Nairobi to Sydney – Joseph and Celine

January 13, 2018

Back in November we brought our 2 main Kenyan teachers, Joseph & Celine, out to Sydney for a whirlwind 2 week visit. Thanks to those who helped make this a success!

It was certainly an eye opener – for them, as expected – but very much for us as well. They (and we!) were busy every day – watching classes, team teaching, staff training… and lots more.

There was far too much going on to report properly, so here are a few highlights / reflections:

1.’Oh everything is so clean’ – this from Joseph, only minutes after arriving. Driving home through Sydney was a big shock – they couldn’t believe that Sydney-siders were well behaved and orderly without being forced to be. ‘Why are people all doing the right thing even though there are not police everywhere?’

2.’How many families live in this building’ – again, Joseph, on arrival at our (modest) 2 storey, 3 bedroom home. We explained & they understood but they did point out that it would be home to 10 families where they come from… Joseph had his very first shower that night – and slept on a proper mattress 😦

3.It was a revelation to them that our friends here are gardeners, builders, lawyers, engineers, teachers and artists. ‘Back at home’ there is a distinct hierarchy – almost ‘caste like’ – with a culture of non association below your pay grade. They couldn’t get their heads around it! ‘Back at home, anyone will do anything for just one small bit of power. If you can, you put down the other person so you feel more important.’ We knew this to a degree, but the full force of it was a bit of a shock in our conversations while they were here.

4.The D E N T I S T… Oh my goodness! First ever dental clean and check up thanks to our gorgeous Errol and the team at Geoffrey Thomas Dental in Manly. To summarise – Joseph’s teeth were filthy (the staff were taking photos!) but once cleaned up were actually in fantastic condition. Incredible as he’s never owned a toothbrush… says something for a very basic diet of maize flower and veggies, doesn’t it? Joseph kept saying ‘Oh my teeth are so many” as he felt them with his tongue. Celine, on the other hand, has grown up with enough money for sugar in her diet – which is used as a treat and a bribe at every turn. Her teeth were cleaner (toothbrush not a foreign idea) but the decay was extensive. She needs lots and lots of work. Lots of good conversation about cutting down on the sugar and fizzy drinks!

5.The idea of authority is very different here. They couldn’t believe that I (as the ‘lady boss’) would walk into a room and the behaviour of the people there would not change. The concept of doing what you are supposed to do when nobody is watching is very new. Apparently, ‘back at home’ people are lazy and if the boss walks into the room everything changes dramatically. Hmmm no wonder there are so many issues….

6.Swimming in the sea. OK this was hilarious. Joseph was sure he was going to drown (in ankle deep water) and swears he drank half the ocean. Not quite true. They did love it and Sydney turned on a beautiful day for a run to the beach.

7. Meet and Greet. We had a beautiful session at AMS Randwick one Sunday afternoon, after they’d been here for a week and had experienced ‘life’ and teaching here. It was incredible to hear them speak about their lives and what they had learned from being here. Incredible for us even thought we already knew! They taught us some Kenyan songs and games. Everyone loved it.

So now they’re back there and have just started classes for the new year! I’ll update again once things are underway. Thank you for reading!


Ready to come home 

May 2, 2017

As we get ready to leave I have a few random observations about Nairobi. 

As a general rule, the showers are awful. Hot water pretends to be available but the large drops of cold water that fall with it make sure you can’t actually get warm. Or wash your hair. (Shower at Sally’s place to the rescue!)

Nairobi’s notorious red dirt is detrimental to clothing and shoes and pretty much everything else. Despite this, floor mats / door mats / helpful mats of any kind have not caught on here. There’s nowhere to wipe the mud off your feet. As a result we leave red footprints everywhere we go and the floors are constantly swept and mopped. And I really do mean constantly. It’s some folks full time employment. 

There is a distinct lack of skilled tiling in bathrooms. The shower doesn’t ever drain to the drain. It drains to wherever like a little river meandering all over the bathroom floor. Mixed with the red mud it is a bit of a sight. 

