A final comment…

Today was our last day with UCCS, in the morning we visit one last community based organisation (CBO), before heading back to Nairobi for a general debriefing of this two week trip.

Moods at this stage of the trip are mixed due to what we have seen and experienced over the last 10 days, and I definitely felt spirits were lifted by the visit today. The CBO welcomed us with a song and a dance, instantly making us feel welcome and inspired by their hope for the future. One of the songs was on the topic of HIV and how with the help of Jesus they can stamp out HIV and the stigma attached to being HIV positive. We all joined in the song and learnt the dance moves, and this particularly touched my heart to see the faith that people have relating to the eradication of stigma attached to HIV. The lyrics to the song are below;

Ndaemwa yesu (Jesus cannot be defeated

Ndaemwa yesu daemwa *4 (Jesus can’t be defeated)

Kwata ukimwi *2 (Hold AIDs)
Ngakwata ukimwi (Jesus will hold AIDs)
Ngauthingithangya (Jesus will shake it)
Ngauthyulukya uilimwi (Jesus will twist it)
Ngaukinyia nltui ukimwi (Jesus will kick it down)
Ngauthe’elanga (Jesus will shoot it)

After the introductions, we were taken to a sub-surface dam which was built by the community members, the dam was connected up to a shallow well which collected the water held by the dam. This water was then sold to the community for 2 Kenyan Shillings (about 2p) for 20 litres of clean water. The money that was collected was used to maintain the dam and the well and to buy uniforms for the group members to increase their presence within the community.

When we arrived at the dam, one of the first things that all of us noticed was a dead cow lying in the water. This cow was not contaminating the water supply to the well, as the water collected by the well is collected from within the sand, however this shows the impact of climate change and other factors that affect farmers in Kenya. The cow belonged to a local farmer, and due to hunger, was too weak to climb back up the river bank so therefore died. This would mean a loss of property for the farmer just because there is not enough rain to produce an adequate supply of grazing land for the cows of his farm.

The dam and well were providing so much, as people did not have to walk as far for water and it was clean. What shocked me is how much power you have to change people’s lives just by giving them access to clean water. Such empowerment can come from such a little act and this has inspired me so much and will definitely remain with me when I return home.

The second place that we visited with the CBO was to a tree nursery, which was the largest and most successful one that we have been to so far. The members of the group were so proud of what they had achieved as a group and therefore were inspired and encouraged to carry on the good work that they have already began. My heart began to tug as I saw yet another dry river bed by the nursery. We have seen so many dry river beds over the last two weeks as many parts of Kenya have been without rain for three seasons.

I am always left feeling devastated and heartbroken by the fact that it is our power to change the lives of so many people in countries like Kenya. I feel extremely inspired to go back to the UK and to talk to young people to get this current young generation to realise the responsibility that the developed world has over the future of the developing world. To get young people to get involved in global issues, to shape a much better and fairer world for all.

“Together there is no mountain that we cannot climb”

“Together there is no mountain that we cannot climb”

Admittedly I’m writing this a couple of days late but…

Saturday was our last day with BIDI. We visited a project which directly translates in Swahili to ‘Get courage’

The project is located in a highly populated part of Machakos where land is scarce; therefore it is increasingly important for community members to find new ways to generate income. Formed in 2005, the group have since invested time and energy into horticulture and bee-keeping.

The group consists of 40 members the vast majority living with HIV twenty of their children are also HIV + this figure was said to be increasing daily. The biggest challenge the group face amidst the floods, is famine. The crops are failing and despite the groups limited resources they are boldly stepping out into new territories. The chairman of the group proudly announced that “our honey is the best in the area” the honey is sweet, contains many nutrients and is medicinal to those members of the group living with HIV.

However this new initiative cannot escape the devastation of the lack of rain – the effects of climate change are relentless, there is a significant shortage of plants and therefore pollen and subsequently the bees are not producing honey and they may not see any return until the beginning of next year. The unreliability of income has meant that the chairman is in arrears with the rent which hasn’t been paid for three months, he said that sometimes he has to pay the rent out of his own pocket.

