Category Archives: A Rocha Kenya Staff

New Year New Start

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Stanley leading a session during the vision day

With impecable African timing Monday was the official start of the year for Arocha Kenya. With all the staff back from their summer breaks a day was put aside to discuss the aims and vision for the year. Topics such as team building, finance and administration, programme reports and the running of the guest house were included.

Christian values were also discussed and our Environmental Education Officer, Tsofa Mweni gave a word of encouragement to the group reading from the books of Psalms and Galatians in the bible. The whole team, including centre staff were involved which left the running of the kitchen to the volunteers for the day. I’m happy to say that meals arrived on time (almost) and were enjoyed by everyone – well done the team!Vision Day.JPG

Invaders from the North

At a few minutes past midnight on Tuesday morning Mwamba was taken over by a Finish invasion. 16 students, their teachers and driver arrived from the University of Helsinki. They’re travelling each day to Arabuko Sokoke, Mida Creek and as far as Dakatcha Woodlands to study the local geography and botany.

Unfortunately, on the way here their car broke down outside Tsavo Park and they were delayed by several hours. It was a strange experience to go to bed only to be woken up a short while later by Laurence, our night watchman. Then we got busy serving up meat, rice and salad to a dining room full of travellers who were very tired but still hungry at midnight!

We’ll continue in the Mwamba tradition of welcoming guests from all over the world next week when a similar sized group arrives from the USA.

Post Christmas and Mwamba’s still busy…

Hello and a Happy New Year to all our supporters.

Christmas has been a busy time at Mwamba, if my calculations are correct we had 30 people for Christmas dinner including staff, volunteers, pre booked guests and some last minute additions. We were so full that some people camped while others slept on the roof. There were 5 children aged 4 or under, and 6 different nationalities were represented. Between us we ate 5 whole chickens and a mountain of chapatis as well as plenty of other tasty dishes. If I had to summarise I’d say the time was exhausting but a lot of fun. Since the New Year things have quietened down but as I write most of the rooms are still occupied, let’s hope 2009 continues it’s begun…

In the sea on Christmas Day

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The Feast

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Comings & Goings

Most of the ARK staff have either started or are about to start their long summer breaks now but Mwamba is far from quiet as December is set to be our busiest month for guests so far this year.

Our Centre Managers are about to go holiday but as they leave others are arriving to ensure a lively Christmas at the Centre. Rachel Blakey from Australia has been working with Colin at Tsavo West for 3 weeks bird ringing and she’s now arrived to complete her data entry on the project. She’ll also be helping around the centre where she can and has already made herself useful fixing bird bags and putting up tents.

Mercy Njeri, who normally works for Nature Kenya will be house sitting for the Kigens during December and also helping around the centre. Lispa, our caterer is working over the season and has family and friends visiting to keep her company. There are also 3 volunteers currently in residence. Finally, on Christmas day all the guests rooms will be taken at Mwamba, after a quiet start to the year we look foward to bursting at the seams! Happy holidays everyone :)

…And a Hello…

New volunteer, Rosalie arrived a week ago from the UK. For the next 3 months she will be taking over the blog entries from Julia as well as working on the e-news and newsletter but for now she’s just getting used to the sunburn!

I decided to volunteer for ARK after I told a friend I wanted to do conservation work with other Christians. She told me about Arocha and they seemed to be the only Christian group who specifically did environmental work. I looked in an Arocha magazine and the first thing I saw was pictures of the turtles swimming off the coast here and I read about the beautiful coral reefs and I knew I had to come! I applied in hope not expecting Mwamba to take me as I have no conservation experience so was surprised and really excited when I heard in May that I was going. So far I have spent time adjusting to the climate and the culture and just learning how to get around (matatu, motorbike, taxi or tuk tuk). I have also been to a school with Tsofa, gone on a ‘crow count’ and visited Watamu Turtle Watch as part of my introduction. I’m hoping to improve my photography skills while I’m here by taking lots of pictures for ARK and learn more about web publishing as I work on the website for Mwamba. By the time I leave I should know a lot more about conservation too and maybe even some Swahili!”

A Farewell…

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On Thursday, while the rest of Kenya was celebrating ‘Obama Day’ at Mwamba we marked ‘Julia Day’ with a sumptuous feast on the rooftop. It was a sad day because Julia was leaving us after four months but a happy celebration of everything she’s done for Mwamba during her stay.

Since arriving on 9th July Julia has been involved in writing blog entries as well as taking photos for the blog. She was helpful in covering administration for Carol while she was away at her wedding and honeymoon. She has also been involved with ARK’s environmental education programme helping Tsofa with lessons in our Assets schools. This included organizing the Assets camp in August and the teachers’ seminar. She was a great help remembering to update our virus software and keep Mwamba’s computers virus free. She was always on the go around the centre helping with whatever she could from shopping to cleaning rooms.

We’re grateful for everything she did and will miss her a lot. We wish her well back in England and hope she’s successful in finding a new job soon. Keep in touch Julia!

   

Introducing the Mwamba Centre Managers!

