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InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

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Overview from Mark & Jennifer, Kenya 2012

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Hello ICO friends, we hope that you are enjoying a fine summer wherever this update finds you. It has been a while since you have heard from us so we thought that it was time for an update before we head back to Canada today. We have been here in western Kenya for close to 6 months now and the attachments describe both our achievements and what we still would like to accomplish upon our return here in October.

Here in Bondo, Kenya, the rainy season has pretty well ended now and the crops are maturing, which is good news for the upcoming harvest for which many people are very dependent on for their food. The rains were not as bad as we had expected (other regions had much more rain), and it rained mostly at night having no impact on our daytime activities...and the lightning storms were spectacular!

We fund-raised close to $9,100 (over $5,000 through ICO) and for those that contributed we are most grateful. The bulk of that money ($7,150) was raised through two Canadian friends who generously donated $2,000 each, $2,500 was raised by Ash Lee Jefferson Elementary School where our daughter Kim teaches, and $650 was donated by a good friend in Luxembourg. Most of the remainder was contributed by Mark’s colleagues at Lockheed Martin, and a few other friends and family contributed as well. THANK YOU!!!!!!

On top of that $9,100, ICO had a sponsor who contributed an additional $3,700 for the two football tournaments that we organized here.  We have spent all of the money raised in achieving the following:

Dier Aora Primary School (poorest primary school in the area)

The school saw a flurry of activity that kept us busy with requirements identification, work estimates, negotiation, material purchases, work oversight, and cash management:

- ($3,200) In the absence of adequate funds required to build 3 new classrooms ($11,000++), we had 3 existing concrete classrooms partitioned to make a total of 6 classrooms (this was possible because enrollment is low at only around 28 kids per class, while in other schools there are often 90 to 125 kids per class) thus allowing for the permanent destruction of the 3 mud classrooms. The partitions consisted of a wall with 3⁄4 inch blockboard on either side with a layer of foam sandwiched in-between for sound proofing. There was also an access door built into each partition. The blockboard then had 2 coats of varnish applied for a nice finish. Thanks to Ash Lee Jefferson Elementary School for providing the $2,500 to fund most of the materials to make this happen!

- ($1,800) Installed a 620 meter barbed wire security fence around the school to keep cattle from straying onto the grounds and interfering with agricultural efforts. The fence consisted of 223 cedar posts which were firmly planted with cement, with 7 strands of barbed wire added.

- ($1,300) Installed a 10,000 litre water tank with gutters on the school roof to catch rain water and direct it into the tank. The tank was installed on top of a new concrete base, and has a lockable tap to control usage. This is for drinking, cooking and washing water.

- (~$750 – still in progress) A natural water runoff at one corner of the school is being dug out, lined with a special plastic, and covered with corrugated steel sheets. This water pond will catch and hold up to 128,000 L of water during the rainy season, which can then be used to irrigate the crops during the dry season to keep them growing.

- ($1,350) Painted 9 classrooms including windows, doors and teachers’ offices, giving these rooms a much needed uplift. The walls were first sanded down removing years of accumulated dust and dirt. This was followed by 2 coats of primer over which went 2 coats of high gloss oil paint (yellow with a blue bottom splash). These walls will now be washable (which is highly required during the hot and dusty dry season) and will easily last for 10 years or more.

- ($300) Plowed new fields at Dier Aora and Atilili Primary Schools. Provided seeds and weeding services to Dier Aora, who are attempting to grow corn and beans to feed the needy children. Provided 700 eucalyptus tree seedlings to Dier Aora and 600 to Atilili. Eucalyptus seedlings which cost only 10 shillings can be sold as trees for 200 shillings in 2 years, netting each school $1,750 and $1,500 respectively. This handsome return on investment will then be used for priority needs in support of their children.

- Through our contact with 2 Irish volunteers here in Bondo, we introduced the school to the Junior Farmer Field and Life School (JFFLS) program, which was established here a few years back by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP). This gives the school the opportunity to use its new agricultural capabilities to teach 40 orphans and other vulnerable children (half girls, half boys) best practices in agriculture, for which they will be trained in the small plots that they will be responsible for. It is intended that they will take these skills home to teach others, and the program will also enable them to practice subsistence farming and to generate income once they are older. In addition, they are taught life skills such as HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, gender sensitivity, child protection, psycho-social support, nutrition education and business skills.

Rocket Stoves

- ($250) We are in the process of transferring the simple rocket stove technology which ICO had used to much success in south western Rwanda, where they have manufactured 3,000 highly very efficient and clean burning adobe cooking stoves. The design of these “rocket stoves” originates from the Aprovecho Research Center in Oregon, USA, and they are reported to require 60% less wood than a traditional “3 stone” fire. A small, built-in chimney also eliminates much of the smoke and particles that kill over 2 million people annually world-wide. In addition, the stove production centers will generate income for the workers.

