Our FGM Eradication Campaign is now supported by UK Aid Direct

Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) also known as female circumcision, has been practised in the Kipkelion area for generations.  Although many people in developed countries associate FGM with Islam, it is in fact a traditional practice in many African countries and is not part of the teachings of Islam.  Both of the two main communities in Kipkelion – the Kalenjin and the Kikuyu – have traditionally used both male and female circumcision as a rite of passage for their young people at the time of puberty.

Many people in Kenya now recognise that FGM is a very harmful practice, and it has recently been made a criminal offence by the Kenyan Government.  In Kipkelion, local chiefs, elders, teachers and religious leaders generally support the eradication of FGM, but in the more remote rural areas there are still places where the practice persists.

We’re currently working with our partners, Friends of Londiani, to help the people of Kipkelion to eradicate FGM in the area once and for all.  We’re doing this by training around 50 local people in Kipkelion – some of whom are themselves victims of FGM – to go out into the community and increase awareness of the unacceptable nature of FGM, through community meetings, debates and discussions.  Once the community has been won over, our volunteers offer an “alternative rites of passage” course to the girls in the community who are about to come of age – the girls learn about their tribal traditions, and what it means to be an adult member of the community, but without suffering the appalling experience of FGM.  The course ends with a public ceremony at which the entire community celebrates the fact that the girls have come of age.

We’re delighted to have the support of a grant from UK Aid, provided by the Department for International Development (DFID) which will enable us to bring this programme to 3,000 girls in Kipkelion over the next 3 years – focussing on the girls who are most at risk of FGM.  We won’t stop until Kipkelion is an FGM free zone!

Special Education in Kipkelion

Kipkelion has a Special School.  It’s quite unusual, as there is very little special needs provision in Kenya, and Kipkelion Special School is the only one in a huge area, serving a population of more than a million people.

The school caters exclusively for children with learning difficulties.  There are currently 120 pupils.  The school is a boarding school, as the pupils’ homes are often many miles away.

The children’s disabilities include many of the congenital conditions we see in the UK such as Downs Syndrome, hydrocephalus and autism, but in addition there are children whose learning difficulties have been caused or made worse by malnutrition in infancy or by severe cases of malaria.  Many of the children in the school suffered oxygen starvation at birth because their mothers had a difficult labour and modern obstetric techniques were not available.  Some suffered brain injuries as babies due to accidents in the home.

The school principal, Mr Reuben Sang, and all his teaching staff are trained as special needs teachers, and they make sure that the children are treated with love and respect and that they are given every opportunity to learn.  The emphasis is on child centred learning and class sizes are relatively small.  The older children are given the opportunity to learn useful craft skills such as brick-making and the making of bracelets.

More and more people in the Kipkelion area are learning about the importance of special needs education and what can be done to help children with learning difficulties.  As a result, the school is vastly over-subscribed, and many children have to be turned away each year.

Mr Sang also told us that the school lacks a reliable water supply – at present they have to fetch water from a river at the bottom of the hill.  The school owns a donkey which is loaded up with water containers, and it has to make the trip to the river and back several times a day.  Hopefully one day the school will have a 32,000 litre water storage tank, so that rain water can be collected during the rainy season and the burden on the donkey will be reduced!

We’re in the Big Give 2014!

In the first week of December, Friends of Kipkelion is taking part, along with many other UK charities, in an online fundraising initiative called the Big Give Christmas Challenge (www.thebiggive.org.uk). Friends of Kipkelion is doing this to raise funds for the Girls for Girls programme run by our sister charity, Friends of Londiani,  at Kipteris School in Kipkelion. 

The Girls for Girls programme addresses the problems faced by many girls in Kipkelion – the school toilets and washrooms are so awful (or non existent) that they can’t go to school when they have their periods – and they have no sanitary products either.  So girls stay off school, fall behind and often drop out altogether.  That’s one reason why only 20% of girls go to secondary school in Kipkelion.  We’re aiming to raise money to enable the girls at Kipteris School to attend the school throughout the month.

But that’s not all. Corporate sponsors and other backers have agreed to match any amount raised from the public! That means that £20 donated to Friends of Kipkelion as part of the Big Give Christmas Challenge will turn into £40. And all of it will go to support the project at Kipteris School.  And (of course) if you are a UK taxpayer, Friends of Kipkelion will be able to reclaim the tax and boost the value of your donation even further.

It all happens over three days, which sounds ideal — but there’s a little catch: the match funding is released at 10 am each day and is limited. That means you’ll have to be quick!

This is what you need to do to take part in the Big Give Christmas Challenge:

  • You can only donate online and you must make your donation on Thursday the 4th, Friday the 5th or Saturday the 6th of December 2014, from 10 am onwards, using this link:


  • On one (or more) of those dates, visit the website and make your donation using a debit or credit card. 

The important thing is to give as soon after 10 am as you can, as a separate tranche of match funding will be released at that time on each of the three days. So if you cannot take part on the first day, try 10 am on one or both of the next two days. But you won’t be alone. All the participating charities taking part will be encouraging their supporters to donate as early as possible. That’s why it’s called a “challenge”!

Bear in mind too that anyone can donate. However, if you are a UK taxpayer the benefits to Friends of Kipkelion are even greater. If your friends or colleagues might be interested in supporting this project, let them know about it.

And if they (or you) have any questions about the Christmas Challenge, or Friends of Kipkelion’s activities, we’d be glad to answer them. Just drop a line to info@friendsofkipkelion.com.

Quitting Smoking – Kipkelion Style

One of the most exciting projects we are involved with in Kipkelion at the moment is the introduction of smokeless stoves.  Here’s how it works:

Traditionally, people in Kipkelion have cooked their food inside their houses using an open fire.  The main fuel they use is wood, and this has all sorts of awful consequences.  The house fills with smoke while they are cooking, and those who are inside the house – especially women and children – often develop lung and chest diseases from breathing the filthy air.  Some people go blind from prolonged exposure to the smoke.