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Belinda, Henry and Ivy Kigen

Henry’s Story

The year was 1972 the 19th day of August, a boy was born in a tiny village in Kenya called Koisaram found in Koibatek District. The area is surrounded by hills that snake down to Lake Bogoria about 20km away famed for hot springs. This boy was named Henry Kipchirchir Kigen and this was me. I am the second born child and first born son to Grace and Jackson Kigen. There are eight more siblings born after me. My father was an accountant with the Kenya Cooperative Creameries (KCC) while my mother was a house wife. We moved to Kitale where my Dad worked when I was still under one year. My early child-hood schooling was interrupted because Dad got transferred from one station to another. At some point my sister and I were left with our grandparents and started primary school in the rural area where I was born. We would write on the floor and if lucky share the few slates that were there. Most of the morning would be spent between class and play. Two years in school (Std 1&2) the best I could do was write my name do some simple sums but reading remained a mystery.   It was not until 1981 that I started proper schooling in an urban setting in Nakuru .My dad then worked in the same town. I did my primary school at Mama Ngina, Kisanana Primary and later joined Moi High School – Kabarak for my secondary education. During the school holidays I would help my grandfather in herding the goats and cattle. It was here that I enjoyed the ‘luxury’ of sleeping on cowhide for a mattress after a long day in the field herding. After high school I joined Egerton University for my Bachelor of Science degree in Natural Resources Management 1993-1997.

My hobbies include working with tools ranging from carpentry, mechanics, and electrical installation.  I also love pets such as dogs & cats. I’m passionate about wildlife and conservation in general. I was a member of the Wildlife Club of Kenya during my school days.

My work experience includes working in Galana Ranch, a government ranch bordering Tsavo East National Park from the east. Galana Ranch the biggest in the country and the continent covering 1.5 million acres acted as an important buffer zone for the parks wildlife and the community. I worked here for close to 6 years as an ecotourism manager as well assisting in livestock activities. I later worked in Laikipia shortly before joining A Rocha Kenya as Centre Manager & based at Watamu Field Study Centre .This is where I work to date. I do enjoy my new job, interaction with people from diverse cultures as well as facing new challenges. Being involved in conservation activities and managing the Centre has been a great mix for me.

Family

I’m married to Belinda and have a nine month daughter named Ivy Jerop. My wife and I work for the same organisation.

Belinda’s Story

Hi, my name is Belinda Jepkosgei Kigen. I was born in Eldoret in 1974, June 3rd two days after Madaraka day is celebrated in Kenya.I am the last born child in a family of 4. We grew up on a farm in Njoro close to Nakuru in the Rift valley.My Primary and Secondary education was done at Hill school in Eldoret. It was challenging to be in boarding school at 5 ½ years. This helped me to be independent at an early age. While in both Schools, I was a member of Wildlife clubs, Art & Craft and cookery clubs. This tells clearly what my interests were and still are…After completing O levels, I did a course on Tours & Travel at Universal College in Nairobi. I did an apprenticeship at Sirikwa Hotel in Catering. With a liking for Business I have run a Christian gift & Bookshop for 5 years in between working for Keswick Books in 1998 & 2004. While attending service at Nairobi Baptist I was a member of the Crafts club mainly doing Embroidery (cross-stitch). I have also worked at Cana Publishing (now Word Alive) as an Administrative Assistant. My Hobbies include Stamp collecting, hiking, camping, and going for game drives and cookery. I met Henry in 2004 while working in Nairobi, got engaged in April 2005 and had our wedding the same year in October. Ivy Jerop, our daughter was born this year on Jan 17th. I joined Henry after our wedding where he had been working on the Government Ranch in Galana. Later, still with the same cooperation we moved briefly to Laikipia before joining A Rocha Kenya. While in Galana Ranch we heard that the Director for ARK was looking for a Christian couple they could work with. We applied for the job got invited for the interviews and here we are…from Last October 2007 we have been serving at Mwamba as the Centre Managers – from the cold of Mt. Kenya Region to the heat of the Coast. It is a wonderful experience learning to live in a community with people from diverse cultures. We enjoy the fellowship and the participation in Conservation work that A Rocha is involved with around the Mida Creek, Arabuko Sokoke Forest and the Sabaki River. We enjoy the opportunity we have, in a small way to be part of Assets & the Environmental Education programme, to make a difference not only in the child’s life but a whole community as well.

Mwamba’s newest couple

Some of you may know that two of our staff here at A Rocha were recently married.  Stanley Baya, who runs the ASSETS programme and Carol Muthoni our Administrator met at Mwamba and got to know one another when working together!  Their important day was on 11th October at the East African School of Theology in Nairobi.  Some of the ARK staff went to the wedding but yesterday we all joined together in welcoming them as a married couple.  We were able to have lunch outside under the shade of the trees and some of us stayed to hear the story of their honeymoon in Molo!  We are looking forward to them joining us back at Mwamba on Monday!

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Jonathan Baya introducing the couple – Ivy’s is enjoying a cuddle from someone she has not seen for a long time!

