was in kindergarten when I first learned how to play the piano. I like to play the piano because it always cools me down when I am angry. Besides playing music, I also like to listen to classical music. I would like to be an accomplished pianist playing classical music in concerts. I hope many people will attend my concerts. I will give part of the money from the concerts to charity.

If I want to become a musician I will have to practise very hard and pass all the eight grades of the music examination. I hope I will become a famous musician because my 'father' has promised to support me in my talent and this makes me very happy.

Narrated by an SOS youth
Peris Cheruiyot – Youth leader

Monday, July 7, 2008

A new village fence to protect the children

Since the inception of the family strengthening programme (FSP) in the village there has been a bee-hive of activities in and out of the village. Children were amazed at the rate at which lorries carried construction materials in and outside the gate with so many workers criss-crossing the compound. As a matter of fact they exclaimed at the rate at which the tarmac was being erased by the trucks carrying cement.

The FSP is expected to attract a substantial number of clients ranging from children to old people on the compound once the construction comes to an end, but not all may be in need. Thus the electric fence will come in handy to control the entry and exit of people to the facility through one focal point.

In addition there has been a challenge from marauding dogs that spill litter all over the village in search of left over food from the family houses. The electric fence would curb the mess once and for all and keep the dogs out.

The current electrification project has been done with much skill and professionalism compared to the previous fence that could not do much to protect the residents from predators. The system is centrally controlled; the Village Director is in a position to monitor the happenings with the security systems and therefore make instant and necessary decisions at the appropriate time.

In summary the electrification of the fence around the SOS Children’s Village was a land mark project in the district bearing in mind that it was one of the areas worst hit by the post election violence. So many children were exposed to the hazards in the community brought about by the sense of homelessness. Its all thumbs up to the National Director for assisting this project to take effect. It gives a sense of both physical and psychological security to the residents making the Children’s Village a real home for children to stay, play and grow towards independence.

Friday, June 6, 2008

SOS soccer teams take part in Eldoret league

The SOS Football Club was initiated in March 2006 by Edwin Mugoha as the team’s Captain. This is a formidable club made up of different fans from various European Football namely Man – U, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool. They disagree over the seniority of their clubs, and while facing their competitors they tend to emulate foot stars such as Ronaldo and Drogba in order to trounce their adversaries. Best amongst our players is Wilson Burugu the Menace; he is in tune with Manchester United and nothing has ever stopped him from marshalling support for the team.

In regard to the league, there were three categories of teams: senior boys over 14 years, junior boys under 14 years and girls.

So far the SOS senior team has won two games and drawn one while the junior team has won one game and lost two. The league table standing is to be published after every 5 games. The league games are continuous and have been playing over the weekends from April to August 2008.

The boys were quite motivated to play in the league and interact with other youth from the community and their football skills have been improving tremendously. They even hope to do much better during the secondary school football tournament come second term. The girls' team on the other hand has not resumed due to physical fitness. They look forward to competitive games soon.

The major challenge facing the team is professional coaching and friendly matches with other teams. In addition, most of the players are our own students, and this combination of training and studies has proven to be a stumbling block to the sport. We are however grateful for the purchase of the sports kit that has been of great help to the boys.

Inter SOS Children's Villages Games which had been planned were unfortunately rescheduled due to post election violence. These games therefore were a boost to the team’s morale in preparation for the inter-village sports competitions in the coming months. The tournament coincidentally took over the opportunity to keep our youth busy during the holiday season. With the kind of attention given to sport our youth need encouragement and support to reach their desired levels. Perhaps with proper guidance, it’s most likely that they would also improve in their educational activities. Its all thumbs up for Mr Mugoha the Youth Leader who has tirelessly worked hard for the success of this team.

By Simon M Mudi Youth Leader

Monday, May 12, 2008

Success at a youth workshop

Following the holiday program of activities, we organized a youth workshop to address some fundamental youth issues. Based on personal testimonies from the youth, four key areas were highlighted for assessment: Relationships, Sexuality, and Reproductive Health (HIV/AIDS).

Having identified the relevant topics for study, one of the Youth Leaders was mandated to source for the facilitators. She proposed the National Organization for Peer Counsellors (NOPE) as the constituent body that could effectively reach out to the youth in an endeavour to address their issues.

