Tuesday, March 29, 2011

World Forests' Day Celebrations - March 2011 at Karura Forest

The Day;

World Forestry Day is celebrated in forests around the world on 21 March each year as people take time to consider the benefits of forests to the community - such as catchment protection, providing habitat for plants, areas for recreation, education and scientific study, and as a source of many products including timber, wildlife and honey, not forgetting the billions of cubic litres of water that emanate there. World Forestry Day also aims to provide opportunities for people to learn how forests can be managed and used sustainably for these many purposes.

A tree seedling planted during a hot season needs mulching and simple bottle-drip irrigation as shown above.

The Celebrations;

In Kenya, the celebrations took place at the Karura Resource Centre in Karura forest. The ceremony included the official launching of the International Year of Forests. This follows the United Nations declaration of 2011 as the International Year of Forests which calls on all UN Member States to dedicate this year to conservation activities to celebrate the forests of the world, in line with combatting the global warming and the ever decreasing forest and water resources.

Forests need to be renewed by way of having seedbeds for new tree seedlings as shown above, which should eventually be transplanted to the field after maturity.

This is the first time, that Kenya is celebrating the World Forest Day and the International Year of Forests. The theme of the international year of forests is “Forest for People” and focuses on the relationship between forest and people who depend on them. Karura Forest, which has now been opened for public recreation symbolizes the successful struggle in forest reclamation and restoration in the country. The place is beaming with thick leafy sections, to beautiful clean water falls. The birdlife is in a sharp increase over the last few years, while logging is a thing of the past.

Forest Heroes;

During the year,the member states will initiate enomous efforts to creating awareness and increasing the foresat cover. Among the initiatives, the recognizing and awarding of innovative community efforts that improves the livelihood through sustainable forestry conservation will be one of the key aspects. However, the main highlight is the creation of a Forest Heroes Award. This will recognize individuals that have made outstanding contribution to forests. The award will mainly focus on the unsung heroes and heroines; whom the UN calls “the everyday people” who tirelessly work towards nurturing, protecting, and developing forests. During the event, the UNEP Director Mr. Steiner noted that there are lots of such people in the communities whose work needs recognition more than ever. He reiterated the need to have initiatives that will foster close relations from the local level climbing up to the national level. This he noted will help in realizing the global goal of reclaiming the lost forest cover. With the long rains period having started in some areas of the country, the time for tree planting is here with us, meaning we should take a full advantage.

Some indigenous trees grow a canopy figure which results to a good source of shade for seedbeds.

The United Nations Forum on Forests is currently identifying individuals as forest spokespersons who can use their leadership or celebrity status to generate media attention and help to raise awareness and support for forests.

Exchanging of Ideas;

In Kenya, the national steering committee plans to launch a Corporate Forest Management Award which will be recognizing heroes at the grassroot level. The tree planting in all counties will be conducted at the onset of the long rains in April. Public awareness programes will include hosting of Zonal forestry management exhibitions and enhancing school-based tree planting. This will transform greatly and help recover the lost forest cover in many areas of the country. The counties that have an average forest cover eg, Murang’a, will be used as an example to the other counties through community based heroes and participants exchange programme. Inter-county seminars will be conducted twice a year in different places where participants will have a good chance to learn, tour and exchange ideas which will help in improving the realization of the set goals.

Friday, March 25, 2011

CEK Career Talk Session – St. John’s Secondary School.

The Session Aim;
A few years ago, CEK made a contact with the St. Johns secondary school, and cemented a friendship with the aim of helping the students. Top on the agenda was to create a progressive academic awareness to the students who come from the nearby Majengo informal settlement. Due to the poor nature of the residents, the students normally display a withdrawn behavior towards education and more so hating some of the subjects in school, despite them being clever enough to excel in them. This is an area that CEK saw the need to come in and bridge the gap through career sessions with the students. Demystifying of some of the myths about “hard” subjects being one of the top notch strong points needed to bring a positive attitude towards the subjects and the much needed education at large. It was quite evident that if stringent measures were not taken, some of the students may as well hate and leave schooling, before getting involved in antisocial behaviors, like drugs abuse, peddling and alcoholism among many other dangers.

