We travelled to the family home of our host Edward and met a widow who was actually his carer when he was a child, as he himself is an orphan. She had been helped with a new roof. Most of the buildings in this area are made from mud. Posts are driven into the ground and sticks are weaved between, then mud from the ground surrounding is mixed with water and added to the sticks. A grass roof is then added.
As you can imagine, the rooves don’t last too long before they need repairing.

Granted a lot of the ladies I have met here are too old or frail or sick to repair their own rooves, but even for those that might be physically able, it’s not within the culture to do this and often there is no other help from the people around them. Added to this the grass, which used to be readily available, is no longer being grown. Almost all agricultural land is being used to grow things like maize, bananas, sugarcane and vegetables. It’s not even available to buy in all areas and the transportation is more expensive than the grass itself. The modern replacement for the roofs is corrugated iron sheets which are relatively expensive, but can last for several years and have been adopted by almost all that can afford.
Unfortunately many of the widows cannot afford them and many have very badly leaking rooves. The rain then seeps down into the mud and the house will eventually fall.

Mama’s house now has the iron sheet roofing and she is much more comfortable and things are kept dry at home. We also met one of the youths who has been trained in keeping
chickens. He started with 2 chickens and now has lots of them. He has learned how they need to be kept to breed and successfully hatch chicks. There were several ages of chicks running around. He was even building a new chicken coop on the side of his house because his business was growing so successfully. These are the kind of things the organization targets directly and it is most definitely showing success.

We then went to meet a group, a youth group, that is going to provide vocational training to the youth of the area. The chicken-keeping project is ran from here and we saw a latrine built under the scheme earlier in the day. We met in their office with around 10 young people and were told about what they are doing and, of course, what they needed funding for. The main concern was that they were being kicked out of the office in December. They already had some land but needed several thousand Kenyan shillings to start a centre on it. They also told us they were lacking skills but we established that several of the youths had built their own homes on their family land so pointed out to them they were actually a lot more skilled than most.
We asked, “why not build your own office on the land you already own?”
There were some half hearted excuses, like “we need a brick and mortar building”.
“Why?” we asked .. No answer.
Another cultural problem is that each man will build his own house differently and they couldn’t possibly work together so we laid the challenge, “build your own office, we will work with you too!”

The challenge was taken and we were told “next time you come back to Kenya you may see”…….
So part 2 of the challenge was “build it by next week”!
Silence for a few seconds and then “it’s possible”

So, next Saturday, the 15th August, Alec, Edward, Moses and I, and whoever else we can rope in, will all pull together to build this office in a day. We are providing the iron sheet as there is literally no funding available. Alec and I have a bet since Alec has the construction knowledge but I have faith in this community and believe that if they will just start working together, anything can be achieved.

We left the group in high spirits and tracked off to meet the widows of this region, they were meeting together at one of the widows houses. A very old lady stood up and asked; “Why are you so different to me? Why are your people succeeding and mine not?” she asked.

After seeing many things and having many late night discussions, a big influence on things not moving forward in this region are the cultural restraints;
– women not being allowed to do things for them selves
– others not being able to help for fear of back luck or death
– the beliefs that God will somehow bring them everything they pray for.

I can really only hope that people will soon start to believe hard work and working together can only improve things.

[Deb Cartwright, Yala]

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