On 19th April, 2008 we set out for Pastoral Centre at about 9.30am. All the youth were in jovial mood anticipating fun and lots of entertainment. As it’s the tradition, the convoy was delayed by a group of girls who took the their time adorning themselves for the occasion. Due to limited time, we ran out of patience and left behind about ten girls who were still undergoing manicures in their rooms. They were brought later by other means of transport.

We found the venue and due to the large number of participants in the forum, we opted to split in two groups. The discussions began at a high gear causing another group to launch a formal complaint that youth were interrupting their lectures through giggling. According to the facilitator, youth discussions ought to be vibrant and enthusiastic otherwise you risk losing the objective of the meeting. Therefore, we relocated to some distant room to allow the youth to vent their feelings. The nature of the discussions was flowery and open. For the few occasions we stood away from the groups, a lot of information was given without withholding anything. We learnt that our children harbour so much and need a constant psychological therapy from trusted counsellors to heal. We can't be their counsellors per se.

The most interesting topic and well discussed was on relationships and sexuality. Facilitators came down to their level in language, style, mode of dressing and so forth. They felt close to one another setting the mood of openness and trust amongst them. The slang language adopted carried the day; most learning was effected through it. Youth felt more embarrassed to talk about sensitive issues in English than in sheng. It was amazing how artistic the youth were while drawing reproductive organs; they gave it their best in talent show! On the contrary they quickly got bored when the subject on HIV/AIDS surfaced; it’s an area often talked about and they feel that nothing new can be reintroduced within its realm.

The day was not complete without tea breaks and lunch. Youth felt professional and prestigious to be served a nice tea with cakes. Lunch out was superb! Everyone was served with chicken accompanied with different dishes based on ones needs. Most of the participants enjoyed the well fried local chicken served with French fries and a soda.

It is worth mentioning that the youth expected to attend the occasion with eagerness; this gave the facilitators an ample opportunity to pass across their teachings making the workshop a success.

by Simon Mudi

Monday, April 7, 2008

Learning how to manage HIV/AIDS

Selling AIDS ribbonsIt’s my heartfelt appreciation to (OFID) The Opec Fund For International Development and The Foundation for Professional Development (FPD) for their dual support and sponsorship ofthe HIV/AIDS workshops in Nairobi, Meru and Eldoret. The two bodies have worked tirelessly in support of various social and educational workshops around the globe zero in on HIV/AIDS pandemic.

From 17 to 19 March 2008 all roads led to Sirikwa Hotel in Eldoret for the above forum. Through the Family Health Options Kenya (FHOP) the above mentioned bodies managed to reach quite a substantial number of youth and middle aged people from other organizations to attend the workshop. The opening remark from the facilitator that got most of the young people off balance was about the rate of infection among the middle aged people. He reiterated that the global figure of People Living with HIV stands at 46 millions and if there is no determination towards behaviour change, especially amongst the youth, then the figures are likely to sky rocket.

The mood of the workshop became gloomy once the theory surrounding the origin of HIV was brought to the fore. It was unpalatable for some youth to learn that the two viruses, HIV1 and HIV2 are traced from the African soil. It was alleged that HIV1 has its roots from chimpanzees in Central Africa and HIV2 was found in Sooty Mangabey Monkey in Western Africa. It sounded more humorous for the young people when they heard that at some point while skinning the monkeys, blood crossed over to the humans through open wounds! After an exhaustive discussion it was apparent that no one is pretty sure about the origin of HIV in human beings.
From the group exercises, it emerged that most people living with the virus had defaulted taking drugs due to various reasons, chief among them poverty. It was indicated that some drugs from the First Line Drugs (introductory drugs within the antiretroviral therapy) were too strong and could not be taken without food. Therefore, those families that could not afford the food taken along with drugs, had no option other than avoid the treatment altogether. This scenario has cost lives, though the majority have also benefited heavily from the food supplies from Ampath in Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital.