Mark has been working with the Humba Ramogi Women’s Group in a rural area about 35 minutes outside of Bondo by motorcycle. These women are clay workers and have a workshop that was funded by the World Bank. Together we have made 12 prototype stoves, the last 4 of which will be used to test the design while we are back in Canada during the next 3 months. Once the design has been proven and the marketing and manufacturing strategy developed, we hope to start a number of production centres in this area. We also plan to bring in a few of the Rwandan experts to help train the workers here later this year. The women’s group have been eager to help out and were given appreciative stipends of sugar, bread and butter during our workshops together.

`TOGETHER WE CAN!` Football Tournaments

($3,700) With funding from a generous ICO sponsor who is interested in children participating in organized football in developing countries, we organized 2 football tournaments named “Together We Can!”. This included the manufacturing of 140 football uniforms and 6 referee uniforms in Nairobi. The first tournament played out at Dier Aora and Atilili Primary Schools on 24 & 31 March, and the second tournament was held at Nyakasumbi Primary School on 09 and 16 June. In each tournament a total of 352 students from Grades 1-8 participated in 26 matches. Priority was given to placing all of the school’s numerous orphans and other vulnerable children on teams, such that they could be uplifted and empowered.

More info on each tournament can be found at the following links:

Tournament #1 (this is a neat “must watch” video produced by an ICO team member in nearby Kampala, Uganda) x1y173GxLJIGHBe0E8Roi0wrZjKUFo%3D

Tournament #2

These tournaments provided a good inroad for us to get to know the staff, the school’s needs and the most vulnerable children. It is the intention that these schools now be matched with a Canadian school for fund raising purposes to meet their priority needs (which they have identified to us), in addition to forming bonds between the Canadian and Kenyan students.
Needs identified by the schools include additional classrooms, water catchment, library with books (these do not exist AT ALL at this time), agricultural activities for feeding and income generation, fencing, etc. The fundraising doesn’t have to be done all at once, it can be done little at the time; for example, if a Kenyan school needs a water catchment unit, the Canadian school tries to raise the ~$1,500 required. Computers are also on the list of schools which will soon have power...these schools have no computers now, and these will enable the school to teach Internet and Computer Technology. This will expose the children at a young age to a technology which is starting to take off in Kenya. This will make it more likely that they will continue to pursue this interest in secondary school and beyond, and will give them a foundation to build upon. It may even assist a child with a career in the future.

Moringa Trees

We have started a Moringa tree awareness campaign amongst our nearest neighbours, informing them about all the nutritional value that this tree can have for their family’s health. In addition to planting 4 trees in our garden, we have also given out seedlings, seeds, and educational material about the Moringa.

Ash Lee Jefferson Elementary School Donated Goods

The students and families of Ash Lee Jefferson Elementary School were so generous in donating over 250 kg worth of supplies for the people of Bondo, such as clothing, shoes, games, books, educational materials, medical supplies, footballs, etc. ICO paid to have these goods shipped to Kenya. These items have been given out to the needy under our supervision, and the recipients are very grateful. In the future we would rather have money than large quantities of donated goods, due to the high costs of shipping to Africa.

Other Accomplishments

- With our own personal funds and primarily through Jennifer’s efforts we have done the following:

- Jennifer is helping to lift a widow and her 5 children out of poverty, such that the children get a better chance to do well in school and attain a higher level of education (sponsorship still needed for oldest girl in Class 4). Her field was plowed, seeds were supplied, a pit latrine was dug (building will be done while we are away), and a small house will be built once we are back. Her slow learner son was tested and is being tutored, and her land title is being secured (for her and her children). Only 5% of Kenyan women own their own land title. If a husband dies, most often the family-in-law comes in and she is often chased off the land. To get a title deed is expensive ($500, impossible for any widow to pay), very complicated, and has to be approved by all family members and village elders under supervision of the chief. The family members often quarrel with the widow, as they are related to the late husband and to them she means nothing. See a message from Jennifer here.

- Another widow: medical treatment for her and one of her sons, new mattresses and furniture, all food requirements for the past 4 months and the coming months, clothing for kids, 100 L water catchment, solar lamp (see attached “Widow’s Story”). As a result, she feels and looks much stronger, the 3 year old is now walking, is active and starting to talk. We have set her up with another man whom we gave a small business loan to and they are selling sausages around town.

- Sponsoring 3 children at boarding school: 2 sisters at Wambasa Secondary Girls School, and 1 boy (son of 2nd widow above) at Medula Academy (Class 5 primary)

- Sponsoring 1 child at day care and one child at a private day school Class 1.