The wealthy here are very wealthy. Bizarrely so. We went with Sally to collect one of her own kids from a play date. The Kenyan family recently built and moved into their home: Multi story marble, glass, manicured gardens, pool, etc. Think totally over the top hotel. (Not in a good way.) Ostentatious to say the least.

Monkeys playing on the roof are very very noisy. Impossible to sleep through in the early hours of the morning. 

There are no possums in Africa. (You can ask Lindi about that one). There are however massive slugs and the biggest snails we’ve ever seen. (There was also a little snake on our balcony which we managed to hide from Lindi. Jake will probably show her the video now that they’re home.)

The driving here is nuts. I’ve gone on and on about this before and we are sort of used to it now but you do see some amazing things. Today a mzungu (white) lady had driven her car into a ditch and a bunch of guys were pushing and pulling to get the car out. She was still sitting behind the wheel. Nobody seemed to care – just drove around the spectacle. 
There’s not much that can’t be bought through your car window in a traffic jam. From bananas to flotation devices, electronic gadgets, hats and scrabble, it’s all on offer from the little guys who walk the highway. 
I swear half this country is employed in ‘security’ which means someone has given them a uniform along with permission to sit and play on their phone all day. It’s astonishing. 
We love it. 

Monday in Nairobi 

May 2, 2017

Thankfully, a slow morning with lots of Moris’ good coffee. We swapped stories and talked about ‘our’ camp kids. 

We packed and weighed and sorted everything ready to farewell Jake & Lindi, who set off with driver David with just enough time for a quick stop off at Kazuri (Lindi’s fave!) on their way to the airport. 

Off to Kibera with Sally – we had undies to deliver!! AMS families and friends in Sydney were very generous is donating to this project – the final tally was 1002 pairs! These will be kept at the Angel Kindergarten and given out as needed. And they are always needed!
As we whizzed along the bypass in Sally’s land cruiser it was bizarre to see the Kibera slum with the new and ever growing sky scrapers in the distance. 
The Angel Kindergarten was, as always, a sight to behold on the edge of Kibera. I know I take similar photos every time but I’m always astonished by the contrast inside and outside the gate. 

The Kindergarten is closed until Wednesday. During the holidays Sally has organized for the hallway and classrooms to be tiled and it makes a huge difference! ‘Our’ roof is doing well and the tiling under it looks great and will be so much easier to keep clean. 

Bill and Sally discussed future improvements, ways to combat drainage & mud and other essentials. 

There are always kiddies hanging around the kindy and we took the opportunity to show them the donated undies. They were so excited, modeling their chosen pair on their heads. 
One of our little sweethearts, Clarice, was there. What a cutie – posing for photos as always. 
We drove around the local area looking at potential sites for additional Kindergartens. ‘Angel’ currently brings over 200 children ages 2-7 out of the slum each week. They are given a beautiful environment, a uniform, education, breakfast & lunch 5 days a week (and an AMS class!) 

Sally & Stuart’s dream is to establish more kindergartens around the Kibera fringe, bringing more children out of the slum. 

We are constantly involved in conversations calculating the cost of another 200 kids at a second site, another 200 kids at a 3rd site, another 200 kids at a 4th site. 
Lets ‘Evacuate Kibera’!!

AMS CAMP in Kenya!

April 30, 2017

Saturday & Sunday in Nairobi This is what we’re here for – AMS CAMP!

We bussed 50 kids out of the Korogocho slum and across Nairobi to the beautiful ‘Stepping Stones’ Kindergarten. It’s like heaven even for us but for these kids? – they’ve never seen anything like it. 
Most of these kids have never left the Korogocho area. They’ve never had a shower or a bath. They’ve never seen a swimming pool. They are the poorest of the poor. 
I have a million stories to tell and no words to tell them. 

Let’s just say we had to fit in an extra session of swimming and their singing is amazing. The clothing donated from home was happily received – and they all look great!
Our Kenyan staff shine like we can’t believe and we want to bring them all home. The kids are GORGEOUS and it’s heartbreaking to send them back to Korogocho. Really hard to say goodbye. 

Think I’ll let the photos speak for themselves. 