Youth were also encouraged to go for VCT (voluntary counseling and testing). This would enable them to know their status and if necessary change their behaviour and live their life to the full. The three day workshop closed with practical skills on counselling. Participants were made to understand the approaches they need to develop before they offer counselling services to their clients. At the end of it all a vote of thanks was given to the facilitator, the organizers and the participants for the successful workshop.

by Simon Mudi
Youth Leader Eldoret

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Healing the trauma of post-election violence

There are so many versions given regarding the genesis of post election violence in Kenya. It’s not apparently clear as to why so many people were killed, displaced from their homes and their houses torched! Nonetheless, through the mediation process a commission of enquiry has been established to dig deep into the root cause of the problem, to make recommendations and to reconcile the feuding parties.

SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is among the many organizations that were affected due to the post election violence. Staff and children from the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School witnessed all manner of violence committed. Children as well as teachers saw people being butchered, houses torched, and mass displacement and exodus to unknown destinations. These negative experiences have adversely affected the learning process at school: teachers, children and students are grossly traumatized. For this reason the Kenya national office, in conjunction with the Eldoret children's village and the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School sponsored a post election workshop for the staff and children both from the community and the children’s village.

A counseling group was contracted to provide services to the traumatized members of the SOS fraternity. It was a one week exercise that emphasized practical aspects of healing. Children were given priority to draw pictures of things they had experienced after the elections. The violent drawings depicted the real trauma that had engulfed the school community. Children were given group therapy, and those who deserved specialized treatment got personal attention. At the end of the process most children seemed relieved of their burdens to some extent.

SOS co-workers went through the same process but at a deeper level. They were first taken through theoretical aspects of counseling and trauma; then had group discussions through which many horrifying experiences were narrated. Some of the teachers explained circumstances through which they lost either their property or even their relatives; most of the staff members suffered indirectly by being forced to contribute money to self styled vigilante groups.

One of the teachers in the primary school narrated how he was compelled to give money to a gang of boys who wanted to buy petrol to burn down houses. He had to do it or suffer adverse consequences. In addition, another primary teacher is a typical example of an internally displaced person (IDP). She was displaced from her original home on the outskirts of Eldoret town: her house was looted, she was chased away and sought shelter around the SOS Children's Village Eldoret. She confesses that psychological torture was part of her trial, though she has now forgiven the looters. Many more narratives were expressed through drawing and writing. Finally the papers were burned bringing relief to many of the participants.

The SOS Children's Village Eldoret and the Hermann Gmeiner school have resumed their daily chores, the mistrust amongst staff members has faded away and people look at each other as colleagues again. It’s our prayer that the national healing process will be speeded up in order to allow internally displaced people to resettle in their new homes. I would recommend that any other multicultural institutions in the country to emulate this gesture and enable everyone to undergo a psychological therapy so that trauma may be lessened nationally.

by Simon Mudi
Youth Leader- Eldoret.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Horticultural and dairy farming in the SOS Children's Village Eldoret

Uasin Gishu District is well known for its wide production of food for the nation due to its favourable weather and soils that contribute to the food basket of the country at large. SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is privileged to enjoy these conditions in terms of farming and other socio-cultural activities within the community.

At the inception of the Eldoret children's village enough space was set apart for horticultural farming. Every family house was allocated space behind the house to grow vegetables so that children may learn the need and relevance of work in the community. It was all beauty, and fun to see children take part in farming, though on a small scale.

Way back in the year 2000, Samuel Cheboi, one of the village handy men, was employed to tend the cows that had just been bought. He narrates that he started with two animals that grew to four during his reign and that produced 24 liters of milk per day. Mothers were lavishly treated with creamy milk that was given at a subsidised price from the farm. In addition there was a poultry farm that daily gave 20 crates of eggs that were sold to the family houses at a reasonable fee.

In addition to animal husbandry the children's village also practised growing food crops. Young farmers in the village collectively participated in the growing of maize, tomatoes, onions and so forth. Most of this produce was locally consumed. All these activities contributed to local fundraising programmes for the management of SOS Children's Villages in Kenya.

Richard Korir is currently in charge of the animal husbandry. He coordinates the daily operations including feeding, milking, artificial insemination and treatment of the cattle. The cows have become handy in producing milk especially during the dry season when milk becomes scarce on the market and the family houses are the key beneficiaries. It’s unfortunate that the weather conditions have been unfavourable affecting supply of food from the market; even the village farms have not been tilled to date. It’s our hope that rains will resume to facilitate farming once again for Uasin Gishu District to regain its glory as the food basket of the Kenyan economy.

by Simon M Mudi
Youth Leader

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Negotiating at a Dowry Ceremony

The entire week before the village director left for Nairobi for other assignments, we were held up in an SOS family meeting with one of our girls on her future prospects. She informed us of her intention to get married and indicated that there was a man who had proposed to marry her and that she had consented, but needed our blessings.