- Helped an albino child with eye testing and proper specs

- Mark taught a 2 day project management workshop for a small group of young men


Here is what we plan to do upon our return to Bondo in mid-October (contingent upon amount of money raised):

Dier Aora Primary School

(Cost = ~$5,000) Start up costs for implementing a self-sustaining breakfast and lunch feeding program for the hungry students. We have approached the School Management Committee (SMC) for proposals to achieve this. We are looking into innovative ways to provide food for the kids and whatever is left is to be sold on the market for revenue. Examples include dairy cows, sheep raising, or chicken breeding.

(Cost = $2,500) Installing additional toilet facilities – 3 boys, 3 girls, 1 teachers

(Cost = $1,000) New uniforms made for those students whose uniforms are in tatters. We will start by buying a few rolls of school uniform material and give it to poor women who will then be paid for making them.

Rocket Stoves

(Cost = ~$1,000 - $1,500) Production centre(s) start up costs including material, transportation, training, stipends, and local oversight.

Primary/Secondary School Sponsorship

(Cost = $35/month primary day school, Class 1-4, incl. a full meal at lunch time)
(Cost = $55/month for a boys or girls very good boarding school Class 5-8)
(Cost = $55/month for a boys or girls boarding high school Form 1-4)
(Cost = $25/month for a day high school Form 1-4)

Note: a day high school will only work if the child comes from a good family with both parents alive and has time to do home work at home.

When we arrived here we were asked all the time to sponsor someone’s child. We were not paying attention to that as we had so many other priorities to take care of. We have since learned that to sponsor a child is the best way a family will get out of poverty later on. Half of the children are either orphans or vulnerable children (OVC’s) where one parent has died, or the parents themselves are not educated and have no notion what it takes to educate their child and are struggling to stay afloat daily. There are many grandmothers or other family members left with children of dead family members. Those children never stand a chance. Our motorcycle taxi (Boda Boda) driver`s mother lost 7 of her 10 children ( due to malaria, accidents, and one of aids) and they left 8 children in her and her husband’s care. There is no way that any of those children will get a decent education. In order to do OK in public school the child needs two reasonably educated parents who see to it that homework is done nightly and that chores are done on the weekend only. This is the case with our neighbours, both parents are teachers and know what it takes for their children to do well in public school. This is a rural area and the majority of parents have had no education to speak of, perhaps primary school only. They do not know what it takes to educate a child with homework etc. Most of those children need to work very hard doing chores, hauling water, looking for fire wood, cleaning, laundry, etc. The good thing is though, that when you take one of those children out of that environment and put them first in a private primary day school from Classes 1-4 and after that in private primary boarding school from Classes 5-8, followed by 4 years at a secondary boarding school, then that child will have been given the opportunity to move on to higher education and will take on the role to further educate and provide for the rest of the family. Private schools offer a much better quality education than public schools, which are often overcrowded, with the majority of classroom sizes being between 75-125 kids and one teacher. The result is often that public school teachers become discouraged and lose interest/passion in teaching.

School sponsorship is probably one of the ways to have the greatest impact here, by ensuring that poor and vulnerable Bondo children get a quality education...good for the child, good for the family (as sponsored students who are successful in life later on will take responsibility for the welfare of their often large families), good for the country! We will personally oversee this small-scale program to ensure that deserving recipients are selected and that the money is spent as intended.

Trade School Sponsorship

(Cost = $55/month per student) When students come out of Class 8 primary school many want to go on to high school. At least 50% come out of public primary school without the proper marks to go on. They will end up without any chance of future income. For those kids, trade school is a great option instead of high school. The real good ones are 3 to 4 years and cost $55/month, which includes boarding and everything.

University education is also difficult to get here in Kenya, where the government only subsidizes the students with top marks...meaning students that have mostly gone to private boarding high school and even then those students need a minimum of B+ and higher to be considered to get a government loan for university , leaving the rest behind with impossible and unaffordable fees. We have met many very bright high school graduates with nowhere to go and quite a few now go to trade schools where marketable skills such as carpentry, tourism, catering, surveying, etc are taught.


(Cost = $15/ball) Every day we have children at our door uttering the word “ball”. The Canadian balls that were donated by Ash Lee Jefferson School have given and continue to give immense pleasure. However, these balls were not designed for this terrain and get punctured all the time due to the thorny bushes and the rough and rocky grounds.

We have found a source of good quality leather footballs at a very fair price in Nairobi. These balls can withstand the rough Kenyan turf and thorny bushes, and are easily repairable should they get punctured. In high demand, one ball occupies many children every day for hours as they have absolutely little else to occupy themselves with.

