2022 AFEW KENYA ANNUAL ENVIRONMENTAL COMPETITION

Happy New Year. We hope and believe that you’ll have a successful year.

To start off, we have our annual competition up. The competition will be running from January 1st, 2022 to March 31st,2022.

The aim of the competition is to get students to engage in environmental conservation. The theme of the competition seeks to jog the students minds concerning current conservation issues and express them through either essays, drawing or an artistically taken photograph. The winners of the competition will get to visit some of the great conservation sites and organizations we have in Kenya.

To get the poster for the competition please click here

We wish you a prosperous 2022

2021 AFEW Kenya – Giraffe Centre Annual Environmental Competition

Every year, AFEW Kenya – Giraffe Centre hosts an environmental competition that seeks to get student views on various environmental issues of the day.

This year, our environmental competition theme is the same as last year’s competition, which is “Healthy Planet, Healthy People, Healthy Future.”

To get the poster, click here. If you know a student or a school in our country Kenya, kindly recommend this competition to them. 

Naromoru Primary School

One’s poison is another’s food, as it’s said. Even to be more appropriate, ‘one’s waste is another’s resource.’   If you ever were an active member in school clubs and activities like inning and outings for whatever event, be it sports day, science congress, drama, and so on, lunch was a loaf of bread and either a 300ml bottle of soda or a packet of milk. Or was it just my school?! no?! okay! This simple meal would make an ‘A’ student cry if they missed. This meal, among other reasons, would make a form 4 student deny a form 1 their rightful and lawful chance to participate. Reason, well, age and how many trips they both have left. Age wasn’t just a number.

Well, the good old days. The question is, how did your school manage the waste produced from the fun and/or educational trip. Was it like this?

In a town called Kiserian, deep in the heart of Kajiado county, where a good number of Nairobians get their weekend delicacy, Ugali Nyama choma, lies  Naromoru Primary School. The school administration in collaboration with the students, kept their milk packets from their trips and school use. They managed an over 2,000 milk packets of waste well.

This school has made sure that their school environment is clean since their waste is well managed. Also, since where they are located some people have cattle, this school has made sure that their cattle has 2000 milk packets less risk of constipation   

We, on the other hand, were in need of packets for potting tree seedlings for our tree nursery. They heard of our need for packets and contacted us. Thanks to Naromoru Primary School, we are sure of increasing our tree nursery by at least 2000 trees. With them managing their waste well, we have over 2000 milk packets of resource for our tree planting project.

 We have a quest to plant even more trees at our sanctuary in Karen, Hardy area. These trees are for education, giraffe feeding, and distribution to schools across the country. We need, as a country to increase the forest cover to 10% and over for our benefit and the benefit of the future generations.

So, contact us if and when you have milk packet waste.

Biodiversity Inventory at Giraffe Centre

Through the concept of citizen science, The Global Southern Bio-blitz takes biodiversity inventory in green spaces within cities annually, as a way of creating biodiversity awareness.

 In September 2020, Giraffe Centre Sanctuary was a candidate site sampled for inventory take among others in the Nairobi City. Here is the report as generated by the Global Southern Bio blitz team that took inventory at the Giraffe Centre Sanctuary.

Participants included university students and AFEW Kenya staff.

God willing, we hope to take inventory through this initiative and other internal programs to build the biodiversity database involving the general public.

 You may also see the website to find out more about them https://scistarter.org/great-southern-bioblitz

Everything goes

One’s poison is another’s food. That thing that seems small, useless to you means the world to another. The psalmist in one of his psalms would note this as he explains how everything means something to someone. He’d give an example with the water streams and towers, how from the rocks to the leaves need water.

CEO Giving students seedlings

I experienced this phenomenon with a cypress tree. Before you get up in arms with a claim on deforestation, it fell on its own on my neighbor’s vegetation and the tree was his. It was interesting how each person who saw the tree would envision it.

A carpenter saw frames for their creative ideas, a brick entrepreneur saw firewood for drying bricks, so on and forth.

There is a group, however, that interested me. They were keen to check for the hollow part of the stem. Why? If you ask me, it seems like they are missing a full part of the donut. Who in their right mind would go for the space between a donut. These guys would and they did.