The next morning I received a call from the Village Director asking me to facilitate in the negotiation on his behalf. He informed me that the elders from the man’s side had sent word that they want to visit and have a meeting with the SOS Family. Because he was held up elsewhere, he was requesting that I stand in his stead. Unsure of exactly what I was going to do and what sort of questions to ask and expect, I put on my suit.

Again I was unsure of the day’s events and got fairly obscure explanations when I asked, so by the time I arrived in Mama Ngudi’s living room I decided I should stop asking questions and just go along with whatever was going to happen.
The entourage comprised 12 members from the man’s family and elders of the extended family. They were met by the SOS family who had also by that time called their group of elders led by the school Principal and another teacher, as part of the negotiation team from the girl’s side. The visitors brought small gifts of dry foods such as rice, wheat, sugar, tea, cooking oil, etc. This is a common practice when one visits any family, and so this is not part of the dowry.

The SOS family house was modest, fairly furnished with large sofa sets. A small radio sat in a large wooden shelf, playing gospel music. I found a comfy space on a couch next to the Principal who was chairing the meeting. Soon it was time to file up and fill our plates with food. After washing our hands in some hot water, then plates in hand, we walked down the row of dishes, having heaps of local favourites piled high on our plates.

After the food and the warm welcome, the elders of the man said something like this. We have an interest in one of your "sheep", and we would like to bring her to our homestead. This is when I got my first inclination that the event was more than just an eating y and familiarization activity. The talking was done only by the elders and it is a taboo for the young man to speak and in doing so, he could seriously jeopardize the negotiations.

In the cause of the negotiation, I learnt that dowry is not about buying the bride from her family. It is a test for compatibility. Compatibility of the two families involved. It proves that the two families can discuss, even argue about an issue and come to a consensus. It also shows to what extent the groom is willing to humble himself before his in-laws and how much he is willing to sacrifice for his love.

Hardly any wedding takes place in Africa with no dowry having been paid. Even church weddings are a culmination of successful dowry negotiations. In fact some churches in Africa will not officiate a wedding if the groom has not paid bride price or the bride’s parents have pending issues.

by Fredrick Ochieng - youth leader coordinator

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The 'pilgrimage' of children and youth to their rural homes

The December holidays when children and youth visit their rural homes, resembles a pilgrimage. Pilgrims travel to rekindle their connections to a sacred place and thus to nurture their relationship with the divine. Their journeys bring them, if not to a physical home, then to a “home within”, a restful, familiar, healing place that reminds them of who they are. The sacred site to which they return is connected to their roots.

It is a tradition in our children's village that children and youth visit their rural homes over the December holidays to get to know their people. It is one of those avenues through which we integrate our children to the community. Life for them in the countryside is indeed very interesting.

For those who are used to the life in SOS, you will forgive some (but not most) of them for cringing each time the village director and the mothers make plans for a trip to their homes. It means days on end without running water or proper electricity. It also means no television and plenty of time with old people. Rural home visits remind the children of the connections between them and their relatives. They feel an attachment to the countryside, nurtured by lasting ties to family and friends from whom they learn their language, know their relatives better and most importantly, are able to compare life at home and that of the SOS Children's Village and be motivated to work harder in whatever they do.

Many of our children and youth indeed look forward to this time of the year and are eager to meet their relatives. It is a comforting time to be at home. The journeys themselves are very interesting. The villages that disappear as the bus hurtles past them. Visions of riverbeds flanked by rows of trees. Children chasing passing motorists. Cattle co-existing with people in a way that make them more human than animals. Wheat spread out on the roads so that the passing vehicles could thresh them. Villagers carrying produce and baskets on their backs or heads. The sudden lurch of the bus to avoid hitting a donkey that was not fast enough to avoid its path. The appearance of a familiar sign board that announces their village. The eagerness to get off the bus and walk down the small road that leads to the house.

