Our Partners in Nairobi

Trip Start Jul 04, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2010

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Where I stayed
Kariobangi South PCEA church, and Soweto Slum

Flag of Kenya  , Nairobi Area,
Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Travel Blog, Friday, July 16, Partnership and Soweto

Friday was a meeting early with the Partnership Board, and the board also of Nairobi East Partnership Committee, with our meeting at Kariobangi South, where the meetings are held, and where occasionally we have had some Skype connections. I'm working on a pictorial directory of our contacts in Nairobi and the Presbyteries, so maybe the next team will have a bit of a head start, if they haven’t been before.  I and wifey are at present planning to come back in February for a big meeting of the Global Partners in Mombasa, in their Presbyterian Milele Guest House on the beach.  Partners from Scotland, Ireland, Canada, South Korea and maybe even Australia are to be in attendance – and certainly at least a bunch from our Kenya Mission Network ought to be here as well!

Then Julius took us to one of the projects which he and others from the Nairobi East Presbytery support, and we support with funds from our Newton Presbytery, the Soweto Education Center in yet another of the many slums of Nairobi.  The program operates with a teacher/director, two teachers, a cook/house person and a security guard.  It serves as preparation for primary school, as the primary school, grade one, is free, but without the preparation classes, there is no entry to the first grade.  And very few to none of the children in this slum community can afford the cost of the preparation schools, which are NOT free!  And the education center will keep the children and feed them a meal a day, sometimes about the only one they may get, while mothers are off working or training or looking for work, sometimes until 5 p.m. or after.  I have a couple of pictures of the classes and facility and the staff.  We were hosted by an elder of the congregation serving this slum area, who is also the board chair of the center.  Julius Muchiri’s men’s fellowship had undertaken a financial responsibility, and as mentioned, our Newton Presbytery Partnership Committee also helps with funding for the center.  Pat and I, representing the Partnership Committee voted (she moved, I seconded, and we voted unanimously!) to spend money to purchase three lorries of gravel to cover the school yard, which presently is covered with large, sharp rocks and mud.  Hope we aren’t pilloried on our return.  But the worst they do is seek a recall vote of us, I guess!

Several ideas – maybe to line up some of our men’s fellowships to join in partnership with men’s fellowships here.  Help build desks for the children, support scholarships to help cover the costs – those who can pay a little here do so!  Perhaps get some of our friends, teachers, day care center folks, those who work in early childhood development or similar fields, to come over, hold in-service weeks for the teachers, inviting others from other projects; covering a week at the center so teachers can go elsewhere for some training, or take a vacation! Have some of our youth come as classroom assistants.

We had conversations at Masai Mara with several families who have young people here volunteering in Kenyan schools, especially in the rural areas.  They pay their own way here and a stipend for room and board and have the experience of a life-time or two, living with the members of their community, perhaps sharing with another volunteer from another country still.

Then we were back – all that is, except Ann, who had to take the day off to fight off her nausea and pain – she stayed in the guest house all day this day! – to the church for a meeting with Rachel Nyambura, the young woman who is working on a degree at the university in the field of environmental studies and is mostly supported by several of the women’s groups (Presbyterian Women) from Newton Presbytery.  Rachel reported that she has completed the first phase of her summer internship experience, with an organization which helps groups of small business people or farmers to organize, form groups such as cooperatives, and together write proposals for grants to improve their operations or capacity – a Japanese NGO.  Rachel was able to catch up on her studies, as Kenyatta University made up for time lost when the school was shut down by plowing through the usual breaks for holiday!  So she hopes to get an extra month out of her internship and then will have only two semesters to complete her degree – then there is the problem of employment!  She does hope to work part-time while finishing her work at the university.  She hopes to find work with an NGO, which she feels would be better than with the government.

Lunch, provided by the church, again "self-serve" with the great selections of rice, cabbage, a beef stew and pineapple and watermelon (fruit is, of course, home grown and very fresh!!)  Then the scheduled 3 p.m. meeting of the full partnership board started promptly at 3:50, with a number of representatives excused, a couple of them from Nairobi Central involved in a funeral for one of the elders of Bahati Martyrs.  The meeting followed the usual agenda, except for the introduction of the board members and us guests, who were asked to give a report of our time in Kenya up to that point, bring and receive official greetings, and receive the gifts brought by representatives of each of the three Presbyteries.  We had asked for the exchange of gifts earlier than the usual last day, in order to get our things packed and ready before having to head to the airport for our late (11:40 p.m.) flight to London.

So we were gifted with something from each of the presbyteries:  for the women a Kenyan shopping basket, for me a safari hat and a great walking stick – may have to hobble with a limp onto the plane, perhaps getting on early as an old person needing special assistance!  There was also for each of us a Kenyan cloth shirt/blouse and a Kenyan picture, for me a metal picture of a couple of tall Masai warriors, for Ann a clock in a setting with Kenyan motifs.

Once again, I gave my report on the morning at the U.S. Consulate and the conversation with one of the interviewing officers, and will repeat it here, with an additional thought about the process.

1)      Financials:  Bank account must be in order, with current statement, showing sufficient funds sufficient and not of recent significant addition.  Bring statement when coming for the interview.

2)      Employment:  must show stable employment history and income situation, again to demonstrate reason to return to Kenya after the visit.  No significant change/lowering of the economic situation, due to job changes, unemployment, etc.

3)      Family situation:  again stable family circumstances, wife, children, other relatives as part of reason to return to Kenya.

4)      No problems, or any answers as discrepancies, different facts than are on record, as the interviewing officer has a complete computer screen at his/her disposal during the interview and can see instantly if there is a wrong answer, causing almost immediate denial of the visa.

From our side regarding the invitation, these are some thoughts I have to perhaps give a greater chance of having the visa approved:

1)      Secure in advance the names and details of the person being invited, to be able to include this in the letter of invitation, e.g.  family circumstance, employment history, church involvement, education and other training.

2)      Give some history of the partnership program, and list the host, program itinerary planned, and dates of the visit.

3)      Send the letter as an attachment to an e-mail to the Consular Division, listing again the name of the person invited and the date of the appointment for the interview.

4)      Send it shortly prior to the scheduled interview so that it is on file when the person appears.

The interview is a very short process, as there is always a long line and many people to be seen during the hours of the Consular Visa service, whether for immigrant or non-immigrant (visitor} visa, and usually a considerable waiting time in any case before the person’s name is called.  And the interview is not in a private or confidential setting:  interviewing officer behind a glass panel, with all the conversation able to be overheard by persons in the area of the window.  Have documents ready to pass under the panel to the officer when/as requested, e.g. bank statement, etc.

The opinion of the Consular Division appears to be that letters of invitation carried by the person are of little value, might even be easily purchased forged documents from the streets!

And we were on our way back to the Guest House, or rather that is, to enjoy the long opportunity to watch traffic flow in the cross streets while we were part of the Great Jam in central Nairobi.  It seemed that the traffic officers had some vested interest in seeing the movement in the other directions than  the one in which we were intending to move.
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