New School for Kenyan Community
The villagers of Gazi, southern Kenya, have a new school block thanks to Earthwatch scientists and volunteers.
In 2006 scientists on the Earthwatch project Tidal Forests of Kenya established a committee of five men and five women from Gazi village in the Kwale District of Kenya, 55 kilometres south of Mombassa. The first project involved the installation of a water pump in the village, providing water to around 650 villagers.
Now, with the addition of the new school block, which includes a library, administration room and toilet facilities, the primary school has extra space to cater for the many children and over 18s who attend from the 1,000-strong community. There are now six classrooms, built of cinder blocks and concrete, and by Kenyan standards it is a relatively modern and well-built school.
Lead scientist on Tidal Forests of Kenya, Dr. Mark Huxham (Napier University), explains, "The process we went through was to establish a committee of villagers, with Earthwatch representation, to consider how best to use any charitable funds we raised. There were a number of projects identified as important by the villagers, but this received first priority; it was seen as something urgent and of benefit to the whole village.
"The idea for the Earthwatch/Gazi community fund and committee came from the team of lead scientists; we wanted a way of organising relations with the village and charitable donations that volunteers were interested in giving. We wanted to ensure any money given by volunteers was used equitably, transparently and for the benefit of the village as a whole, and did not fuel a dependency or 'begging' culture."
Since the committee was established, Earthwatch volunteers on Tidal Forests of Kenya who have expressed an interest in making a donation have been encouraged to contribute to the school project.
An opening ceremony, organised by the committee and attended by the village chief, the chief executive of the Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, teachers and villagers, was held on 11th July.
At the ceremony, Dr. Huxham said, "This is a very proud day for me. It is an opportunity for us to celebrate the importance of education and the honour of working together to improve educational opportunities here in Gazi. I have been privileged, through Earthwatch, to bring more than 100 volunteers from around the world to enjoy Kenyan hospitality, and to learn about the beautiful environment and unique culture of this village."
He added, "Education lies at the heart of the Earthwatch mission, and defines what I do as a university teacher, and so it is wonderful that we can contribute to the future of Gazi in this way. I hope the new building will enrich the lives of hundreds of teachers and students, and look forward to working together over many happy years."
Dr. Huxham thanked those who had made the school building project possible, including Earthwatch volunteer Karina Slagt, a Dutch teacher whose fundraising event at her school raised a substantial donation for the project, and Earthwatch Australia's Executive Director Richard Gilmore, who has also contributed to the fund. Dr. Huxham paid tribute to his colleagues Dr. James Kairo and Dr. Martin Skov for their tireless efforts.
Tidal Forests of Kenya is helping to maintain and restore mangrove ecosystems, one of the world's most threatened ecosystems. Earthwatch volunteers are helping to estimate the carbon stocks present in mangroves, as a contribution to research on climate change, and how fish migrate in and out of these forests.