Up and Away

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The masons and fundis are making great progress on both the 6th, 7th and 8th classrooms but also on the mud-brick staff room and kitchen, which has now reached shoulder…

Open the door and let us in…

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Not only are the bricks for the walls made by hand but also the doors and windows are manufactured by tradesmen on the side of the road. We are excited…

The Wall

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A few days into the build we could hardly keep pace with the thirst for materials. Some days we had 18 men working on the site, all demanding timber, bricks,…

Rock On

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...meanwhile the build continues. We have now decided to build the staff room and kitchen out of mud brick and the floor in concrete—a major step up the building food…

Keep the Motor Running

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Our investment last year in some two-wheeled transport for Shalom Academy has paid off handsomely. Vitalis not only has a handy means of getting educational supplies and equipment to the…

He’s a Brick

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Success on a project like building a school relies as much on who-you-know as what-you-know. Which certainly came in handy when we went looking for bricks in the middle of…

Future Customers

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All the building activity at the school has attracted plenty of curious looks from children in the village. This photograph was taken on a weekday, so none of these children…

Breaking New Ground

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As 2018 whizzes by, our thoughts turn to the start of the Kenyan school year in January 2019. Our goal is to raise the registration to 80 pupils at Shalom…

Saintly intervention

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St Gregory's Catholic Primary School in Preston invited Strive for Excellence to their Send a Friend to School fundraiser. (St Gregory is the patron saint of musicians, singers – and…

Unfurl the Flag

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The Kenyan flag is raised on Mondays and Friday mornings and lowered after school. It’s the one and only time there is silence at Shalom Academy. Once the flag is…

Unsung Hero

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May I introduce Mary, Shalom Academy’s cook for the last few years. Never complaining, always on time, in blistering heat and pouring rain, working in a smoky mud hut, every…

Water Babies

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One of our primary goals this year was to bring running water to Shalom Academy. We’ve done it. After the mains water pipe was damaged by road contractors and disconnected…

Precious Cargo

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It is surprising how far some children walk to Shalom Academy each morning (7.30am start) – and home each evening. So it’s a special joy when someone’s dad offers a…

Sowing Seeds and Gathering in

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With the new bike at our disposal, Vitalis and I were able to visit parents and children in what he calls ‘the interior’, a densely wooded area accessible down narrow…

New Arrivals

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Shalom Academy welcomed many new pupils this week (it’s the fourth week of term, but parents are slow to cotton on around here), bringing the total number to 41, including…

Bricking it

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Our collective feet hit the ground running when we arrived in Irovo last week. There is plenty of building work to complete, none more important than constructing some secure cupboards…

Where the Axe Falls

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Vitalis and friends have made some improvements to Shalom Academy during the last couple of months. Tree stumps that were interrupting play have been dug up, trees have been planted…

The extra mile for the photo we’ve been waiting for

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We left Vitalis and the fundis a mountain of work to complete as we headed for Nairobi, then home. He knew that the sooner he could get the basics completed, the…

Good Effort

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As we approach the end of the build, we are sad to leave Irovo and return to South Africa. Although there is still much to do — put the roof…

Sports Day

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After the children made a mad dash for the Blackpool-donated jerseys and shorts, Sports Day on the new land turned into a combined football/tennis/badminton match. I’m not sure who won, but…

All Shook Up

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While the new, somewhat shaky school building took shape a kilometre away, teacher Bridgit welcomed the pupils to the new term at the old school – the termite infested one. The atmosphere…

Some light yet spiritual relief

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Weekly choir practice in front of Vitalis’s house.

Fundis dig Foundations

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The build proper couldn’t begin until we found a man with a chainsaw who cut up the trees we bought a couple of days ago. Once they were cut into…

The Build Continues

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And so the build continued. We employed some local women to bring water from the river for the concrete mix and the fundis began erecting the support posts. It seemed a…

A Stake in the Future

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Once the decision was made to build a temporary building to house the Shalom Academy, Vitalis clicked into gear. The building will be timber framed and clad with what’s called…

Temporary Beauty

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A recurring difficulty for school director Vitalis is finding the rent every month. A few months ago the children once again arrived at school (the blue painted one seen in…

Measure for Measure

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First things first. We bought a tape measure, twine, a hammer and made some stakes to mark out the footprint of the proposed school designed by David Cox on the odd-shaped piece…

Charity begins with a new home

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Best news of the year so far… Strive for Excellence (Irovo) is now recognised as a charity in the UK (charity number 1170935). Crucially, this gives our wonderful donors – and the…

Fence Me In

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The new fence has been erected around the acre of land on which we plan to build the new Shalom Academy. Vitalis was keen to demonstrate that progress was being…

St Augustine’s links to Shalom Academy

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The children of Irovo are fascinated by the lives of children in other places — throughout Kenya, Europe, the world! Which is why it is wonderful that the children of St…

Land Ahoy!