BIDI has helped provide transport to the hospital, seedlings for plants such as amaranth which are known to be good for people living with HIV. There are ambitious plans to plant 50,000 plants and to enter new markets – particularly the flourishing fish markets in Machakos as well as the extension of the bee hive project, so that each representative can take ownership. It is a real bold step amongst such uncertainty

I was amazingly touched after leaving this project to over-hear Margret speaking to Dorcas in the car about how her desire is to now set up a support group for the twenty children living with HIV. I asked her if the children realise they have got the illness, she explained to me that it was the guardians/parents responsibility to tell the children and due to the stigma the children are sometimes unaware however she emphasised that the majority of the children understand what the illness is and once tested positive are put on treatment. She said like children everywhere, children look at such things with such simplicity – in some cases children are playing an instrumental role in helping their parent(s) come to terms with the disease themselves, even reminding them to take the IRV’s.

I felt truly humbled that the staff at BIDI never think that their work is done in the field; they only seek to strive and to work to provide and serve the community with all their hearts and minds. Truly, remarkable.

Later in the afternoon we sat down and had a de-brief of our experiences, the overall consensus was that it had really been a roller-coaster of emotions but above everything that the work BIDI has and is continue to be involved in is exceptional and to witness the work with our own hands and eyes is a true privilege.

Margaret shared a text message she had received earlier that day which went along the lines

“It is not a miracle to have a million friends; what is a miracle is to have a friend who cares for you in a million ways”

Christian Aid is that friend who cares for BIDI in a more than a million ways and visible proof that this money is going to the people who need it most.

The strength of the human spirit to overcome triumph over tragedy is here in abundance. Beautifully sung by Margret, the song blew many of us away; bringing the group into a beautiful silent vulnerability in the realisation that BIDI and their staff with the help of Christian Aid is tangibly and visibly delivering people from the scandal of Poverty.

Here are the lyrics which captured a moment in time which will stay with many of us for a very long time

“I have been on the mountain
And the valley so low
When I did not know which way to go
But I met Jesus and he is mine
And now there is no mountain that I cannot climb

There is no mountain that I cannot climb
When I say we
I mean Jesus and me
Together there is no mountain that we cannot climb”

A letter…

I have decided to write this entry of our blog as a letter to a couple of my friends back in the UK. I want to account for this trip by telling as many family and friends as well as politicians and companies about our experiences in Kenya and share the stories of the incredible people that we have met on our short journey. This is a letter to some friends of mine about tree planting and a question they asked me a few days before our group set off to this amazing country.

27.10.09

Dear Lorna and Sarah

Do you remember that conversation we had about trees? You guys were so adamant that you would be a tree rather than a flower or a bush and I just had no idea. I rambled on about how maybe I wouldn’t like to live as long as a tree and then had that sudden realisation that actually trees breathe, but what would survive longer: trees without humans or humans without trees. It was a silly conversation and we just wanted to pass the time. Yet, a week or so later, after spending time with Christian Aid partners in Kenya, I have realised how important this whole tree business is.

Today we spent time with UCCS and a boarding school in a rural district in Kenya. Along side about 30 pupils we planted trees in the grounds, a project supported by UCCS work with a CBO in the local community. They are given seedlings to tend to and grow to saplings in order to plant and sell on to as part of an income generating programme or as in this case, donate to other projects such as the one in the school.

Musengo Secondary School aims to plant 1000 trees this school year. So far (and with a little bit of our help) they have planted 155, each with as much care and precision as the first. Young people come from many districts around the area and the hope is that they will pass on the tree planting skills that they have learnt to their own families and communities, to further support the work of charities such as UCCS who have invested so much time and money in projects which have benefits on so many levels – locally, nationally and internationally.

So, you will see that trees are a big deal in Kenya. When we ask locals (and even pupils) about how their landscapes have changed over their life times, everyone talks about how trees have been cut and the landscape is sparse. When we ask about climate change, they talk about rains not falling for 3 or 4 years. Scientific or not, many people associate the lack of trees with the lack of rain: so if you replace the trees, perhaps the rains will fall?

