Boys preparing peas - CV Nairobi, Kenya…
The children of the SOS Kindergarten Nairobi celebrate their culture.
Boys preparing peas - CV Nairobi, Kenya
The children of the SOS Kindergarten Nairobi celebrate their culture.
Celebrating Culture at the SOS Kindergarten Nairobi
The SOS Kindergarten Nairobi was in a joyous mood on Saturday 18 March, when the children held their first Annual Cultural Day, a celebration of the numerous different tribes that make up the population of Kenya.
There are many tribes and vernacular languages in Kenya, emanating from different regions and varied ethnic backgrounds and in the capital city, Nairobi, they all come together. So it is not surprising that in the SOS Kindergarten Nairobi the children come from ten different tribes. It seemed fitting, said the kindergarten principal, Elisa Obudo that the children should know where they come from and should appreciate each other's culture. That is why she decided to celebrate the Kenyan culture in a Cultural Day.
Each class represented a different tribe
The children aged from three to seven years had spent several weeks rehearsing for the big day. Each of the three classes was given a culture to represent in dance, song and poetry. One class dressed as the pastoralist Masai, a small Nilotic tribe which keeps large herds of cattle, usually around the Tanzanian border. The children wore bright red 'shukas' (traditional Masai clothing) and the girls also decorated their foreheads with coloured beads that are a part of Masai culture. Another class represented the Nilotic speaking Luo tribe from western Kenya, the third largest tribe in the country. The third class, meanwhile, portrayed the Kalenjin tribe, a grouping of Nilotic speaking people from the western edge of the central Rift Valley area. Former Kenyan President Daniel Arap Moi was a Kalenjin.
The cultural celebration consisted of a concert given by the children followed by an accomplished cultural group from outside the village who danced and sang for the audience. The show was rounded off with an informal fashion display when children, teachers and parents, who had also dressed in cultural attire, took to the stage to show off their various designs.
The celebration also included a short Masai song and dance by caregivers from the SOS Street Children's Programme (which takes place at the adjoining SOS Social and Medical Centre). The children attend school and were unable to rehearse so their caregivers decided to do it instead.
The celebrations end with a sumptuous feast
After the formal event ended the children and their parents were treated to a sumptuous feast of different cultural foods prepared by the SOS Kindergarten staff. These included irio, a Kikuyu dish made from maize, peas and potatoes. (One of the parents gave the recipe below.) Also available was rech, a boiled fish from Lake Victoria, porridge from Embu, and muthokoi, crushed white maize from the Kamba tribe, amongst many other delicacies.
Master of Ceremonies at the celebrations was village educator Beatrice Ongalo who commented, "It was wonderful seeing the children performing the different cultural dances. It shows just how diverse the 'SOS community' is."
How to make Irio, a traditional Kikuyu dish
You need: green maize (undried), peas, potatoes and traditional leaves for flavour and colour (pumpkin leaves or similar). First boil the maize, then add the peas and leaves to the water with the maize. Finally add the raw potatoes. When all is cooked, drain and mash.
Boys swinging - CV Nairobi Kenya
Isaac Irungu - Working Hard and Working Smart
Isaac Irung, was brought up in the SOS Children's Village Nairobi. Now age 35, he has his own recycling business employing 35 people, and a major contract to supply shredded plastic to Europe.
Isaac Irungu never had the best start in life. His mother, a well off businesswoman who never married, was imprisoned for poisoning two of her nine children. Both children died and Isaac's mother was sent to Kenya's most notorious prison. As her youngest child and still a baby, Isaac went with her. He spent the first four years of his life in the prison until a prominent Kenyan women's organization intervened. Isaac was released into their care before beginning a new life in 1975 at the SOS Children's Village Nairobi.
The sixth youngest in his large "SOS family", Isaac was never particularly academic and on leaving school he opted to attend the Limuru Boys' Centre, an agricultural institution just outside Nairobi, where he learnt about animals, flowers and landscape gardening. He left the centre after two years' training and went on to join the Irish Consulate in Nairobi, working on recycling projects.
Isaac recognises an opportunity
After a year and a half at the consulate followed by a six month marketing course, Isaac set up his own garbage collection business. Although the Nairobi City Council is supposed to collect garbage on a regular basis, this rarely, if ever, happens. Thus Nairobi offers endless opportunities to those who are willing to get their hands dirty. Isaac recognised the opportunity and after small beginnings in 1993, he acquired a large customer base in the Buru Buru area of Nairobi. He began by using two hired dumper trucks, and collected the garbage twice a week.