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The most exciting news yet for Strive for Excellence… We have just completed the purchase of an acre of land in Irovo, destined to be the site of the new…

Charity Status

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Part of our plan to grow the charity, we have applied to register with the Charity Commission, which means getting a registration number and hopefully qualifying for Gift Aid benefits. This should…

Strive for Excellence

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It has been a busy week at Strive for Excellence. Lots of things are happening (all good) in our quest to improve schooling in the village of Irovo in Kakamega…

The Bitterest Pill

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It is time I brought Irovo-watchers up to speed on the latest news from Irovo.org The negotiations with Philip, the village elder, were progressing nicely until his extended family heard that…

Interview with Vitalis

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Another Brick in the Wall

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While we wait for the lawyer to do her lawyering and the surveyor to do his surveyering, our thoughts turn to how we are going to build the new school. We…

One Big Step

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Main Photo: The Gang of Four: Alan W, Vitalis, village elder Philip Malimu Tosi, headmaster Mr Bondi. Vitalis suggested a meeting (a ‘conflab’) with the village elder, Philip Malimu Tosi,…

The Art of the Deal

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Olive with headmaster John Bundi on Philip Malimu Tosi’s land. Our main goal when we set out for Irovo — apart from acting as willing mules for all the fantastic…

The Long Goodbye

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We had a great last day at Irovo. The children were all in terrific form (which might have had something to do with the whistling lolipops), after an impromptu screening…

What a Dish!

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I promised the video of the first time the new bowls and spoons were used. Small progress, but the impact was huge. (In the background are some of the new…

Food for Thought

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There were two urgent needs at the school when we arrived a couple of weeks ago: desks and a kitchen. The children were all bunched up on benches in the…

School was never so exciting

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The children at Irovo wanted to show everyone back in England that all the school supplies arrived safely, so they each grabbed something and held it up. But when the…

A Day of Celebration

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Some of my favourite photos from the second day at Irovo. Vitalis called it a day of celebration. Finally, I got a good pic of the ever-shy Vitalis (seated with…

Annoying the headteacher is another key to life

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Like good visiting mzungus we brought some lollipops to the school. Unknown to us, the sticks acted as whistles once the lollipop was eaten. It drove the headteacher to distraction,…

Education is the Key to Life

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Arrival Day

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So much happened on the day of our arrival at Irovo that we thought we’d post a few more pictures to depict a fuller flavour of the day.If nothing else, we…

Heroes

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Well, we made it. We’d travelled the length of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania, and on to Western Kenya: more than six thousand kilometres. The final day, arriving in Kakamega,…

Rare find on the Dodoma Road

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This is the first sighting of the ultra rare chair tree of southern Tanzania. Known to flower only once every millennium, we were privileged to witness this astounding event that…

Dry

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One thing unites the countries on our travels over the last three weeks or so: drought. South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Tanzania are clearly suffering a huge water crisis that…

Life is an express road and overtaking is allowed

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Driving the roads of southern and eastern Africa brings many amusements, or distractions if you prefer. One of which is the unique livery of the taxis. There are no two…

Royal Treatment

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Following two nights at Kapishya Hot Springs, we made a dash for the Zambia–Tanzania border. Two hours of formalities, and we were in. The differences over the border were striking.…

It even rains in the Garden of Eden

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OK. No wine in this post… I promised a picture of the water babe, Ms Carroll. This is the best shot I could get before the lens steamed up! The…

Be the change you want to see in the world

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The changes over the border in Zimbabwe are striking. After South Africa — despite the fact that the northern Limpopo region is one of the poorest in SA — Zim…

Bottle of Red

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Wine is getting harder to come by — the horror; the horror — and when it does arrive, it is served at, shall we say, ambient temperature. Currently, that means…

Sights of SA – Zim border

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It’s been a curious few days on our journey up to Irovo. We passed through Polokwane, Limpopo, which certainly has a different feel about it to Joburg. It’s a small…

Zim – the trip heats up

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As we approach Zimbabwe — and pass the 2,000 kilometre mark — the temperature heats up significantly while driving past huge baobab trees and vehicles piled high with, well, who…

Size Matters

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Sometimes it’s good to get things in perspective. Africa is big. Really big.

Santa Claus is coming to town

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Most countries get a visit from Father Christmas on a sleigh pulled by Donner & Blitzen, who dishes out gifts to all the children who’ve been good this year. South…

Brewing up a Storm in the Karoo

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From Beaufort West — the birthplace of heart transplant pioneer Christiaan Barnard and very little else — we continued east-northeast towards Bloemfontein. The long drive through the Karoo — a…

We’re off!

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A tank of diesel, a car full of school supplies, a long journey ahead, a dodgy navigator. All the ingredients needed for a successful trip to Irovo, Kenya. The official…

Quart into a Pint Pot

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Two weeks to go before we leave for Kenya, we spent a sweaty afternoon squeezing as much stuff as possible into the 4×4 — a trial pack. It was close,…

Carnet de Passage

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When travelling through most of Africa it is advisable to have a carnet de passage, a sort of passport for the car. It proves that your stay in the foreign country…

The Sting

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It must be getting warmer in Cape Town. We’ve had a visit to our garage from the first scorpion of the season. Better check the bed each night before getting…

Moment of Celebration

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One question everyone has been asking is: ‘How are you going to get all those school supplies from Cape Town up to Irovo school in Kenya?’ Well, here’s the answer.…

Safe & Sound

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We arrived in Cape Town in early October, and it wasn’t long before I received a call from the shipping company at the docks saying that they had a shipment of 37…

Jumpers for goalposts

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We got a great surprise when we got a call from Albert and Mary Cooper of St Annes, whose daughter Donna had heard about the project at LCC social services.…

Shipping to Irovo

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The boxes mounted as we received more supplies from lovely people, who either raided their office stationery cupboards or bought new school supplies. 34 boxes were picked up and shipped to Cape…