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    The Kenyan school which changed an American boy's life
    Posted on: 2018-10-28 09:02:53

    Devon Brown would have been just another statistic - one of the 486,900 black inmates in US state and federal prisons by the end of 2016.

    But an academic year in Kenya during his seventh grade changed his life forever.

    "Honestly it turned me into the man I am today. From a boy with limited options in inner-city Baltimore to a man who has now run an ice-cream company with revenues of $400,000 (£310,000) as its CEO," he reflects.

    Mr Brown's childhood had all the ingredients for failure.

    Born on 9 January 1990 in East Baltimore, his late mother was addicted to heroin and cocaine while his father drank too much.

    Outside their house, the harsh streets of Baltimore only compounded the situation as drug dealers, addicts, broken families and a crowded school system offered little hope for a better future.

    Image copyright Getty Images

    Image caption Baltimore has struggled with violent crime and drug misuse

    By the time his grandparents took over parental duties, Devon was an angry boy, bitter about his circumstances with low self-esteem in tow.

    "It was embarrassing to have a mum who was not stable and that was difficult for me to understand. When she was sober it was great but when the drugs took hold of her it was another case altogether," he told the BBC.

    His sixth grade was a blur of school suspensions as he constantly found himself on the wrong side of the school administration.

    'Exciting' opportunity

    Then one day a recruiter from the Abell Foundation, a local non-governmental organisation, showed up at school and made a presentation to the sixth-graders.

    In her presentation, Mavis Jackson told the boys about a school called Baraka (Kiswahili for blessings) that had been operating in Kenya since 1996.

    The idea of Baraka came after the Abell Foundation met principals of schools based within the inner city and discussed ways to improve the academic performance of the students in their schools.

    The principals told them to remove 10% of their students - those who had either refused to learn or could not be controlled - and the performance of the schools would improve.

    Image copyright Devon Brown

    Image caption Devon has gone on to have a successful career

    The Abell Foundation then decided to scout for a boarding school so that the errant students could learn in a new environment.

    They considered other, more remote, parts of America but the school would have been too expensive to run there.

    They also looked at West Africa as a possible location but other barriers emerged so finally they settled on Kenya in East Africa. It helped that the people were English-speaking and the climate was mild.

    Devon recalls the day, aged 12, he first heard about Baraka school.

    "I was so excited about this opportunity. I had never been to any airport, let alone on a plane, so this was beyond my wildest dreams," he told the BBC.

    After a lengthy application process with an interview to boot, he found himself on a plane headed to Kenya on 12 September 2002, with 11 other boys.

    Culture shock does not adequately describe what they experienced as they landed at Nairobi's Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on that warm morning.

    Their journey from the airport to Nanyuki town, about 250km (155 miles) away, was one of discovery.

    Image copyright Mary Scanlan

    Image caption The school was in a remote town in Laikipia county

    "I can still remember driving into Nanyuki and seeing hawkers trying to peddle their wares on the street, while at the same time fighting for space with herdsmen guiding their cows and sheep on the road. That was an unreal sight for this boy from Baltimore," he remembers.

    'Out of this world'

    Finally they arrived at Baraka school in Dol Dol, a small town near Nanyuki.

    While the boys had grown accustomed to all the amenities of a US city, they would now have to contend with limited electricity supply, no fast food, no video games and wild animals as their nearest neighbours.

    Adjusting was no mean feat and one of the boys even unsuccessfully tried to run away when the going got tough.

    Image copyright Mary Scanlan

    Image caption The dormitories at Baraka school were in traditional Kenyan style

    The boys spent their weekdays in class learning the same subjects as back home, with the regional language of Kiswahili the only addition.

    "What made learning at Baraka so effective was the small classroom size, attentive teachers, few distractions and peaceful environment away from crime. The boy's average attendance in Baltimore was 60%, while at Baraka they had no choice but to achieve 100%," Abell Foundation president Robert C Embry Jr told the BBC.

    At weekends they could engage in various activities depending on how well they had behaved that week.

    "I remember touring the national park around us and seeing these amazing animals. We would also leave the school and go swimming in town or play basketball and football with visiting teams. We even climbed Mount Kenya which took like three days… totally out of this world."

    This combination of dedicated class sessions and memorable extra-curriculum activities had the right effect on the boys as their academic performance, including in maths and reading, improved considerably.

    Image copyright Mary Scanlan

    Image caption Devon Brown, being served, discovered a taste for Kenyan cuisine

    The year passed by quite quickly and just before the summer break they returned to the US expecting to be back in September 2003 for the new academic year.

    But that did not happen as the US State Department had issued a travel advisory about Kenya in May 2003 urging Americans to defer non-essential travel to Kenya.

    "They closed the school down during that summer because there was unrest in the country and they told us that they would have to suspend the project. The embassy had even been temporarily closed. It was so unfortunate," he recalls sadly.