This 'pilgrimage' is a good practice to prepare our children for community life where water is drawn from a well and people bathe by its side. In community life children learn to share and to know that at times one must lack one thing or the other. In the process of living with the community, they also learn resilience. When they come back their stories are often varied and interesting. But one fact that is clear is that all of them want to visit their relatives during the long holidays in December and remembering it always brings a smile to their faces.

Monday, February 25, 2008

A playing child is a creative child

I grew up near a river and lake in a village with a trickle of a creek down the center that kept me endlessly entertained as I hunted for the frogs, tadpoles, worms and lizards. From these fond memories gone by, I spent this Sunday watching the kids play in the village. The play ground was unusually packed with children playing all manner of games.

It is amazing to see how much time kids spend playing either in the swings, pushing each other round and round, jumping from one monkey bar to another, playing soccer, or communing with cows, birds, insects and more. Nature is truly a laboratory for curiosity. The shortest walk can reveal never-before-seen wonders: live things, dead things, flora and fauna.
Sometimes we tend to moan over the amount of time our children spend playing. Remember when the goal of parenting was to develop a well-rounded child? That concept seems to be getting lost in the hyped-up quest for excellence and achievement that characterizes childhood these days. The demands on our times are great, leaving children with few possibilities for adventures. But we all know the numerous and undeniable benefits of allowing children and youth to play any kind of game they want, from staying physically fit to learning discipline and teamwork. But there are other lessons to learn about in childhood as well, like their relationship to the earth and the living things around them. They soon learn to appreciate what is around them.

A playing child is a creative childThe outdoor activities offer children and youth opportunities to learn, inspire them to explore, to wonder, to listen, to dream, to play fantasy games and build forts and sand castles, to dig holes and float sticks down streams and skip rocks across water. In those moments, they can feel powerful in a different way from when we score a point or catch a pass. It is not that it is better, but it’s different. And our children in SOS deserve lots of different experiences. As caregivers, let us not forget the value of getting kids out in the great outdoors. Show them a place where things grow wild, no one is keeping score and they will have memories to last a lifetime. Let us remember that a playful child will always be a creative child.

by Fredrick Ochieng - Youth Leader Coordinator

Thursday, February 21, 2008

SOS Children’s Village Eldoret Celebrate Valentine’s Day

I was walking to work on Thursday morning and was treated to an exciting start of the day when I met some of our youth. They were all jovial and greeted me with “happy valentine” I had almost forgotten about Valentine's Day since I was more preoccupied with pressing work. Then I shifted gear.

Two days ago, I bumped on 3 of our Kindergarten pupils on their way from school with all sorts of flowers and they were singing, and jumping. Indeed this was a tell tale sign that St. Valentine had arrived and that the infectious mood had caught up with all and sundry. Every child had a flower, never mind the colour, which they gave to teachers, mothers and their friends. The signature tune before any conversation was “happy valentine”.

The most romantic day of the year is upon us and there has never been a better time to show the special someone in your life how much you care. Valentine's Day matters. Like it or not. Some love it - embracing the opportunity to express their feelings for someone special. Others hate it - dreading the pressure of coming up with just the right card and gift, or being reminded that they have no Valentine.

For us here in the village, Valentine's Day sneaked up on us and we agreed not to make too big a deal of it. Our Village Director in a kind gesture took us out for a meal.. The weather was a good one, hot and humid. It was very romantic.We went to the Kenmosa restaurant. We'd eaten there many times before and the food was good. The restaurant was decked out in white and red table cloths. The spacious shaded grounds provided a comfortable area for sitting, eating and sharing.. You could not ask for a better time in celebration of St. Valentine's Day and no better friends and acquaintances to share the occasion.

The mothers were outstanding and looked sharp in their black skirts and red or pink tops. Everybody was filled with happy and relaxed faces.

We sat in a circle after the meal and shared our experiences about the day.. “May this love transcend to the children we take care of”, one member of staff said.

The Village Director, Mr. Peter Mungai observed that he who loves also receives love and urged the staff to stick together and show love to one another".

by Fredrick Ochieng Youth Leader Coordinator

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

School programmes disrupted by post-election violence

The effects of post-election violence in Kenya continue to reverberate throughout the country. Though the fighting has subsided from its peak immediately after the elections in late December, tension remains high with political opponents divided along ethnic lines.
Many lives have been lost in the ongoing violence and thousands of families have been displaced in most parts of the country.

