Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Inculcating life skills in teenagers

The Family Strengthening Programme (FSP) in Eldoret conducted a 5-day life skills workshop from 30th November to 5th December for approximately 150 beneficiaries. The seminar, that targeted children between the ages of 13-19 years, also included children from SOS Children’s Village Eldoret. The main objective of the workshop was to inculcate important life skills in children such as decision making, while at the same time enhance confidence, self esteem, cooperation, empathy, trust, and faith among pupils.

According to Getrude, a social worker at the FSP, it is necessary to start imparting life skills at an early age so that these young children grow into mature, healthy, and responsible members of the society. “It can be said that life skills education assists in the development of psychosocial skills that are required to deal with the demands and challenges of the everyday life”, she adds. She attributes life skills as an empowering subject to pupils especially at this time when some of the children are living in a child headed household due to HIV related deaths, while some children have no adults to guide them in decision making of their lives.

She mentioned that with life skills education, children with problems are free to share with their peers or to seek help from teachers, community or local leaders. “Children will be more open and able to disclose their challenges in order to get assistance rather than stress themselves with unresolved life problems and make wrong decisions that affect their future,” she explained.
Additionally, she compares life skills to the shield that will protect children from temptations that may hinder their future development and empower them with necessary skills that will enable them to make informed decisions in every step they take in their lives.
Besides giving the children an opportunity to get to know each other, learn and have fun, they were taught about HIV prevention, children’s rights, sexuality, and many other matters parents normally talk with their children about.

It was interesting to hear some of the responses from some of the participants:

“I have been able to learn how to make decisions that are not harmful to me," said Josephine, 14, from SOS Children’s Village Eldoret. "Although our realities are very different, I feel that together we can do things better", she added.

Dorothy, 15, also from SOS Children’s Village Eldoret said, “This workshop has really helped me to know the consequences of not abstaining from pre-marital sex. I will share what I have learnt with my peers.

“The workshop has helped me to understand how the choices I make in life can affect me and inspired me to remain focused in my life ambitions”, said Abdui, 14, from Border Farm primary school.

By Fredrick Ochieng Youth Care Co-worker

Friday, December 4, 2009

Youth and children rekindle connections with relatives over Christmas holiday

The Christmas holiday season has once again approached like a runaway locomotive that no one can slow down. It is one season that descends on us with full force. From catchy Christmas jingles to city decorations, the impact is felt everywhere. Images of the latest gadgets neatly gift-wrapped and happy children with pricey new toys constantly flash on TV while seductive voices urge us to spend more.

At SOS Children’s Village Eldoret, it is also a moment for our children to visit their relatives in the rural setting and a time for them to interact with others outside academic issues.
Given the hustle and bustle of school work, the holiday is an ideal opportunity for these children and youth to escape. The mood is already evident in the village with most of them engrossed in playing football and riding bicycles, while others make noise and run around. It is all part of growing.

With most schools having gone on recess, some of our children have already left for their rural homes and by mid month, most of them will have travelled upcountry to reconnect with their relatives. This is one way they will be able to appreciate life from another angle.

The annual journey which is akin to a “pilgrimage” is one that every child from our village is always looking forward to and excited about. It is a journey that connects them with their communities from whom they learn their language and provides them with glimpses of their traditions. It also brings them face to face with the hardships and realities of the community at an early age. This way, they are able to be challenged to reach their potential as well as remain firmly connected to their roots.
For those visiting their rural homes for the first time, it is usually an opportunity to get a different perspective on life. Apart from the journey being interesting, they might use the time to discover themselves. Self discovery is one of the most important things that can happen to a child during this period. It will also instill a culture of responsibility in them. They will fetch firewood, learn how to milk cows and go to the shamba. These little acts will contribute to their general character and mould them into better people in the future.

After all, life is about experiences.

By Fredrick Ochieng, Youth Care Co-worker

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Today the world is marking World AIDS day to create awareness about HIV. The theme “universal access and human rights” addresses the need to protect human rights and attain access for HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. It also lays emphasis on the need to minimize discrimination of people living with AIDS. At SOS Children’s Village Eldoret, the mood of the day was captured by children putting their thoughts and feelings on paper. Here are some of the excerpts from the children about World AIDS Day as seen from their perspective:

“There is no cure for AIDS”

AIDS can get into our bodies any time. It can be spread though sharing and piercing instruments like nail cutters, razor blades, unprotected sexual behaviors, blood transfusion, mother to child transmission at birth. We should not share cutting or piercing instruments. Those who do first aid for injured people should use protective gloves so that they don’t get infected. Those people living with AIDS should be loved and cared for without any discrimination.

