Archive for the 'Isiolo, Kenya' Category

Measles Vaccinations at Mama Tumaini

A student from the Pepo La Tumaini Early Childhood Development school bravely refuses to cry while recieving a measles vaccination at the Mama Tumaini Clinic.

During September 19th-25th, the Mama Tumaini Health Clinic took part in a nation wide campaign to vaccinate children between the ages of 1 and 5 for measles. Mama Hope’s partner Wind of Hope in the Arid served the surrounding communities as well as several local Early Childhood Development and Primary schools.

By the end of the campaign, 485 children were vaccinated and 514 given vitamin A supplements. Administering the vaccinations were Naiomi Meme, Harriet Gatakaa and Wind of Hope Programme Nurse, Stella Okello.

We’re so proud that our clinic took part in this! Hope you enjoy the pics.

Nearly 150 children were vaccinated on September 23rd.

Children were lead by teachers from local primary schools. Others came on their mother's backs

Children under the age of 1 came for vitamin A suppliments to help with the development of their eyes

Late in the day anxious mother's began entering the clinic worried their children would miss the essential vaccinations. Order was eventually restored

Naiomi Meme (right) administers a Vitamin A supplement

That's it!

Portraits of the Drought: Mwambia

– Bryce

Photos and Video by myself and the Trainers of Trainers, my student group at Wind of Hope.


Isiolo, Kenya sits in the Kaisut desert in East Africa. The area as a whole is currently going through the worst drought in years. Water and food relief have become precious commodities and tribal conflict a regular fixture on the news. I’ve done my best to convey the following within this context.

Mwambia Kiunga, a spoon carver in Isiolo, Kenya.

Mwambia Kiunga, a spoon carver in Isiolo, Kenya.

Mwambia sits in the sun waiting. He shifts his toes in his sandals and wears a faded Muslim kufi on his head. A tired looking brown jacket covers his small frame while his kneecaps poke from behind his trousers.

He’ll tell you he’s 100 years old, but he was born in 1930. His home is a small wooden shack about 3 kilometers from where he’s currently sitting at in the Wind of Hope (WOH) community compound. He enjoys telling war stories and is originally from a good sized town about a 45 minute ride south, called Meru. It was a town of local shops and farmers which have recently given way the Kenyan equivalent of Walmart: Nakumatt.

Looking at him it’s a bit difficult to dispute his claim of 100. He already looked older than Africa when I first met him three years ago. Not much of a dent in his time frame, but his smile of recognition tells me it doesn’t matter. We’re here together again in Isiolo.

We shake hands, smile and try to work up a conversation through my broken Swahili. “Yes, I’ve returned. I’m happy to see you as well. It is very hot. You’ve walked all the way from your home today? How is your home? “ His smile is cheerful, but his eyes are a bit far and watery. Something’s on his mind.

Mwambia is a bit of an indicator here at WOH. When things are well, such as when the HBC (home based care for people living with HIV/AIDS) food distributions are arriving on time (or at all), he can be seen walking near town selling his hand carved wooden spoons. When times are bad, he’s usually sick and bed ridden. A year ago we had to break down his front door to save him from an accidental self-imprisonment. He hadn’t eaten in 3 days and was too weak to unlock his door for help. The amount of clothes he’s wearing makes me think of this; jackets upon jackets when the sun is blazing. His body can’t handle much.

It’s because he’s an indicator that his presence here today has attracted attention. Khadija, the Program Director, and a few others come and sit around us in a circle. He opens up immediately.

For the past week thieves have been coming into his home and stealing his food distributions.

“Everything,” he explains, “my food, my flashlight, my blankets. They’ve come and taken them all.” he pauses, shakes his head and narrows his eyes to the sun. “They are too strong. And they say they will come back. They say: We will come back again and again.”

He goes on for another ten minutes giving details that are not translated. Needless to say his audience is fuming. Angry words dart back and forth. “To where? …took it all? You haven’t eaten in five days? You know who they are? Your neighbor? We know that house. It’s not far at all.”
Before long the group splits. The two men, Nassir and Rojeb shake their heads and wander off in thought. Khadija storms off into the compound and back out again.

“Imagine,” she starts, “they steal from him! What does he have?”

My answer would be a few plastic water containers, a beat up wooden bed frame with a blanket, some rocks for cooking on, a pot and a photo of him with his son taken some 13 years back.

