Dear Friends,

I will be quite brief in telling you what has been happening at Got Matar this year as a result of your support since a fuller report prepared by the Community Development Group was posted on the website in August.

The most significant event this year was the change in our UK anchor charity from PEAS to Ace Africa (UK) in February.  When John Rendell of PEAS agreed on a partnership in 2006 he had signalled that this would continue until the secondary school was up and running – and this is what happened. Over these 8 years John and his staff provided dedicated and enthusiastic support for which I and the GMCDG are most grateful.

Unlike PEAS, Ace Africa  has a large programme in Kenya, including a lot of activities in Siaya County, within which Got Matar is located. If you visit their website (www.ace-africa.org) you will see that they were founded in 2003 to confront the same problems that prompted the creation of the GMCDG one year earlier – especially the catastrophic damage to the livelihoods of rural people caused by the combination of successive droughts and a very high HIV/AIDS incidence. Both ACE and GMCDG see that the response to the situation has to be led by the affected communities and that they must concentrate their activities on enhancing the coping capacity of young people, many of whom have lost one or both parents.

These shared goals are reflected in a growing partnership between GMCDG and Ace Africa (Kenya) on the ground. Ace has set up a base in the clinic adjacent to the Got Matar School complex from which to run its operations in Bondo sub-county.  Ace Africa Kenya staff, led by Augustine Wasonga (one of the founders of Ace), have been helping Grace Ochieng Andiki and GMCDG members to improve their management systems and to define funding priorities Ace-funded programmes are now contracting the tailoring of school uniforms to the sewing students enrolled in the Institute of Technology to provide them with extra income that can help them to pay their tuition fees.

In November Ace organised a 10 K run with the start and finish at Got Matar, where runners and spectators could all benefit from free health assistance and legal help. Hundreds of young people and a number of “veterans” took part in what seems to have been a very good way of boosting morale. The photo at the end of this letter shows children queuing  to sign up for the run.

In terms of progress on the ground:

  • The government has constructed and equipped a new science laboratory for the secondary school;
  • Construction of the girls’ dormitory has at last begun; funding is available from Bricks and Cartwheels for the first phase (60 beds) but a further £100,000 will be needed to complete the full facility (180 beds):
  • Construction is in progress for the first permanent training workshop for the Institute of Technology (IoT). This building is for the sewing and tailoring class which currently has 39 trainees.
  • Additional sewing machines and computers have been bought to enable an expansion of the  Sewing and Computer classes.
  • Over 250 children, mainly orphans, benefit from donor-funded bursaries that enable them to attend the secondary school.  Some bursaries are now funded from the profits of a community-run brick works which is expected to expand, eventually reducing the donor dependence of the bursary programme.

One of the things that I have learnt since I first went to Got Matar in 2001 is that the Community has always done what it has committed itself to do. The fact that they built the secondary school in just 4 years – within budget – and that the first batch of students graduated at the end of the 4th year testifies to their competence. What is also very impressive is the way in which they are now using the opportunities presented by the ongoing building programmes to provide opportunities for  IoT  students to work on the sites, thereby gaining practical experience while also earning some income with which to offset the costs of their tuition fees. The third thing that encourages us to continue supporting Got Matar is that it is abundantly clear that the Community’s education programmes really are opening up huge new opportunities in life for girls and boys for whom all forms of post-primary education would have been out of reach.

If you feel,  as Roberta and I do, that it makes sense to continue supporting Got Matar, donations in the coming year will be used mainly for increasing the number of purpose-built practical skills training facilities at the IoT in line with a project proposal drawn up a couple of years ago. Financing is also clearly needed towards the cost of the 2nd phase of dormitory construction. Funding for the bursary programme is, for the moment, guaranteed. 

In UK, donations can be made through Ace Africa UK. Associazione SONIA, based in Rome, kindly handles donations in Euro. A copy of the donation forms is attached to mailed versions of this letter, but friends who are receiving this by email are advised to download the forms from the Got Matar website  (www.gotmatar.org). Please note change in banking instruction for SONIA.

Should you have any suggestions or questions, please don’t hesitate to contact either :
Lizzy Epsley at Ace Africa (lizzy.epsley@ace-africa.org), tel. 0044 (0) 2079332994.
or me (andrew.macmillan@alice.it), tel. 0039 0564507930.

With very many thanks for your continuing interest in Got Matar, and with best wishes for Christmas and 2015,

Andrew MacMillan

School

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