Friday in Nairobi 

April 30, 2017

Haven’t had a second to write so this is a point form update!
Jake survived his night staying with Simon outside korogocho. Simon cooked for him (and he’s still ok!)
We gave a concert at Stepping Stones and it was a huge hit! Lots of happy parents and our Kenyan staff were wonderful. 

Meanwhile Jake and Joseph were over the other side of town giving a demo lesson at a Private School for children with special needs. There are 120 kids there and they are looking for a music program! Yep that’s us! In jakes words the lessons ‘went off like a frog in a sock’ and they were thrilled. They will employ teacher Jospeh from next term! Yay. 
Dropped into a very lovely cafe at the Matt Bronze gallery and caught up with Sally. 

Thursday in Nairobi 

April 29, 2017

Off we went to ‘Stepping Stones’ – the beautiful International Kindergarten run by Sally & Stuart. (Elite clientele and all funds back into rescuing kids from Kibera. Astonishing stuff!) This place is divine!!
Met our teachers there – Celine & Joseph (whom you’ve already met – they’ve been with us for 2 years) plus Ruby who helps our with the younger children in Tiny Musos and Mini Musos – and 3 potential NEW teachers resulting from our meeting with Elizabeth (Ghetto Classics) the other day. Lots to do!
For most of the day we split into small groups and trained whatever was needed. Jake and Lindi worked with the new teachers and got teacher Joseph through to the end of Super starter 2. I helped Ruby & Celine organize & rehearse a concert for Stepping Stones (for tomorrow!!!) and then completed Celine’s Junior training. We all did well! 
In the late afternoon we ubered to ‘lunch’ at the local Java Cafe. It’s a serious treat for our teachers so we shout them a meal as often as possible. They never disappoint – huge shakes and massive meals. (Theirs are photo worthy, my salad doesn’t quite rate…)

2 of our ‘try out’ teachers were a big hit today – we are looking forward to welcoming Teacher Kevin and Teacher Martha to the AMS Kenya team. Woo hoo!!!
At lunch they gave us our ‘Kenyan names’. Long story for each so maybe another time. Let’s just say that my favorite is ‘Jacob Juma’. 

Kevin explained to us that the soccer tournament at St John (which we saw part of the other day) is actually a big deal: 
1st prize is a goat!!!! 2nd prize some live chickens (about 5) and 3rd prize some money. 

The expectation is that the goat will be slaughtered, cooked and shared on winning and that the team and their families will eat and celebrate very well. The chickens will also be cooked but will probably only feed the team… mot sure what is supposed to happen to the money…

Jake set off with them back to the Korogocho area – he’s staying the night with teacher Simon. (Haven’t heard yet but the trip no doubt involved Matatu and possibly worse… )

Lindi, Bill & I took the civilized option of an uber home via the wine shop. Note: Lindi doesn’t drink but I’ve had a squelchy stomach for a day or 2 and we thought we’d try a gin and tonic. Happy to report I’m feeling significantly better!! (?)

A lovely afternoon on our deck catching up on things and organizing the remainder of our week. 

Wednesday in Nairobi 

April 27, 2017

5.30am coffee and fruit for 6am departure – off to Nairobi National Park! It’s not far from home (about 20 minutes) and we got there in good time. 

Our driver was ‘Hilary’ and he certainly knew where to find the animals. We saw buffalo, rhino, ostrich, zebra, giraffe, hippos, a crocodile and lions! I will admit that I slept in the back seat for most of the ‘safari’ but woke at key moments to see animals up close. 

We parted company for the afternoon:

Bill and I went to a string of meetings re teaching / development/ land / building/ expansion etc. (These all took place in very civilized cafes!)