Khadija holds a hand to her chest as if quailing a fire, then goes on.

“They have even come in while he was having an asthma attack. What can you even do? Taking from an old man like that. They just come and take it from his hands. What can he do? And now that they know he gets food relief, how can we stop it?” She pauses and looks away from me, “But it is also because of starvation… This is a very bad signal. When people are like this, they can even start killing each other for food. You know not long ago a lady was killed for an avocado.”

Mwambia's home in the Bula Pesa neightborhood of Isiolo.

Mwambia's home in the Bula Pesa neightborhood of Isiolo.

Ten minutes go by and I’m sitting next to Mwambia again. He’s being put together a care package. Some rice, beans and spinach. To my left is Nyla, she seems overwhelmed by the situation isn’t saying much.

“It’s very bad. I’m sorry.” I say to Mwambia.

“It’s in God’s hands,” he responds.

Lunch is ready and my conscience is starting to nudge me because of it. We all get plates of warm corn boiled in salt and milk. Mwambia refuses his and pulls down his bottom lip to show teeth worn to the gums. We quickly get a few bananas and some porridge which lights him up.

The three of us sit for awhile eating. It’s a bit difficult. I feel like I should hide my shameful plateful, but I can’t exactly not eat. Beside me, Nyla is silently dropping tears into her plate.

Mwambia finishes the porridge and eats a single banana. He puts two more into a torn plastic bag, diligently wraps up the fruit and hides it away in the folds of his jacket.

“You don’t want more to eat?” I ask.

“I’m full. If I eat too much now…” he makes the universal sign for throwing up.

It’s not long before Khadija appears again. I’ve seen her this way before and I fear for whoever is in her way. She starts to gather a small posse; two men and two women.

The ambulence leaves the compound. (Photo by Mohamed Adan)

The ambulance leaves the compound. (Photo by Mohamed Adan)

“They come at night? We’ll be there at night. It has happened five times. It must stop,” she says to Mwambia. She fires up the ambulance and everyone piles in. “We know where they are. We’ll find them, throw them in the back and drag them to the police station.“

She sticks the engine in reverse and plows out.

______

5 hours later, later the vehicle pulls back into the compound. It’s missing most of the posse. Khadija climbs out looking like she’s carrying a fifty pound weight on her back. Nyla catches Khadija as she heads inside.

“Did you find the thieves?” she asks.

“Yes, we found them.” Khadija responds softly with a tone of dejection. She takes off her shoes and heads inside.

_____

Around 9pm we finally get the rest of the story. Khadija is sitting on her living room couch. The dim turquoise of the solar lights cast a tiring tone on her and small shadows creep out from corners reminding us that it’s night now and Mwambia has long gone home.

“Who are we?” she starts, “This afternoon, we had looked at Mwambia and imagined: I don’t want someone to do that to me when I’m old. So we got there ready for a fight with young strong men. Rogeb was angry. But when went in the home of the thieves what we found was a family of five. These children with swollen bellies and tiny legs. The mother’s breast was just skin with a baby on it. The man sitting by the door was so weak he couldn’t get up. He just looked at us and shouted, ‘Khadija! You’ve come! We stole the old man’s food. Have you brought us some more?”

She shifts uncomfortably in her seat and continues, “We were so ashamed. Rogeb said nothing. He walked in circles like he didn’t know us… he had no words. We asked them where the old man’s belongings were. They replied that they sold them for food.”

“We said, ‘where is the blanket?’”

“’We sold it,’ he said.

“I wish you knew how much for, Bryce. It was for 40 shillings.”

“That’s about 50 cents,” I say to Nyla, “Enough for about half a kilogram of rice or 6 bananas.”

I watch Khadija adjust her skirt again as she goes on. Her left middle finger can’t bend due to the ligaments being severed during an attempt on her life. She’d caught the machete blade in her hand. She doesn’t strike me as someone who is easily caught off guard.

She goes on, “The man said, ‘Why should we leave food when there is food there at the old man’s. I will steal as far as I can walk and that is as far as I can walk.’

“We didn’t know what to do, so we went to town to buy food and brought it back. I tell you, they were down on the ground eating. Rogeb had to shove food in the man’s mouth and help him because he was too weak to chew. And then, there were people coming to their gate saying, ‘let us eat with them!’ It was crazy.”

She paused for about a minute before going on.