It was amazing to see so many young people engaging in the tree planting project. Most pupils knew the tree types and what they are best used for. They recognised their actions as a part to be played in combating climate change, despite whether or not their own actions are the route cause.

You might ask though why a private school should be supported by UCCS in the way that they were (there was also a water and sanitation project in full force) and I know that we did so too. But the problems of the world do not start and finish with the adversely poor. The morning taught me that we really know so little about the value of trees. You will know that from our conversation – our lack of understanding and constant questions about nothing in particular. But I hope that I have been able to shed some light as to why trees are so important. They do breathe for us and we must respect them for it. In answer to our first question, I still don’t know what I would like to be – a tree, a flower or a bush. However I do know that I really, really want to be a person who plants trees. Not only that but I want to be a person who values their importance and recognises species, needs and use. I hope that the next time I see you guys, we will have this conversation again – maybe over a spot of tree planting.

Hope all is well,

Love
Eilidh

RAIN!!!

As the title suggests the highlight of the day was most definitely the downpour that forced us inside a goat shed for most of our meeting with the group we saw today, but more of that later.

The day began with out BIDII briefing at their headquarters. The people who work for BIDII are amazing, so friendly and warm and obviously incredibly passionate about the work that they’re doing which is brilliant. We were introduced to the main projects that BIDII run – the CBCO (care for orphans and vulnerable children), RTN (rural transport network – more of that later) and Filling the Gaps – an HIV/AIDS project (see Katie’s post).

BIDII are a fantastic example of good development in practice – they want people to become master’s of their own destiny and they listen to the communities they work with to find out their needs and then train them to overcome them themselves. Good development is about ownership of solutions and BIDII provide ‘development of the people, by the people and with the people’.

After the briefing we were driven in Lucky Bertha the Time Machine on what seemed to be a relatively short journey to the project. This consisted of two Savings and Loans Associations (SLAs) which BIDII works with, Mumandhi and 3KS. Both of these are groups of around 30 members each and cater specifically for the members of the community over a certain age, or those who are widowed. The first part of our meeting with the groups involved sliding down the steepest hill I think I’ve ever been on (but then maybe I’m not very adventurous) to get to the group’s tree nursery. It’s amazing that they ever get down there to plant anything!

After the tree nursery we wheezed our way back up to the top to sit with the community and do the obligatory introductions and overview of the groups when the heavens opened. Not just a drizzle either. A full on downpour which sent us all running for the nearest shelter. This shelter just so happened to be a tiny goat shed in which almost every member of the communities had crammed, along with all of us. Despite this though I’ve never been so happy to see rain. The areas of Kenya which we’re visiting haven’t been able to harvest crops for 2 years due to a drought of which no one in the community has ever seen the like before and so the rains were literally a blessing! We were even thanked for bringing the English weather with us!

The groups themselves are Savings and Loans Associations which meet together to discuss issues that they have, participate in income generating activities such as tie dying and set up loans and finance projects with the money they raise from membership fees. Each member pays 20 ksh and then in the event of someone needing a loan for a project the group can help them. The interest rate on the loans is 10% and one of the things about this that we found most interesting was that not a single member who had borrowed from the fund had defaulted on repayments.

As well as this the groups have dug shallow wells, helped orphans in the community with tools and health care and have each recieved a goat from BIDII donations. The groups have clearly made a massive difference in the lives of the members, many of whom care for orphans in the community and hopefully will continue to improve the standard of living even further in the future. The groups have empowered the communities. The groups were asked if BIDII went away tomorrow would they be able to carry on with their work. The answer was a resounding yes which is exactly the answer we would have hoped for.

