2015 Chairman’s Report

F.F.I. Community Support Limited

CHAIRMANS REPORT 2015

Introduction;

2015 was another successful but challenging year for Friends From Ireland.  We completed our school project in Galana, Kenya and further developed our relationships with the Agricultural Development Corporation and local stakeholders. We developed the inclusion of animal-human conflict and conservation elements to our projects and received hugely positive feedback from volunteers. We led out and managed the development of Memorandums of Understanding between University College Dublin and Pwani University Kenya and held meetings with the Kenyan Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, the Irish and Kenyan Ambassadors and the Board of the Agricultural Development Corporation.

 

Our volunteer participation projects will increase to two projects in 2016, one related to conservation and research and one which will see the commencement of the Secondary School project in Galana. I continue to believe that our current community project selection processes, where we have one project awaiting completion and one at research stage, will allow our organisation to continue at a pace that suits our structure and most importantly our financial constraints. We have finalized the 2016 recruitment campaign for the first phase of the Secondary School building project in Galana, Kenya and the June conservation and research project with FFI volunteers, UCD researchers and Pwani University undergraduates. We will however continue to support other community development projects, as partners, whenever possible and whenever funds permit, once we are satisfied that any such funding will be used in accordance with our understanding of building a future through the support of community development. In addition to our main objectives at Galana in 2015, FFI also had the opportunity to further support some other wonderful projects in Gede and Malindi. The Orphanage at God our Father in Gede received a large donation of educational equipment and infant clothes, Jay’s Library in Gede received a large quantity of books and Eric Mwashigadi’s Sports Academy initiative in Malindi received a large donation of sports equipment. In recent years Friends From Ireland have built up extensive contacts in the communities we have worked in and as a result have had the opportunity to directly support exciting and life-changing initiatives. I must once again emphasize that the assistance we receive from friends and supporters in the research and implementation stages of each project is staggering. In Kenya the tactical, logistical and administrative support we receive saves us thousands of Euro on every project we undertake.

 

At our Board meetings during the year we discussed the continued difficulties surrounding fundraising. We acknowledged in particular the number of volunteers who return to our projects each year. The voluntary nature of our organisation requires a significant personal commitment to fundraising which over time becomes more difficult. The Board will look at ways to reduce the amount a returning volunteer will need to raise to encourage and reward their dedication, loyalty and commitment to improving the lives of others. The FFI Board positions remain as follows; Chairman: John Byrne, Secretary: Ann Marie Spillane, Treasurer: Niamh Byrne, PRO: Joanne Quirke, Assistant PRO: Fionnuala Fitzpatrick, Social Media Officer: Derek Hilliard, Volunteer Liaison Officers: Dominic Spillane and Alan Crawford, Research and Development Officer: John Brooks.

 

Company Limited by Guarantee and AIB Business Account Updates: On the 12th of February 2015 we became a company limited by guarantee with the name FFI Community Support Limited. We were unable to register a company under the name Friends From Ireland because of existing companies with similar names. Instead we registered FFI (Friends From Ireland) Community Support Ltd (Company Number 557409) In the following months we submitted all documents to the Charity Section of the Revenue Commission and applied to retain our original charity number CHY17747 which they allowed us to do. We were assigned the Corporation Tax Number 3345373UH and approved under the terms of Section 848A and Section 207 of the Taxes Consolidation Act, 1997. I subsequently registered FFI Community Support Ltd with the Irish Charities Regulatory Authority and we were assigned the ICRA Number: 20066635. From the foundation of Friends From Ireland in 2006 we operated, in that name, under a “Club or Association” Account with Allied Irish Bank. At the time this type of account was advised but as the decade progressed it became increasingly problematic due to its lack of on-line banking facilities. We held out on opening a new account until our transition to a Company Limited by Guarantee was complete. Following the completion of that step a new business account was opened with AIB which affords us access to the full range of business and online services. (FFI Community Support Ltd. Account No: 33983018, Branch: Main Street Lucan Co. Dublin, IBAN: IE73 AIBK 9335 6233 9830 18, BIC: AIBK IE 2D, Sort Code: 933562) A special word of thanks to TD Fitzpatrick Certified Public Accountants for their guidance through this transition.