    A total of 120 American boys had passed through the gates of Baraka school over a seven-year period.

    Image copyright Mary Scanlan

    Image caption The young Devon, in red shirt, thrived in his new environment in Kenya

    Devon found renewed focus and a deeper faith in God after the year in Kenya. He finished his high school and later graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art.

    His year away in Kenya, together with the release of a documentary titled Boys of Baraka in 2005, had raised his profile in Baltimore and he gave a lot of talks to various groups about his experience.

    'Life turned out pretty well'

    During his college years he was asked to join the board of the Taharka Ice Cream Company.

    Devon was a good brand ambassador for the company named after Taharka McCoy, a 25-year-old local mentor who was senselessly gunned down in January 2002.

    The company's goal was not just to turn a profit but to also inspire young entrepreneurs from the inner city.

    After Devon graduated from college, he was promoted to become the CEO of the ice-cream company and he boasts of raising revenues from $100,000 per year to $400,000 while he was there.

    Image copyright Mary Scanlan

    Image caption Devon says small classroom sizes, attentive teachers, few distractions and a peaceful environment helped him learn

    He now runs his own marketing company in Maryland while taking care of his family of three together with his wife, Octavia Brown.

    "My life turned out pretty well. In addition, some of the guys we went to Kenya with are doing well but others not so well. They are still into drugs and other misdemeanours. Everybody had to make their own choices I guess," Devon told the BBC.

    He dreams of taking his family of five to Kenya one day to show them the school and land that changed his life.

    "We got to interact with boys in the neighbourhood learning in small classrooms and it made me feel appreciative of the small stuff back in Baltimore and what I have.

    "Also I learned that Africa is not all bad. Not everyone is poor on the continent. Not everyone is struggling. There are no naked people running around every five seconds like they show in the movies."





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    Google Workers Fume Over Executives’ Payouts After Sexual Misconduct Claims
    Posted on: 2018-10-27 16:41:41

    SAN FRANCISCO — At Google’s weekly staff meeting on Thursday, the top question that employees voted to ask Larry Page, a co-founder, and Sundar Pichai, the chief executive, was one about sexual harassment.

    “Multiple company actions strongly indicate that protection of powerful abusers is literally and figuratively more valuable to the company than the well-being of their victims,” read the question, which was displayed at the meeting, according to people who attended. “What concrete and meaningful actions will be taken to turn this around?”

    The query was part of an outpouring from Google employees after a New York Times article published on Thursday reported how the company had paid millions of dollars in exit packages to male executives accused of misconduct and stayed silent about their transgressions. In the case of Andy Rubin, the creator of Android mobile software, the company gave him a $90 million exit package even after Google had concluded that a misconduct claim against him was credible.

    While tech workers, executives and others slammed Google for the revelations, nowhere was condemnation of the internet giant’s actions more pointed than among its own employees.


    The employee rebuke played out on Thursday and Friday in company meetings and on internal message boards and social networks, as well as on Twitter. Jaana Dogan, who works in Google Cloud, the company’s cloud computing business, tweeted, “If you are worth of millions of dollars, you should be able to show the door to authoritarian governments and serial abusers. If not now, then when?”

    Another Google employee, Sanette Tanaka Sloan, also posted on Twitter that the way Google had handled Mr. Rubin’s misconduct claim was “crushing.” She added, “We can do so much better.”

    On Memegen, an internal Google photo-messaging board popular among employees for its humor, one of the top posts on Thursday featured a GIF of an overjoyed game show contestant showered with confetti. Beneath the image was the text “got caught sexually harassing employee,” said one employee who saw the post and who asked not to be identified because she was not authorized to speak publicly.

    Google’s work force often takes to internal messaging platforms to protest management decisions. Employees have opposed the company’s decisions to work with the Pentagon on artificial intelligence technology and to create a censored search engine for China. (Google has since dropped its A.I. effort with the Pentagon and it has not introduced a censored search engine for China.)


    On Thursday and Friday, some Google employees said they were dispirited by how some executives accused of harassment were paid millions of dollars even as the company was fending off lawsuits from former employees and the Department of Labor that claimed it underpaid women. Google has said in the past that it had found “no significant difference” in the pay between men and women at the company.

    Other employees said they tried to calculate how many hours of their work would have gone toward generating the $90 million that Mr. Rubin obtained in his exit package. Mr. Rubin has denied any misconduct and said the report of his compensation was a “wild exaggeration.”

    Some Google employees said they had more questions after Mr. Pichai and Eileen Naughton, vice president of people operations, wrote in an email on Thursday that the company had fired 48 people, including 13 senior managers, for sexual harassment over the last two years and that none of them received an exit package.

    Some workers said they wanted more data on how many claims were investigated and how many were found credible before the 48 people were terminated, while others questioned the promotion and hiring system that allowed 13 people to become senior managers who harassed in the first place.