One of the community members who I think all of us will remember from today was Martin. Martin is a community health worker and rider for the Rural Transport Network (RTN). This initiative was set up by BIDII in 2008 to deal with the health and sanitation issues affecting the people in these rural areas. The riders are trained (by BIDII) to educate the community on issues such as HIV/AIDS, nutrition, kitchen gardens and malaria nets to name but a few. They are also trained to give first aid and carry medicines which they can sell to the communities they visit, instead of making the sometimes long trip to the nearest dispensary.

The riders are so called because to get to and from the households they visit (each is in charge of 60) they use motorbikes which, again, are donated by BIDII. The rider is given a position of importance in the community and is also given a source of income as they can use the biks for taxis and charge a fee. The bikes can also be used to take people to hospital. Martin does all of this at the age of 60. Amazing!

Finally, after a lot of questions, more downpour and a truly terrible singing attempt, we got back into Bertha to head back to the hotel. This as been a brilliant day, meeting some inspirational people and we’re all loving working with BIDII!

Abi xxx

Banana buds and rope

Who would have thought that these can help people to rebuild their immune systems and their lives?

BIDII today took us to two communities of people working together to overcome the stigma of the HIV that they live with. We heard from several people, mainly woman, ostracized from their families and friends due to their status. One lady, Agatha, sitting amongst the rest of the group, her face wide with smiles, told us her story. In Agatha’s arms was her baby daughter, serenely asleep and only a year or so old. Agatha told us how, in 2008, she had fallen pregnant. She had gone to the hospital for an ordinary check-up, and decided that getting an HIV test was a good idea, just to be sure that she was ok. Agatha was shocked to discover: “I was found to be positive. I hated myself. I asked myself why I was alive. The doctor told me to begin clinics. The child could be born negative”. Agatha told us of how she had started taking medicines, how her baby had been given treatment when it was born, and how she had followed the docotor’s advice to only breastfeed for the first 5 months. After this period, her baby had been tested, and was found to be negative. An amazing story of how knowing your status can save a life.

Alongside encouraging people to be tested for HIV, BIDII works with them to give them skills so that they can earn money and stay healthy. It was inspiring to see how, from the simple trees and plants on their land, they can make something for themselves. The large pink buds of the banana tree can be chopped up and cooked with salt and other vegetables to give people minerals necessary for building up their immunity again. The ladies served this concoction to us, with casava chapattis. We were rather dubious after the glue-like porridge we were served a week ago. But it was delicious! A welcome break from the masses of rice that we have been eating :).

We then saw the way that people in these self-help groups have been trained to make and sell ropes. They start off by splitting the inside of some long green leaves that they grow, to reveal white threads a bit like celery strings. These are then plaited and made into strong rope, which can be sold. James had rather an adventure with this when some ladies who did not speak English laughed and pointed at his plaiting skills!

A very good day, full of inspiring stories, one-on-one conversations and some great pictures of rope-making and banana bud stew! Great to have Imogen and Olivia back in the group and able to see the amazing work of BIDII and meet her wonderful staff. Off to see a community that has been trained to make its own tie-dye cloth tomorrow, will let you know how we get on 🙂

Lala salama

26/10/2009

Yesterday we went to church and it was great. It was an Anglican church and they gave us such a warm welcome. They welcomed us with amazing young kids dancing and singing. The harmonies and voices of the choir were beautiful and it was so good to worship with them. The message was on the key of prayer and how powerful it is in a Christian’s life. The priest was so nice and even they translated the message into English for us. They then proceeded to get some seedlings and each one of us in the group plant trees to remember us being there and that made the experience extra special.

Second week in and we’ve moved onto to a new partner and new challenges.
We are now with UCCS and we went to see a sub-surface dam, visit orphans supported by CBOs in Kitui under UCCS and we’ve also seen how goats may be the answer to many problems for local communities since it provides food, economical leverage and the milk being good for nutrition.

I though that I’d express today’s thoughts by summarising it in a poem I’ve written since being here. They are personal thoughts in a way to express all the different emotions I’ve had since being here.

The first one is called:

Thorn-bushes

Through lush green views in idyllic places, the thorn-bushes grow.
You may wonder why such hurt places itself on unsuspecting eyes.
Look closer for you may find, it may hurt,
One touch cries may be heard.
Through lush green views cracked pavements are found,
A woman’s voice never heard, to be hushed no sound.

