Saturday, May 25, 2013

ICT training opportunity jump starts an aspiring secretary to her dream career.

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

When we walked in at Shekinah Enterprises and Electronic shop in Mutomo town, we found Ann Wanzia busy typing an assignment for a client. The speed, swiftness and coordination of her typing didn’t just come by luck. It was as a result of an exemplary skill she gained after undergoing a free ICT training at Mutomo Maarifa Centre.

It all began when one of her close friend mentioned a particular resource Centre was offering free ICT training. This came as news to Ann; she wasn’t aware of its actual location neither its name.

“ I have always aspired to be a secretary in future, and knowing well that they use computers full time, I had to make myself conversant with the electronic device as early as possible ,“ says the jovial Wanzia.

Filled with curiosity, she took it upon herself to find the Centre and in time came to know the Mutomo Maarifa Centre located at the Mutomo mission Hospital. She first had to confirm that the services were free as heard and to her delight they were. “To me all free services in Kenya faded out with the white man,” joked Ann adding that all that was needed was turning up at the Centre with a pen, a book and a mind ready to learn.

The training pace

With an infectious smile that I would join from time to time, Anne narrated her training experience to me. Out of the 4 sessions offered in a day at the Centre, she went with the morning class (runs from 8am-10 am) claiming that the others were not convenient.

What was even more outstanding to her is the fact that she shared class with people that could qualify for her father`s age. “Men of over 50 years were my classmates, “said the eloquent Ann adding that it did not come as a big surprise as they had been told by one of the facilitators that the Centre was open to everyone despite their level of education and literacy.

For Ann, July to September of 2012 was a period full of learning and acquisition of skills. According to her the trainers never left any stone unturned; everyone was content with the pace. In 2 months’ time, she was through. For her, there is nothing of more significance that she would have done during the period that would substitute the knowledge she got. She supported this by proudly waving a beautiful designed certificate that is safely stored in one of the drawers.

What she does at her job is nothing far from what is entailed in the 5 packages she did; Introduction to Computers, MS Word, MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, and Internet and Email.

Our interview was abruptly brought to a hold when a customer requested Ann to print a certain document from his e-mail address. As if to show us she had the skill, she rose to the occasion and was through in no time. All the customer could afford was a huge satisfactory “THANKYOU”.

Secured employment

After completion of the training session, Ann was awarded with a recommendation letter on top of her Certificate. And so when she heard of a job advertisement which required an electronic shop assistant, she was the first one to avail herself. After one week of strict and close monitoring, her employer was convinced beyond reasonable doubt that she could deliver on her job thus giving her a salaried job. Ann’s duties include typesetting, scanning and printing apart from other accessories like sockets, electricity bulbs and extensions that are on sale.

Improved livelihood

The salary that she gets has enabled her rent an apartment at Mutomo doing away with the 4 km walk to and from her parent’s home. I have to be at work by 7 am hence getting late is no longer a challenge. She does not entirely rely on her mother as it was there before.

As we concluded, she laid her sincere gratitude to ALIN for the opportunity they are giving people in the rural areas and for making them see light at the end of the tunnel.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Young woman’s dream of being computer literate finally comes true

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

When Patience Mueni cleared high school last year, she had dreams of joining a good college and furthering her studies. But since her parents could not afford to take her to college, this remained just a dream for the 21 year old; she had to stay at home and help out with the daily chores, something she was not happy about as she wanted to do something constructive with her time.

All through her high school education, Ms. Mueni always yearned to gain computer skills and join the world of computer literates but her former high school did not offer computer studies. She however promised herself that she would pursue computer training after high school, but her parents could not raise the training charges required by training institutions based in Mutomo town.

Thus when her friends told her that they had joined a free ICT training opportunity at Mutomo Maarifa Centre, Mueni could not wait to be among the beneficiaries.

“I immediately enrolled. I would walk from home to attend the morning training sessions and go back home to assist with the daily chores,” clip_image002says Patience who aspires to be a nurse in future. She adds that she always made time to go through her notes every evening.

At the end of the training session, Ms. Mueni was awarded with a certificate of participation listing the five computer packages that she had been trained on. For her, this will go a long way in complimenting her future studies as she understands that in today’s higher education learning environment, one has to be computer literate.

The certificate also opened an employment opportunity for her as well. “A friend heard of a job opportunity at Daro Enterprises in Mutomo town and recommended me for the job,” says a happy Mueni. She adds that her job description entails typesetting and printing documents for clients.

Patience attributes her new job to Mutomo Maarifa Centre and applauds them for a job well done.

“Am happy that I have gotten an opportunity to tell a success story and I sincerely thank ALIN for equipping the Mutomo community with ICT skills. I wish people take this rare opportunity to improve their livelihoods,” concludes Patience.

Free ICT training opens a door of opportunity for youth

Free ICT training opens a door of opportunity for youth

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya

Patricia Syombua sat for her Kenya School of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams on 2011. However, the 23 year old has been unable to collect her Secondary School certificate for she hasn’t cleared the school fees balance that she owes her former school.