The situation is probably more precarious for school going children whose fundamental right to education has been disrupted as arsonists have destroyed homes, churches and schools. Such devastating events have especially affected the Rift Valley, where the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is situated. The magnitude of the violence has not spared the teachers some of whom have borne the brunt of the mayhem.

Although schools have reopened many students have not reported back. Students were stuck in their home areas, as roads were barricaded and public transport made insecure by gangs armed with crude weapons. Fears for the safety of some of the SOS high school children, who were learning in different schools across the country (some of which have been burnt), have led to their transfer to the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Secondary School in Eldoret. Many other students are still in IDP camps where they have sought refuge. There seems to be no chance of going back to their former schools anytime soon.

According to the principal of the SOS Hermann Gmeiner School in Eldoret, Elijah Omobe, the post election violence is weighing heavily on the school programme. "We are experiencing frequent disruption of our daily programmes due to fear" he said. "Any slight unease sends parents in a panic rush to get their children out of school for their safety." Recently, a member of parliament was shot dead in Eldoret causing more violet protests.

Teachers in the school admit that they might be forced to push the programmes into the school holiday so as to cover what has been lost. The principal acknowledged that the teachers are not settled and are fearful of their security. One of the teachers received threats to vacate his home. Another teacher had his house vandalized and household property looted. He is now living with friends as he comes to school to teach. His parents are living in the displacement camp in Eldoret. Fellow teachers have expressed solidarity with their colleague and assisted them with clothes. Yet another teacher had her house vandalized.

Some of the teachers from the targeted communities are already considering transfers, while others consider quitting. “We are trying to reassure the affected teachers and asking them to calm down on the assumption that things will improve", said the principal.

Many students have suffered emotional and psychological trauma and may be unable to cope with high demands of schooling, added Mr. Elima, the acting SOS Herman Gmeiner School head teacher. “We are experiencing a strain in obtaining school resources because our suppliers cannot access the required educational materials," he explained. “This is the fourth week since we placed our order to the supplier, he laments. Nothing has been forthcoming”.

The current Form Four candidates have been hardest hit, having lost nearly four weeks, and considering that they will be sitting a national examination at the end of this year. The school is trying to reach out to the children and has established counselling services through the guidance and counselling department while the children try to catch up on their work.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

SOS Mothers Elect New Representative

On 16 January, the SOS mothers assembled to elect their mother representative for the next two years. The proceedings took place at the Village Director’s Office where Mama Peninah was elected the new mother representative. Mama Ngudi was elected the new assistant mother representative. Mama Peninah will be taking over from Mama Lavinia who has served her two year term.

Mama Lavinia expressed her thanks and appreciation to the mothers and staff for their support throughout her 2-year in term. She stated that many good things had happened during her term in office and that her duties and had been varied and interesting. She hoped that the mutual cooperation between the mothers and the management would be further strengthened in the years to come. She urged the mothers to give the new representative the same support, adding that the work of a mother rep is quite challenging but can be made easier if the mothers stand solidly behind their representative.

The Village Director Peter Mungai congratulated the newly elected rep. He is confident that the Mama Peninah will be equal to the task.

The mother representative interfaces with the administrative office in the running of the village.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Children and youth forfeit a meal in solidarity with the displaced families

Following the post election crisis that has gripped Kenya for the last four weeks, children and youth in the organization from the four villages in Kenya (Nairobi, Mombasa, Meru and Eldoret) forfeited one meal a day for a week to make their contribution towards humanitarian assistance for the displaced persons.

SOS Children’s Village Kenya through the Eldoret village, today made their contributions towards the assistance of the displaced persons affected by the post election crisis. Up to 500,000 people, mainly children and women-currently require humanitarian assistance.

Coming from a mission to the displaced camps, we established that food and blankets were in plenty and that such items as sanitary towels, soap, clothes and petroleum jelly were in urgent need.

The donations which consisted of sanitary towels, clothes and washing soap were presented to the Kenya Red Cross Society volunteers at the Red Cross warehouse by the Village Director; Mr. Peter Mungai. Also present at the brief ceremony were the Mothers, Youth Leaders and Mr. Elijah Omobe, HGS School Principal. The National Director, Mr. Keith Castelino coordinated the process.