Lindi had a little look around the market at Karen and then an afternoon at home – Moses the land man took her on a beautiful walk down to the river on our property. A lovely one hour nature walk!
Jake went over to the Angel Kindergarten in Kibera where CNN were filming some of the Angel kids dancing with current slum ballet star Joel Kioko (trained by our Ballet friend Cooper and getting lots of publicity!)
After that, he walked into Kibera with local guides and security. 
I’ve written extensively about Kibera on our previous visits. Let’s just say that it’s a massive, horrendous slum that covers 4 square Kms and houses over a million people. No water, no bathrooms, no nothing. We walk along ‘roads’ made of dirt, tires and ‘flying toilets’ (plastic bags containing what would end up flushed down a loo if there were loos…)
They visited 2 homes in the slum: firstly that of an Angel student, Khalid who is sponsored by our friends Meg and Tim Clarke. Jake described being there as; 

Mama is ‘dead in the eyes’ there’s a ‘responsible older sibling’ who has grown up way too fast and then Khalid – who is an absolute cheeky monkey! Couldn’t sit still and so excited. 

They live in one tiny room. We’ve seen it all before but Jake still came home with the word ‘heartbreaking’ on his lips. 

And then to see our friend Edwin! Edwin is tall and thriving and keen to let jake listen to his latest compositions! He sang and played and loved having Jake visit. Mama Grace was also really happy to have visitors. They are always so welcoming and appreciative. 
The tiny weeny one room house was as always, neat and lovely. The TV which was recently bought by funds from my friend Liz stood pride of place. They were proud of it!

Jake also visited the quads – the ones in the ‘safe flat’ that Stuart and Sally set up late last year. Happy to report that the girls are growing and doing really well! Apparently Mama is still not really speaking (some serious special needs there) but they are all healthy. Teacher Florence is still living there helping to take care of them. 

We met up for early dinner at an absolutely gorgeous spot in Karen. It’s always bizarre to work with the poor here and then turn up somewhere delightful for dinner.

Monday in Nairobi 

April 25, 2017

We were all up very early…sleeping is a bit tricky when your body has been through a time warp! Wondering if we can spend the whole day in our sunglasses…

Great breakfast where we live at Kifaru House. We love Moris our house man! Off in our Uber to meet our driver to take us to the Korogocho slum to train our Kenyan AMS teachers. 
It’s always an experience getting into Korogocho and today lived up to our expectations! Photos don’t do it justice but you get the idea. 
Our classes run from St John Primary School. The school is a dusty, stinky, run down establishment that houses far more students than it was ever designed for. It backs onto Korogocho’s famous dump site where the ‘chokora’ sift through the new rubbish as the trucks arrive each day. It goes on and on for several kilometers with vultures soaring above. It’s one of the worlds largest dump sites – a constantly burning awful mess. At times our classes are cancelled due to the smoke in the room. I took a few photos out of our classroom window…
It was a hive of activity when we arrived – a special Sports Day! Soccer soccer everywhere – a lovely festive atmosphere. This is the school where AMS families donated a few hundred soccer boots about 18 months ago. They’ve been put to good use!
It was wonderful to meet our 4 Kenyan teachers again! In the past I’ve written about how having a job as a music teacher has changed their lives ( but the BIG news is that in the past few months, each of them has moved OUT OF THE SLUM! We are gobsmacked. It was only November last year that we were discussing this and questioning the reality of it and they’ve done it!
For the past year we have been speaking to them about taking the skills they have learned in this job and starting up something of their own – going in to additional schools & promoting themselves as music educators with AMS Kenya. We gave them teaching certificates with their packs to present to local schools so they can grow their own businesses – then it was straight into training!
They each taught for us with Lindi giving detailed feedback on each section of their lesson. It was very productive with lots of laughs! They are excellent. 

Joseph organized for us to visit the home of one of his students – a girl named Melvin. She’s 9 years old and in Super Starter book 1. She is coming on AMS CAMP this weekend!

Melvin’s home is a 4m x 4m room divided by a curtain. She lives here with her mother, father and 3 sisters. There’s no bathroom or running water. 

We piled into a taxi and endured the bumpiest ride on the worst road ever out of the Korogocho area. A short freeway trip and then we miraculously arrived at an upmarket modern shopping mall. Lindi couldn’t quite believe it! We’d gone from slum to Westfield in a matter of minutes!

Great meal with our teachers – terrific to spend some time with them. 
Our 25km trip home took 2 hours and 25 minutes in the Nairobi traffic. A few hair raising moments in between Matatu (little public buses with a death wish) but we got home safely. Exhausted after a great day!