Tools for Maranda School for the Mentally Handicapped

(Cost = $2,500) This fantastic school, set in the countryside, is a mere 15 minute bike ride from Bondo. Children that are mentally challenged are mostly hidden from public and kept at home, and seen as a curse. This school has mild-to-medium mentally challenged children from all over Kenya and they are so lucky to be there. Of all the schools we have visited we can honestly say that this school has the most dedicated teachers and the happiest feel to it. What they do with these children with the little that they have is nothing more than a miracle. It is such a clean and well run happy place. They now also have autistic children and are asking for any help in knowledge how to best deal with them as this is quite a new field of work for them. They also welcome volunteers with experience, they have living quarters and food for them, all they need is the airfare. These children will not go on to secondary school, which is why this school has several workshops where the students learn skills which they can apply once they leave the school to earn a living from. These children are very handy and capable, and some of them even safely wield a welding torch! Workshops include metal, wood and tailoring, and are in dire need of new tools and equipment.

Solar Lights

(Cost = $20/kit or $47/kit) We have purchased 2 simple solar light kits and distributed one each to two widows. Each kit consists of a small solar panel which they place on their roof during the day to charge the accompanying LED lamp. The charged lamp will light up their small mud-walled hut at night, so they no longer will need to purchase kerosene for their light source, thus saving them money plus eliminating fumes. The kits can also be used to charge cell phones, which is important because most poor people have no electricity to do this with. Each kit is from a different manufacturer and will be tested while we are gone for the next 3 months – when we return we will decide which kit we will purchase going forward.

Deaf Boy

(Cost = $27/month plus hearing aid cost $TBD) One of the boys in Dier Aora Primary School is almost deaf and in his final year, Class 8. It has been known all those years that he has that problem, yet nothing was done about it. They just let him sit there, hence little or no education. Jennifer took him to a special school for the deaf and had him tested and paid for impressions to be taken from his ears. These will be taken to Canada hoping to find someone who can donate a hearing aid for him. Once he has that hearing aid he is welcome to be trained at the local school for the deaf (a beautiful loving place, run by Catholic sisters) where he could attend vocational school and learn a trade. It is a boarding school and cost $27/month.

National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) Coverage

(Cost = $23/year per family). This insures a family of up to 7 children for medical costs, even if some of those children are not their own but live in the house because their parents died. It is only the educated and the government employees that know about this program, and most people that really need it are not aware.

People die here all the time for no other reason that they don’t have the money to go to the hospital. They wait until they can’t wait any longer and when they then get there, it is mostly to die.
Jennifer helped out several times by bringing children and adults to buy medicine and pay for blood/urine tests and or other tests like x-rays and/or ultra sounds. Those costs are not much, eg. $15 for blood test and or x-ray, but unaffordable for many people.

We needed to come to the rescue for surgery for a family man, in order for him not to leave yet another woman with children behind. The hospital fees have to be paid before a patient can be released and $250 - $375 is simply impossible for those families. They might have to sell their land or leave their loved one indefinitely at the hospital. We heard of one case where a woman was hospitalized, the family could not pay and therefore the patient did not get visits from them. After 6 months she was so depressed, she tried to kill herself by swallowing needles. She was “saved” and remains a prisoner in the hospital.

The above examples are given to illustrate the importance and value of acquiring NHIF coverage for families.

FUND RAISING PLEA! (Last but not least)

One of our biggest challenges continues to be fund raising so that we can keep on truly making a difference here. For those of you who were so generous to donate over the past 6 months, again we graciously thank you. In support of the new requirements listed above, a tax-receipted donation can be made at One of the beauties of ICO is that 100% of donations go directly to the Initiative; absolutely no money is deducted for overhead, administration, volunteer travel and living costs, etc. ICO even pays the cost of the donations service, so you are assured that all of your donation goes to those in need. Their bank account can be viewed by all “live” online. Any donations will be greatly appreciated by those in need in Bondo, Kenya, and we will continue to personally oversee the use of the funds raised. Note: if dontating from the website above, please select "Kenya - Bondo Initiatives" for "Fund/Designation" in order to direct the money to our project.

If there is a particular requirement(s) that you are inspired to help with, please let us know and we will make sure that your money is only spent on that item(s).

Also, if you know of any small businesses or companies which may be willing to make a corporate donation, can you please advocate on behalf of our project and direct any questions our way, we would be happy to answer them. Also, if you know of any events where there might be a raffle, it would be so great to have the proceeds of that raffle donated to our Bondo project.
Thank you for reading this! We hope to see many of you when we are back in Canada this summer.

Best regards,

Jennifer Tenwolde-Dull and Mark Dull.

ICO Initiatives

September 17, 2014
ICO’s Instruments4Africa provides opportunities to underprivileged children in Mali, one of Africa's poorest countries, to get an education and reach their potential. Building on Mali’s rich artistic culture, children receive performing arts training, and are part of a performing arts troupe guided by professional dance and music teachers.