Violence has rocked many parts of the country since the 2007 general elections were concluded. This has resulted in thousands of people, mainly women and children being displaced. The Rift valley province has been the worst affected with over 300,000 families fleeing their homes for fear of attacks. Flash points in the Eldoret slum areas of Huruma, Jerusalem, Langas and Munyaka remain insecure.

While mediation efforts appear to be slowly gaining ground, insecurity as well as lack of sanitation, hygiene and protection are causing intense suffering among thousands of people.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Dusty and Muddy Roads that are our daily nightmare

The main roads to our village are usually a red river of mud or a hail of dust which translates to mud during the rainy season when just about every bend on the track has some sort of bus, car or truck in difficulty in the mud. You just slide, you're not even driving. You have no control. Sometimes vehicles have to be pulled out with a tractor.

These roads are a convincing simulation of purgatory even in the dry season. Each vehicle that passes raises a billowing cloud of fine dust that lingers long in the still, hot air. I choke through my handkerchief while the dust settles as walking proves to be an obstacle course. Winds gusting to 30 to 35 miles per hour during the dry season make the place dusty all the time.
The Village Director, Mr. Peter Mungai who is a life-long resident of Eldoret, says the roads have been a real nightmare for a long time particularly when it rains. "I've heard the talk for a long time that the municipal council was going to blacktop these bunch of roads," Mr. Mungai says. But that has never happened.

Instead time and again the old dirt roads are topped with red clay. "The dirt's been on there far too long," one resident from the neighborhood says. "There's supposed to be tarmac on top of it".
Driving to the village is treacherous in wet conditions and Stephen Ndalu, our village driver has gotten used to this kind of weather. There is no way he can avoid using these roads. On the one occasion that our driver attempted to pass a stricken vehicle on a bend, with us on board, our van slid into an impossible position close to a ditch. We had to abandon the vehicle and walk.

Dozens of our neighbors have also been stuck on the road whenever it rains. They have to be pulled by a tractor.. Our main worry here is what would happen if someone living around here would have an emergency. There's no way an ambulance or any type of rescue vehicle could come in here without getting stuck. Even some taxi operators refuse to pick up here. In some instances, our school is forced to close early as school buses struggle to get students home.

The state of the roads leading to the village can be aptly described by an encounter I had while traveling to town sometime back. I was sitting in our pick up when I suddenly was projected up into the air and I landed hard. I attempted with all my might to hold back the tears but the pain was intense; they spilled out profusely. Driving in the more comfortable van, the middle seat still requires great effort to stay balanced. But soon we hope to have a 4 wheel drive to overcome this.

It's supposed to rain again pretty shortly, so we need to put down a load of rocks or other hard core to help us get in and out.

By Fredrick Ochieng - youth leader co-ordinator

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Welcome to our village

SOS Children’s Village is situated 4km from Eldoret in Uasin Gishu District of the Great Rift Valley Province. The project is built on a 12-acre piece of land, in an urban setting at approximately 700ft above sea level.

The economic activity around this region is predominantly farming (wheat and maize) both on large scale as well as subsistence. It is probably one of the reasons why the town, which is the District headquarters, is fast developing into a business hub. The climate here is neither hot nor cold with the concentration of rainfall high between the months of June and August.

The project opened its doors in 1990 upon the completion of the construction of 12 family houses, a Kindergarten, a Craft Centre, and a Primary school. At its inception, 6, family houses were opened. Mama Ngudi, Mama Namale, Mama Wambui, Mama Muritu and Mama Okatch were the pioneer mothers who started the village under Mr. Joseph Chilumo, the first Village Director. Mama Stephen later transferred from Mombasa village with her 10 children in January 1991, to start house 1. The youngest of the family houses is house 12, which was opened years later.

The present Village Director is Mr. Peter Mungai Muiruri who came in 1993. Mr. Mungai was previously serving in Nairobi Village before his transfer.

Ours is a “Model Village”

The village is reputed for outstanding performance in the promotion of good work ethics. It has produced
staff that have been recommended and promoted to various senior positions within the organization. Besides, the CV is a usually a training ground for many staff joining the organization from across the region who visit the village on orientation. The Village Director has also been involved in the mentoring of the other Village Directors from the region