One of the guys, just by knocking on one side of the cut trunk and knew it had honey in plenty. Apparently, in the olden days, that honey was the medicine for cold and flu. These guys didn’t just come here to look for materials for income, also for health from the cypress tree.

The only way these guys would have known this secret is if they were taught by their society members. By this simple secret, they have made a habit of growing trees with a sole purpose of honey where they’ll let them grow old, then fall on their own volition and hope for a bumper harvest of wood, sawdust, firewood and most important, honey.

2020 AFEW Kenya – Giraffe Centre Annual environmental Competition

Prosperous year 2020 to every one of you. We are very grateful for every support you have accorded us over the last 40 year of The Giraffe Centre existence and over 20 years of the annual Competition participation. W are very grateful for every penny you have used towards supporting environmental conservation around the world and our activies.

As customary, we have always given the Kenyan student a chance to express their thoughts on various environmental conservation topics through an Annual Competition, 2020 won’t be different yet bigger.

Check out the poster by clicking on ” healthy Planet, Healthy Biodiversity, Healthy People”  to get the 2020 Annual environmental Competition Poster. Lots of prizes and a safari to be won.

Why do we do it?

We are all in the move. Some move with a pretty clear understanding of where they are going, in which case people would call ambitious, focused, role models, you name it. The other group is the nonchalant, easy-going, live-in -the moment type who toss care to the wind. We all have these types of people in our inner circle. Each personality brings the best or the worst in us, but one thing remains for sure, they all form part of this closely-knit fabric without which we fall apart.

Then there’s the loners, the sojourners or backpackers. These don’t subscribe to the famous maxim “For the strength of the wolf is the pack, and the strength of the  park is the wolf.” They are very loyal to solitude and go about everyday life in a manner only particular to them.

With all this evolution and growth in the human mindset. One thing has stood the test of time. The desire to know. To find meaning and understanding. To explore. This would explain why ancient explorers would leave the comfort of the familiar to seek something far much more significant- a knowledge of what’s out there. I imagine this is how most of these conversations went.

“ For heaven, sakes Vasco, get a grip of yourself! Who says there’s something far much better beyond our shores? Why go sailing unchartered waters?”

“But mother, how will I know if I don’t take the risk? There has to be something beyond that horizon. There has to.”

“We better get you a wife. Maybe that would give you a reason to stay,”   

“Don’t sweat it mother, I’ll marry my kind.” Says Vasco as he storms out of their cottage.

Just like that Vasco da Gama sets off to a journey of the unknown. He finds himself in the tropical weathers. Back home was freezing, but here. This place is different. I will try not to indulge in the stereotypical writing of Africa’s sunsets, neither will I talk of its savannah and the Maasai because there’s much more to the continent itself than starving bushmen.

I will, however, talk about Africa’s beauty in a different light-the People. They say people make culture and that the opposite is false.  I agree. Africa is vibrant because of its people. This continent became a transition point for many races after the Pangea broke. And for centuries we still find our way back. We come back to what our hearts know or longs.

Giraffe  Center is one such confluence. One tributary comes carrying friends from Athens, another brings the explorers from Korea. One loner backpacking across North America may save enough just enough to come to Kenya or a curious individual watching Ellen DeGeneres’ experience at giraffe centre may decide to pack up and come have a feel of the same.

These rivers all meet up here. That is what makes Giraffe Center special. The joy shared by those having their first giraffe kisses or lack thereof due to fear draws them to a common understanding. We pride ourselves in being matchmakers. Giving people a taste of both worlds. Some of the friendships formed here last a lifetime, so do the connections. This is why we do what we do. Bring people closer and promote universal coexistence.

 

“Unless”

People ask me why I am obsessed with words. Why I seem to know a lot about things but at the same time be so clueless about the things that matter. Well for starters, what things matter? Unless we are talking about SDGs or African poverty, I think “things that matter” are very subjective concepts and cant, therefore, be pinned to a world view.

I love people who play with words. Heck,  Love could be an understatement. I adore them. The other day I was listening to LSD’s track “ No New Friends.” There’s something about that song that has me playing it on repeat. It could be the unique message sent across by the video.

