The month of May was a quiet one in terms of volunteers. Selina, who had been with us for about 6 weeks, left the Village in the second week of May, after spending time all over the Village. She was very helpful in the IT department assisting with data input, as well as with the clinic and storage containers.
On the last day of May we welcomed Conor and Joseph, two volunteers from Ireland who will be with us until early July. They will be assisting in any and all areas of the Village, and will be helping me with the biofuel briquette project.
At long last, we have finished the construction of the 5 newest rainwater harvesting structures in the staff houses, livestock, Hotcourses kitchen, and security outpost. We received a short burst of rain in late May, which was helpful in partially refilling the tanks in advance of what we believe is now the dry season. In May we were fortunate enough to have John Sheffy, professor at UW-Stevens Point, come and stay for 3 weeks to check in on the Trees 4 Children project, as well as other sustainability initiatives in the Village. In addition to checking on the current phases (he was very pleased with the state of one of the most recent phases, Phase 8), he also traveled to Kitui, Nakuru, and Kiambere Reservoir to look at other Melia projects as well as to investigate the market for Melia timber in Kenya. John also started making plans for the Nyumbani Village timber processing station, which will be the central location for preparing and selling Melia timber once the trees are ready for processing. He also floated an idea of creating ½-acre woodlots amongst the clusters, each house being responsible for a woodlot that would help them to sustainably harvest firewood to use. Due to the vast amount of firewood currently being harvested by children both within and outside of Village property, this issue is of high importance when considering environmental degradation in the area. To this same end, concrete steps are also being made in introducing the biofuel briquette program to Lawson High School’s Environmental Club. After an initial meeting with the club leaders, I am confident that given the large number of students in the club, as well as the interest shown in the briquettes themselves, this project will at least be given a shot. The next step will be to build a larger briquette press and start offering the briquettes to the Lawson kitchen staff to mix in with their firewood. In the meantime, the club leaders were given samples of briquettes to test out at home and note their effectiveness, and also to monitor the amount of firewood being used on a daily basis in the Lawson kitchen.