31st – Machakos

Meeting University Students and the Community

At Machakos University we had a meeting with a few of the professors and Prof. Joyce Agalo who is the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, she also happens to be Jerry’s wife! The meeting was quite formal and covered the potential partnership between Machakos and Brighton University, like the one with Rongo. They all seemed eager to set up the programme!

We then had a quick tour of some of the campus and met the students who wanted to be part of the community radio programme. A lot of them are majoring in other subjects such as education or history but also take journalism. They showed us a scheme they have started that aiming to reduce climate change through planting trees and planting them in different locations, this will also aid in educating the wider community on the issues of climate change and the importance of stopping it. They also showed us a room which they are planning to use for the university radio station.

After that we all got onto the university bus and drove to the village that was put forward for the CM4K project. Once we arrived, we received the warmest welcome we had got so far – which is saying a lot!! A group of women, all dressed in the most amazing colourful fabrics, came to the bus, and performed a dance and sang as they welcomed us to their village, which they continued even as we walked to our seats. It also looked like the whole village and surrounding area had come for the event.

One key issue faced by this community was drought. On the drive in the failing crops could be seen in the fields. Apparently, the main river they used as their water source had been polluted with sewage waste. And the three smaller rivers that converge had basically dried up. The community were proposing an irrigation dam that would be a potential solution to the problem, as people are having to travel in search of water.

Along with issue, other topics and challenges were discussed at the event. One woman even presented some objects and tools that used to be used by the community members in the past, it was great to learn more about the culture and history here!

Meeting with Government Officials

We travelled back to the university campus for dinner before going off again to meet the local government where we shared our thoughts on community media and community radio in particular.

It was pretty intimidating at first, as they asked us a very broad question that was basically asking us for a solution to the issues that the community members were facing. We’d only met these people and heard about their lives that day! Joakim opened the discussion brilliantly by stating that we had only been there for a few hours and couldn’t possibly begin to fully understand the perfect solution. But what we do know, from the past two weeks, are the benefits that community radio can have on a community. We discussed the idea of a partnership between the university students and the community members as the students were very keen to get into media and journalism. There was also the discussion of the dam, drought, and possible treatment for the sewage waste filled river.

The meeting ended and the governors decided to support the community radio scheme and discuss potential environmental solutions for the drought. It was a great way to end the project and trip as a whole because this felt like the most productive thing that we had done so far. Having actually met with officials and discussed potential changes felt really good, I think that was what was missing slightly when we were working with Cham Gi Wadu.

27th – Exhibition Day!

We got the big university bus from the Rongo campus and drove around to pick people up on our way to the event location!

To capture the event, we had two cameras filming, one wireless microphone that was passed to the current speaker, and three handheld zoom audio recorders. There were many speakers and performances over the course of the day that covered topics such as, industry/infrastructure, child labour, illegal abortion, other important instances of modern-day slavery faced by community members, community radio and the opportunities it could bring to the community. Some topics discussed were a bit controversial, and some members of the community left when the topic of legal abortions were supported.  

After the performances, everyone ate together, and the school children gathered around the speakers and danced together. All in all, it was quite a long day, the heat contributed to this. I think one thing I would have liked to have been different would have been that we were told the structure of the performances beforehand or had the chance to plan our filming more.

26th – Filming at the Schools

Today we went round to three different schools to film their preparations for the performances that will be showcased tomorrow at the community exhibition.

The first school had small groups of students that prepared performances such as poetry, stand-up comedy, and dance. One thing about this schools’ performances that I did notice was that the students didn’t seem very keen on performing. I’m not surprised though as I would have felt the same if I had to perform in front of nearly the whole school, a group of strangers, and be filmed by multiple cameras…

The second school had an older group of students who performed a play on the topic of illegal abortions and the danger they cause to young women. They were so confident, and I admired how brave they were, even the cameras didn’t faze them! It was a powerful story, although it was sprinkled with some comedy which was an interesting contrast to the sad tale they were portraying.