Mwambia Kiunga recieving a Ramadan food distribution from Salim Yassen.  (Photo by Salat James Sunday)

Mwambia Kiunga recieving a Ramadan food distribution from Salim Yassen. (Photo by Salat James Sunday)

“Sometimes to the local people, they think our community project manages everything: AIDS, turmoil, food. It’s not so good. We cannot manage it all. How do you choose who gets food? I’ve seen a baby sucking a dead woman. How do you choose? …but at least it’s not as bad as 1984. God should not let us see that again. That wasn’t drought. That was death. People couldn’t even fight. They just sat and glared at each other. They boiled hides to eat. You could not find a rat anywhere.”

Without warning Khadija’s cell phone rings, erupting her ringtone into the room. It’s playing the Elton John song, Sacrifice.

It’s a human sign… when things go wrong… when the scent of her lin-

Khadija silences her phone and looks at her caller ID. It’s Esha, the woman managing the health clinic. She was also at the home today. Khadija discards the call.

“She’s been calling me all night,” she says, “asking me what to think. What to do with herself now that she’s home. She’s saying, ‘you’ve been here long. You know.’ But surely, who am I? Why do I know? I can’t tell anyone what to think. I just tell her, ‘You do something positive. You sit with your children and appreciate them. You create something. You make something good with what you have. What else can you do? I’m not God.”

______

Isiolo river some 30 kilometers from town.  Until recently, this area was the main water source for nearby villages and wildlife.

Isiolo riverbed some 30 kilometers from town. Until the current drought, this area was the main water source for nearby villages and wildlife.

Two weeks later, I’m in a cab with a driver named Abdi. He’s about my age and has family who were relocated from Somali refugee camps to England and the United States. He tells me about how he had lived in the UK for a year posing as his sister’s husband, but was found out and sent back. He’s now been in Isiolo for three months.

“London wasn’t so good. It’s was too cold. I’d find my death there,” he says.

We pull onto the main road. Bikes and hawkers pulling carts of water dart out of our way. Up the road a beaten up semi-truck pulls out of a gas station. Under its flapping brown tarp are a few hundred 50kg bags of soy and wheat powder. On each bag is the red and blue USAID food relief emblem. It reads: From the American People.

“Where are they going?” I ask.

“They are headed north to Wajir. Some 200 kilometers. It’s very far. The drought there is so bad,” Abdi responds.

He jerks the cab off the road to let 2 eight-wheeled military vehicles pass. Their engines seem to be the only real noise in town today. It’s hot and everyone is moving a bit slower than usual. Dust billows across vegetable stands and into the cars windows. Not a single bit of shade has been left unoccupied. The cab hops back on the road.

“It’s quiet here today,” I say watching a herd of goats pass by.

“Yes,” he says, “it’s very hot and the town is quiet. We’re all starving and no one wants to talk about it.”

____________
To read more of my stories from our projects, check out my personal blog at:
neitherherenorthere.org

Three Takes on Community Gardens

-Bryce

The Ngeya Training Garden in Maai Maihu, Kenya

The Ngeya Training Garden in Maai Maihu, Kenya

Since leaving Tanzania, Nyla and I have been traveling throughout Kenya helping to implement drip irrigation projects with communities in Mai Mahiu, Isiolo and Kisumu. Earlier this year Mama Hope received a grant from the William Zimmerman Foundation to launch these gardens. Initially, we thought of doing a single pilot “Demonstration Garden” that we could replicate in all three communities. Though, in typical Mama Hope fashion, the gardens have evolved according to the needs of our partner communities. Jargon? Yes, but it’s true. Single template solutions only seem to work on paper. Here is a brief rundown of the three different approaches to the gardens. We’ll have more about their progress as time moves on.

Comfort the Children, Maai Mahiu, The Rift Valley

The Enviroment Club in their training garden at Ngeya Primary School.

The Enviroment Club in their training garden at Ngeya Primary School.

First stop was up in the Rift Valley about an hour north of Nairobi. Small buses whine up steep hills, pass broken guard rails, overlooking the expanse of the Rift Valley. Up the hills towards the town, volcanic ash mixes in with the farm lands and winds roar up the town’s main strip stinging the face and the clouding the eyes. Our partner project here is Comfort the Children International (CTC), an American based, but locally run organization working to create sustainable project models for local community based organizations.