Project Equipment: In October 2014 a fire broke out at Kulalu Camp which destroyed a significant portion of the kitchen area, the staff quarters and one of the main guest tents. The storeroom where the FFI project equipment was stored was totally destroyed. We lost all our tents and camp beds and most significantly all the tools and building equipment we had built up over two years. We had no recourse through the insurance in force at the time by the previous owners. Throughout 2015 we managed to replace the majority of the essential tools and camping equipment required for the projects. Replacement will continue as fund allow. Vehicle: In mid-2015 FFI, in cooperation with Gai and Garry Cullen, purchased a Land-cruiser from Wells Fargo Kenya. This vehicle became available for the September project and has given FFI a transport option of its own, in addition to the tremendous support with transport afforded to us by other supporters in Kenya. The Land-cruiser will be serviced and maintained by Wells Fargo Kenya but will require a future financial commitment for its upkeep.

MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING BETWEEN FRIENDS FROM IRELAND AND THE AGRICULTURAL DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION KENYA: Signed November 2015- Nairobi- Dr. Andrew Tuimer ADC and Mr. John A. Byrne, Chairman FFI. The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding (‘MOU’) between Friends From Ireland (FFI) and the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC), Kenya is to foster partnership and cooperation between the two organisations in the development of community and conservation projects in the area of Galana, Kenya. It will serve as a framework document to allow both parties to understand their respective roles and responsibilities in the programme of projects that will commence in 2015. Proposed collaborative activities: 1.1 The construction of a Secondary School on the 10-acre site donated by the ADC in 2014 to the Galana Community through, donor funding raised by FFI and supported logistically by The Galana Conservancy, Kulalu Camp Kenya, and Wells Fargo Kenya. Commencement will be subject to the necessary agreements of both parties and will be confined to the coordinates as agreed. 1.2 The support of the development of the Galana Wildlife Conservancy as a centre of excellence and an international scientific field research station in partnership with Pwani University, Kilifi, Kenyatta University Nairobi and University College Dublin. (This initiative has already been agreed internationally by the formal establishment of MOUs between the aforementioned Universities, facilitated by Friends from Ireland, UCD, the Kenyan Ambassador to Ireland, Mr. Richard Opembe and was forwarded, upon request, to the Cabinet Secretary and Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, Prof. Judy Wakhungu) 1.3 The support of the initiative to have the Galana Conservancy included in the application of the Kenyan Government to have Tsavo National Parks designated as a World Heritage Site (WHS). This process has already commenced and is based upon the uniqueness of the Lali Hills in the surrounding landscape. In January an international delegation will visit the Galana Conservancy, accompanied by senior Kenyan political figures to launch this initiative to the international media. The provision of a track/road around the eastern boundary of the Conservancy is a critical element to progressing this initiative and must be attended to as a matter of urgency before the official launch of the conservancy as a field research station in January 2016. It is a vital solution to patrolling the contentious area between the irrigation scheme and the conservancy. It is worth noting that the Conservancy was recently assessed under the sixth schedule of the Kenyan Wildlife Conservation and Management Act 2013 and found to be the home to 31, Endangered, Vulnerable or Near Threatened mammals and birds.

 