We should respect and love persons living with HIV/AIDS especially those who are orphans and are infected. We should give enough food and shelter for them to live a longer life. They should have equal opportunities just like those who are not infected.

AIDS is killing millions of people all over the world. I like to inform all of us never to engage in sex before marriage.

AIDS is mainly transferred through sexual activities. Know your status by visiting a VCT center

Today is a very special day for everyone. We remember the first man to be infected with AIDS. It is a day all of should know our status. We should know that a person infected by AIDS is part of us. We should not discourage people infected with AIDS. Anyone can be infected so we need to take good care of ourselves by not engaging in unprotected sex, avoid sharing objects such as needles, toothbrush and razor blades.

As we celebrate the World AIDS Day, let us remember to pray and care for those infected so they can get well. We should also show love and care for people living with AIDS.

World AIDS Day is a day to celebrate and assist people living with AIDS. We should not hate people since they need our help. When we visit them in hospitals, we should take them food and clothes. It is not easy to know who does not have AIDS so it is the duty of everyone to take care of themselves by behaving responsibly.

AIDS where did you come from? You came bouncing like a monster when mother was heavy with a new born baby.

People who have AIDS must be cared for, loved and must never be separated from the rest of the people since they are part and parcel of us. I love this day very much because people are willing to know about their status.

Compiled by Fredrick Ochieng, Youth Care Co-worker

SOS Kindergarten Eldoret celebrates Annual Graduation.

A total of 33 kindergarten pupils of SOS Kindergarten in Eldoret will step into the world of primary education come January. Their graduation ceremony was held on 24th November 2009 at the school's compound which is situated inside the village. Of the 33 pupils 8 were from SOS Children’s Village Eldoret.

The guest of honor at the event, who presented the graduation certificates to the pupils, was Mr. Oscar Kadenge, the SOS Children’s Villages Kenya Education Officer.

In her welcoming remarks, the kinder-garten head teacher, Ms Salma Mbwana applauded the parents and teachers for their cooperation and support in ensuring that the children were well prepared and ready for standard 1 in the coming year.

The SOS Herman Gmeiner School Principal, Mr. Elijah Omobe, while giving his speech said, “I am very delighted and happy with the work of the teachers and parents who through their devotion and commitment have well prepared the graduants for primary education. He congratulated the pupils and said, “I am going to join your family and friends in feeling happy and proud on what you have achieved and what you will or can do to the world”. He added that while they continue to focus on their studies, they will be given opportunities to develop their social, communication, leadership, creative, physical, analytical and problem solving skills.
The fun-filled graduation also witnessed a number of performances which included poems, songs, dances and a fashion show by kindergarten children. Parents too were not left behind in the party mood and also participated in the cat walk.

A celebratory cake was shared among the children and the parents to commemorate the day. The children were feted with awards in the categories of discipline, cleanliness, best English speaker and best handwriting.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


In the knowledge that SOS Children’s Village is a centre for several programmes relevant to marginalized children, youth from the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret joined co-workers of the family strengthening programme (FSP) staff in an initiative for the community dubbed Unity Kids Club. This club was developed by the FSP Eldoret and its objective is to reach as many children as possible through interactive activities such as music, drama and poems. Being holiday time, we also felt the need for our youth to contribute to the development of the children in the community through talent sharing.

SOS Children’s Village Eldoret is rich with talents starting from children through to youth. In the past there has been a desire to exploit these young talents though it has not always been a priority. However, the inception of Unity Kids Club came at a time when the youth were more than willing to support and become part of the initiative due to the completion of the recent national examinations. In fact most of the youth were willing to take part in the activities organized in various centers around the municipality, where children gather together and engage in activities that contribute to their psychosocial development and life skills.