Sunday in Nairobi 

April 25, 2017

About a year ago we went to a very new program run by Sally & Stuart (who run the Angel Kindergarten). They established the Kings Rugby Academy as another way to provide for the children of Kibera – bringing them out of the slum each Sunday and into a green environment, teaching them football skills, helping them connect with good role models… and as always, feeding them a decent meal! 
We visited again today and it was fantastic to see the program a year on – it’s going so well! 
There are now 230 slum kids each week with 17 professional rugby coaches. The kids meet at the Angel Kindergarten at the edge of the Kibera slum and are bussed across to the beautiful (actually quite grand) Hillcrest International School. 

Hillcrest donates the location and the coaches donate several hours of their time and energy every single Sunday morning. Sally & Stuart’s organization ‘Lunchbowl Network’ donates the food and has sourced the uniforms, boots and other essentials. 
We watched training and a couple of games (the new girls team is on fire!) then helped serve lunch and chatted with the kids. Just gorgeous. 

Jake and Lindi arrived and made it through customs without a hitch! Yay we’re all here! AMS training starts tomorrow!

AMS CAMP – in Nairobi!

March 6, 2017

Miss Michelle, Miss Lindi, Mr Jake & Bill will be returning to Nairobi at the end of the April School break. We’ll be doing some more training with our Kenyan staff, Bill will be helping get ready to build a big extension to the Angel Kindergarten in Kibera and best of all, we’ll be joining our local teachers in running 2 days of AMS CAMP!!

  • We are taking 50 kids out of the slum and on an adventure. Most of them will never have left Korogocho before!
  • The children (ages 9-12) are from the AMS ‘Super Starter’ classes that we run from    St. John’s school in Korogocho, one of Nairobi’s most notorious slums.
  • Our location for camp is the ‘Stepping Stones Kindergarten’ – an Oasis in the lovely area of Karen, across the other side of town. (Big thanks to our friends Sally & Stuart for providing the venue!)
  • We’ll be bussing the kids (and our teachers) across and back each day, providing lunch and dinner each day – and they even get to swim in the pool (this will be a ‘first ever’ for these children!)
  • Our musical activities will be choir, bucket drumming, tubes, keyboard groups and games.
  • Both Sydney & Nairobi AMS staff are donating their time and getting to Nairobi at their own expense. We’ll be providing all the equipment needed for camp.
  • We can’t wait!


Like to help us? That would be great! Here are 3 ways….

  1. Sponsor a camper – $60 

These children are the poorest of the poor, living in horrid conditions with little food and almost no resources. $60 will provide transport and food for a camper for the weekend. This will include lunch, snacks & clean water throughout the camp. We are ordering PIZZA on the first night and KFC on the second night – can you imagine the excitement!!?

We need:

  • 50 Sydney families to ‘sponsor a camper’ so that we can give them a wonderful weekend of music!

As a sponsor, you will see plenty of photos of us in action as well as receiving a hand written note (at our ‘note writing session’) from your camper on our return. All other resources are being donated by us.

Click this link to choose a name from our list!


  1. Clothe a Camper

The kids from Korogocho have nothing. Their school uniform (often tattered beyond belief) is usually their only set of clothes. We want to give them each an outfit to wear to camp – and keep!

We need:

  • size 12 short sleeved t shirts
  • size 12 elastic waisted long pants.

Preloved is fine so rummage through the cupboards – new is also fine! There’ll be a big bag in each AMS classroom, just put the clothing in there and we will sort it out. 

  1. Undies! 

We’ll also be continuing our work at the Angel Kindergarten in Kibera – Nairobi’s largest slum. The children of Kibera live in unimaginable conditions – a million people in the 4km shanty town. Those who attend the ‘Angel Kindergarten’ receive a hot meal each day, top notch education including an AMS class each week, and their gorgeous purple uniform. However – not a single one of them owns a pair of undies. We’d like to change that!

We need:

NEW undies for boys and girls ages 3-6

Brand names are totally unimportant – cheap & cheerful packs are fine. Just pop them in the bag in the classroom and we’ll get them there.

Thank you for helping us!