Galana School Project 2015: In January 2015 the Galana community once again started the arduous task of making blocks to extend the primary school. FFI supplied the cement and ballast and sand was sourced locally with the support of the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC). The foundations and walls progressed well ahead of schedule and our targets were met well ahead of time. By August 2015 when I arrived ahead of the project group I was amazed to see just how prepared the Galana team were. There were no dramas to face or last minute problems and Johnson, Leonard and Lenny had absolutely everything under control. After a couple of days making final lists for materials and equipment and sourcing friendly providers willing to send their trucks on a 250km round trip into the bush, we were ready for the project group. They arrived in Kenya on the 31st of August and arrived out to Galana on September 1st. After a day of travel, unloading building materials and setting up base-camp at Kulalu Camp they settled in for their first night in the bush. The project began in earnest on September 2nd. There were three separate sites within the project area, at the Dispensary, the Library and Staffroom and at the new kitchen. To begin with the three new concrete floors had to be mixed by hand for the staffroom, kitchen and library. At the Dispensary the whole building was made ready for painting and two unused rooms were prepared for the Women’s Initiative Group and the installation of a sewing workshop. As the days progressed, the floors, plastering and painting teams made huge headway. Help from the community and teachers was terrific and it was tremendous to see how the last couple of years working together had created such a comfortable and experienced team of varying skills and talents. As the teams entered the second week we concentrated on making furniture, storage and shelving for the new rooms. We also addressed some of the wear and tear issues at the school and managed to give all the buildings a new coat of paint. The electrics were installed which will work in tandem with the solar power system and we installed laptops in the library. In addition to the building of the new rooms the project team also donated a large number of books, sports equipment and clothing. The Dispensary also received a significant donation of medicine and children’s clothes. The Women’s Initiative Group, which has just taken its first steps, are looking at training local ladies in dressmaking skills.  It is a tentative start to what we hope will become a revenue source for other similar initiatives in the future. The handover ceremony took place on the 11th of September. It was a poignant day for all concerned. The kids were all there, excited as usual, singing and causing wonderful mayhem. The usual types of people made speeches and the media were there to record it all. However, at the eastern end of the school site, rising up from the bare earth stood a collection of timber posts, branches from long dead trees which only two years earlier had formed the supports for the mud walls of what was then the pitiful but much used and valued Galana Primary School. In the twenty-four-month period starting September 2013 Friends From Ireland, the Galana Community and all our supporters had renovated four dilapidated classrooms and built a further four in the Primary School. We had built a new Kindergarten comprising of three classrooms and an office. We had built a staffroom to help face the huge challenges faced by the teaching staff, a traditional library to encourage further education and a sports equipment library to encourage involvement in sport. To support the ladies who feed the children on a daily basis we removed them from the horrific conditions they endured and built them, with their design and measurement advice, a new kitchen area that is well ventilated and fit for purpose.

 

Rhino Arc – Rhino Charge 2015: Friends From Ireland continued supporting the Rhino Arc project in Kenya, a conservation project that tackles issues surrounding animal-human conflict, deforestation and water catchment protection. Commitment to such community development initiatives allows us to recognise, and repay in some small way, the immeasurable support given to us over many years. Already involvement in Rhino Arc fundraising projects has built relationships with other like-minded organisations and has allowed us develop new partnerships in advancing community development. In 2015 FFI donated €3000 to the Rhino Charge event and I participated in the charity challenge on the 1st of June with team mates and fundraisers from Wells Fargo Kenya and Kulalu Camp Kenya.

 Watamu Marine Association: Waste Recycling Centre, Watamu Kenya, 2015. In June 2010 WMA submitted a funding proposal to FFI for the construction of several buildings as part of a Watamu Community Solid Waste Management and Recycling Facility. The buildings were, a Recycling Machine Room, Waste Sorting Bays, an Arts and Crafts Workshop and Toilet. In 2012 WMA received funds of €12,750 from FFI to start construction. Building was expected to commence in early 2013. However, delays occurred due to several license and approval requirements. The Project had the backing and support of both the Council and the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) but what we hadn’t expected was the amount of time it takes to process building applications for a recycling facility in Kenya. It took 5 months to receive the Council approvals and 9 months to receive the NEMA certificate required for construction to commence. This certificate was finally signed in November but not received until the 19th December 2013. The Project commenced     construction work in January 2014 which was completed in February. This work included building a storeroom for building materials, fitting an entrance gate and laying a road on site. Recycling Operations Commenced 2014. To begin with, the facility recycled hard plastics and glass waste materials. Hard plastics are processed by a crusher machine and then sold by the kilo to recycling industries in Mombasa. Profits from sales go towards operation and running costs. The Project aims to collect and recycle all plastic and glass waste generated from all Watamu hotels and residents. As operations and capacity expands WMA also plan to recycle paper and organic waste through composting. The Facility will employ 5 community members to run recycling operations. WMA have gratefully acknowledged the tremendous support FFI has given which has enabled them to construct the first Community Waste Recycling Facility at the Kenya coast. In addition, the facility now in place has generated further interest and support for the next phase of works, as many potential investors and partners are more attracted to a project that has already commenced and is under development. FFI will be credited in any articles or media coverage related to the Project and on sign boards and displays at the site. The recycling centre is now in operation and processing plastics, glass and some metals. Although in its infancy as an initiative, all signs point to a very successful future. Many thanks to all at W.M.A. for their persistence and unrelenting focus on the tremendous benefits this project brings to the local community.