In November 2009, five youth from the Children’s Village and an FSP volunteer, Bertha, went to the informal settlement of Munyaka, laden with bundles of food items for the children and youth to share. As this was the first time that the youth has taken part in this exercise, they needed to undergo a bit of orientation to the programme. After a debrief from Bertha, we set off through Kambi Nyasi slums to the slopes of Munyaka village.

When we arrived at the site, we found that children were anxiously waiting for the arrival of the team. Quickly the team leader grouped the children into various sub teams for maximum entertainment. Ivy, 17, was the most senior of the youth; she therefore took charge of the entire programme for the four hours they were there. The youth were given an opportunity to speak about the ravages of HIV/AIDS in the communities and the need for youth to keep safe from the challenge, through games and other entertainment activities such as dancing, singing, drama and sports. “It was fun”, said Ivy, who is looking forward to going back.

I witnessed a lot of bonding and fun from the two groups such that it required courage to stop the activities in order to drive back home. Children need play and social life to grow and develop into responsible persons in the community. This exercise was interactive and presented the whole picture of an all inclusive SOS Children’s Village; youth felt and became part of the community.
Through the synchronized programme system many marginalized children will be supported and we hope we shall witness less children suffering on the streets especially in Africa.
Simon M Mudi
Youth Care Co-worker

Thursday, November 19, 2009


The German ambassador to Kenya, Margit Hellwig-Boette, was greeted by a jubilant crowd of children and staff as she paid a courtesy call to the village last week. The visit was to assess areas in which German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) can work in close partnership with the village. On hand to receive her was the Village Director Mr. Peter Mungai who together with the school principal, Mr. Elijah Omobe hosted the envoy.

Upon arrival in the company of two officials from GTZ, the envoy planted a commemorative tree before embarking on an extensive tour of the village, family strengthening programme and the school. She later held a meeting with the mothers and other co-workers at the craft center and thereafter was treated to a sumptuous meal in family house number 4.

The envoy seized the opportunity to congratulate SOS Children’s Villages on the good work done which has helped many needy people from the community. She thanked the staff for making her feel so at ease and for taking such good care of her adding that her experience at the village was very comfortable and pleasant. “I would just like to thank you for such a unique experience in this village” she acknowledged. The envoy was very impressed by the friendliness describing the work done by SOS Children’s Villages as special. She added that she was deeply impressed by the facility, the dedication of work and that this place was truly a home. “It is unique to have one father and so many mothers looking after children”, she quipped amid laughter.
Beginning of a long lasting relationship

She mentioned that although at the moment she would not be able to promise anything, the visit was a beginning of a long lasting relationship with SOS Children’s Villages. On a lighter note, she promised to come back to check on the progress of the tree she planted.

While giving her remarks, the GTZ head of gender based violence and human rights, Ms Jane Onyango mentioned that GTZ works in three key areas mainly; water, health and agriculture. In health, they support survivors of gender based violence (GBV). She underscored the need to prevent violence whether to children or adults. She urged the organization to sensitize children so that they can know what to do in the event of violence.

While echoing the same sentiments, the GTZ coordinator, Gottfried von Gemmingen, who also accompanied the ambassador, commended the village for being an island of peace especially during the post election violence that badly affected Eldoret. He added that the children we educate will be well prepared for a better Kenya.

The village director on behalf of the team thanked the envoy for giving the team the opportunity to meet her.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Negotiating a bride price

On 10th January, led by the Village Director and the School Principal, I had the honor and privilege of attending a dowry negotiating ceremony for one of our independent youth from Mombasa Village who works at the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret. When we arrived at the venue, we were met with curious stares from all corners. Firstly, we had to dust ourselves because the road to the bride’s home was a dusty affair. Secondly we had arrived slightly late and we could almost sense an atmosphere of unease. Ironically, the people showered us with warm hospitality. The Nandis (a Kenyan tribe) were the quintessential hosts; warm, welcoming, caring and constantly plying us with the best food I have ever eaten. I left each meal with an ear to ear grin, a full belly and two notches looser on my belt.

We were both looking forward with much anticipation since we had scant information about what it was like in such ceremonies. The Village Director, Mr. Peter Mungai was the spokesperson (or is it the broker?) from the groom’s side. The atmosphere in the house was tense and the conversation intent. We were constantly reassured by the spokesperson from the bride’s side that nothing will go wrong. No food was served for the entire period of the negotiations until a bride price was agreed. The brokers from both sides engaged in lengthy negotiations on the size of the dowry. Both parties made concessions.

