Simbolei Community Assistance Association

Archive for the ‘African cooking’ Category

Riffs for the Rift Does It Again!

Monday, October 24th, 2016

Saturday we hosted our annual benefit night, Riffs for the Rift. Deacon Earl and the Congregation, the Lo Fi Steppers, Amanda Smith and Jelimo Kaitany all provided live music that included blues, reggae and classical. We had a huge tableful of delicious Kenyan food. Most importantly, everyone gave generously to support education and we raised over $1000 for Simbolei!

We want to thank everyone who came out and donated to the cause, the musicians who volunteered their time and talents, the cook and the food servers and the East Lansing High School National Honor Society students led by their chapter president, Taylor Murray, who helped with everything from serving food to moving tables. It was a wonderful evening of food and music. Best of all, we met our winter construction budget!  So, Richard will be departing for Kenya soon to finish pouring the second floor concrete.

If you or a group you belong to would be interested in hosting a benefit activity for Simbolei, please let us know. It is a great way to get friends together for a pleasant evening and help Simbolei at the same time.

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Join Us for Riffs for the Rift, October 21

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016

Kenyan food, live music, pictures, stories, crafts and fun. We’re preparing for Riffs for the Rift Benefit Night, October 21 from 6-8:30 at Presbyterian Church of Okemos, 2258 Bennett Road, Okemos, Michigan. Admission is a free will donation and all the proceeds support our building project and summer literacy outreach programs. Last year we ran short of some favorite food items, but we’re making more this year, so you won’t leave hungry.

On the menu:

Curried cabbage with carrots and onions

Sukuma Wiki (Collard Greens fried with onions and tomatoes)

Coconut Chicken

Mokimo (Kenyan mashed potatoes with corn and peas)

Curried Rice

Spicy Beans

Spiced Stewed Beef

Pumpkin coconut pudding

Elgeiyo/Marakwet Peace Corp Chocolate Cake

Hope to see you all there as we prepare to send Richard Kaitany off to winter construction.

Riffs for the Rift Does It Again

Monday, November 23rd, 2015

Riffs for the Rift, our annual food and music fundraiser, was held on October 26 and was again a great success. Much rice, curried cabbage, roasted beef, chicken in coconut and Kenyan potatoes were consumed.

Kibor handled the craft sale this year and we sold almost all of the items we had. We found that people loved the little stone animals, so we will bring more of those for spring fundraisers. If you or an organization you know of has a spring craft sale, please let us know and we can arrange to bring some of our beautiful Kenyan crafts.

Kibor on duty at the craft table. Maybe his charm was a selling point?

Paper bead necklaces at the craft sale.

But, of course, the real highlight of Riffs for the Rift was the music and this year was no exception. The evening began with some lovely Bach cello by Jelimo. Then, Hut Two Hike played original compositions on guitar and bass. Keven Felder ( a personal favorite of mine) was back with his romantic guitar covers. Finally, Deacon Earl and the Congregation finished the night with great blues, including amazing harmonica.

Okemos Presbyterian Church provided us with a great venue in their fellowship hall. Attendance was good and even accounting for our healthy portions of delicious food, we raised over $1000 for Simbolei Academy.

Deacon Earl and the Congregation were the highlight of the evening. They’ve promised to come back next year, bigger and better.

Sharing food and music is such a joy and it’s a great way to promote Simbolei and raise money for our programs. If you are considering a way to help Simbolei and would like to know more about holding a fundraiser, please let us know. We can help you develop a fun and effective event.

Dangerous Cooking: Another Reason for Clean Energy

Thursday, May 8th, 2014

As I mentioned in an earlier post, we are currently planning how Simbolei Academy will get its energy for lights, cooking, and heating. We are exploring the use of clean biogas and solar energy. This is one more way we hope to provide a community model for our neighbors.

Jelimo learning to start a wood fire using a mouth bellows.

In Kenya, most households rely on wood and/or charcoal for cooking and heating and kerosene lanterns for lighting. These fuels have a negative effect not only in the natural environment, but also on the health of women and children. The smoke from cooking and heating pollutes the indoor air. According to the World Health Organization, four million people per year die from the effects of breathing in this dirty air. Children die of pneumonia and other infections and their mothers die of chronic obstructive airway disease. Women in homes using these dirty fuels also have an increased risk of their children having low birth weights or being still born.

