My name is Stanley Baya, working as the Co-ordinator of the Arabuko-Sokoke Schools and Eco-Tourism Scheme (ASSETS). I feel privileged to share with you my experience in working in community and conservation at Arabuko-Sokoke Forest and Mida Creek. Perhaps the best way to do this is to share with you what drives me to take up such a challenging task as you will realise community development is indeed not easy especially when you are from that community yourself (a prophet can not be accepted by his own people); I am not suggesting that I am a prophet, that's not the point, I only mean "familiarity breeds content"
I grew up at Gede village, one and half kilometers from Arabuko-Sokoke Forest but I knew very little about it until much later during my college days. Mida Creek was more familiar to me as I had a chance to learn how to fish from my cousins as a child.
My job as co-ordinator of an eco-scholarship fund would not have been as exiting without my High school experience when I had to stay out of school for a greater part of the school semester owing to the expense of school fees. One of my most exiting moments has always been when I received a bursary support from World Vision International which enabled me to complete my secondary school education. I later trained as a Primary school teacher and worked in a private school for two years until year 2001 when I joined A Rocha as the ASSETS Co-ordinator. <www.assets-kenya.org> It is while teaching in a private school where the children had more than what they needed that challenged me to think of the other children in public schools whose parents could hardly lay a meal on the table.
In ASSETS, I have realised an incredible combination of two of my greatest passions; helping needy children and environmental conservation. By the time these children graduate from secondary school, a sense of appreciation of the natural environment is often very evident. While others write to express their gratitude for the bursary support, some present themselves in person to do the same and tears are a common characteristic of their joy. This plus their parents commitment in caring for these internationally recognised habitats is indeed the encouragement to press on!