A zeal for peace

August 13, 2012

Ever thought that you would meet a person who has a passion, zeal and a warm personality, then look no further, her name is Cate Broussard all the way from New Orleans, Louisiana, USA. When Cate was back in the US she thought of doing her internship program in Kenya. Through her friend  Johannes, who previously volunteered with us, she was able to connect to SNA-K. It seemed luck was on her side since Sisi Ni Amani was looking for a specialist with her kind of monitoring and evaluation skills. Talk of being born with a silver spoon. She emailed Rachel Brown (Sisi ni Amani CEO) and within two hours the deal was sealed and she had plans to report in Nairobi, Kenya.

Cate has many interests, but has a passion for peace building, which out does all the other interests she has. She has a record of working and interacting with people of different nations. Having been to more than ten countries at a tender age, it’s just amazing what she does and how she does it. Having interacted with different nationalities, Cate found out the main or the core in our lives is to live in a peaceful environment and this cannot be achieved by people fighting and killing each other. It can only be achieved by preaching and spreading peace. Cate talked of how she is proud of the SNA-K SMS platform which is one of the major assets or resource for bridging peace in Kenya and all over the world. Cate, with her vast experience, gave thumbs up to Sisi ni Amani for having the best resources on board, for example she praised the SNA-K staff. She was just amazed by how these people are committed to what they do; she had no option but look forward to each day with a smile on her face.

Cate noted that in order to understand whether SNA-K’s programs are having their intended impact, there is the need to set up structures for documentation and analysis. There will be a lot of documentation that needs to be done and also a lot of training in the two chapters (Nairobi and Narok), to give them the skills for documentation and analysis.  She emphasizes that there is a lot of potential in SNA-K, and especially in the two chapters.

Cate happiest moment is when she shared her vast knowledge with Caleb Njoroge. She couldn’t stop smiling and being happy, she has been amazed how Caleb grasped  each concept  and he expounded on it. She mentioned that Caleb is one of SNA’s numerous talents and a major asset for the future.

Cate has been into many countries but she told me Kenya is special and she is positive she is coming back. In the meantime she goes back to the U.S. to finish her Masters in International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University. She will be continuing her work with Sisi ni Amani from there as she will continue to develop tools that will be used in SNA in the near future.

Her parting shot was very simple and straight to the point:

The hard work is just beginning”

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Introducing New Bloggers on SNA-K’s Blog

August 9, 2012

Recently, you’ve probably been noticing blog posts from ‘shiksmuhuri’ and ‘mainageorge.’ They are SNA-K’s two new interns, Mercy and George, who will be updating the blog weekly with posts about SNA-K’s activities, programs, and stories about our members.
Before you start hearing from them regularly, we wanted to give them a chance to introduce themselves:

Mercy

Mercy Wanjiku Muhuri: I am individualistic, a humanitarian, clever, unpredictable and freedom loving. I’m a peace lover among many other things, and that’s why Sisi ni Amani was perfect fit for me. I love the whole idea behind it, I get to interact with different people all the time, and I get to have a one on one experience with people from different communities and to listen to their ideas. It makes me realise that I am only a small element in this huge world. I hope to learn as much as I can in my time with Sisi ni Amani, and to have fun doing it. I’m already so humbled by how good everyone is.

I will be writing a blog about the Narok chapter, meetings, activities and experiences, as well as the PeaceTXT Program. I am looking forward to making it as interesting as possible and for all of our supporters. I look forward to the results that will come from all the hard work that everyone involved is putting into this.

Mercy has a Bachelors in Business Management, and a Certificate in Airline Cabin Crew with Kenya Airways. She has previously worked as a Marketing Assistant at Farmers Choice Ltd, and Customer Service at Kenya Airways. While studying for her Certificate with Kenya Airways, Mercy co-initiated a program where The Pride Center trainers helped raise funds for a children’s home as part of their CSR activities.

George

George Maina:I am a self driven person and a holder of Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and accounting option. I am dedicated to serve people and to work with driven teams. I love working to guide, motivate and encourage team members through team building services. During my studies at Kenya Methodist University, I was the president of the University’s Peace Council, a peace club that provided students with experiences and active work in peace promotion. At one point, I organized a tree planting event that gained the partnership of Wangari Maathai’s organization.

Being part of Sisi Ni amani is a wonderful experience since it offers first hand information related to peace and peace building. It is also a learning experience because of its wide spread activities in the country. I am delighted to be in the team which will be posting on this blog and passing information to the world. Please feel free to comment and contribute to this blog



SNA-K is Featured on the iHub’s blog!

