Children’s Care Centre, Kakamega, Kenya:
This week we are living at the Children’s Care Centre. It is a home for children who were orphaned by AIDS. It was founded by Kenyan Quaker women, with the assistance of New England Quakers. The women had noticed children coming to their church service in search for food, and decided to build an orphanage for them to live in. Later, an organization recognized as a US non-profit organization, Friends of Kakamega, was founded to support this wonderful program. It operates under the care of the international United Society of Friends Women, USFW.
The Care Centre currently houses 35 children aged 6 to 12, with 10 others attending high schools who continue to receive support from the Centre. We visited after school had ended for the Christmas break but before the children had left.
The children are encouraged to maintain relationships with extended family and neighbors so that they will not lose contact with their areas of origin. But their home is really at the Care Centre. The staff members who live full-time with the children work to promote a caring, family-like environment.
|Evan leading a drawing class|
|Conor helping create spinning tops|
|Pastor Ida at the Care Centre|
Kakamega Rain Forest:
|Rain clouds over the Rain Forest|
Esabalu, Amesbury’s sister community in Western Province:
Laura and I are staying at Sherry Otwama’s house, and Conor and Evan are staying with Priscilla and Jacopo Awasa. We are in the small village of Esabalu, sister community to Amesbury. The two homes are very well kept with lovely gardens, flowering trees and tidy lawns. Just outside our bedroom door, two hens are being allowed to hatch their own eggs in the hall. They sit so calmly and quietly, hardly moving. Outside our window is the animal shelter with cows and dogs.
Our hosts are very courteous and kind. We are offered tea and bread whenever we go to see someone new. Everyone we meet in the village is introduced to us, though we will never be able to remember all their names. Our names are hard for them, as are their names for us! Conor has become Collins as this seems to be easier for them. Evan is generally Even but he doesn’t mind. This suits his temper well, actually.
|Literacy class at Esabalu with 75 children|
Sherry is a very motivated community organizer. One of the main organizers for the Sister City project, Amesbury for Africa, she coordinates local action on the water project, tree nursery, the health center, and other work that is being done through the Sister City. Right away, I can tell she is a strong and effective organizer. She watches the boys playing soccer with a critical eye, and she tells me she will not hesitate to correct a child who needs it. Children are raised by the whole community in the traditional way here, (though she tells me that this is changing as teens are more resistant to authority recently). Outside her outhouse she has a “tippy tappy”, a cleverly designed water dispenser for cleaning hands. She is promoting this concept in the village as an important sanitation device. She is very good at bringing resources and people together and volunteers all over the community.
One difference between Kenyan and Moroccan women: in Morocco, the hamman or baths are a place of retreat and relaxation. Women go to the hamman to clean and pamper their bodies, to breathe the warm air of relaxation, and to visit with their friends. I do not see such an option for Kenyan women. Women in Kenya universally work very hard. Up at 5:30 to clean the livestock areas, feed the chickens, sweep out the dirt floors, milk the cows, and prepare breakfast. They work all day taking care of the children, preparing all the meals, bringing water from the spring (5 times a day up the muddy path), sweeping, and farming. The Quaker women attend their conferences and prayer groups in addition to their regular jobs. Walking down the roads we frequently see women representing all the different churches. They stand out in their freshly cleaned matching dresses and head scarves.
At the Care Centre orphanage in Kakamega, the staff members sleep in regular bedrooms and share the facilities with the students. They are available around the clock for the children, only going home for holidays to see their families. It is known that Kenyan women are the ones who do more of the work, and the ones to trust with money as well!
We were able to reduce the load for the few days we were at Esabalu, helping to carry water, do the washing, and harvest the beans for seeds.
Getting up early, I went out to the yard and saw the hibiscus flower blooming. There were no stars since the cloud cover was complete, and no lights anywhere in the village. It was completely dark except for the white hibiscus flowers blooming quietly in the pre-dawn darkness.
Our friends say electricity is coming here eventually. For now, some have a small solar unit to power their cell phones, the only electricity being used. Others go to kiosks for their “charge up” as well as their “top up” (adding minutes). Kerosene lamps are used in the homes, though the orphanage had electricity in every room and running water, being close to the town of Kakamega.
Here one can see the disparity in energy use between parts of the third world and our energy use in North America. With no electricity or running water, almost everything is made by hand. Packaged bread and juice are brought out only for visitors, while our hosts generally purchase unprocessed foods cooked on a charcoal or wood brazier. Night is dark, and day also inside the small houses. The markets are an efficiently designed processor for our discarded goods. T-shirts, shoes, magazines and other items that we all donate are sorted and sold according to a definite system. Within the market, there are separate streets for used clothing, shoes, cooking pots, hardware items, rehabilitated electronics, etc. An entire section is devoted to fresh mangoes. I was in heaven there!