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emails from Kenya

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Following are emails received from Dr. Cate Dewey during her time in Kenya, in May 2010.
The emails that arrived first are at the top of the page.

Update: Email received on May 9, 2010, from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Update: May 2010 - Dr. Cate Dewey is now in Kenya.

Dr. Cate Dewey left Canada on May 2nd and arrived back in Canada on May 24th. She was doing veterinary work associated with Vets Without Borders, and the University of Guelph, but also visited the Bukati School to check on its status.

May 9, 2010 - Arrival
Dear Family and friends
It is the heavy rains season in Kenya. The sky opens and the rain comes down in buckets. The driving wind means that even sitting in a cabana for dinner leaves us sprayed with water. We have to carefully choose the correct route to the field to avoid roads that are impassable due to flooding. Some roads become slick with mud, reminding me of black ice. The vehicle takes on a life of its own. We have hired a safari van to acommodate 2 vets without borders students and 4 global vet students, plus Florence Mutua, Natalie Carter and myself. Our driver is Peter - a lovely man with a beautiful smile. When I told him I have a son named Peter, he said I could be his mother for our time together. His sister in law died this week after complications from childbirth. He will go to Nairobi as soon as they send a new driver. We encounter funerals most days - drumming and singing from the funeral keep us awake at night and those we wish to interview may have to leave for a funeral. Electricity is more off than on. This makes showering unpredictable and infrequent. Even after a long, hot dusty ride to the field, we were not able to shower for 2 days. The water was quite cool but it felt great to clean off the dust.

The Kenyans are so friendly. It is wonderful to greet familiar faces. The staff at the farmview either call me Mamma or Professor. Both terms of honour I think. My ear is becoming reattuned to Swahili.
Msuri (I am fine)
Love, Cate

Update: Email received on May 12, 2009 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

May 12, 2010 - Status Update
Dear Family and Friends
Saturday we went to the school. Florence and I met with Nick (principal), JB (teacher most active in the permaculture project), Mary (teacher responsible for uniforms and bracelets), and the chair (Juma) and treasurer (Pamela) of the school council who are both parents. The students from grades 6, 7, and 8 lined the driveway and sang a welcome. They go to school Saturday mornings. We began with a short assembly, a welcome from Nick, the head girl leading the group in a song and the Lord's prayer and then a few words from me. The children went for their lesson and then the committee met.

We had a long discussion about how the project is going, what progress has been made, the current issues and the long term plans for sustainability. We are supporting about 750 orphans in primary school plus the 8 high school students. The numbers continue to rise. There are 180 kindergarten children and at least 120 children in each grade up to 5. The older classes have 70 to 100 pupils. There is a need for more classrooms because 3 of the current classes meet outside.


The 18 latrines, that were paid for with money raised by Rotary Clubs on Vancouver Island are almost complete. The girls will use them and the boys will have the old ones.

They dug an extra deep pit under the new latrines so they will be functional for a long time. The brick and cement construction will last much longer than the wooden version that gets eaten by termites.

Many children came to school with hoes (jembe) to work on the maize and rice fields after school. At 3:30 pm, they were fed lunch. Nick said that is their reward for the work. I will tell you about the permaculture project in another email
Love, Cate

May 12, 2010 - Permaculture Update
Dear friends and family
The permaculture project that Michael Nickels designed in Nov. 2009 is absolutely amazing. It encompasses the school compound and the 11 acres of land we purchased for the school last year.

The water capture system of swales re-routes the rainfall from the entire school compound to the new banana groves, eucalyptus forest and finally to the fish pond. Yesterday, in the flash flood, the system was really put to the test. The water flowed perfectly toward the pond, rather than flooding the yard and running off onto the road. We watched the fish jumping, as the student who is responsible for feeding the fish sprinkled tiny dried fish on the water's surface.


Large lush green leaves of banana trees, planted as tiny shoots in November, now flap in the wind like an elephant's ears. The trees that Peter planted behind the school, in what most of us would consider wasted space, are now 10 feet tall - growing so well with the water that runs off the school's roof. Together with the bananas trees, there are also espandia (sp?) trees that will be used as fodder for the cattle. They will provide additional protein to enhance milk production. Already, the trees are providing welcome shade to the classrooms, keeping the temperatures more tolerable for learning. Some espania are already producing seeds that will be harvested for the tree nursery.

There is very sturdy fencing around each of the 3 pieces of land and some sections have been planted with kia apple trees that will provide a thorny barrier plus fruit. The new land is planted with maize and beans for the lunch program and rice. The school will harvest the rice to sell as seeds. Where the swales have been dug, the maize is growing much taller than in other sections. It is a vivid, living example of the benefit of water capture.

This project is making the goal of sustainability a reality
Love from Kenya

Update: Email received on May 13, 2010 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

May 13, 2010 - Young boy without uniform
Hi Everyone
Yesterday a young boy walked by us as we were waiting for the village elder to join us for the farm visits. I asked him why he was not in school. He said he was 'chased from school because he was not wearing a uniform'. Florence found out that his uniform was so ragged that he could no longer wear it. He had gone to school four days in a row, and each day he was sent home. He was a grade 6 student. I have a promise from the staff at Bukati that children will never be sent home because they have no uniform. But this little boy went to a different school. It was another reminder of all the need.

Florence asked the boy to bring his mother to us. She was home in bed because she was ill, but she came anyway. The boy's father has died. I gave the mother the money for the uniform. Eight dollars was keeping him from school!

Update: Email received on May 21, 2010 from Dr. Cate Dewey in Kenya

Update: May 21, 2010 - Augustine in new school.

Dear family and friends
When Augustine  was the vice-principal of the Bukati primary school he initiated a tree nursery by asking students to bring tree seeds and avocado pits to school. He also began garden plots and showed me how they used the kale crop to teach grade 4 students. His promotion to principal at a different school was a loss for the Children of Bukati project.

His new school has 854 students on a 13 acre plot. In the last 2 years, he has obtained government funding to build a kindergarten classroom, a latrine for the girls with 3 stalls and to  replace the roof that blew off 3 classrooms. He and the students have planted 2 acres of cassava that is almost ready to harvest and  2,000 trees. Each tree was planted with a handful of animal manure that the children brought from home. There are new small gardens outside the classrooms with flowering plants to beautify the school.

Augustine  asks the grade 8 students to bring 5 kg of maize and 300 schillings to school each term. The money pays a cook and buys some vegetables. This is the beginning of a lunch program but only includes the grade 8's.

However the infrastructure of the school is shocking. Only the grade 8 classroom has desks. Everyone else sits on the floor. The floors of most classrooms are pitted, leaving bare dirt. There is a big problem with chiggers - a very painful infection of feet and toes caused by a flea. The concrete floors need to be replaced to prevent these  infections. There are only 3 functional latrine stalls for the 435 girls in the school. There is another set that is falling down and are not meant to be used, but, as you can imagine, when the lineup is long, the girls use those too. I think Augustine has shown remarkable leadership and is working towards a Bukati model. With some help from us, we could fix the floors, provide desks and assist the school with a permaculture project.
More than an $8 education - but we would soon be helping hundreds more orphans.

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Updated November 30, 2010