And the open fires are very inefficient in terms of fuel – they consume a lot of wood, and the forests around Kipkelion are rapidly disappearing as a result.  So the environment is being destroyed – and the price of the firewood is rising as well.

Because of the shortage of firewood, people- and again it is usually women and children – are having to walk further and further to reach the forest where they can buy the wood.  Some are spending several hours a day walking to the forest and then carrying back an enormous, heavy bundle of firewood.

So on top of the health hazards, the environmental damage and the expense, getting wood for the stoves is an enormous waste of time for people in Kipkelion.  People would much rather be spending their time on more productive labour, such as growing crops for sale in the local market, or studying to go to college or to master a trade.

Together with our partners, Friends of Londiani, we are promoting the introduction of a simple stove which uses about 70% less firewood than the traditional open fires.  It comes with a chimney which ensures that the smoke is dispelled outside the house and keeps the living areas smoke free.  The stove is manufactured locally using local materials and is installed by local craftsmen – and the cost is only £25 per household!

There are about 40,000 families in Kipkelion who need one of these stoves – we are hoping to fund the introduction of a few hundred stoves as “demonstration models” across the area, and then help the wider population to get their own stoves through micro finance schemes and other incentives.  Training more technicians and craftsmen to build and install the stoves will be an important part of this initiative.

If you would like to help, why not donate the price of a stove or two?

A Day in the Life of a Girl in Kipkelion

You have to get up at 4 am.  Why?  Because you have to walk for at least an hour along muddy roads to get to school.  It’s at least 3 miles away!

Time for a wash – the water is cold.  There’s no hot water unless you light a fire to warm it up.  And there’s no water either, unless you fetch it.  A bucket of water is really heavy.  There’s no bath or shower in your house – just a bucket to wash in.  Usually a cold bucket.

If you’ve got your period, maybe you won’t be able to go to school – you don’t have any sanitary pads.  You and your family can’t afford them.  So you might miss a week of school each month.  You’ll be worried about falling behind in class, and maybe failing your exams.

Time for breakfast – if you can light the fire and heat up some porridge.  That’s all there is really – just porridge, and a cup of tea.

You’re doing all this in the dark – it doesn’t get light till 6 am, and there isn’t any electricity in your parents’ house.  It’s a wooden shack on a tiny farm in the middle of nowhere.

Time to set off for school – there is no school bus, and no car to take you.  You have to walk – it’s a good few miles.

When you get there, the school routine begins – morning assembly, maths, history, science, English.

Morning break – time for a trip to the loo.  It’s a latrine – that means a hole in the ground basically.  And there aren’t enough of them, so there is always a long queue.

Lunch time – what’s for lunch?  More porridge!  At least there’s plenty of it.

School finishes at 4pm.  It’s raining, and the roads are a sea of mud.  You walk back to your parents’ house, 3 miles in the rain.

When you get home, you’ve got homework to do, but your mother needs your help with milking cows, feeding goats, lighting fires, chopping wood, fetching water, looking after your little brothers and sisters…

And then you’ve got to wash your own clothes.  There’s no washing machine.  There’s no hot water.  So you wash your things by hand, in a bowl of cold water, using a bar of soap.  Hope everything dries in time…

Better do the homework now, but it’s very dark and the oil lamp you’ve got doesn’t make it easy.  At least there’s no TV or internet to distract you!

Time for supper….no, not more porridge – it’s beans this time!  You’re not surprised, as you had to pick them yourself and shell them yourself and cook them yourself, as your Mum was too busy.

9pm – time for bed.  You’re falling asleep anyway.  You and two of your sisters are all in one small bed.  It’s very dark.  You’ll wake up when the cocks start crowing.

Friends of Kipkelion and Friends of Londiani

All the projects we do as Friends of Kipkelion are done in partnership with Friends of Londiani. Here’s a word on how that works.

Londiani and Kipkelion are basically the same geographical place.  Kipkelion is the name given to the wider area – there are, for example, two parliamentary constituencies covering the area and they are called Kipkelion East and Kipkelion West. Londiani is the name of the main town in the area, and is something of an administrative centre.

Friends of Londiani (FOL) was set up in 2002 by a group of volunteers from Ireland. It is a registered charity in Ireland and has grown into a very strong organisation, spending hundreds of thousands of euros each year on development projects in Londiani and Kipkelion.

When we were setting up Friends of Kipkelion in 2010, we found out about FOL via the internet and I wrote to the trustees of FOL and asked if we could work together, as a UK registered charity and an Irish charity with similar aims. FOL’s response was extremely positive and we soon found that we shared the same vision for helping the people of Kipkelion in their development.

FOL has a permanent team of local people permanently based in Londiani, and they are able to find out from the people of Kipkelion what their needs and priorities are. Working with FOL, we are then able to establish which projects we wish to support, and Friends of Kipkelion then sends FOL the money to carry out the agreed projects. All the execution of the projects is done by FOL.

As might be expected, we spend a lot of time on Skype and emailing between the UK, Ireland and Kenya, and meeting up in all three countries, to ensure that the projects run smoothly. It’s a great partnership – and all to the benefit of the people of Kipkelion.

How I got involved with Kipkelion

People sometimes ask me why I set up a charity to help the people of Kipkelion in particular.  It’s a long story, but here’s the short version:

When I left school I had a gap year before going to University, and I heard of an opportunity to go and teach in a school in Kenya.  There weren’t many places which would accept an 18 year old to do a proper job overseas, and this sounded exciting.

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