Eating Stone update from Sandi Carlile
I am writing this update to you from J2 Ranch, Canal Flats. British Columbia, where I have been residing with my daughter, Susan Scott, since mid-April last year. I am very lucky to be in a safe and beautiful environment during the Covid pandemic.
We are well into this new year of 2021. On behalf of all the Eating Stone Family I bring greetings! Let us hope that this year will be an improvement over 2020 and that by the end of the year the pandemic will be under control and vaccines will be available to all, worldwide. Thankfully Eating Stone has remained Covid-free, and we pray that will continue.
Kenyan protocols for hand washing, distancing, and mask wearing are still in effect as well as a curfew from 10 p.m. to 4a.m. Bars and restaurants must close by 9 p.m.
All the Eating Stone Family were in total lockdown until the beginning of October when the Kenyan government mandated the opening of primary schools for Grades 4 and 8. Under the new curriculum which is gradually being implemented, these grades are to write national exams. With lengthening the term until mid-December, it was hoped children would be able to catch up all the months of missed schooling. Secondary students were also sent back to their respective boarding schools. As I had written in the last update, the children of Eating Stone continued their studies throughout the lockdown – with the help of the four teachers who live at home, and the older students. Nevertheless, the Government of Kenya has delayed the testing until March.
All schools, universities, and colleges in Kenya reopened on 4 January 2021. All the protocols of hand washing, masking and distancing are in place for our on-site school, Wisdom Academy. The pandemic has taken a terrible economic toll in Kenya, leaving the majority of the population living in worsening poverty. Unlike in the western world there is no government help. Thus, many families have trouble feeding their families and are unable to afford the school fees. The present enrolment is 150 which is lower than last year.
Generous donations from The Rotary Club of Grande Prairie, Alberta and The Rotary Club of Courtenay, British Columbia enabled Eating Stone to stockpile much needed food during the height of the lockdown in Kenya. We are much indebted to all!
The S.M. Blair Family Foundation based in Ontario, Canada gave grants for Eating Stone secondary school students twice in 2020, the first in June and the second in December. We are so grateful for their continuing support.
Dr Cyprian has had very serious health issues since last March. His medical team have been with him since my return to Canada. Thanks to the expert care, dedication and love of these wonderful people, Cyprian is still with us. I, personally, owe a debt of gratitude to Varico Foundation, a Calgary based charitable organisation, for the assistance provided for Dr Cyprian’s care!
It is with great sadness that I report the death of John Forsythe who died suddenly 19 May 2020 just months after his 50th birthday. John and his best friend, Tracey Farleigh, became loyal friends and supporters of the Eating Stone family in 2018. Early in December 2018, they arrived with gifts for each child, many games and most of all their enthusiasm and love of Kenya and its people. They captured the hearts of all of us and promised to come back again the next year. To honour John’s memory and their deep friendship, Tracey has continued to raise funds for Eating Stone. The first initiative was to build “John’s Sanctuary” atop the roof of the main building. The only place for the children to gather is the dining hall. John was very keen to have a comfortable place for the children to be able to relax, communicate, “hang out”, and play games. Because of Covid, the build has been delayed but will begin soon. First, the narrow and rutted road down to Eating Stone has had to be repaired/rebuilt in order for supply trucks to navigate the road. Stay tuned!
During the height of the Covid lockdown, Tracey and her group raised funds to provide the ES Family with a high protein meal of fish and meat (beef). Next came funds to purchase much needed, warm blankets, one for each child, with some going to nearby community families in need. “Dinner for a Tenner!” provided the special Christmas Day meal. The children planned their menu and prepared the food which included much loved chapatis, roast chicken and nyama choma (roasted goat). This year there were no guests, not even Bishop Patrick and his wife, Carolyn. See the Christmas 2020 page for photos.
Tracey and her group of supporters most recently raised funds to buy new school uniforms for the Eating Stone primary school students. The last new ones were purchased three years ago and were in tatters. The newest initiative is to provide track suits which are mandatory for Thursday and Friday school sport days.
Thanks also to Eating Stone Australia! In addition to quarterly funds for worming medication and food supplementation, they provided funds to purchase each one of the Eating Stone Family an outfit which they carefully packed away until Christmas Day! See the Christmas 2020 page for photos. They also provided funds to purchase supplies for the secondary boarding school students. Most recently they have raised funds for school shoes. Good school shoes last a long time but after three years and handing down to younger children, feet are relegated to flip flops!
Kenya’s agriculture is predominantly small-scale farming of three or fewer acres. Small scale operations account for about 70% of agricultural production and meet about 75% of the national food demand.
About 18 months ago, Eating Stone was able to purchase a 1.75 acre plot of good farm land in Awendo, Migori County. It took quite a few months for the sugar cane crop, owned by the previous owners, to be harvested and the land made ready for planting maize. Harvesting of the first maize crop will begin soon with labour provided by young Eating Stone men, George and Keven. The harvest will help offset the cost of our food.
In September 2020, Eating Stone joined the One Acre Fund, a not-for-profit organisation founded in 2006 “to supply smallholder farms with the financing and training needed to grow their way out of hunger and poverty.” There is an initial member registration, farm training for up to three students for two years, plus the cost of insurance/medication for the students.
The second planting will be at the end of February. Seeds and fertilizers will be provided by One Acre Fund. There will be opportunities to grow other food crops such as watermelons, tomatoes, onions, etc. Kevin and George will begin agricultural training at a technical institution March 15.
The most major challenge, now into the fourth month, is the lack of power at Eating Stone and the surrounding community. A large non-functional transformer is the culprit. It was finally removed early in January but to date has not been replaced. For the Eating Stone Family and anyone else in the community having a borehole it means there is no way of pumping water. No water means there is no means of keeping hands and bodies clean, no washing of clothing, water for cooking and clean-up and no hot water from the solar hot water panels. We were in danger of losing the tubes on the solar panels as they must have circulating water through the pipes or they are in danger of breaking. We had to make the difficult decision to purchase a generator powerful enough to operate the borehole pump and to provide three lights. For studying, the children use the solar lamps provided a few years ago by Faith and Anthony Harckham of Canmore, Alberta!
Our biggest challenge apart from ensuring adequate funds for food is raising enough funds to enable the secondary school children to go to boarding school. Public transport costs have more than doubled due to Covid restrictions allowing only 50% of normal passenger load on busses or matatus. All other costs have risen as well. Once Grade 8 exams are administered we will have eight additional Form 1 (Grade 9) children who need to continue their education.
Thanks to long-time friend, David Moloney (UK/Canada), and Kenyan, Gerald Ngugi (UK/Kenya), our brand-new website has launched. It is an enormous amount of work and time commitment and I will be forever indebted to them! The new website is www.eatingstonekenya2008.org. I think you will find the donation page easy to navigate. Feedback is very welcome! Additional pages are being developed including a photo gallery. Please check back often as new content will be added regularly! The photos I normally include with the updates are now on the website.
With a grateful heart,
Eating Stone Organisation Kenya 2008 – Board Member & Trustee