A stronger person may find submission is strength
To put pride aside submit with no ends…
Maybe then a whisper is heard,
Sounds of a lullabye lala salama,
To a new born child,
Lala salama sooths the wounds of thorn-bushes grown wild

One of the things I’ve seen in Kenya is thorn-bushes, it’s everywhere and it was the perfect metaphor for some of the issues people face here. I find however thorn-bushes grow sometimes where flowers and green blossom, much like poverty issues always have a sense of hope when partners like BIDII and UCCS are in the midst of the situation. There’s lots more meaning to this poem but I will leave the reader to get a little deeper and look inside for where they find the thorn-bushes grow in what they see.

Julia

Singing in the mountains

23rd October Blog BIDII

Habari friends,

Our time with each BIDII group has always begun in a traditional way. It’s our routine- Jo or Ed (our team leaders) would stand and express on behalf of our group who we are and why we have driven hours to be here. Despite the similarity in what they say each time I never, ever tire of this. What they say reaffirms our purpose for travelling to Kenya. We are there not only to collect stories and learn about the practical workings of Christian Aid’s relationship with BIDII, but to encourage, inspire and be lifted by the actual changes on the ground to people’s lives as a result of the development initiatives BIDII has implemented.

Today we introduced ourselves this way three times. Our day began with a special visit to the district commissioner of Machakos, a Mr. B.N Kinyua, who Margaret said counted himself as one of BIDII’s many friends. Outside his office, we waited a few minutes to see him, and as we did, watched the sky as a few drops of rain fell (Yumna actually got out her rain jacket if I remember correctly) but she put it away soon after. A few of the locals I have spoken to have expressed their deep sorrow at lack of rain, but they persevere and wait patiently, hoping their seeds will be soaked. Having been invited in we introduced ourselves and he gave us a condensed history of his job role and the historical capacities of Machakos. He urged us to take back with us a positive view of Kenyan life.

Having left his office we got back on our lilac bus (on which we probably have spent more time on than in hotels) and headed on the longest journey yet up into the hills and most rural areas to the Kathiani district of Machakos. The landscape was a stunning mass of tiered terracotta slopes descending into valleys smattered with the occasional clump of greenery or a small group of shops and villages on the way. We were met by a large group of ladies who began singing lively rhythmic welcoming songs. They danced us all the way up the steep slope that led to their small farm land and meeting place. After showing us their small plot, they explained that they collected water from the stream running at the bottom of the slope. Mother Kikuyu (a trustee of the group who led most of the singing, and cheekily posed for photos) gestured to a mostly dried up river bed. It left me speechless. My spirits were, however lifted when Muowamirthala, meaning “peace of the village”, introduced themselves in their traditional way- with 2 songs. This Savings and Loans group started with 28 members in March of this year and have grown to 34 members, three of whom are men. They are all windows and widowers. Consistently, BIDII trains the group secretaries and senior members to request a 20 shilling payment from each member each week to ensure there is a stable amount to allow members to borrow significant amounts at an interest rate of 10% to start businesses (as one women told us she had done) or to make sure there is enough food on the table. Any extra money goes into paying school fees for the orphans of the district. One member told us “You will not find an orphan now in our area who does not go to school” Not only does this group loan money and carry out benevolent tasks such as this but they farm their small plot of land, weave beautiful baskets, make clay pots and weave rope from a local plant to sell at market which in turn makes the small 20 shillings a week multiply. The secretary when asked reported an exact figure of 16,450 shillings which the group held to that day. You could say that this group truly covers all the bases for supporting each other and building better lives for themselves because BIDII has shown them a way out of poverty TOGETHER. Another woman shared “I do not feel like a widower any more, and I thank God for what BIDII has done every day” If that is not a motivation for our work with Christian Aid, then nothing is. John Muinde, another trustee of Muowamirthala expressed to us a desire for growth “We want BIDII to push us further so we can reach our goals” This particular group of all the groups I experienced with BIDII, although new, seemed very capable of this. Their strong spirit could be felt in the air. After our formal discussions of them we broke into conversation amongst one another, as the ladies shared glass bottles of soda with us and slices of bread. I wanted to talk to Veronica Mutua, a facilitator of the group, about how the ladies stories would be transformed into materials which our supporters could connect with. Juliana from BIDII translated from English to Kikambi as I showed materials like Christian Aid news, 21st Century parables… I gathered a large crowd of women around me as I knelt on my scarf as they did when speaking whilst they set out chairs for their guests. I had this overwhelming urge to convey that us Muzungus were not just leaving after a couple of hours with them and that their stories will be taken back and shared and lived on. With more traditional song and occasional outbreaks of dance, demonstrations of rope making and crowds of children gathering, it was time to say Asante and goodbye. Presenting us with an over generous basket of fruit as presents, we shared them amongst the women, hoping not to offend, but preferring that they did not give us a whole weeks worth of food. They had given us enough joy already. Reluctant to let us go, they sang us down to the bus. Many of us will remember Mother Kikuyu’s enthusiastic parting hand slap of farewell. Ouch.