Earlier in 2009 when Mama Hope first received the funds from the William Zimmerman Foundation we gave CTC a project grant to start a youth run Demonstration Garden. Currently, the garden is in its third harvest and will continue to produce year-round through the use of drip irrigation. It’s run by the local primary school’s Environmental Club. Mostly the group consists of coy quick-witted children between the ages of 7 and 14 who are taught an amazing amount of farming knowledge by their teacher, simply known as “Rocky”. Every Tuesday after school the Environmental Club meets to discuss the logistics of running the garden and on Thursdays they work in teams to maintain the garden.

Rocky going through his student's notepads in Maai Maihu.

Rocky going through his student's notepads in Maai Maihu.

The approach here is simple. Educate and work with the children to install and maintain the irrigation systems through lessons and practical activities, then involve the children’s parents in the training in an effort to spread the knowledge of the drip irrigation systems to the local community.

Wind of Hope, Isiolo, Kaisut Desert

The beginnings of the Wind of Hope Pilot Greenhouse

The beginnings of the Wind of Hope Pilot Greenhouse

8 hours away in Isiolo is our original partner project Wind of Hope in the Arid (WOHA). It’s a worn and dusty town surrounded by safari destinations. WOHA is an HIV/AIDS Community Based Program struggling through a particularly severe drought to feed its community. Four days ago we heard a story about a 79 year old man being repeatedly robbed by his neighbors for his food relief.

James Sunday helps to clear space for the greenhouse.

James Sunday helps to clear space for the greenhouse.

We had planned to help organize for a youth drip irrigat CTC, but food insecurity lead the youion program similar toth to decide on a smaller more easily guarded project that would better utilize the little water resources they have. It was decided that a drip irrigated greenhouse should be constructed and used as a demonstration for the community of ways to conserve water and to provide better yields during drought periods. Also when the rains come the water can be harvested from gutters on the roof into water tanks.

Within an afternoon the greenhouse had been plotted and the land cleared completely by the youth. They also organized for building materials, soil, and skilled labor to help them construct the timber. Currently, they are documenting the project themselves through a camera and computer class Nyla and I have been teaching them.

Our Lady of Perpetual Support, Kisumu, Lake Victoria

Anastasia, OLPS director, (right) consults garden plans with the local community.

Anastasia, OLPS director, (right) consults garden plans with the local community.

Coming up to western Kenya is a bit deceiving. It’s green and after being in a drought in the desert it was a shock to our system to arrive in a rain storm that could have doubled as a monsoon. Kisumu sits on the shores of one of the biggest fresh water lakes in the world. A 15 minute cab ride away from the city reveals tired farms and dried up fields of corn. It’s green, sure, but once you get away from the city water sources, food security is entirely dependent on very undependable rainfall.

090822.OLPSgarden046
Our project partner Our Lady of Perpetual Support for People Living with HIV/AIDS (OLPS) does exactly as the name suggests. They are a community run program offering health care, home based care gardens and an orphanage. Their basic mission is supporting children from conception on. As the founding director, Anastasia states, “It is not enough to simply feed a child. They must be fed and educated, so they may do the same for others.”

Planting Kail during a drip irrigation training.

Planting Kale during a drip irrigation training.

The project here has come together as drip irrigation training for 100 female home based caregivers taking care of orphans (most have been widowed by HIV/AIDS). They are to revamp a 3 acre garden with easily replicable drip irrigation systems. OLPS’s goal by the end of the year is that these methods are adopted by the women for use in their home gardens. The women’s hope is that the produce from the garden will be used to supplement the food supply for an elementary school that is across the street from the project.

Busy with the World

-Bryce

Traveling again. I’m racing along the tarmac in a taxi with James, a 17 year old back at Pepo for a break from Secondary school. To my right is Goolo, the cab driver. Not a word had been spoken in 20 minutes. We all know the deal. We’re headed to Kambi Garba.

Part of what I’m doing at Pepo La Tumaini is helping to fill in the gaps in their capacity. In this case they need photos. APHIA II EASTERN, the East Africa branch of USAID, has required photos for all the children they give Antiretroviral Aids medicine to. A seemingly small demand, except Pepo doesn’t have a camera. Nor do any of these 899 children have photos available. 28 are registered in Kambi Garba. Not bad I thought.

This is my third trip to Kambi Garba in four days. It’s a small dusty dry village with nomadic tribes. Thorns tangle around dirt yards, hiding dilapidated shacks and the occasional camel. Residents are largely Borana, Somali, and Turkana. None of whom have the friendliest history toward one another.