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 The newly married couple say hello to their favourite little friend.

Meet Jonathan Baya, our Conservation Officer

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My name is Jonathan Baya.  I started working for A Rocha Kenya in 2002 after a long period of 22 years serving the former owner of the field study centre – Barbara Simpson.  I started as a gardener in the years 1982, then she found me as an enthusiastic person, who was very keen in participating on plants sale, flower shows and local community awareness. I was made a member of the Kenya Horticultural Society and was now able to compete with high class artists and florists.  I would bite them down in winning first classes etc in exhibits.  I became a driver in the year 1987 so that I could drive Mrs Simpson’s guests to the Arabuko-Sokoke forest for bird watching.  This made me even more interested in nature and I was called in 1996 to Kakamega District in Western Kenya for a para taxonomy course and to Nairobi for a first aid course.  In 1997 the Arabuko-Sokoke forest was under threat of being invaded by squatters, asking for 3,000 hectares on the Southern part of the forest.  I, together with other guides, went to visit homes every day, telling them the importance of the forest other than farming.  We succeeded and more than 100 people were driven out with Machetes. When Barbara died I was a hopeless person.  I was working as a taxi driver and was earning a lot of money, but to me it meant nothing, as I felt there was something lacking in me – ‘building the broken world.’  A Rocha Kenya was in the directorship of Colin Jackson, whom I had previously spent time camping with in the forest, close to Mida creek.  We had also been with Jeff Davies.  While chatting around the camp fire we had talked about finding a place to establish an office for A Rocha Kenya close to the forest but Colin was a bit vague on land policy.  He never knew the the plans of God for him – that one day A Rocha Kenya would own Barbara’s property for the office.  Me, I did not know that I would join him and continue to work for the community.  I have worked for Assets for the last 7 years now on tree nurseries.   conserving-nature-for-the-future.jpg

In the picture above, the little baby has joined the parents of the Girimacha Primary School tree nursery.  She is very happy but not really understanding what is happening around her – being out on a hot day, building seed beds for a tree nursery.  We want to re-construct the broken environment from our forefathers, for future generations.

Jonathan Baya – A Rocha Kenya Conservation Officer

Introducing A Rocha Kenya’s Environmental Education Officer – Tsofa Mweni

I was born on 27 september 1967 in Shimba Hills (south of Mombasa) where my dad was working as a schoolteacher, and had settled after being transfered from Malindi. I come from a family of 7 (5 brothers and 2 sisters) and went to school in Shimba Hills and later joined Kenyatta High School in Taita (about 200kms inland) for my secondary school, then later to Kilifi (just south of Watamu) for my Advanced Level education.

tsofa_in_blue.jpg Tsofa Mweni – Env Ed officer for A Rocha Kenya – often introduces himself as “Tsofa, so good” or “Tsofa as in sofa set”..

All through my school days, I was a member of the Wildlife Clubs Kenya (WCK) group and participated in many school organised events, both at local and national level. e.g. essay competitions, and also I was very keen on drama. I participated in many WCK drama fetes.

I then went to train for a Diploma in Education at Kisii College (1992) so as to become a secondary school teacher. In college, I was elected the College Clubs Coordinator-and was responsible for planning all college club itineraries and liaising with the college admin. I was also the Chair for the Environmental Club, and an avid member of the Drama club. I emerged winner of the national Drama competition in dramatised poem in 1992.

When I completed my training I was posted to Voi, Taita, and later transfered to Kakuyuni Secondary School, near Malindi. In my days at Kakuyuni, I was a very active Wildlife Club patron, and chaired the Malindi WCK patrons Action Group. My school, Kakuyuni is located right next to Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and thus we had a lot of interaction with the forest.

It was during the school WCK meetings that I was informed of the job advertisement at the ASF Management and Conservation Project (funded by Birdlife International) for the post of Conservation Education Officer. I was encouraged by many to apply for the position, a 3 year contract
job; this meant forgoing a government permanent job with it’s securities which was a risk, but I thought of it as a challenge then, and due to my interest in conservation from even the past… I decided to go for it, and believed the God will show me the way.  And that is how I got fully involved in conservation work.

The 3 years (1999-2001) in ASF was a great eye-opener for me. I learned a lot from the many people whom I interacted with at the forest. I also used my teacher training to develop better teaching and awareness raising strategies that helped improve the undestanding of the forest to the local people and more so among the school children and teachers.

tsofa_giving_tree_nursery_lesson.jpg  Tsofa teaching WCK students how to make a tree nursery

At the end of the 3 years, I joined the newly established A Rocha Kenya and I thank God for guiding me through. I have enjoyed working for ARK, I have enjoyed seeing it grow, and I have grown along with it. My work experience has grown, and my faith in the Lord has grown too… and God be praised for that.

Tsofa, our Education Officer, helping a boy release a bird after it has been ringed  Tsofa helping a student release a bird after it has been ringed

Tsofa with Willy demonstrating bird ringing - with a soft toy! Tsofa (on right) and Willy (Forest Guide) demonstrating how to ring and measure a bird