Marian Doko, who was the chairlady responsible for 9 of these SLA community groups, joined us on our relatively short journey to the next group. These ladies, slightly smaller in number but three years older than the last have now raised 47,000 through the membership fees, planting of tree nurseries and through the tie and dye that BIDII trained them to make. The group also support orphans and vulnerable children, as well as giving loans to members. Some of us bought tie died cloths for 250 shillings each. They were beautiful not only because of how they had been made, with vibrant colours, but because they were made with a significant purpose. The group also support orphans and vulnerable children, as well as giving loans to members. As with everywhere we visited, we tended to gather crowds of, particularly children, curious onlookers. In this sense I hope the community realise that across the world people are caring for these members, and that they are important and cherished for their work, and that to eradicate poverty you must come together like these groups have done. Today was encouraging and inspiring for me, and is expressed well by what Marian said about BIDII “God saw us through you. Today we are full. We are OK. We are strong”

Lucy

Living positively

22 October2009

Our second day with BIDII was a day I think none of us will forget. To attempt to convey adequately our experiences is challenging to say the least!

We visited two different savings and loans groups, each of the groups are united by the fact that most, if not all of their members are “living positively”, that is living with HIV. Some of the people we met are widows or widowers, some are HIV+, and some had lost children. All are poor, and many are all of these.

HIV is a massive issue that affects millions of Kenyans. Yet the stigma that surrounds HIV is so vicious and taboo, many people are afraid to seek the help they need to get healthy and learn how to “live positively”. People who are HIV+ are treated as outsiders by their community; they are striped of their rights and are left with very few ways to make enough money to look after their families. They are often too sick to do the kinds of jobs that are available to them. Consequently, a lot of people will try to hide their HIV status or never find out, that is why meeting the two groups really taught me about courage.

The first group we met in the morning, in a Church building. This particular Church and the local village have come a long way in battling with issues of HIV stigma. Through the work of BIDII, the SLA and the community has learnt that HIV is not a moral issue but a medical issue. The SLA group was able to unite together around the issue of HIV and support each other, emotionally, spiritually, financially and physically, in every way. BIDII empowered them to challenge the things they don’t like in their world and to work together to be successful.

Because of the hard work of the group members and BIDII, the stigma surrounding HIV within their community has been dramatically reduced. They are being treated with dignity and respect. They have been able to start up their own small businesses and consequently better their own lives. The village has accepted them into the community, and they are able to “live positively”.

The second group was a lot newer and had not yet reached the same goals as the first group. Within their local villages and communities, HIV stigma is still very high. However, the second SLA still had the courage to unite together and declare their HIV status. They still face prejudices against them from their community, but they face them together. They too have been able to start up their own small businesses through the savings and loans scheme, and are able to take small steps in improving the quality of their lives. But they have a lot more work to do before they can reach the success of the first SLA we met. They are ready and willing to do the work and take confidence in the success of the groups that have gone before them.