 

Projects 2016:

Secondary School Galana Kenya. Following the tremendous success of the 2013 to 2015 Galana projects the Board of FFI decided to look at the possibility of building a Secondary School in Galana. Following a meeting with Dr. Andrew Tuimor M.D. of the Agricultural Development Corporation in November 2015, we decided to continue with the successful partnership between the ADC and FFI and commence work on the project in 2016. This will be a huge undertaking and will require significant planning and funding in the coming years. We will rely on our supporters to continue with us on this journey, to a conclusion that we could not have even dared to imagine just a couple of years ago. In the main this will once again be achieved by the fundraising efforts of FFI Volunteers who will travel to Galana to complete the individual projects. Following the meetings in November 2015 with ADC officials, The Galana Conservancy, Kulalu Camp, school staff, parents and community leaders this project is ready for roll-out. As was fully expected the community leaders offered overwhelming support and we were delighted to reach all necessary agreements with Dr. Andrew Tuimor and Mr. Mohamud Bulle of the ADC and begin preparations immediately. For its part FFI pledged to fundraise and recruit volunteers to complete the project. The ADC, in an overwhelming show of support to FFI, handed over 10 acres of land to the Education authorities to be registered as a school. This designation of land not only includes the Secondary School site but also the completed Primary School site. There are currently no secondary schools in the area and children ending their primary school education have no place to continue their studies. The focus of the project in 2016 will initially be on completing the foundations for four classrooms which if achieved will set the stage for continued progress as funds allow.

 

Conservation and Research Project Galana wildlife Conservancy 2016: The Galana Wildlife Conservancy (GWC) borders Tsavo East National Park in Kenya and consists of a 60,000-acre wildlife haven for some of the world’s most renowned and rarest African wildlife species. The GWC is situated on the eastern boundary of Tsavo East National Park and on the northern banks of the Galana River.  The conservancy serves as a crucial un-fenced buffer zone between Tsavo East National Park and the vast agricultural areas of the Galana and Kulalu Ranches which are managed by the Agricultural Development Corporation (ADC). We have been working since 2008 with local communities, international NGOs and the ADC to preserve this vital habitat and the amazing creatures that rely on it. In 2013 we started to record and document resident and transient wildlife populations using road transect counts, static observation point (OPs) counts and camera trapping for our nocturnal inhabitants.  It is crucial that we collect data to monitor populations and be in a position to identify positive or negative trends. These research activities presented us with some wonderful surprises. In a 24-month period between September 2013 and September 2015 FFI volunteers photographed and identified four individual striped hyenas within the Conservancy. The striped hyena is listed as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List but with that assessment dating back to 2008 we can only imagine how bleak the picture is now. We are passionate about preserving this population and the other 31 threatened species that are listed in the Kenyan Wildlife Conservation and Management Bill 2013, including Elephant, Lion, Cheetah, Hippo and a host of birds and other smaller creatures. The fact is that we are data-deficient and we hope that a continued research programme will provide a more current scientific snapshot. The value of this area to the local community through tourism and employment is significant and it is crucial that such habitats are preserved as a community resource, not just in terms of revenue but in terms of future educational potential for their children.

 