The Day;
It s on a hot dusty Thursday afternoon on the 24th Feb. 2011, the day we had set for the visit. Having deliberated duties in an earlier meeting on who was to take part in this activity, a group of 4 volunteers were available to take up the first session of the year. Peter, Irene, George and Kanja were the guys to hold the mantle shoulder high. Despite it being a working day, everyone was able to get to the office at the agreed time and off the team hit the road to the school. It being a short distance from the city center, it took us a few minutes to arrive at the school.

On arrival we meet we were warmly welcomed by the teacher on duty a Mr. Francis who led us to the head of science department, Mr. Obwaka. He led the way upstairs to his office where we held a short conversation consisting of introduction and the motive of the visit. To our surprise we learned that he was actually a scholar and had in fact written a physics textbook that is accredited by the ministry of education and is used as a syllabus textbook in the country for form 4 students. He had also taught some high profile individuals who have risen to become charismatic lawyers, doctors, engineers and pilots among many others. On top of this, he has also taught in national schools such as State house girls and Alliance high school.

The Physics book authored by Mr. Obwaka.

The Session;

We were then guided by Mr. Obwaka to a classroom where the form 3 and form 4students were anxiously awaited. A quick introduction was done by the schools’ chemistry teacher to the students and then left us to carry on with our planned activity. Kanja was the session moderator. He gave a brief introduction about CEK before we introduced ourselves. Kanja then gave an over view about careers and how to make the best career choices based on an individual’s talent, passion and performance in school. This served as a good avenue to helping the students clearly understand the term CAREER and its benefits. This also helped to break the barrier between us and the students, therefore creating a conducive environment where we interacted openly. It was fun….!

Ms. Amina, demonstrating the first rule....."Slow Down"

At this moment, we supplied the students with each a piece of paper where everyone had to write at least two of his/her career choice/s. One being the major career and the other one being the minor career choice in case the major one fails to materialize. Soon after this, we collected all the papers and arranged them according to the careers proposed, i.e. engineering, medicine, journalism, lawyers etc. We were so motivated to find out how optimistic and ambitious the students were despite the challenges they faced. This showed the amount of hope they had in them albeit the lack of educational materials and reading aids.

We later divided the students into four groups. This was done in order to have an in depth one on one conversation with the students. We also wanted to enlighten them over the requirements needed to pursue the different careers they had chosen. This was an interesting activity since the students were able to open up and share their problems, weaknesses and fears’ that they face in school and also at home. They also shared deeply about the pressure around them, emanating from the community such as negative peer pressure, lack of resources, not forgetting the paining domestic problems in their homes. All these added up together; greatly affect their performance in school, resulting to poor grades and negative attitude.

Irene sharing ideas with group "1" students team

Discussion (Help) Groups;

The group’s discussion and sharing went on for the better part of the evening. Kanja had a difficult time to wind-up the activity since there was still so much to be shared. After all, we had to put a stop and promise to continue from where we left in another day. We divided the students into 3 major groups which will form the focal points of academic discussions and help points. The groups elected two leaders who will be the main communicators to CEK and the subject teachers. The students will be discussing issues amongst themselves in the evenings during the private study moments, where they will help each other in solving problems especially in mathematics and sciences. The group leaders will have a responsibility of approaching any teacher whose advice will be needed by the group to come and address the issue at the group level. This will greatly help in demolishing the barriers between students and “certain” teachers in the school. Performance will greatly be improved in various subjects where students normally have difficulties. Female students greatly welcomed the idea and promised to utilize the opportunities offered for their benefit.

George sharing ideas with group "2" students.

Winding Up;

At this moment, we all headed outside the classroom to the school’s compound where we took a group photograph. We also exchanged contacts with the students for future consultations and follow up on how they were carrying on. Two students gave the final comments about the day’s event and highly thanked the CEK for the visit and the encouragement offered. The CEK team also gave their remarks and thanked the students for their dedication, interaction, discipline and respect that was displayed during the session. It was truly a highly beneficial moment for the young eager to learn students.