The first journey resulted in five photos of registered children and 15 photos of children who have been orphaned since the registration list was made. Some street kids threw rocks at us while we got a tour of the local water sources.

“Trash water” Sarafina Kamaro calls it. She’s a community Elder and our contact in Kambi Garba, “Look, it’s full of trash.”

It is. Isiolo river travels through a military base, several villages, then town before here. The water has a stink to it.

“We drink the water, then we get sick. Stomach aches.” She goes on.

“You don’t’ boil it?”

“No,” she answers looking back at the mile walk to her home.


She takes us to a small spring in the side of the river. It’s tucked away in a rocky hole only small enough for a small water bottle. A young girl of about 8 sticks her hand in the hole fills the bottle and empties it into a 10 liter jerry can weighing about 30 pounds when full. It takes awhile.

A day later, the second trip resulted in four photos. Only one of them from the register.
I’m remembering all this when the cab swerves to avoid a herd of goats. Goolo doesn’t flinch. He just turns up the radio. Somali music, I’m thinking.

About 30 minutes after leaving Isiolo town we arrive at the end of the tarmac. This is where the road ends in Kenya. From here it’s dirt roads all the way to Somalia. Small buses shoot like bullets out of the desert leaving dust like vapor trails.

It reminds me of a friend in the U.S., a Somali refugee. He told me with a chuckle, “After the soldiers had killed my family I walked to Kenya. Then they told us to leave. So I walked to Ethiopia. When it got bad there, I walked back to Kenya. You can never take a car! You’ll get shot!” He had the biggest grin on his face.

But the present is different here and construction has begun again on the tarmac. Large hills of gravel and sand loom over a newly leveled path fading into the distance. Children wave from atop the mounds. The Kenyan government is extending the road to some nearby tourist destinations, safari parks and the like. For a while longer, the road still ends in Isiolo.

James and I get out of the taxi and pay Goolo. He nods and speeds away.

We go down some small dirt paths off the main road. They wind to and fro. The thorn fences rise and create a tunnel over us. We have to walk in single file.

“They are called Panya routes. We are panya here!” James lets out with a smile.

“Panya?” I ask.

“Rats! We are rats.”

A tattered looking woman stands roadside as if waiting for us. We ask her for directions and she takes us the rest of the way. Sarafina’s home is a bit of an orphanage. Five women saunter about doing various chores and tending to children. There are near 20 children in various states of disarray. A good number of the Kambi Garba youth are in school, but these children are simply around. They range from 6 months to 10 years. We exchange greetings and start going over who is left on the list.

Selina Nawatan: Nomads School
Shadrak Ekidor: Moved to a different district
Zainabu: Lives in Shambani
Christine Engngiri: Lives in Shambani
Lokale Goko: New Life School
Akuta Ngoko: Has gone on a journey
Kebo Akwara : unknown…

10 more are living in Shambani, a small village just across the river.

“Can we go?” I ask.

The yard erupts with chatter. Women with babies on their backs and hips, old grandmas who can barley walk, a drunken woman from the street jumps in the fray.

“They will not take us,” James translates. “They say the people there are so much for money. They say to forget the children there and just take care of the ones here.”

As I surmise and later confirm with the Chief of the area, Kambi Garba and Shambani have a long standing grudge. No one is clear why, but I’ve grown to suspect water issues. Whatever the problem, they’re not taking or letting us go there.


After taking about 10 photos, we hear yelling from a group running down a road 100 feet off.

“Wait here,” Sarafina lets out then runs off leaving us with a drunk woman demanding I take her photo.

James and I guess it’s another illegal alcohol raid. Walking through Isiolo town this morning, we caught glimpses of some police raids at some local changa huts. Changa being the Kenyan equivalent of moonshine. It’s cheap and poisonous. I know of at least one person who used it to commit suicide.

We eventually make our way to the confusion. Someones cut a camel with a machete. A Turkana man has slashed the leg of an eight-foot camel. There is an angry crowd and some official looking individuals. The camel sits on the ground bleeding. Another stands by its side chewing lethargically. Three weeks later I find out the man who slashed the camel meant to feed his family with it.

A child from the list is at the scene. Another picture taken and name crossed out.

Half an hour later, James and I are walking down the tarmac. We’re heading to New Life. A primary school a kilometer outside of Kambi Garba. We need a photo of a single attending student. The sun beats down and we share a water bottle.