Galana Women’s Initiative: The Galana Amani Women’s group are a group of ladies from the Danissa area who have come together to continue their education and learn new skills with the support of Friends From Ireland. FFI have been working in the Galana area since 2012 and through our projects it became clear that these were strong, determined women with huge potential, who were eager to learn, but who lacked the necessary resources to do so. In September 2014 FFI held the first local women’s meeting which was hugely successful. The discussions in the meeting centred around the positive impact that FFI projects have had on their children and community. We explored with the ladies how they felt FFI could help support them. Immediately it became clear that the priority for the group was learning how to read and write in both Swahili and English, as well as learning tailoring. A quick poll told us that only 7 of the ladies present were literate. With the opening of the newly renovated Primary School the ladies now had an opportunity to use these resources and evening classes were arranged. FFI returned to Galana in September 2015 and a second meeting was organised which was very well attended. At this meeting we learned that the adult education classes had begun and had been very well attended initially, however, about 50% of the ladies in the community had now found jobs in the new National Irrigation Scheme so could no longer attend the classes. Those who were not working were still attending classes and they were progressing well. One of the highlights from this meeting occurred when we were approached by a lady who had not finished her school education as a child, but who had recently attended the adult education classes and wanted to return to complete her Form 4 exams. She agreed with the Galana School principal that it would be possible for her to complete her exams in the school. This meeting was an early indication of just how motivated and committed these women are to furthering their education. We were very lucky to have been joined on this project by Agnes Chege, a FFI volunteer and long-time supporter.  Agnes explained to the group about how she had been working with a similar ladies group on the coast who operate a “Merry-go-Round” system. This is a traditional way for groups of women to save money together. Agnes explained how the merry-go-round system works and all the ladies present agreed that this was something they would like to develop in their group. In addition, FFI donated a Singer sewing machine to the group. A dress-making teacher was agreed upon and the ladies group was formally invited to occupy two un-used rooms at the Galana Dispensary which had been renovated and extended by FFI in 2012. In subsequent visits it became clear that both initiatives were working extremely well and as promised FFI donated a second sewing machine to support further growth of the group. It was very impressive to see that the ladies had begun the “Merry -go-round” system with 24 ladies in the group and had already save a significant amount of money. They decided to call the group the Galana Amani Women’s Group; Amani means peace in Swahili and Peace is exactly the spirit in which these women work.

This was a new venture for Friends From Ireland and to date it has been a huge success. The ladies have shown passion and determination and have worked very hard to learn new skills. The fact that the group is made up of women from all the different tribal and religious and cultural groups in the area, working together in harmony, is an inspiration to all. It has been a mere 6 months since the group established the sewing classes and they are already providing uniforms for the children in the school. Not only are they offering the uniforms to their local community at a competitive price, they also offer the convenience of a local service. The group are already on their way to becoming self-sustaining, and in future should be able to purchase their own material. These ladies have also shown us that this is a model which can be replicated in other communities. Friends From Ireland will continue to support the group in any way we can and look forward to seeing just how far the ladies can take themselves

 

Fundraising; Once again I am aware of the need to keep volunteer fundraising targets as low as possible without impacting on project goals. I acknowledge once again and am truly grateful for the services and expenses borne by our membership, by way of personal contribution, provision of office space and equipment, use of personal I.T. equipment, travel and fuel costs. The countless hours spent organising projects, events and fundraising by volunteers significantly increases the amount of work Friends From Ireland can achieve with its limited funds. We need to keep focused on fundraising in order to stay healthy as an organisation and continue the work we do. It is always a struggle but there are no other options.

 

Conclusion: FFI had a very productive 2015. We oversaw the historic signing of MOUs between UCD and Pwani University which for the first time introduced a third level education element to our infant, primary and secondary school building programmes. We saw the completion of the Primary School building programme. We forged links with Kenyan Government Cabinet members and International diplomats and secured their support for our community and conservation initiatives. We signed an MOU with the Kenyan Agricultural Development Corporation. We developed research and conservation projects in addition to our main body of work in community cornerstone development. With funds remaining after the project we were able to support other worthwhile community projects. Two projects were decided upon for 2016. One in June in conjunction with UCD and Pwani University, where students from both entities will work together on the Galana Wildlife Conservancy. The second was the commencement of the Secondary School building project which will begin in September.

 

Once again it falls to me, as Chairman of Friends From Ireland, to convey my great gratitude to all our supporters, friends, volunteers, colleagues and family members who make our projects possible. It continues to be a great source of personal pride for me to be associated with such dedication and generosity. There have been many learning opportunities on recent projects and throughout the year that have added to our experiences. There were some tough financial periods and uncertainties. It is a testament to the skill and dedication of our small group that we entered 2016 financially and structurally intact and with our project goals firmly in sight.

Thank you all.