August 6, 2012

This weekend, SNA-K was featured on the iHub’s blog as an innovative use of technology for promoting peace! We are including the text of the article below, and you can read the original article, Harnessing Technology for Peace, here.

Ability to create positive impact is one of the qualities that gives technology power.  Harnessing this power can lead to great impact within a society.  Find out how one young woman set out to do exactly this. Below, Rachel shares her story: 
Armed with a research idea and a passion for community, Rachel Brown saw an opportunity to use technology in supporting peace building in grass root communities in Kenya. Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) was founded to address the conflicts over land that were occurring in communities. 

When I was asked to write about Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) , I was excited to get the opportunity to share my story and the story of our many members with the iHub community.

SNA-K is a Kenyan NGO that is dedicated to supporting grassroots peace leaders to use mobile technology to expand their reach and efficiency. In our target communities members can subscribe to our SMS platform to receive free messages from SNA-K.

I moved to Kenya in July 2010, with the idea to do a small research about different grassroots peace initiatives that existed in Kenyan communities. We got started in Baba Dogo, which is located up Thika Road. Together with a team of members from different peace intiaitives and youth groups, we launched the project. We set up FrontlineSMS and had a big community event where we asked people to text in information about peace initiatives in the area. While people were excited about the project, we saw very few results. I started talking to the groups we had worked with, trying to find out what excited them so much.

I found two key things. One is that many of these groups were very excited because of the use of mobile technology. Leading up to and during the 2007-8 post-election violence, they saw mobile phones used in their communities to spread rumors, fear, and hate speech and to organize attacks and weapons distributions. The idea of using mobile phones for peace resonated with them.

Secondly, I became even more convinced that original reason to come to Kenya – to support grassroots peace and civic engagement leaders who have taken courageous steps to promote peace and reconciliation in their communities – was important and relevant. These local groups understood with incredible detail the dynamics of conflict and peace in their communities, and had many ideas for how to work together to prevent future violence.

I worked with a small group of dedicated individuals from Baba Dogo and Korogocho to design SNA-K’s current approach – an SMS platform with community-based subscription, where local chapters design programs and create SMS content. We were then invited by a local peace leader, Freddy Kamakei, in Narok to meet with him. After the initial meting, Kamakei was so excited about the idea that he founded our Narok Chapter. Since then, Eastlands in Nairobi and the Narok area have become our two main chapters, each piloting activities and uses of the SMS system that are specific to the conflict dynamics in their area.

Our teams’ hard work is finally paying off: since February of this year, we have received support for three exciting programs in Nairobi and Narok, and increased our subscriber base to more than 30,000 subscribers:

Nairobi: Sauti Yetu Political Debates: In partnership with Inuka Kenya Trust, SNA-K is carrying out a series of political debates in Nairobi. As one of our Chapter Leaders said, “people fight about politics because they are never united about politics.” The goal of the project is to introduce a non-partisan platform where community members can discuss policy issues and find areas of unity and commonality in political contestation, which is generally divisive. The program includes elements of civic education and dialogue through the SMS platform, which enables the community to engage at a broader level.

Narok: Land & Rumors Education & Dialogue: In Narok, land issues are complex and contentious. Often, land disputes, even between one or two people, cause conflict between entire communities. This is because of a lack of education about how land procedures work, and because rumors often exaggerate and amplify existing tensions. SNA-K has a program of grassroots open air forums on land issues and to discuss rumors, how they are spread, and how they contribute to conflict with the communities. These forums create trust and relationships in the community, and can enable our SMS to be trusted and credible within the community. They also give us insight into local issues and tensions.

PeaceTXT: Methodology for SMS & Peace Promotion: PeaceTXT is an initiative that was convened by Pop!Tech with partners including CeaseFireUshahidi, and Medic Mobile to look at how mobile technology could be used to compliment CeaseFire’s approach to solving conflict. SNA-K was brought on board as a partner in this effort to create a replicable methodology for using mobile technology for conflict prevention. PopTech has supported SNA-K to expand its outreach to identify best practices, upgrade technology through a new open source software platform designed by Praekelt Foundation, and to create a methodology for messaging in response to conflict.

SNA-K has already been using SMS to respond to tensions and conflict at the local level, through its local chapters creating and vetting messages. We have several positive stories of conflict in Narok that seems to have been mitigated by the sending of a message.

