Malaria is the leading cause of deaths and illnesses in Kenya, and it is estimated that malaria causes 20% of the deaths in children under the age of 5. Malaria is a disease carried by female mosquitoes, which causes fever and headaches and can lead to death if untreated (please read this if you’re interested in learning more about malaria in Kenya: http://kenya.usaid.gov/programs/health/72). When I first arrived at Nina, there were several occassions in which children were absent from classes for days at a time because of malaria. Fortunately, these cases were detected early and the kids received treatment from the local dispensary before things got too serious. While treatment is extremely important, prevention is also critical in the fight against malaria.
Several beds in our school dormitory were missing mosquito nets, and the nets we already had were badly damaged. We had under 60 kids, and with the bunk beds, we needed at least 30 mosquito nets – since one net can cover two bunks. Using money remaining from the money acquired to purchase mattresses, we were able to buy 50 mosquito nets (approximately $5 USD each)- one for every bed as well as several extras for new students or to replace nets as they are torn.
Mattresses and chairs
When I first arrived at Nina, I started making my “to-do list” of things that I wanted to see change. Due to the condition of the mattresses in our school dormitory, replacing the mattresses found a place at the top of the list.
I am fortunate to be placed at a school with a dedicated, devoted headteacher – Mr. Ambalo. He willingly accepts children regardless of their ability to pay school fees or provide the necessities upon arriving at school. For example, many kids are sent to school on a motorbike with only the clothes they are wearing. Our school is a boarding school, with each term lasting nearly 3 months. They may come to school without soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, toilet paper, a basin (for bathing), blankets, mattresses or even spare clothes. These things may not seem to be a big deal back home, but in Kenya, where the government may or may not support schools in a timely fashion, it can be very hard to provide these things for every kid who stumbles into the compound. But like I said, I am lucky to be part of a school that strives to accept these kids and struggles to ensure that these essentials are available for new students.
After discussing this situation with Mr. Ambalo, we decided that by reallocating funds to provide more mattresses for the school, we would be able to accept more children and provide better accommodations. At that time, some kids were sharing beds while other were sleeping without any mattress at all. I began assisting the headteacher with seeking funds, hopeful that we would be able to at least buy enough mattresses to fill the empty bunks. Thankfully, well wishers are seemingly abundant in times of need and we were able to buy enough mattresses for all of the students to have their own – as well as the plastic material to cover mattresses for the youngsters.
The chairs were purchased with excess funds after purchasing the mattresses. As our population increased at the school, children were often forced to share chairs, sit on the floor or even stand throughout a class. When we had guests or visitors, the children were expected to sacrifice their chair for their elders. To remedy this, we purchased these new chairs.