Home · Blog · Kenya : Milgis School: Opening Ceremony Recap

From left: Cecile Malm Bruntland, Arnulf Bergum, Pete Isley, Tove Bergum, Knut Bruntland, Helen Dogulas-Dufrense

From left: Cecilie, Arnulf Bergum, Pete Ilsley, Tove Bergum, Knut Brundtland, Helen Douglas-Dufrense

On August 8th, 2014 our European Representative Cecilie Malm Brundtland (pictured far left) joined Tove and Arnulf Bergum at the opening ceremony of their second clean water project with Voss Foundation’s partner, Milgis Trust, in the Samburu district of Kenya, in memory of their daughter Lene Maria Bergum. Here is Cecilie’s trip report:

More than 100 people were present when Tove and Arnulf Bergum came to Samburu, Kenya to open the water project at Milgis School [in the community of Ilgwe Eldome]. They were accompanied by Jens Ramfjord and board member Synnøve Bromann as well as Namdalsavisa´s editor Kim Riseth. Namdalsavisa, [the local newspaper for the district of Namdal, Norway where the Bergums live], has been supporting Lene Maria for Clean Water and Education since it was founded in 2012, and Kim Riseth is now on the board.

Knut and I, together with our family and some friends (among others, Ina Astrup – a Milgis Trust trustee) had just arrived at the tiny airstrip near Elkanto in the heat. The Bergum famlily had already spent several days in the Samburu area with Helen and Pete and their Samburu team and camels. They were also accompanied by NRK´s (the biggest Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation) correspondent in Kenya, Sverre Tom Radøy and a photographer. Prior to the opening ceremony, the most important event of the Berugms’ trip so far had been visiting Masikita, where the first Lene Maria water project was opened in January 2013. [In Masikita, they had the opportunity to see the ripple effect their project has had on the community over 1.5 years later after its completion.]

We started the celebration by the lugga, where the elders blessed the well by sprinkling goat milk over it repeating the word «N´gai», the Samburu word for «God». As usual Pete, Frances and their team had done a beautiful job protecting and hiding the area with a hedge made by severed branches. Afterwards, the solar pump was switched on and we all suddenly heard the water started running!

VF_KEN_MilgisTrust_MilgisSchool_opening.ceremony_01-blessing.the.well

The elders blessing the well with goat milk. Photo: Namdalsavisa

This time, Milgis Trust built the watchmen’s hut with stone-walls to keep it cool inside, and the roof made of thatched leaves… there are two watchmen guarding the solar panels and pump: one paid for by Lene Maria for Rent Vann and Education/Voss Foundation and one paid for by the community. [NB: The salary for a water watchmen for 5 years is always included in the budget for Voss Foundation projects, but the fact that the community is also paying the salary for an additional watchman is new.] Each watchman’s salary is approximately 5000 shillings a month. Pete said that Jesepat, one of Milgis Trust’s most trustworthy Samburus and the chairman of the school, is responsible for collecting the salary from the people in the village.

After the blessing we walked from the well into the school. We followed the pipeline that had been dug by the locals (a distance of 5 km) – each having to dig 4 meters.

The area around the school was full of people dressed in their most beautiful Samburu costumes with tons of beads around their necks and on their foreheads. Women from Ndonyo Nasipa had walked 16 km to say thank you for the water that had been installed there in 2011. They wore the most beautiful dresses made by goatskin, dyed in ochre with elaborate necklaces around their necks. ‘Before we had to walk up the long hill from the water hole to the village,’ said Njobin Leukupane, a woman from Ndonyo Nasipa. They also told us how fantastic it was to be able to wash themselves [more easily]. The women also told us about the new health clinic/ hospital that the authorities had built because of the water.

Women came from far away to celebrate. Photo: Namdalsavisa

Women came from far away to celebrate. Photo: Namdalsavisa

More women emphasized how amazing [the water project] was – the feeling of luxury – both washing themselves and washing clothes in the village – without having to walk the long way to the lugga carrying clothes, etc. A main subject seemed to be how time-consuming [collecting water] had been before they had the water system, and how this is now changing. For the children, less time spent on fetching water means more time at school, better hygiene, and more energy to do other things.

The Bergums said that in Masikita, Antonella, a community member, said that because of the water she could keep her shop open longer and earn more money. In the villages, with access to water the population increases, which means economic growth… It takes a while to see the effect, but without water everything is going on ‘half-speed.’

The Milgis School looked so fantastic! The typical thatched roofs that keep the classrooms cool, all the beautiful paintings on the walls illustrating what happens if the forest is burned (the water disappears), concrete floors that keep the dust away. We sat there in the shade (nearly…) watching the fantastic teacher and children giving a brilliant performance. That drama- teacher is one of a kind!

The drama teacher and his pupils. Photo: Namdalsavisa

The drama teacher and his pupils. Photo: Namdalsavisa

After we had walked into the village, the head-master, Jonathan Loltianya, gave a speech addressing the mission of Milgis School, saying that poaching is terror, and that they have to look after the wildlife, forest, water etc. in order to be able continuing leaving there. He also stressed that it will be a lot easier for the children to come to school because they don’t  have to fetch water, the hygiene will improve and water born diseases will disappear. The chairman of the school, Jesepat and one woman gave speeches as well.

Walking into the village. Photo: Namdalsavisa

Walking into the village. Photo: Namdalsavisa

We also visited the new school kitchen. Over the door they had attached a thank-you plaque to «Kokkenes Mesterlaug Nord-Trøndelag» (Master chefs) who had supported the Lena Maria project. Jens Ramfjord, being THE master chef, was so impressed and excited by all the goats that they had slaughtered to celebrate the opening later the same day. Helen was given a goat as a present from the school dressed up like the most beautiful Samburu with head-gear. She was named Lene Maria!

Helen and her new goat, Lene Maria. Photo: Namdalsavisa

Helen and her new goat, Lene Maria. Photo: Namdalsavisa

I was also very impressed by the new toilets and «showers» (actually a place where the children could wash themselves in a basin). In Pete’s usual way – they were nicely placed a bit away from the rest of the buildings, proper and clean. What an improvement!

And then the water-taps were opened, the water flooded in, and we all had to taste the water. Crystal clean!

Children playing with the water. Photo: Namdalsavisa

Children playing with the water. Photo: Namdalsavisa

And we say “assante” (or, thank you) to Cecilie, Namdalsavisa, Milgis Trust and, of course, the Bergum Family and everyone who has supported Lene Maria for Clean Water and Education to made the Milgis School and Ilgwe Eldome clean water and hygiene project possible.

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