Strathmore in Kilifi: Students Visit the Matsarigi Community Project
The journey of the sojourners began with two Bachelor of Laws students, Collins Okoh, also the Student Council President, and Arthur Muiru, a graduate assistant at the Strathmore Law School, as they were on their international trip in Italy. The two, who are awaiting the 2022 graduation, unexpectedly met Mrs. Ana Von Bock, the co-founder of Matsarigi Community Project. Little did they know that the encounter with Madam Ana would be a significant one and would bear much fruit in the long run. Mrs. Ana, who was excited to meet Kenyans in a foreign land was quick to explain her project in Kilifi – Kenya. She was not shy to ask the two students to visit the Community Based Organisation (CBO) and identify possible avenues for partnership.
The Matsarigi community project is the novelty of Mrs. Ana and Mrs. Sara Muller-Issa Okello. Their goal is to break the poverty cycle, deeply rooted in Kilifi, through education, lifelong nutrition, and sustainability. The community project is founded on the following pillars:
- Quality Education
The project has a school that has so far done a need identification for 64 students between ages 4-6. On admission, the students are given everything they need for their stay in school including; clean school uniforms, shoes, food, and books. All the guardians of the child are required to do is prepare them on time to attend the day’s classes. The school has two teachers who teach in PP1 and PP2 but due to lack of extra classrooms, the last year’s PP1 classrooms now house PP2 students. The school had no PP1 intake this year.
“We are optimistic that the school will grow in the coming years. We are looking to expand the infrastructure by building other classrooms for the children,” said the senior teacher.
The pupils are identified and enrolled at the school based on their needs and only the neediest pupils are taken and furnished with all the school kits and services. Despite the availability of public schools in the community, these are children that will ideally miss school due to, for example, hunger. The dream is to expand the project up to High School— and God willing, maybe the first university in the area!
- Sustainable farming
The project has come up with diverse ways to ensure self-sufficiency in food production. Through the project, methods like vertical farming have been introduced in the community. In addition to this, the duo makes efforts to preserve the forest that is in danger of deforestation. They encourage the locals to replace the trees that they cut down for use. They also engage them in various tree planting activities, for instance, planting trees around their shambas and homesteads.
- Family empowerment
The organization occasionally conducts trainings for the community members on various topics, for example, economic empowerment and entrepreneurship. They also do multiple classes on cash crop farming to economically empower the community members.
The two students heeded the call and flung themselves into the vision. They quickly marshalled a group of three other students: David Mwenda, Calvin Mulindwa and Kangai Njue. On the 13th of June, the five hit the road, their destination being the Northern part of Kilifi County. They left with a strong resolve to embody one of Strathmore’s strategic pillars, service to society. They believed that their stories and presence, no matter how small, would inspire others—and they truly did.
The team of five arrived at around 5.45 a.m., only to find a lifeless village. The earliest risers were barely awake. All one could hear was the chirping of birds. The team was led into a small colourful school located on the eastern coast, north of Kilifi called the Matsarigi Education Centre. After a few welcoming words, the team was given a tour of the school by the senior teacher. By that time, learners had started trickling in, ready to conquer the day! They were extremely neat and well dressed and they spoke English fluently, even when spoken to in Swahili. They were also happy to welcome and interact with the guests before commencing classes.
After a brief introduction to the project, the team was led to the project’s farm. They were engaged in a seed planting exercise, where they took seeds from the Arabuko Sokoke forest and planted them in the nursery. The seedlings will later be taken back to the forest. This is a great way of preserving the forest cover.
“This is just the beginning of something great in Kilifi. We are looking to grow various food crops to feed our children in school and keep chicken, goats and even cattle on our farm. We can also sell the produce and animal products at the local market. Also, we are working with experts to see how best we can utilize this parcel of land,” said Mrs. Okello, who is the co-founder of the project.
After the long day at the school and later the farm, the team was treated to a delectable lunch at Mrs Okello’s home. While at it, she urged the students to find possible ways to support the CBO. The co-founder highlighted some of the challenges that the youth in the area face. She expressed great interest in seeing some of them, for example young boda boda riders and young mothers, receive mentorship. She explained that this is the same aim for previously hosting some volunteers from Germany and Switzerland who had lent a helping hand in the community project.
She also reminded the students to come back and take care of the trees they planted. Collins Okoh, through the Student Council, promised to make efforts to make the partnership a success, especially through the mentorship and volunteer exchange programme.
The five concluded their trip with a visit to the beach, as they prepared to catch their night bus back to Nairobi. The team was inspired by the difference an individual with vision and commitment can make. Truly, for a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other. Special thanks to Mrs. Sara Müller-Issa Okello and her team for their warm reception and hospitality.
This article was written by Kangai Njue, a second year SLS student and a member of the 13th Student Council Presidential Senate.
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