Joan just returned from a visit to Utange, she explains the situation there better than we could put in to words. Thank you, Joan! We are not sure what we are going to do without you there!

“Well my Utange adventure is over and I’m home with lots of memories and still high on all my experiences – it feels really surreal sitting in front of my PC again!! People have said “you’ll just be back a few days and it will be like you have never been away” – I know that can happen with holidays but I really don’t think it will for me in this case – the experiences I have had have changed my perspective in relation to many things and I hope that will stay with me.

The last week was so busy that I was still trying to pack at midnight Monday night!

When Jerry was over he mentioned he would like an African shirt and had the local Fundi (tailor) take his measurements with instructions that I buy material and leave it with the Fundi in plenty of time to have the shirt ready before I left – good plan except for the fact that I bought the material on Friday of last week and asked if both the shirt and another dress for me could be ready Monday! Monday was such a busy day that it was after 7pm when I got back to pick up the clothes. When I got there the little shop was practically in darkness save for a dim glow around the sewing machine – that side of the village had a power cut (nothing unusual there then!!) however the Fundi was working away at his pedal machine while his young son held a torch – now that is resourcefulness lol

Lots of positive changes at the school – in fact real ‘Girl Power’ now. We have a new Headmistress – Prisca, a new financial administrator – Sarah, and finally a new Chairperson of the School Committee – Rose – three strong women to take the School forward. The gender divide is very real in Kenya in respect to what constitutes ‘men’s’ work and ‘women’s’ work so interesting times ahead -Go Girls!! 🙂

I felt really sad saying goodbye to everyone yesterday, I’ve made so many good friends during the 10-weeks I spent in Utange and will miss them all.
I will also miss the strong community spirit which was also extended to me during my time there. The Kenyans living in the villages around the school have a real sense of community – something I feel we have lost to a degree – and I had become very much a part of that community.

The early evening is a nice time it Kenya. The real heat of the day has gone and although darkness comes down very quickly – usually around 6.30pm – it was definitely one of my favourite times of the day.
I’ll miss walking home through the village seeing all the gas lamps being switched on, the smell of wood smoke in the air as the women start to cook the evening meal , calls of “Jambo habari ” (Hi, how are you)) as I walk by. Usually the children will still be out playing at that time so I would get lots of “Hi Madam Jo-An” as well.

I feel really privileged to have had the opportunity to live among these warm and lovely people who willingly invited me into their homes and into their lives.
They exist in their world against all odds – poverty, illness, lack of basic facilities such as decent medical care, transport, etc – and often their basic needs aren’t even met in respect to one decent meal a day never mind three.
For many of the Jolaurabi children the food they receive at school is their main source of nourishment – early Monday morning of last week a primary school child fainted and it was discovered that he had barely eaten anything since lunch time the previous Friday when he had lunch at school . For these children the porridge and free lunch program is fundamental to their health and well being so thanks to all who have sponsored children during my time there – you really are making a difference – you have no idea how much.

In respect to health and medical treatment – I wasn’t too good at the weekend and Mama Cherongo was worried it was Maleria so took me along to a local clinic to be tested. This was a simple ‘prick on the finger’ blood test with immediate results (no malaria – poss something I’d eaten and I was better the next day) but the point I want to make is the test cost me 90ksh which is approx 70p to us, absolutely nothing really and yet these people can’t afford to bring sickly children along for the test because of the cost – so sad. Malaria is preventable with mosquito nets and easily cured if caught early and yet children still die from it with small children up to 6 years being the most vulnerable.

Thank you all for following my blog and for all your support during the 10-weeks. Prisca (the new Headmistress – formally deputy head) came to the airport with me this morning and when I was leaving she asked me to send her greetings to all my family, friends and neighbours and to thank everyone for their support – so a big thank you from Prisca also.

Into the future if anyone is planning a holiday in Kenya, in the Mombasa area, pop along to Jolaurabi – most of the hotels on the North Coast are within easy reach of the school 9just ask at reception or a local taxi) and I know you will be made very welcome by the children and the teachers.

I have loads of pictures on my camera which I will transfer to the PC and from there to the blog. So if anyone is interested in having a look at pictures of some of the events I have written about over the last three months check in a few days. Well I guess that is it – for now!!

Joan xx.”