The video takes us to a world of utopia, a land of paradise, no sorrows no worries at all (I used to love that song in Sunday school). This paradise, however, is dominated by dancing Truffula Trees. Have you heard of the story of the Truffula trees or more precisely The Lorax? No? Okay, walk with me. For those who have, take this as a refresher.

The Lorax is a children’s book written by Dr Seuss in the seventy’s documenting the plight of the environment. The Lorax a mystic creature in the book “speaks for the trees” by confronting the Once-ler who promotes environmental degradation. And so the story begins, Once-ler is walking one beautiful morning in search of fertile land. In his walk, he comes across a forest valley full of the Truffula trees. Up until that point, the Once-ler had never seen a tree with such silk-like foliage and incredible colours. So he decides to cut down the tree and from the foliage make a thneed (an incredibly versatile garment).

He sells that garment to a passerby who pays back in kind. This becomes like an epiphanic moment to him. He gets the worst idea ever but to cut down all the trees and expand his industry. So the Lorax who “speaks for the Truffula trees” confronts the Once-ler. He warns the Once-ler against his actions towards the environment. Eventually, all the animals are forced to migrate. The air becomes toxic, The rivers become polluted from the industries waste. Chaos wreaks the land.  Now the dude decides to wake up. Things are going bad. With a lack of resources, his industry shuts down. The Lorax writes on the trunk of the last standing tree, the word “Unless” and flees.

Years later, after pondering over this word in turmoil. The Once-ler realises what the Lorax meant. That “unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” I think by now you get where am going with this analogy.

The fable depicts our current reality. Cooperate greed over the environment. The Once-ler could very well be our industries and the Lorax the environment. We exploit, degrade, destroy all in the name of economic growth. How is that even self-actualisation? I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again. It’s a shame that the human mind is only accustomed to change when pain is involved.

Now you might not have felt the pain yet and are probably wondering what am ranting about, but others have felt it. Take, for example, the case of Mozambique and their floods, or the millions of intoxicated children living in India. If you are wondering what you can do to change this, am proud of you. That’s a significant milestone you took there.

My answer to you. Plant trees. Most of these problems we struggle with find their way back to deforestation and irresponsible logging of trees. Planting trees reduces the carbon footprint in the air, thus bringing a balance in the atmospheric gases. A case like Mozambique would have been less detrimental if they had a large forest cover. The children in India would breathe cleaner air.

The Lorax story ends with the Once-ler giving a young boy Truffula seeds to plant and save the planet. We’ve tried implementing the same line of thinking in the giraffe centre with our school greening initiative. We donate trees to schools and monitor their planting and progress. This ensures that the students take on the full responsibility of planting trees and understand the importance of doing the same.

On sustainability, we educate the students on alternative sources of energy that saves from cutting down trees. This involves teaching them how to make charcoal briquettes with the hope that this message will be passed on to their communities.

Wondering how you can be part of this amazing initiative? Join our 1 dollar 5 seedling project, and for every dollar, you donate 5 seedlings will be given to a school for planting. Before you get this twisted, the donations are for buying seedlings.  “Unless we do this, then we might as well start packing our bags for the journey to the world of the dead.”

A day in the life of our Intern

A typical day for me as an educator at giraffe centre starts with a strong cup of coffee. It should be strong enough to get me up and about.  Days can be long and hectic during these peak seasons, but one rule goes unspoken for an intern:  always be on top your of your game. Today is a Wednesday, and  Wednesdays are good days because we have chicken for lunch and who doesn’t like chicken?

My first task for the day is the packaging of pellets. Not my ideal way of starting the day but Ed, the giraffe, is present today and that most certainly is a sign of good luck. Ed was a case of love at first sight. I don’t like cheesy statements, but for Ed, I will make an exception. You see, if Ed were a man, then he would be the modern-day Idris Elba or  Aqua man if you are into fiction. He is quite the gentleman with tender and amazing kisses.