So when she heard of a free ICT training opportunity being offered at Mutomo Maarifa Centre, Patricia saw this as a God send opportunity. And as each journey starts with a single step, she saw this as a golden chance to gain skills, look for employment and save enough money so that she could finally collect her certificate.

“I got the training information from my friends who work in the Mutomimageo Mission Hospital. I immediately visited the Centre and enrolled for the training “says a lively Patricia, who hails from Kibwea Location of Mutomo District. Here, she got trained on five computer packages which included; Ms Word, Ms excel Internet and e-mail, Ms Power point and introduction to technology.

Patricia adds that after undergoing the training for two months, she was proud to graduate; the first graduation event of her life .Armed with this certificate, Patricia’s prospects of getting a job improved and it wasn’t long before she secured employment at Ngooni Electronics in Mutomo town.

Here, her duties include; typesetting, printing and photocopying. However CDs, cassettes, bulbs and electronics like radios and phone chargers are other things on sale in her employer’s electronic shop.

“The time frame for the course was convenient and the trainers never left any trainee behind. The pace was fast enough for me to understand what we learnt and also finish the course at the expected time. I had ample time to gain practical skills which have been a great help in carrying out my duties,” Says a proud Patricia.

Patricia says that this training opened a door of limitless opportunities for her as she plans to save enough money to enable her pursue a teaching course in the future.She has hope that it’s only a matter of time before she saves enough money to clear her school fees and collect her certificate so that she can pursue her dream career course.

Ms. Syombua closes the interview with a kind word for ALIN. She congratulates them for the opportunity and implores them to expand the opportunity to the interior places in the district.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

ICT compliance propels a young woman to employment

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

Mutomo District is known to be sunny and dry almost ¾ of the year. However, one young woman would walk under the scorching sun for two months as she sought to be ICT compliant. For the period of January to May 2012, the 21 year old would walk for 3 hours daily, covering 16KM to and from her Kibwea Location home to Mutomo Maarifa Centre for free ICT training.

For Caroline Katunguu, the scorching sun was nothing compared to the benefits that she would enjoy once she completed the training. And true to her dreams, the young lady who recently sat for her Secondary School exams has something to smile about; she has secured employment, thanks to the opportunity.

“I heard about the training from friends’” says Caroline. “It was a golden chance that I couldn’t let go off since in other training institutions, one has to pay to train and most of us cannot afford the fee charged.” She continues. At the Maarifa Centre, Caroline underwent a two month’s training where she studied 5 packages; Ms Word, Ms Power point, Ms Excel, Internet and introduction to computer. In a week’s time there was a job offer at Zion Technologies in Mutomo town. One of the qualifications needed was to be computer literate and Caroline beat other 15 applicants to clinch the job.

Caroline’s work duties include; typesetting, printing, assisting clients’ access internet as well as monitoring internet usage.“Am always very proud when clients congratulate me for a job well done,” beams Caroline.

Ms. Katunguu is also happy that she doesn’t have to cover the long distance to report to her new place of work since now she can afford to pay a motorbike daily to save time.


Left; Caroline at her place of work, Right; she receives her ICT certificate during a graduation ceremony organized by Mutomo Maarifa Centre.

Ms. Katunguu attributes this opportunity to ALIN and thanks them for the fantastic work they are doing to instill the locals with skills that will catapult their standards of living.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tomato production manual boosts nurse’s farming enterprise

By Samuel Gitonga Makanya.

39 year old Angela Nduku Vincent is a proud mother of two ,a nurse at the Mutomo Mission hospital and above all; a farmer. When we visited her one sunny afternoon, she was busy tending to the tomato crop on her kitchen garden. From a distance, you could see the green, juicy vegetables that were full of life; a sight to behold given that this part of region is very dry. She received us warmly and she was more than willing to show us around her kitchen garden.

Angela says that she got interested in farming when three years ago a Rotary club introduced a program to train the hospital staff on dry land farming and kitchen gardening.

“During this period, a demonstration farm was established so that members could learn and train community members on the initiative,” Says Angela who says that after the project timeframe was over she approached the hospital management and took over the practice.

After being given the mandate to manage the farm by herself, she worked tirelessly and hopes of her efforts bearing fruits remained alive. In recognition to her efforts, the hospital management allocated her greenhouse just footsteps away from her garden where also she has grown vegetables. She uses drip irrigation method with water that comes from a relatively raised tank just outside her greenhouse.

At the moment Angela practices Agro forestry and has grown vegetables like onions, tomatoes, kales, and spinach and also has nurseries for mangoes, trees for timber and trees for providing shade’’ says Angela

Information services

Angela cannot hide her gratitude to Mutomo Maarifa Centre. “The Maarifa Centre has hugely contributed to the success of my garden” she says. She was able to access the books in the library where she got crucial tips for her farming activities. For instance she says she could not bring herself to grow tomatoes since she feared the many diseases associated with them. That was until she came across the book “Cultivation of tomato –production, processing and marketing” that proved her otherwise. She gave it a try and now she boasts of almost market-ready tomatoes in her kitchen garden.