In one case, two groups were armed with bows and arrows and ready to fight on a contentious boundary in Mulot. SNA-K’s Chapter Member in that area, Pastor Wilson Mosonik, attempted to mediate and then called us to send a message. The message was vetted, and when it was sent, these groups left the boundary went to Pastor Mosonik’s office for mediation. After SNA-K sent messages promoting peace during contentious boundary issues, Pastor Mosonik, who is from the Kalenjin community, was donated 3 acres of land from a group of Maasai elders in the area in appreciation of the continued peace in Mulot. PeaceTXT is an especially exciting initiative, because it enables us to transition into a methodology that will enable faster response times and additional planning for potential events.

These past two years have seen incredible growth for Sisi ni Amani Kenya. I personally feel lucky to work with a team of incredibly innovative and dedicated people, and to be able to work with them to make their ideas become a reality.

Still Growing

We are currently upgrading this technology, so that individuals will be able to subscribe by entering their information into a USSD menu, and will send and receive messages to a short code. SNA-K is able to use this information to send targeted messages . For example, we can send a message to young unemployed men in a specific village within a slum or to all women working in a certain sector in a part of Narok.

Our local chapters – comprised of vetted groups of peace leaders – design our programming and decide how to use this system based on local conflict analyses that they conduct. Our teams have focused on civic education, civic engagement, and creating messages in response to rumors, tensions, or potential conflict in their communities.

Since I came to Nairobi, the iHub has given me not only a space to work in, but the ability to interact with a wide range of individuals who have expertise in different areas and are passionate about their work. By providing this space – physical and for thought and conversation – the iHub has helped SNA-K grow from an idea into an organization with a wide range of programs and the potential for scale.

Read more from Sisi ni Amani Kenya  on their blog. Follow them on Twitter



PeaceTXT Outreach: Over 23,000 NEW subscribers in the first 3 weeks!

March 26, 2012

By Jacqueline Njeru, Sisi ni Amani Kenya Programs Manager

The new year has been truly great for SNA-K. We have a series of community sensitization programs as well as a project with PeaceTXT to upgrade our SMS system to an open-source and scaleable tool, and to increase our subscriber base!

We are all very excited about these new programs, and I wanted to take a moment to share with you my reflections on our expanded outreach in Nairobi. Our work to increase our subscriber base in Nairobi, will focus on Baba Dogo; Korogocho: Huruma: Kariobangi and Mathare. In Narok we will be doing outreach in Narok North, Narok South and Transmara.

The first ten days of outreach to increase our subscriber base focused on the Baba Dogo and Korogocho slums in Nairobi. In ten days over 9,500 new subscribers signed up to receive SMS from SNA-K, thanks to the high level of commitment and dedication from our twenty outreach facilitators! Last week we expanded outreach to Kariobangi, Mathare and Huruma, and these outreach facilitators were joined by another group of outreach facilitators, with whom they attended the teambuilding training. Last week alone, forty-four outreach facilitators signed up over 13,000 new subscribers – our total number of subscribers is now over 23,000!

All of the wonderful outreach facilitators come from various youth groups and represent different groups within the areas where we work – we want to thank them: you are the BEST, we cannot make it without you!! We have been receiving and continue to receive positive response from the community, which is indicated by high number of new subscribers. Moreover, most groups that our outreach facilitators have had a chance to engage with and talk to have expressed a high interest in networking and working closely with Sisi ni Amani. We are excited to work together with these individuals to create new opportunities for civic education and civic engagement through our unique component of the SMS platform.

We have faced some challenge in recruiting subscribers, but are finding ways to overcome these challenges. For example, at first volunteers did not have ID badges and it was harder for them to gain trust and credibility. As outreach went on, the volunteers were given ID badges and more community members knew about SNA-K, and this challenge of gaining trust was minimized.  There was also an issue of insecurity (because of high levels of thievery) in some areas where volunteers planned outreach.  Koch FM, the community radio station with whom we’ve partnered on a discussion of community needs let us use their space so that volunteers could leave their phones and any valuables at the radio station when they went into insecure areas, and come sign them back out later.

As we move forward expanding our activities and subscriber base, it is important that we work for our community with the top priority and top most purpose being to improve the lives and relationships of those around us. This requires that we all have a heart of volunteerism and a passion for peace, and that we work closely with key leaders in the communities where we work. From here, we will be able to achieve a lot even if its’ on a small scale.

The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step and our journey as Kenyans especially in the areas where SNA-K is present is to have a positive peace based on active cooperation within communities and a foundation of solid civic education and positive civic engagement. Pamoja, tuweze kuijenga Nchi Yetu tukufu ya Kenya.