It was the real life stories and insights into people’s lives that really made this day special. My heart went out to the people we met today; their stories helped me to see the work that I do can help change lives. It has encouraged me to work even harder to help in any way I can when I return to the UK.

Mel

Mukaa!

Today we left the Gracia Gardens hotel in Waiyaika (God i’m gonna miss those pancakes! and of course the wonderful staff!) to embark on our field projects, we split up into our two groups and then drove to Machakos where we met the Christian Aid partner UCCS (Ukamba Christian Community Service). We were met by a beautiful, bubbly woman called Esther who gave us a run down of the work they do. After living it up in hotel accomodation i was finally given the moment to go a bit alfresco and catch a bit of breeze as i made use of a non-traditional toilet! hmmm good times!

We headed off to the Mukaa project which was an hours drive away and we were immediately met by a group of women in colourful traditional cloth, with pink feather bands on their arms, whistles round the necks and men playing bongo drums, they were all singing and dancing to welcome us! it was truly such an amazing and humbling experience. We then proceeded with introductions and went off to see the various projects they had set up with UCCS’ support such as: sand dams, water dams, goat upgrading and mango farms. The work their doing is AMAZING! and they have such a sense of pride and ownership for the things that they’ve done, i was just sooooo inspired. I got chatting with quite a few of the local people. One womans story in particular stood out to me, her name is Ellen Kyalo and she’s 30 year’s old with 2 children. When i asked where her husband was she said ‘ He’s working in Nairobi because the land is too dry here, so if he stays here we dont eat, so we’ll just die’. She is just one of many women i spoke to who have been seperated from their husbands because of the drought. It just goes to show the far reaching consequences that lack of water is having.

God Bless,

Abigail Okunlola.x

    

Lita Youth Group. And gravity…

The day began gently for group 2, with a trip to church for some  or a sunday morning  stroll for others, and proved to be a nice rest after some long days! In the afternoon we visited Lita youth and kids club, a community based care organisation for orphans and vulnerable children, run by Bidii. The centre is a place the children can get together to play (lots of football it seems!) and also attend sessions on things like life skills, sex education, HIV/AIDS awareness,  achieving goals and aspirations, and dealing with being an orphan.  Whilst we were there they were learning how to make effective desicions using a simple “desicion mountain” model, and were discussing different scenarios and difficult desicions they may be faced with around the subject of sex, sexual pressure and the use of preventative measures. The young people knew it all and were not embarressed or shy to talk about sex and condoms, a subject that can still be very taboo in Africa. We were all deeply impressed by their confidence, honesty and maturity. They all said that whilst abstinence is the ideal, “we are all only human and so if you are going to have sex then use a condom!” so showing the really mature and practical way that biddi and the young people are keeping the core christian values of the organisation and community, but in a very practical way. A girl called Mary then stood up a sang for us, completly accapela and with complete confidence, and it was beautiful! Mary had lost both her parents and a twin brother, and like most of the orphans, had bearly had the esteem to talk at all when the youth group started and would cry all the time. Now she was a mature and confident young women who was chatting to us like she had known us forever!

She said to us  “I am not the only orphan and I wont be the last, so you must just be strong and do your best in life, and biddi has helped me to do that”. 

On the bus on the way home we were told by Johnson that we were going to a place with no gravity.  Er right…  We were all slightly perplexed, however one thing we have learnt on this trip is that, when abourd “lucky bertha”  the best thing to do is to sit back and just go with the flow as you never  can know where you will end up – usuallly in a dusty field with 5 hours of your life missing. This time is was on an inclining hilside road (not an optical illusion – definatly inclining) with a rather wierd vibe. I’m not in the least bit superstitious but I did have to admit that standing there I did feel a bit odd! We poured some water on the tarmac and I watched with my own eyes as the water flowed uphill. Yes UPHILL!!!!

But then thats Kenya. Big smiles and some real surprises 🙂

Lizzie

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