While I thought the figures quoted were “very high, extremely high,” the bride’s team moved quickly to reassure us that Bride Price is not about monetary value or even a comparison of like for like. It holds an extremely emotional and symbolic role in the psyche of the people and family from where the bride comes. After four hours of strong negotiations, offers and counter-offers both parties emerged from the meeting room with a smile on their faces – bruised but happy that they had accomplished a big task and that Loice (bride) and Alexander (groom) will finally start living as a man and wife even as they prepare to tie the knot at a date to be announced in December with the full blessings of their families and community.
After the negotiation was complete, part of the ritual involved being offered “Mursik”, (fermented milk) to drink as a sign of friendship. Then there was cooking oil passed to the mother of the groom by the female friends and members of the family of the bride to signify a new bond between the two families. The groom’s father and the old men accompanying him also received a “sotet” (gourd) and a cup. It truly enhanced the experience. I was touched, moved and awed. Indeed, the traditional way of doing things becomes different when two cultures are introduced into the equation.

The negotiation ceremony ended with some humor and fun! The close relatives of Loice and Alexander paraded for introduction. They then gave them a few short words of advice about maintaining a successful and happy marriage.

This was a wonderful event overall. At least we were not thrown out of the home of the bride as sometimes it is when tempers flare up during dowry negotiation in some African societies. I will continue to cherish the values that the SOS family and that of the bride hold in common. It became clear to me that despite the apparent contrasts in culture and way of life, we really are very similar. Perhaps that is why Alexander found his bride in a small village in Eldoret!

by Fredrick Ochieng

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

SOS children emerge winners in the Collect-a-Kiwi Can competition.

Two children from the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret, Desmond and Victor who attend the SOS Hermann Gmeiner Primary School in Eldoret were recently declared overall winners in the Sarah-Lee Kiwi competition which ran between May-July 2008. Interestingly, both come from the same house.

The theme for the completion “All about Making”, required the pupils to collect shoe polish tins of different sizes and colours and to answer questions. The judgment of who was the winner was based on the highest collector and the ability to answer the questions correctly.

Participating schools were encouraged to collect and deliver as many used shoe polish tins as possible during the period of the competition. The children collected the tins and took them to school, giving them to them to a teacher who was coordinating the exercise.

Desmond and Victor received beautifully branded T-shirts from the shoe polish company. Speaking after donning his beautiful shirt, Desmond described the day as his best day but one that also made him feel nervous. “When my name was announced, suddenly my heart started beating faster and harder. I was so nervous; I could not imagine myself walking past the students and teachers in the parade to receive my gift. But I gathered courage and gently walked to the Principal, and yes, it was a nice experience since I had never won anything before.” Victor was equally happy and proud for been awarded for a good job done.

This year promises to be full of exciting opportunities as the pupils in standard 4 to 7 will be participating in an essay competition whose theme is “Born in Africa”.

by Fredrick Ochieng

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ululation and joy mark the Village Father’s Award ceremony

It was jubilation and happiness all the way at the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret during the academic awards function held on 26 January 2008, to celebrate the success of various children in their academic performance. The academic arena honours the achievements of our children in primary and high school. Every child looks forward to the village father's award at the end of each term. Our village places a special emphasis helping its children build a strong academic foundation for a lifetime of success.

32 children who demonstrated significant academic improvement were recognized at the ceremony that was also witnessed by the Village Director, Peter Mungai. Others in attendance were the mothers, youth leaders and the village educator. The children were rewarded with books and candies while the most improved house received a flower vase. All the mothers were also given a book entitled “How to teach your children about sexuality”.

There was a light moment when the young children in the Kindergarten and class one were given balloons as presents which they promptly started bursting leaving the children and staff in stitches.

Speaking at the ceremony, Baba Mungai, as he is popularly known, said: “The academic arena is an outstanding opportunity to celebrate and encourage academic excellence. Each child should therefore make it a desire to work hard and win something”. Responsibility, time management and discipline were underscored.