Of much interest to her was a chapter in crop rotation with special emphasis on intercropping. Intercropping is the practice of growing two or more crops  in proximity. She has intercropped tomatoes with kales and spinach. According  to the book, intercropping reduces the incidence of diseases and pests ,improves soil fertility and enhances maximum use of land. The advantage of the practice is In case one type of crop fails, another type of crop is always left.

From left;Angela browses through the library resource; the specific chapter that she referred to;Angela’s tomato plantation.

Being also a beneficiary of the free ICT training at the Maarifa Centre, she would also use the internet to find relevant information on how to manage and maintain her garden.

Angela’s customers include the hospital staff as well as the Mutomo community. She provides vegetables to the hospital kitchen.Furthermore, the area residents come to her kitchen garden and purchase seedlings from her.Angela continues to tell us that it is only a matter of time before she starts supplying the hospital kiosk with vegetables for sale.During good times, she makes up to USD.125  per a month.

Challenges faced

Angela says that the main challenge she faced was getting fresh water for her vegetables as salty impended their growth. However, the hospital management came to her aid through providing fresh water tap for her farm. Another challenge she faces is getting customers for her products.

She feels that it would be great if the Maarifa Centre was able to provide information on a variety of crops. She insists that there are many crops that can do fairly well in these parts of the country but the people are not aware.

“Information accessed has been an eye opener and given me the knowledge to kick start new projects” Angela says. She hopes other people would make an effort of getting to the Maarifa Centre and benefit from the services they are offering.

“The information gained there can be used practically to raise the people’s standard of living,” she concludes.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Visiting medic praises Maarifa Centre as an important resource in the community

By Rhoda Musili

When she saw a community Knowledge Centre at Mutomo Mission Hospital’s compound, Edith Dietz was curious to know what services the Centre offers to the community.

The 34 year old Physician, a pediatrician was impressed with the Maarifa Centre services and immediately become one of the popular users. Among the services that she accessed mostly included internet for emailing  and getting medical resources for patient care;specifically the library resources

“For instance, I downloaded images for a presentation at the hospital on child development.Accessing this information was quite critical for my ability to read about certain medications that are used in Kenya much more than in the US, find conversions for certain lab tests that are run differently in the US. I also emailed medical friends in the US for advice, and found information about a Diabetes association in Nairobi to give a patient,” says Edith

Ms.Edith praises ALIN for the the wonderful resource for the hospital staff and town adding the hospital staff should utilize it maximally to help provide optimal patient care..She is of the opinion that the Maarifa Centre should reach out more to the hospital staff to offer training in medical literature searches and skills to create presentations on medical topics to increase knowledge and skills.


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Friday, May 10, 2013

‘Portable’ solar energy improves farmer’s livelihood

By Rhoda Musili

Mutomo District is an arid and semi arid area that oftenly experiences recurrent droughts with high sun intensity levels.As such one would expect that the population here would exploit this natural resource as a source of energy.But this is rarely the case.Majority of households  here still rely on kerosene as a source of energy to provide lighting.

However, one farmer has tapped into this natural resource and is reaping the fruits.Meet Kisilu Musya, a 43 year old father of eight who has realized the potential of solar energy and is enjoying an improved livelihood out of it.

Mr.Musya keeps a knapsack with him all the time.Inside, he carries a portable solar panel which has a USB port.He uses this solar panel to charge his camera and phone on the go.In addition to this,Kisilu has a solar lantern and torch which provides lighting for his family at night.This has had a great impact in reducing his spending costs in buying kerosene and paying for camera and mobile charging services.

“I used to spend a minimum Kshs. 200 every month on kerosene,” says Kisilu who adds he also used to spend another Kshs.300 on mobile phone charging charges every month.

“Whenever my camera or phone has no charge, I just look for a sunny spot and charge both of them and am ready to go,” says a bubbly Kisilu.


Above; (Left), Mr.Musya charges his digital camera with the portable solar panels,(Right),his children do their homework with the aid of the solar lantern lighting.

Mr.Musya benefitted from a solar charger - a "bag" with 4 solar panels of 3,5 watts each during a recent visit to Norway (see story here; The bag has a USB which is able to charge a computer, a digital camera and a phone.He also benefitted with a solar lantern and a torch which has saved him kerosene costs.

Improved livelihood

He also benefitted with a laptop, a video camera and a digital camera.Armed with this digital camera, Mr.Musya has embarked on community photography initiative which fetches him a monthly income of around Kshs.2,000 thus boosting his income,” says Mr.Musya who adds that he also offers phone charging services to some community members .

Kisilu’s situation is a clear example on how people can use the available natural resources to improve their livelihoods.”Whereas people see the high sun intensity levels as a curse, I see it as a blessing;it has changed my life for the best,” concludes Mr.Musya.

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