With stiff competition in the area Isaac realized that he needed to offer more than just garbage collection. In order to create goodwill for his company, he began to take on jobs that are normally the council's responsibility, but which are rarely undertaken: fixing street lights, covering open drains and sweeping the courtyards that are a characteristic of the area. All this he did, and still does, for free.
Not all work and no play
As his business grew Isaac knew that he needed to invest in more equipment. Two years ago he applied for a loan from SOS Children's Villages Kenya and, once approved, Isaac used the money to buy a truck and the business that formerly owned it, another garbage collection firm. Now Isaac has three trucks, a pick up vehicle and 35 staff (eight of whom grew up in Kenyan SOS Children's Villages). He also increased his customer base, which now includes a prestigious five star hotel and the rental properties of several estate agents.
Now 35, Isaac has many friends, one of whom works for Coca Cola bottling in Nairobi. Being a giant multi-national that produces drinks in plastic bottles, including mineral water, Coca Cola is aware of the mammoth littering problem caused by plastic bottles., Isaac was approached to give proposals on how to consolidate all the empty plastic bottles so that they would not just be dumped and buried in the ground. Isaac proposed that the bottles be collected and shredded to be recycled as raw material. At the same time he made contact with some Dutch businessmen who wanted to buy shredded plastic for use as a raw material in fabrics. The Dutch people came to Kenya to discuss a proposal, the end result of which is that Isaac agreed to supply them with 100 tons (100,000 kgs) per month, which is shipped in three containers from the Kenyan port of Mombasa.
In order to collect the plastic bottles Isaac has designed a bin that will be placed in popular supermarkets, where customers can dump their empty bottles. He also collects the bottles from two major hotel groups and three Nairobi restaurants. And at Nairobi's largest rubbish dump he pays people to find the bottles for him. Once the bottles are collected they are placed in large gunny bags and taken to Isaac's warehouse, not far from Nairobi's international airport. Here the bottles are stripped of tops and labels before being crushed in the machine that Isaac recently purchased. From there the shredded plastic is taken by road to Mombasa and shipped to Holland.
Not one to miss out on the potentials of new markets Isaac is arranging for plastic bottles to be collected in Mombasa and brought back to Nairobi in the empty containers that will be used to export the shredded product. Why not just start a new shredding plant down in Mombasa? "Because", says Isaac, "I want to keep an eye on everything and I cannot be in two places at once." It also makes sense to use the empty containers and to make use of the shredding machine in Nairobi.
Despite working six days a week from 5.00 a.m. in the morning until late at night it's not all work and no play for Isaac Irungu. He enjoys uphill walking for which Kenya offers plenty of opportunities, including Mount Kenya, which he has climbed twice. And just an hour from Nairobi lies a dormant volcano, Mount Longonot, which Isaac climbs regularly. He also plays the piano, something he started in the SOS Children's Village and continued when he began to earn money, by taking piano lessons at Nairobi's prestigious Conservatoire. And he chairs the three-year-old association for old boys and girls from Kenyan SOS Children's Villages, called 'SOS Clan' which acts as a welfare organisation when bereavement strikes a family.
Last year Isaac married Carol and in January 2005 their first child, a son, was born. Isaac feels good about the responsibility of having children, but says that he wants no more than two so that he can enjoy his children while he is still young. He also has another family, the one that he was born into. His mother was released from prison when murder charges were changed to manslaughter and she visited him several times at the SOS Children's Village. She died in 1995. Isaac knows all six of his remaining siblings, all of whom came to his wedding.
Village director was major influence
Obviously a self motivated person, Isaac admits that the biggest influence on his life was the former director of the SOS Children's Village Nairobi, Tony Hernnegger. Apparently Mr. Hernnegger instituted a system of working groups within the village that performed daily chores such as taking care of the chickens, cutting the grass etc. "He exposed us to work," says Isaac "and gave us the motivation to succeed by rewarding the best groups."
With so much to do in the present does Isaac consider the future? "Of course", he replies. "You have to think ahead. You have to take bigger risks. This will change your working ideas from working hard to working smart." He plans that in ten years he will have his own plastics plant and will no longer be involved in waste disposal. Meanwhile he will continue to work hard, look for new opportunities and be a loving father to his son.
Isaac is certainly following his own advice, working hard and working smart. And, in a world that is more and more conscious of the environment and the disposal of waste, one could also add, working wise.