Traditional woodfire cooking may be picturesque, but the smoke creates deadly indoor air pollution.

Even acquiring the fuel causes problems. Women and children spend many hours collecting firewood. When I visited a forest where huge trees were being cut for timber, women and children rushed around  among the falling tree trunks, collecting the discarded brush for firewood and endangering their lives. Firewood gathering destroys forest cover, causing erosion and droughts. Illegal charcoal operations have even invaded Kenya’s national parks, as charcoal dealers search for new sources of wood to convert to charcoal and sell.

Fortunately, new technologies offer workable solutions to these problems. Biogas, that is, gas created by fermentation of natural products, especially animal or human manure, is one possibility. Currently, creating  and installing a home biogas system costs approximately 800 to 1000 dollars in our area. This is more than many families can afford.  Also, the current systems widely available use animal dung, and some families who do not own livestock may not be able to operate à system due to lack of fuel. However, these are solvable problems. Families may be able to share a converter system and the price may come down as the technology becomes more common.

A second possibility currently in use in many homes is solar energy. Currently, the panels are not efficient enough to replace firewood or charcoal entirely, but new designs will no doubt improve the efficiency and lower the cost.

But, a final barrier to cleaner, safer energy is lack of education. From understanding the health risks to having the literacy skills and training to make wise consumer choices of the new systems, education is needed. Women, who are primarily responsible for cooking and household management, need access to information about the technology. Simbolei Academy and Simbolei Community Assistance Association hope to provide workshops and training to help women on our community learn with us how to chose the best energy technologies for their households. We hope you will support our efforts.

Fun with Food at the Allen Neighborhood Center

Monday, April 7th, 2014

Spring is here and with it, lots of us here in Michigan are eager to get out and enjoy spring vegetables, sunshine and the social scene once more. Simbolei is joining with Lansing’s Allen Neighborhood Center to help you bring a little African excitement to your Michigan palate. On April 30, I, Andrea, with the help of a yet-to-be-designated ugali chef, will be cooking up recipes from our “From the Heartland” East African cookbook at the Allen Neighborhood Center. We’ll have all kinds of goodies for  you to taste, stories and crafts from Kenya to share, and of course, we will have copies of our cookbook and also some fun jewelry and crafts for sale to support Summer Literacy Outreach 2014.  Come out into the sun after a long, long hard winter. Forget the snowdrifts and the icy driveways. We’re ready for summer fun and we want you to be a part of it.  See you there!

From the Heartland: or Fun with Food and Simbolei

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Today I just wanted to remind everyone of our wonderful East African cookbook, From the Heartland to the Heart of the Rift. It’s got all kinds of East African recipes from soups to breads, to meats and vegetables, including vegetarian main dishes.  In addition to good food, our cookbook includes stories about Simbolei and also about the recipes themselves and full color photos of the construction of Simbolei Academy, East African culture, and of course, food.

On April 30, the Kaitany family will be at the Allen Street Market in Lansing, Michigan to teach people about East African food and to prepare and serve up some Kenyan style comfort food.  In the meantime, we are planning a special giveaway for cookbook users through Facebook.

Every cookbook sold puts the full purchase price to work for Simbolei construction and literacy activities. If you don’t own a copy, you can order it here. Just look for the “buy” button on the lower right side of this page. If you already own a copy, dust it off, because in order to be entered for the drawing, you have to get cooking!  And check out the wonderful food Kellie cooked up that is featured on our Facebook page. We’re going to be looking for your photos soon so test out those recipes and mark your favorites!

Our cookbook, available through the “buy” button on the right side of this page.

Use that Cookbook!

Thursday, October 25th, 2012

Joey's dorm kitchen creation

Joey sent this photo of the Curried Cabbage she made in her college dorm kitchen using the recipe in From the Heartland to the Heart of the Rift: An East African Cookbook.  I think her dorm mates are lucky to have a cook on the floor who has a good cookbook to work from.  Joey told me many of her friends at college are vegetarian or vegan, so she appreciates the many delicious non-meat choices in the cookbook.  With its many color pictures and clear instructions, the cookbook would make a great holiday gift for the budding college cook or the more experienced chef who wants to try something new.  You can order the cookbook on this site wherever you see the Buy Now button on the bottom right of the page.



The Great Rift Valley is part of a huge tectonic rift in the earth's crust that also created the Red Sea and the valley of the Jordan River.

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Simbolei Girls Secondary School, Kenya