As the dusk approached, we had to hurriedly bid farewell to the students and off we left. Within a few minutes, we managed to get to the office where we had a short meeting where Carol joined the group. The agenda for the meeting was to discuss the activity of the day in summary. We also discussed about the forth coming sessions and how best we shall handle them. A tentative program for the coming sessions was also discussed at length before we unanimously decided to call it a day and dispersed.

The group foto

Words can’t be enough to explain the success of the day’s activity, but given the feedback from the teachers and the students alike, we can proudly announce that we touched the hearts of many and opened a new chapter in their school life. To Inspire, Empower and Engage are the main pillars for success in everything that CEK undertakes…! Looking forward to the next session.

Report by; Ng'ang'a Peter.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

CEK Members Get Together Meeting – Ololosokuan - Ngong Hills.

2010 In Review;
The year 2010 has gone down in history as one of the worst years the CEK has seen. It’s the year where very few activities were accomplished amid lots of problems. This was due to an acute shortage of funds. In this case, we were not able to conduct an AGM where members would meet and take stock of the activities and goals accomplished in past year. This phenomenon has since changed and the team is upbeat and very ready for the year ahead.

CEK Members sharing light moments at the office for the meeting. From left to right; Lizbeth, Sharon, Irene, Joy, Peter and Gerald.

Its Saturday 19th February 2011. The weather is sunny and quite conducive for indoor and outdoor activities altogether. All the members converged at the CEK Office in Mageso Chambers 1st Floor by 1pm. A total of 15 members were in attendance with more than 10 others sending their apologies due to unavoidable circumstances. It being the first meeting of the year, there was a lot of issues to be discussed at length and come up with a calendar of events and their time lines for the whole year.

The meeting stated at 1pm with introductions where every present member introduced him/herself to the group. Kanja, proceeded with giving an overview of the mission of CE Kenya, not forgetting the origin of CE in general. He also gave more information about the activities that CEK undertook in 2010 and their successes in tandem with the CEK calendar for the year. He indicated that the year saw a few projects being put on hold due to insufficient funding. The loss of the CE US President, Alex Tung, also brought in a gap that will never be filled or else may take time to fill. This slowed down the execution of projects that were in the program for the year. Nonetheless, things are now looking up and everyone has fastened the seatbelt ready for a bright and busy year ahead. This will be in an effort to recover the unfinished activities.

The outdoor meeting venue

Having shared this information, it was time for the CEK treasurer Ms. Carol Muli who took people through an overview of how the CEK carries out its activities and financial management in general. She laid much emphasis on proper accountability of funds and budget strictness which makes the organization soar in glory. She also gave a few examples of some of the activities that CEK have carried out successfully and their budgetary allocation vis-à-vis the expenses. This was intended to educate the new members on what is expected of them in matters financial since they will at one time be in charge of activities that will be delegated to them as team leaders.

At the same time, the CEK Executive Secretary Ms. Lizbeth rose to the podium where she gave the members detailed information concerning the running of CEK, including the office matters. She also explained more about membership subscription. Reporting was another issue that was in her agenda list. She indicated that communication is the best way to keep people together and helps in organizational management, this culminates to the much wished and needed progress.

Carol taking members through the CEK mission.

The calender of Events;
The time for departure to the venue in Ngong came and the team boarded a truck. Within no time, the team was already seated in a round table with serious discussion taking place. At first it was the announcement of all the events that CEK have planned to accomplish this year. Carol lead the members in discussing at length and coming out with probable timelines for every project.
This is an activity where members conversed and exchanged valuable ideas which helped to come up with a tentative calendar of events but not only limited to the ones stipulated in the table below.

1. Plant for the Planet - Countrywide From April to December 2011 - Kanja & Irene are the tentative leaders for this event. The dates are to be confirmed and CEK to act accordingly

2. Nyota Professional Insight Sessions - 3 Nairobi based Schools - From March to December 2011
Rotational basis as per session. This has already started and is continuing well.

3. Chemsha Bongo Science Challenge . This is an activity that will be held in 3 Nairobi based Schools from March to December 2011. Leadership for the events will be on rotational basis as per session.
4. Science day trip to ILRI & UNEP May 2011 - Bridgit & Kanja - This is subject to dates confirmation – preferably from mid May to Early June

5. Computer Donation Follow-Up at Kalukuni Secondary School – Yatta Plateau June 2011. Carol /Judy are the tentative team leaders for this event. The dates are be confirmed and CEK to act accordingly.