    Liz Fong-Jones, a Google engineer for more than a decade and an activist on workplace issues, said in a tweet that judgments over misconduct claims can be clouded by whether a person’s boss feels they can “afford” to lose that person. In the case of Mr. Rubin and others, she said, that put Mr. Page in the spotlight.

    “The decision maker must have been Larry Page,” Ms. Fong-Jones wrote. “The buck stops there.”

    At Google’s employee meeting on Thursday, hours after Alphabet reported another quarter of blockbuster earnings, Mr. Page spoke to employees along with Mr. Pichai and Ms. Naughton. It was unclear how they responded to the question from employees, but the executives struck a conciliatory tone, according to remarks obtained by The Times.

    During the meeting, Mr. Page and Mr. Pichai did not comment on specific misconduct cases. Mr. Pichai noted that Google had made some “important changes” in how it handles harassment cases, according to the remarks.

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    “We want to get better, and we want to get to a place where it truly reflects our values of respect, particularly respect for each other,” Mr. Pichai said.

    Mr. Page said if employees suffered from harassment while at Google, then the company was not “the company we aspire to be.”

    He also offered an apology.

    “I’ve had to make a lot of decisions that affect people every day, some of them not easy. And, you know, I think certainly there’s ones with the benefit of hindsight I would have made differently,” Mr. Page said. “I know this is really an exce


    Read more:

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    Achanga kiherehere! KOT tears into Julie Gichuru after CNN anchor Richard Quest blasts her for putting words in his mouth
    Posted on: 2018-10-27 16:27:36

    Julie Gichuru humiliated herself after CNN business anchor Richard Quest denounced a post she shared claiming the words were said by him.

    Julie took to Twitter to re-share a post allegedly shared by visiting CNN journalist little did she know that the post she was re-sharing was fake.

    “Nothing beats the service industry in Kenya. The hotels are not only classy but also so unique. Here I am surrounded by giraffes while having breakfast. In a country declared by the World Bank as the ”preferred investment destination in Africa”, probably attributed to the 6% GDP growth, what else can I ask for? Kenya is magical,” Julie shared what she thought was Richard Quest’s words.

    Richard Quest quickly replied to Julie’s post to inform her that he never said the words she posted. He however complimented her for a photo that accompanied the post.

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    Mayweather shows off his new colossal mansion complete with a cinema
    Posted on: 2018-10-27 14:06:44

    - The 41-year-old American boxer took to social media to show the new house - He also showed his followers the water feature in his courtyard Former American professional boxer Floyd Mayweather has proven again that he is a man that can get anything he wants after showing off a new mansion in Los Angeles. Mayweather has made lots of money in the game of boxing, and he has been spending his cash for himself, friends and family by acquiring big properties.



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    Eric Omondi finally set to marry fiancée Chantal Grazioli two years after proposing to her
    Posted on: 2018-10-26 18:46:58

    Eric Omondi and Chantal Grazioli wedding has been long time coming. The comedian has finally announced his wedding plans.

    Eric started dating Chantal in early 2015 after his relationship with Jacque Maribe hit rock bottom. Chantel moved from Italy and settled in Kenya in September 2015 so she could be with Eric.

    The comedian propose to Chantal on February 14th 2016. He flew his Kenyan Italian sweetheart to a Valentine’s Day getaway at the Coast where he popped the big question.

    Eric Omondi proposes to Chantal Grazioli

    Eric Omondi proposes to Chantal Grazioli


    Eric has finally revealed plans to marry Chantal two years after proposing to her. Speaking during an interview with Mzazi Willy M Tuva on Citizen Radio, Eric disclosed that he will walk down the aisle with Chantal in September 2019.

    “I know we have dated for long and time is ripe for me to put on that ring and very soon, though it will not be this year rest assured September, 2019 we shall have exchanged vows. I have consulted from both sides and Chantal’s mother is a great friend of mine,” said Eric Omondi.


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    Diamond appears on Belaire ad together with Rick Ross and DJ Khalid to welcome new member who signed Kshs 2 Billion deal
    Posted on: 2018-10-25 22:07:41

    Diamond Platnumz is among international celebrities who endorse Belaire champagne. The ‘Jibebe’ hit maker became Belaire brand ambassador in September 2017.

    Belaire has added another musician to the group of celebrities who endorse its brand. American hip hop duo Rae Sremmurd signed a $20 million (Kes 2 billion) deal with Belaire to join the group of international celebs who endorse Belaire.

    The duo signed their contract with Belaire CEO Brett Berish in Miami, Florida. Rae Sremmurd members are now ‘The Golden Boys’ promoting Belaire Gold in the ‘Belaire It Out’ campaign.

    Also read: Billionaire wine mogul hosts Diamond and Rayvanny at his magnificent mansion in US

    “We just announced our global 20 million dollar partnership with @officialbelaire! Gold bottles, and top models, Drinks on us ,” wrote the brothers on Instagram.