From packaging pellets, I lead visiting students, if any, into a lecture hall. There I will give a full-on presentation on Sustainable Environmental Conservation and all there is to know about giraffes, why? Because I am an educator – quite a fancy name, in my opinion. The talks happen for the better part of my morning. I might change shifts with the intern at customer care and take over the issuing of pellets to our customers. It is interesting how a communication barrier is never a problem when it comes to food. Most of the time, guests know what to do with the pellets.

Later on, I move to the platform to facilitate the interaction of the guests and the giraffes. Here you will find two groups of people; the First timers who can’t seem to believe that they are up close to a giraffe,(Their eyes are always dreamy like they might have accidentally walked into a magic shop), and then there are the Regulars. These have who mastered their way around the giraffes and even know from experience that giraffe head butts are real. Either way, the fascination in their eyes every single time is priceless.

Someone asked me the other day, “what memories of this place are sure to stick with you even long after your internship?” My answer was obvious – the people. Each day I get an opportunity to interact with different personalities. One may be on a journey of backpacking across Africa; the other could be a couple that decided to take a vacation to Africa right after retirement. They all have fascinating stories to tell. Stories of which I never get enough. Having the ability to interact with these people and listen to their views on various topics has made me more open-minded and liberal, a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything.

CEO Giving students seedlings

The other group of people that have made a significant impact in shaping me as a person is the staff at giraffe centre. You see, my view of workspaces was that of a mean boss who seems to have taken a vow to make your life a living hell. At Giraffe Center, the opposite is true. It felt too good to be true at the beginning. But as time went by I learnt that it was the work ethic and the culture of the staff that made this place feel like a home away from home. Their authenticity in helping the interns grow socially, emotionally and professionally is praiseworthy. I, for one, would not hesitate to recommend a friend to work at here. Giraffe Centre indeed  has the one in a million people, wonderful counsellors and genuine friends.

Giving Back

Say one day you are sitting at a café after a long day of work taking iced tea or whatever it is you fancy. Across the road from the restaurant is a curio shop which seems to be having a sale. You’ve never seen a curio shop do promotional sales before,  at least not one with mascots in giraffe and elephant costumes. How do they do it with all that heat – you wonder. Going back to your phone, you hear chatters and giggles. One laugh, in particular, attracts your attention. So you look up and see this group of school kids in hysterics. They look so fascinated by the mascots -I mean their eyes are even sparkling (am just assuming at this point cause how can you possibly see their eyes from across the road in a coffee shop).

They have been standing at the curio shop for almost an hour now. And as you leave to go home, you hear them talk of how they’d love to meet the real giraffes and elephants. The longing in their voices is so overwhelming. It takes you down memory lane. Childhood memories of going for school trips to national parks and how you could not sleep the night before any of these trips. You’d love to give them this experience because every child deserves to be happy.

At the Giraffe centre, we have enjoyed the privilege of bringing smiles to thousands of these children. The inspiration that brought to life our Ecological trips was not just born over a cup of tea but the desire to educate and pass on the knowledge of conservation. So for the last nineteen years, we have committed to taking school children, especially from rural or disadvantaged backgrounds to these day-long trip.

Each year, in partnership with Kerrigan Waves Trust, we take students from  Mukuru Kayaba Primary School to the Ecological trips. These trips’ aim is to learn while having fun as some would call it- edutainment.  It starts with a trip to our centre. Here the kids can feed the giraffes and if lucky kiss them too. The next stop takes us to Mamba Village, which is an Ostrich and Crocodile Farm. Did you know that crocodiles don’t have tongues? And that male Ostriches are called Roasters? Thought you should know, Cool stuff there!

From Mamba Village, the school proceeds to Nairobi Animal Orphanage. Here they see the Big Five animals and many other animals that have been orphaned or injured and are under rehabilitation. It is an amazing sight to come close to a roaring Lion or a panting buffalo. Their final stop is the David Sheldrick Animal Orphanage. Have you seen an elephant up close? They are magnificent creatures. Tender giants of sorts, and quite frankly my bias. The kids learn how emotional and demanding elephants can be, which explains why they are very social.

The day ends with a spectacular meal in which the educators and children interact and share exciting things they learnt from the trip. Eventually,  we take them back to school and wait to read their compositions on that experience. It is a fulfilling job to give back, a habit that should be inculcated in all of us.