6. World Environment Day Celebrations , date 5th June.
Lizbeth & George will follow up on this matter and lead the rest of the members in taking part. This is an international day – confirmation for the main activity venue will be done in due course.

7. Friends of Karura Forest Tree Planting Day at Karura Forest - Nairobi July. Kanja, Irene & William are the tentative leaders for this activity. The dates will be confirmed and CEK to act accordingly

8. Nairobi Green Line Tree Planting session at Nairobi National Park from April to December 2011. Kanja & Wangare are the leaders for this activity. The dates are subject to confirmation.

9. Members SGM Ololosokuan – Ngong Hills In between June to early August, Carol & Gerald are the team leaders for this event. The dates are subject to confirmation.

10. Open Learning Day AIC Girls Secondary School - Kajiado Preferably April. Carol & Naboth are the leaders for this event. The dates are subject to confirmation.

11. World AIDs Day, Venue to be confirmed while the event will take place on 1st December 2011. Irene & Sharon will lead the team to the event. This is an international day – confirmation for the main activity venue will be done later.

12. Open Learning Day MCEDO School Preferably August Bridgit,William & Justa will lead the team, while the dates are subject to confirmation.

13. CEK Members AGM . The venue will be confirmed later while the meeting is intended to take place within the 1st or 2nd week of December. The excecutive committee will take lead in planning for this event.

14. Lusaka Schools Project. This project wil take place from Mid May to Early June. The exact dates are subject to confirmation. CEK will send representative/s to the event.

Judy giving a contribution during the round table discussion session.

The meeting took a maximum of one hour since most of the issues were discussed earlier in the office. Bridgit gave the closing remarks. The time for the eateries came, lots of mouth watering barbecued goat meat was served. Ugali was also in plenty, not forgetting the escort – kachumbari. Soft drinks were also available. The members enjoyed the tasty bush late lunch before getting down to the last activity of the day – adventure and bonding session!

The eateries came in all types with all the nutrients incorporated… eehmmmmmmmmmmmm….!!!

The Rocky Affair;

This is an activity that took the members to the rocky region of the campsite. This is the place where real fun was experienced. It was a difficult tiresome affair as members trekked on bare rocks as it happens in a military drill. Endurance, team work and communication were the lessons to learn from the exercise. This helped to create more chance for consultations and focused goal setting as members shared ideas of how best to face and beat the rough terrain where one should emerge victorious. Some places were too slippery while other rocks had no parts to lay fingers, yet one had to devise ways to make it up to the top. This brought lots of interdependency and tolerance between the members since everyone had to take part, follow the queue and do the climbing at your own speed.

When the going gets tough….. only the tough get's going….. Please speed up Wangare…Kevin wants to climb up too……!

The Impromptu Meeting;
At the end of the vigorous exercise, the members held a short impromptu meeting at the Maasai manyatta site. The meeting was aimed at informing the members how team work helps in meeting set goals. This was as a result of the participation of all the members from the beginning of the day to the close of the business. With this kind of togetherness, it shows a bright future and a promising year for CEK, which will culminate in the successful accomplishment of all the activities in the busy calendar. Members were in great agreement that they were ready to professionally tackle projects and bring forth the much needed success. At this juncture a motion to have some volunteers going to St. Johns Secondary for the first Career Session of the year, slated for the following week. Four members among them, Irene, Peter, George and Kanja were willing to take the plunge. This marked the start of a team spirit that will keep burning in the group for the rest of time. As darkness approached it was time to take a group picture, shout the CEK science chant, the last prayers, before everyone got back to the truck and off we drove.

Smiling faces, energy oozing bodies’ fresh minds overflowing with knowledge… = to brand new CEK .......!!!!!!!!

Food For Thought;
Well, words alone are not enough to tell the success and great moments of this wonderful memorable day. It takes a willing heart to open up, buy the idea and make time for such activities for a worthy course. Change starts with you and spreads to the other person creating synergy for a progressive society.

Yes, lets pull together, I’m fully prepared to play my part satisfactorily, how well prepared are you to play yours?