The last school of the day performed a skit as well, this time the theme was on child labour and the impact that has on children’s education. Again, they added a comedic factor which didn’t reflect the serious impact of the topic, but as they are all younger students, I’m not surprised they wanted to make it more fun and lighter. One of the teachers commented at the end that it was a really good performance but could do with some more content on the actual issue rather than jokes.

25th – Meeting the Community

We travelled once again to Rongo University, where we waited for the bigger bus to take all of us students to the village. However, the bus was off getting fuelled up for the journey but was taking so long and no one could contact the driver. Peter was worries, as members of the community had taken time out of their working day to be there and were sat waiting for us.

Eventually, the bus came back, and we drove to Cham Gi Wadu. Thankfully, some of the community members were still there, some couldn’t wait any longer for us unfortunately… As an apology for our lateness, we brought in our lunch and handed it out to everyone as a thank you for waiting for us. Luckily, the chief had been caught up in another meeting and was also running late.

The talk was split up into two parts, firstly we recorded community members and the social workers. Everyone introduced themselves and it was a very similar set up to the day before. Issues faced by the community members were discussed and each of them gave their view on the idea of a community radio station. They were very positive about the CM4K project and seemed eager for the community radio station to be set up.

After that first half was recorded, we all took a break as we waited for the chief to arrive. When he got there, we all got back to our original places and recorded his speech on the topic of the radio station. It was pretty short and sweet but overwhelmingly positive. One thing that he did say that particularly stood out to me was that the community was “eager and waiting”, that they were “ready and can’t wait any longer”. Due to unforeseen circumstances such as Peters injury and COVID-19, the project had been set back about three years. This meant we were the first group to revisit the project and get it back on track.

On our way back we visited a school quickly and met another community that live in a village that has a freshwater spring. Due to one of our team members being ill, we were unable to visit the spring with them, but they still welcomed us with open arms. We really have experienced how welcoming the communities are here to guests, it is so lovely but at the same time it feels like we don’t deserve such an honoured welcome as we haven’t done much to deserve it. But at the same time, it is important to appreciate their hospitality.

24th – First Day in Cham Gi Wadu

Today was going to be a big day, as it was the first time we were meeting social workers who were part of the community in Cham Gi Wadu, and hear about issues that they were collectively facing. As a group, us students were going to record the meeting.

We set up the chairs an all the recording equipment, students were still grouped in different groups depending on their roles (video, photography, audio). We began the talk and Jerry, the professor at Rongo University, introduces the project and also the three women who are sat at the front. They are social workers for the community there and organise the work with CM4K.

The social workers have been discussing issues with the community, they meet families and get to know them, and are a source of aid when issues come up. It is clear that issues of modern-day slavery are still prevalent in this area, and community radio is seen as a tool that can help educate people on their rights and empower them. It can expose issues and help victims and gives them a voice.

23rd – First Official Project Day

Initially, we had planned to leave at 9:30 so that we were on time to meet the Vice Chancellor of the University of Rongo. Eventually, we made it to the university and still had the chance to meet the Chancellor. We discussed the partnership the two universities, the University of Brighton and the University of Rongo. He said that the partnership is helpful as they can share knowledge and ensure the courses here in Rongo are at a high academic level. He said it is a struggle for third world countries to reach this level due to lack of funding, and the CM4K project provides a solution to this problem.

The first hiccup was that we had collectively forgotten to bring the key that unlocks the suitcase we had brought with us which held all the equipment we had bought with the fundraising money. The equipment was all radio related and was to be given to the university in order to progress with the CM4K project.

After lunch, Peter gave another lecture to both Brighton and Rongo students specifically on Community Radio. This was followed with a practical session using the kit that we had brought with us. All of us split up into groups, a video group, a photography group, and an audio group, making sure the ratio of Brighton and Rongo students in each group was roughly 50/50. I was in the audio group, as this was the area I had the least experience in so I thought it would be a good chance to learn from Rachael – a pro!! We learned how to operate the Zoom Handheld Audio Recorders.