“So what are you doing after school?” I ask.

“Where or what?” James responds.

“Both.”

“I’d like to be… a doctor or a journalist. Yes, I’d very much like to be a journalist!”

My ears perk.

“Yes. I’m even secretary in the journalist club at school. I love it very much. …I’m very interested in people from everywhere. Ai, those journalists get to know things. They are always so very busy with the world!”


A police wagon roars down the tarmac. It’s carrying several of the people from the camel incident. It kicks up dust and we’re alone again.

After another ten minutes we reach New Life School. The gate is chained. Dried plants line the fence. Inside it’s a ghost town. Dusty and empty.

“You. Is the school open?” James calls out to a child milling about near the road.

“Closed,” the kid responds.

“Closed for everything?” I ask.


James gives a questioning shrug, looking a little hopeless. We stand there for a moment soaking in the sun then head back to Kambi Garba.

Sarafina explains she’ll arrange with the child later. We then find out the ride we expected isn’t coming. And we haven’t enough for a taxi or bus. It’s about a eight kilometer walk back to town. We’ve hitchhiked before, but it’s just police and army vehicles today. Not ideal.

A little ways down the road a hulking tour bus rolls by. It’s a 12 wheel, 20 foot high, yellow and green vehicle. More commonly used to help the army traverse rivers. The tired looking tourists look down from a high.

20 photos down 879 to go. I know I’m not going to finish taking the pictures. And I know Pepo won’t either. The occasional volunteer might have the camera and the time. Each of the 899 children need a daily activity report as well. That’s 899 pages a day from a largely illiterate community.


James and I walk past the construction at the end of the road and back towards town. We spend most of our time talking and dreaming of cool milk or water. We go back and forth about whether soda is good for quenching thirst. But neither of us really care what we’re going find in town. Really anything would do.

The Final

-Bryce

On July 29th the Pepo La Tumaini ECD (Early Childhood Development) preschool tackled their year-end final with the same intensity of a bar exam. Children ranging from 3-5 years old sat through hours of tests deemed essential by the Kenyan Ministry of Education.

“Do you think you’ll pass?” Project Coordinator Khadija Rama asked Abdallah Mohamed.

“I don’t know. Only the teacher knows.” The 4-year-old sternly answered.


The student’s tests began at 8am and lasted, interspersed with recess, until 12:30pm. Their tests ranged from animal identification in English and Kiswahili to math and science.


Ashu Abubakar, is one of the few students unable to get a desk for the tests.

Frankline Murithi was one of the first finished and with only one wrong answer.

Denis Mutrtuia (left) and Samwel Kithinji were witnessed plagiarizing each other’s papers, but escaped authoritative detection.


Fidy Ntinyari and ECD teacher, Albina Ngugi, discuss the final.



Ngugi has been teaching at the ECD for three years and often makes the class decorations using whatever resources are available.



During the math test, students were asked to complete problems such as 4+3 and complete numerical sequences 21, 22, __, 24.
Answers varied.


Brenda Gakili was one of 54 students taking the test who would rather be at recess.

As the day wears on many students got the chance for extended recesses, while others stewed in class.


Shouting, “Finished?! Finished?!, “ a group of students help/harass Antony Kimathi with his final.

Antony: last man standing.

The Women’s Group

-Bryce

We’re walking to Mama Lucia. Our shoes crunch the dirt road and the wind whips at the plastic bags clinging to the dried shrubs. The land is a dusty patchwork of half finished construction and leaning fences. Around me are the women, seven members of the New Jordan Womens Group community bank (NJWG). They walk in flowing fabrics of red, black, pink and blue. Some children jeer at us and laughingly try to get a handshake.

“Give me my pen?” one of the children asks.

“You give me my pen.” I respond. The kids laugh harder and dart away.

“We’re going to visit an old mama,” says Hadija Mohammed, “A very sick mama.”

Again, I’ve found myself involved in a food distribution. Bringing food and midnight oil to someone unable to care for themselves. The difference here is the caregivers and the means behind the goods.

Over the past year, the 12 women of NJWG have been working to maintain a community banking project facilitated by Mama Hope though Pepo La Tumaini Jangwani (Wind of Hope in the Desert) in Isiolo, Kenya. The basic idea behind community based microfinance projects is to give those ordinarily unable to access credit, the ability to obtain small business loans, as well as the knowledge to manage these funds

Before the transition to microfinance, the women’s group had already been meeting for several years as a way to support fellow entrepreneurs. Their businesses range from small milk shops and clothing repair to a handful of roadside vegetable stands. A good day brings in about 100 shillings (approx. $1.50 USD).