We congratulate our young people for all of their hard work during the last term and wish them continued success as they move ahead in the next school year and beyond.

By Fred Ochieng, Youth Leader Coordinator

Monday, February 2, 2009


Youth from Eldoret get together to mark the beginning of the New Year

We had an absolutely fabulous reunion with our youth at the beginning of this year. About 70 youth, some in colleges, others from their places of work and those aspiring to join colleges met at a large get together party in Eldoret to usher in the New Year. It was a sight to behold as the youth engaged themselves in chit chat. What a wonderful time! This was a good opportunity to meet all the youth some of whom have taken a long time to visit home considering their daily engagements in school and work places.

The mothers could not hide their joy as they hugged and embraced their children in a show of love and affection. They renewed friendships and touched base with what each one of them was doing and their future plans. Each of them relived their childhood experiences as they jostled for seats closer to mummy. Some broke down in tears as they shared and recalled fond memories and happy times. During their meeting with the mothers, youth care co-workers and the village director; they appreciated and recalled what the organization has been able to do for them. The care givers reminded the youth that they have made each working day fun and challenged them to utilize their time well while still in the organization so as to have a bright future.

The get together, whose theme was “moving from school into the workforce”, targeted youth in college, those already working, those with families and youth who are preparing to join tertiary colleges. It appreciated the complex transition that most of our youth undergo when setting foundations for their lives. It is a critical period when young individuals develop and build skills, based on their initial education and training, that help them become productive members of the society. It is complex in the sense that many young people are being employed; others perform casual or unpaid work, or are easily discouraged from job searching.

The village director urged the youth to remain focused and push for their issues rather than adopt a wait and see attitude noting that they could be easily forgotten. He recognized those with outstanding performance and asked their counterparts to emulate them. “The society is going to demand your strength and, indeed, you will be strong to make this world a better place than you found it”, he added.

They did do more though than visit and enjoy each other's company. It was a great day that carried meaning. Speaking on behalf of the youth, Michael had this to say: “We are safe in saying that all of us have great admiration and appreciation for your support and endurance to help us be who we are today. There aren't enough words to express our appreciation to you our care givers”. What great memories!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

One year after the post poll violence…….

Kenya's worst ever ethnic violence was sparked off by a presidential election held a year ago today. A once stable and prosperous nation went from being known as a land of big cats and safaris to a country beset by brutal mob violence; a place where a church full of terrified worshippers could be set ablaze with dozens inside burnt alive. At least 1,300 people died and more than 300,000 fled their homes.
Since then, an internationally brokered peace deal to end the strife has held, and the coalition government is intact. But for many victims, the struggle to rebuild lives has barely begun. One issue is money. The other reason, especially in Eldoret which was the epicenter of the violence is fear and mistrust. There have been no more attacks but there are still verbal threats. Neighbours peep at each other through broken fences as they see their stolen property in the other’s compound. It is painful but one asks what wounds would be opened were they to claim what belongs or belonged to them.

Children’s games are now tailored between “us” and not with “them” creating a near-permanent hostility in their fragile minds. You can now hear children talk of others by their tribes which a while ago was foreign to them. Worst hit are the public schools mainly in the rural setting. Although our SOS School was not affected, our children witnessed what was going on at that time. We are very proud that our children in the village have been able to cope with the trauma thanks to the post election counseling debriefing that was conducted after the violence. They have been appreciative of each other although the subject of what transpired keeps coming up. They are encouraged to talk about it so that they can heal faster.

The plight of the internally displaced persons being repatriated back to their ancestral homes has raised questions as to how they can ever trust people they once regarded as their friends and neighbours, people they interacted with on a daily basis and with whom their children played together? Will friendships and relationships that are slowly starting to heal be broken again come the next elections?

The physical scars of the violence are still clear to see. Drive along the main, potholed road from Eldoret to Kitale and you can’t miss the burnt-out crumbling shells of former shops and restaurants, targeted and destroyed because their owners were from a rival ethnic group. The truth is that it's been quite a rollercoaster year for Kenyans. The violent fallout from the elections left them stunned. High food prices and ongoing drought has left the country in dire need for much of the year, while rising fuel prices made the cost of everyday life spiral thus affecting not only the SOS family budgets but also the greater Kenyan populace.