22nd – Flamingos at Lake Simbi

We had a late start today which meant we got to have a swim in the morning! We then all got on the minivan to travel to Lake Simbi in search of Flamingos.

Again, it wasn’t a short drive to the lake… but it was definitely worth it. When arrived (driving slightly too close to the edge of the small cliff for my liking…) we couldn’t see any flamingos, so we thought we might have missed them for today. But as we turned the corner, we were greeted with a group of them in the water right below us.

We all walked down the steep slope to the water level and some guides told us the mythical version of how the lake had been created. I didn’t quite catch the whole story, but I managed to piece together that there was a woman who came across this village on a hill where she knocked on the doors of the houses in search for some water. After a series of events, she leaves the village and, on her way, out, heavy rain fell over the village, so much so that it sank the hill and caused the lake to form in its place.

The lake itself was very intriguing… apparently the depth of the lake is unknown. No fish or animals actually inhabit the lake either. Only the flamingos come to feed on the algae, and some other birds which visit too.

We drove around the lake and then travelled back to the hotel. On the way back, we stopped off at Homa Bay, were we walked around and had our first proper visit to Lake Victoria. We also picked up some sugar cane on the way back to try!

21st – Thimlich Ohinga Historic Site

We drove for around 2 and a half hours to get to this historic archaeological site, but I was excited to learn about some of the history of Kenya. The first part of the journey was on a tarmac road, but a large portion of the drive was on a winding dirt track with huge potholes dotted around that took some impressive driving to get through. I’m surprised the minivan even made it the whole way there!

We made it to the site and had an amazing packed lunch, provided to us by the University of Rongo, it consisted samosas, fried bread, boiled eggs, and mandazi (a sweet fried bread). Unfortunately, I think the heat had got to me that day, and I started getting spells of nausea and dizziness, which meant I couldn’t take part in the tour as it involved a 40-minute walk in direct sun.

20th – First Official Day

By 10am we were off to the University of Rongo, which was a 10-minute journey that was punctuated rather uncomfortably by speed bumps every minute or so, an aspect to traveling in Kenya I was soon to become very used to.

Upon arrival, Jerry, one of the Rongo university professors, and Peter had a meeting to discuss the schedule for the week ahead which gave us the opportunity to explore the campus. The university campus was so green, every building was bordered with grass and greenery and there was a beautiful flowering tree that always caught by eye. Lines of chairs were positioned under an area of trees, creating an outside classroom, something I wish we did in the UK.

After some more exploring to pass the time, we returned to Jerry and Peter where we were told that the Dean had been called to Nairobi for a meeting, so we were not able to have an introduction today.  That meant it was time to meet the students we would be working with on the Community Media 4 Kenya project.

We all went into the media classroom and went around introducing ourselves. Our first priority was getting to know the students, so we went outside to play some icebreaker games. I think everyone was nervous to introduce themselves but after a few rounds of games in the sun, everyone was laughing together, and surprisingly we all got a hang of everyone’s names pretty fast.

We went back inside for a lecture on Community Radio given by Peter. The topics covered were the past project on Modern Day Slavery, how community/community media is defined (or not defined!), what community means to us, and how community radio comes into all of this. We broke off into two groups, Brighton students and Rongo students, to discuss our ideas on these topics, and then we came back together to share. It was interesting to hear another groups point of view and it was agreed that community is ultimately a sense of connection.

18th & 19th – Traveling Days

Having just endured a journey that took the majority of two days from of us, it’s safe to say there was not a lot happening on these days other than sitting, eating, and sleeping… The travelling itself went smoothly and we arrived at the hotel with equal parts exhaustion, and anticipated excitement for the two weeks ahead.

To celebrate our arrival, I had a three-hour nap which took me right up to dinner time. It was lovely to all sit together around a table and spend time getting to know one another. Despite being in the same class I hardly knew anyone.