Seeing the need for expansion, the group started what’s called a merry-go-round. Every week each member brought 50 shillings to give to a single entrepreneur.

“The money would help one of us, but we never moved forward. We were always waiting for our turn and could never make a higher amount “explains the bank’s first elected president, Geraldine Mugaonbi, the owner of a milk shop. “With the microfinance, we are all able to have the money through loans at the same time. So it helps us all.”

The key to this particular bank is its savings lead approach. Rather than an outside source simply giving money to the members, the bank is funded through the member’s hard earned savings. Each week, the members deposit a mandatory and voluntary savings. Once enough is saved, the members begin taking out loans and paying back interest to the fund.

“There is a saying from the coast,” Geraldine goes on, “if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat it, then ask for another. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll never go hungry. Even some of the members who came hoping and expecting money have decided what we got is better”

“I’m running the shop myself. My husband is an old man who never visits,” says Rose Mumbi, owner of a milk and charcoal stand. “I was married to him when I was 12 and he has other wives.”

The sentiment seems to be the same throughout the group. Of the 12 women, over half have no support beyond what they have built for themselves. When documenting a microfinance project in Nicaragua, I found a similar situation. The majority of men had either left their wives or had been unemployed for extended periods of time.

“”We’re not letting any men in the bank,” exclaims Hadija, a vegetable roadside stand owner, during a July 2008 meeting.

The group agrees.

They had one at the beginning. He was a local hired to help them manage the bank and act as a liaison between the NJWG, Pepo La Tumaini and Mama Hope.

“He tried to shake us, but we wouldn’t let him,” explains Hadija. “He was trying take complete control of it. Eventually he just left. No goodbye.”

Another aspect of the bank is the development fund. 20% of the interest from the loans is combined with weekly contributions and set aside to help community focused projects. Whether funding a community health day or helping the women care for the ill, the development fund gives the members the ability to make a positive change in their community. In their most common method of help, the development fund allows the women to bring supplies and psycho-social support to those in the community like Mama Lucia.

11 and a half months after the start of the bank, we enter Mama Lucia’s complex. Outside is a leaning sheet metal gate. The rectangular building is made of worn wood panels blackened with soot. It has 4 sections. Several children play in the front yard with pots and kitchen utensils.

Her room is in the back. It’s dark and she needs help greeting everyone. We spend some time with her chatting and showing her what has been brought. She asks for some petrol to burn at night and the group complies. She doesn’t say much else.

As we’re leaving I’m realizing the full circle this bank has taken. The women are finishing their first year and their capacity has been increasing in tandem with their ability to help the community. They have proposed more food distributions as well as more helping other groups to start their own community banks.

Hadija asks me if I remember a woman named Salma. I do.

We had visited Salma nearly a year ago, my first food distribution with the bank. She was a woman paralyzed from the waist down and unable to leave her home. At first she thought I was there to give her a handout. She refused until she found out it was purely from the women.

To explain her reasons, she propped herself up and said in perfect English, “if you give a man a fish, he’ll eat it, then ask for another. If you teach a man to fish, he’ll never go hungry.”

A Clinic Evolving

-Nyla


Hello friends of Mama Hope,

I have arrived safely in Isiolo and feel like I have returned to my Kenyan home. We were welcomed with flowers, a song and a dance by the Wind of Hope orphans.

We were told that while the clinic has been under a construction it has served as so many things for the community. During the recent conflict it housed refugees who had lost their homes. During the rains it served as an orphanage for the children whose rooms flooded. While the elementary school was being renovated it served as a school. Until its official launch on August 12th, it is being used as a rehabilitation home for girls who have been sexually abused or have come off the street. The outside waiting area is being used as a preschool while the new school is being built.

Your donation to build the health clinic also helped build a school/sanctuary/orphanage/rehabilitation center providing a safe haven to hundreds even before it has opened to provide health care to thousands!

I’m so happy to see that the Mama Hope Clinic built to nurture the community is doing exactly that!

Thank you for your support. This all would not be possible with out Mama Hope’s incredible donors.


During the next two months we will be updating the blog with videos, pictures and stories of our time in Kenya.

With gratitude,

Nyla

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