Most people are rebuilding, but they’re rebuilding smaller houses because they don’t have enough money. Business is slow now because people don’t have money. At least tension is now low and most people are eager to get on with their lives. Peace forums around the Eldoret town have been encouraging different communities to come together to talk about issues that were at the heart of the violence. Community leaders and elders have been leading discussions that aim to find local solutions to local problems.

Many of the displaced families around Eldoret are still living in tents and camps despite a sizeable number having returned home. These people are overwhelmingly desperate to regain their independence. They don't want to be stuck in limbo for another year. They receive food handouts once a month and this is a vital lifeline, with rising food prices putting even basic staple foods out of reach for those who lost everything when they fled their homes. Even then, sadly, they have been criticized as spongers, layabouts, and people trying to extort from the system.
Along the side of the camps, small business people are starting to re-establish their trades. But it's not easy, having seen all of their stock burned along with their stores in the violence. Local farmers are also struggling to replace tools stolen by looters and to buy fertilizer to grow a healthy crop next year.

Some of the emotional wounds are healing, while others still require a triple portion of healing balms and a continuous change of bandages.

In the picture above you see a house which was torched in Eldoret when marauders invaded a family in Kimimu Estate in Eldoret. Nothing was salvaged although the family escaped unhurt. They had sought refuge at a friend's house when it became evident that they were targeted for beloning to a different tribe.

Fredrick Ochieng - SOS co-worker Eldoret

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cheers and tears as Mama Stephen retires

The day was favorable, the sun had passed its zenith, and was retiring towards the West when the SOS Children’s Village Eldoret witnessed the second farewell party for its second retiring mother. The big retirement party on January 2nd was one to remember as members of staff from the four villages gathered at the Kenmosa village to pay tribute to Mama Stephen (house 1) for her long years of service to the SOS Children.

Mama Stephen retires after serving the organization for close to 22 years. She is a living icon of courage, perseverance, and resilience in the challenging work of raising children. The transition has been in the works for 7 months since she announced her plan to step down from daily duties. The incoming mother has taken up her duties with enthusiasm and has been adequately mentored by the outgoing mother.
The ceremony was led by the Village Director, Mr. Peter Mungai and graced by the first retired mother from Nairobi village, Mama James. He commended her great sacrifice, dedication and diligence in work.

There were dozens of poignant moments throughout the momentous occasion that was punctuated by songs and dance. But the most touching of them all was the reality that the children had to contend with - their mother retiring from active duty. It was a tearful moment as the children, some of whom are now independent, shared the memories and the connection they had established with their mother. They heaped adulation on her for her love, patience and care. "Our mother gave us an enormous, enormous opportunity to grow up as children naturally," her eldest daughter Elizabeth Hassan said, breaking down into tears. "And I want to thank her for the love and care she gave us”. Mama Stephen’s children acknowledged that it won't be easy to move on, given how naturally they had bonded with their mother, but promised to support and cooperate with the new Mother.

Her fellow mothers showered her with praise. They equated her effort and subsequent passage to the biblical journey of the Israelites from Egypt. “Today the baton is handed over to Joshua (symbolic of the new mother taking over the house) who must rise above the challenge and complete what Mama Stephen had started. At the ceremony, Mama Edna, a longtime friend to Mama Stephen presented her with a white handkerchief that signified her sincere and honest work.

“I actually never thought she would really retire”, said Mama Ngudi. She has been talking about it for the last few years, but her end date kept getting pushed further and further back or maybe to a different time of year, until I finally decided she never would leave.

The School Principal, Mr. Elijah Omobe applauded the retiring mother for her selfless service and reminded the audience that it is not how we start that counts but how we finish. “The works of Mama Stephen is manifested in the children that she has raised”, he added.

For her part, Mama Stephen thanked the co-workers for the support they gave her in the duty of raising children. She observed that even the times that were the toughest, the support of everyone made work a bit lighter. She noted that the retirement seminars she attended adequately prepared her to transition to a new beginning. "So let me just close by saying you've made it so much for me. There won't be a day of my life that I'm not thinking about SOS Children’s Villages, and the great things that it's doing, and wanting to help” she concluded.
With those words, Mama Stephen marked the end of a career that has lasted for 22 years.