Group unlocks diverse income for Anne

8 months ago, Anne Turgut joined an Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) group that had settled on a weekly contribution of Ksh 200 ($2), but she didn’t have enough to even make a first contribution.

Quick thinking saved her as she quickly offloaded bananas, enroute to the market, to group members therefore raising required monies, plus some extra. Since then she hasn’t looked back.

Through ASCAs, World Concern has provided  practical financial springboard to residents in Narok, Kenya. In the program, capital generated by members remains under their ownership and control, with World Concern providing training and facilitation in business growth.

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“When I joined the ASCA (Hekima Self Help Group), I thought I was too old, but now my mind has become renewed. I have acquired new strength,” she said, “my problem was not that I was not getting money, but that I didn’t know how to manage it.”

The 58 year old said that she learnt how to save money upon joining Hekima, which was something completely foreign to her.

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“I bought 7 chicken with my first loan of Ksh 2400 ($ 28),” she said. Now that the chicken have multiplied by tens, she waits for their eggs to accumulate before selling and storing the money in her mobile phone (MPESA) account. When it is time to pay the group contribution, Anne withdraws from this kitty.

She said being also able to settle her loan from the chicken venture is something she really thanks God for. “I never knew I could plan my money this way,” she said, adding that the knowledge acquired through World Concern has become ‘a key that has unlocked my other sources of income.’

The mother of 8 now manages yields from family dairy cows and banana farm in the same fashion. For her, farming is no longer a hobby. It has become a business.

Anne_Turgut_World_Concern_ASCA_BananaFrom her second loan of Ksh 3,200 ($38), Anne purchased cabbage seeds which were ready to be transplanted from a nursery a day after this interview.

Heroes – Why We Need More

As we celebrate humanitarian heroes on this year’s World Humanitarian Day (WHD), some heroes who saved an infant’s life, come to mind. They risked the wrath of a community by calling off a day-long mobile health clinic at midday, in order to save the life of a boy who might never know their names

During the fast paced horn of Africa drought, the health situation was dire and together with partners Medical Teams International (MTI), World Concern ran weekly mobile clinics across half a dozen villages.

These villages were located on both sides of the Kenya-Somalia borderline, and reaching them often involved long distance travels on bumpy, risky and sometimes impassable roads. One particularly difficult journey still sits in my mind.

It involved an infant whose life was on the edge. Although treatment had been administered, he got worse. To rescue his life, we’d have to take him to a hospital about 3 hours away.

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IMG_12121Driving on top speed was crucial, but bumps on the rough terrain compromised an intravenous drip running from the ceiling of the car to his veins. This was his lifeline.

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We winced at each bump on the road, and agonized watching his mother desperately trying to keep him still. He had only a few hours to live, the medics warned, and the possibility of losing a precious child, right before our eyes was disturbing.

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Being largely remote, villagers had either walked or been carried for long distances in order to arrive for the weekly mobile clinic but with their situations stabler, these medics gambled on helping save his life.

Fortunately, relief came at some point in the journey when he finally became strong enough to bite something. He smiled.  Photo credit | Ashley Johansen
Fortunately, relief came at some point in the journey when he finally became strong enough to bite something. He smiled.

It paid off as the boy eventually recovered.  He might never know, but some heroes helped save his life.

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Andrew, Bruce, Ashley and Bonnie pose

On this year’s World Humanitarian Day, I toast to you!

The world needs more heroes.

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Photo credit – Ashley Johansen

 

 

 

Through the eyes of a writer

I am a communicator. I enjoy telling stories.

Sometimes I get to stare into the souls of people I talk to, when they let me; and each time I revisit a community, our connections rekindle again, no matter our language barriers.

Visiting Lamu again this time, brought a mixture of anger and confusion.

Anger because Lamu had been one of the most peaceful areas that World Concern operated in. Now the innocence gone, and with it lives of some of our partners.

Confusion because I couldn’t understand how the scale of grisly attacks was rising each day, and yet no one seemed able to contain it by week three when we visited. Frankly, I felt like a jilted lover. By who? I couldn’t tell.

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A section of Mpeketoni shopping centre

Our first day in Mpeketoni was bad; our second day in Hindi was terrible. I remember my colleague saying,

“You should see a psychiatrist.”
“No, YOU should see a psychiatrist!”

We half-joked, knowing well that we badly needed closure.

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Source of income gone

Listening to grim real life stories was sobering, especially seeing powerful emotions roll off adults so effortlessly. Men the age of my father told me that they were afraid. I saw families eat just plain rice as the only day meal, because they had no alternative. In fact many would go for days without a meal (and still are).

A teenager, barely 16 years old shared photos of such gruesome murders to an extent that my colleague stayed awake for nights, yet this boy was living with them in his phone; in his mind.

Although I got to capture stories with some level of success on the first day, the second became extremely difficult.

I had trouble concentrating on any more testimonies of human agony. The photos I took that day were either too exposed or too dark, too out of focus or too poorly composed. After each session I would ask myself, “what is happening with me today?”

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Karisa, where his house stood. Hindi.

Knowing that our resources were limited, and that the people in so much agony were ordinary people like me, was disturbing.

Bneficiaries

We ended our first phase of emergency response hearing the voices of hundreds of grateful vulnerable women and children whom we assisted. But we also left tens of residents trying to raise just bus-ticket monies to flee a place that reminded them daily of unimaginable horrors that had befallen them, yet they couldn’t. Also, many were hungry, and their mental health delicately unsteady.

Today, as I document each story, their voices of anguish and hope urge me on. I write silently hoping that my words sit uncomfortably in the heart of my reader to make them want to do something!

A Case of Instinct

“Am not feeling well today, something is ailing me.”

“What is wrong?”

“I don’t know, am just not happy.”

Although my neighbor offered me supper later on, I declined. At around 8pm when she (my neighbor) was having her meal, an impatient thought came: ‘Where would I hide if someone came to attack us?’ And I was suddenly overcome by fear.

I took a torch and went around the house. When I checked my goat pen, I thought, here is just a perfect spot to hide.

Monkeys congregate

Earlier that day, droves of monkeys had run towards our direction. They were chattering in groups. Loudly. ’What if they are trying to tell us something?’ I remember one of them was especially brave, as he ran right past us, then the rest followed.

But now it all makes sense because not one of them returned to the direction of the forest.

‘Why did I not I run away even after such clear signs?’

‘Don’t let these men shoot me’

As soon as I returned to the house, about 50 rough looking militia emerged. They ordered us to lie down and disassembled our phones.

“Dear God, please do not let these men shoot me.” 

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Miriam Mwenje’s life and those at the compound were spared, but she prays that by the grace of God, she can forget it all. At the time of the interview, she was making rounds in town, exhausted, a large brown leather bag on her shoulder. This has become her routine, before heading to Hindi Prison for the night. She tethers a handful goats here.

Due to lack of privacy at the compound, simple things like finding a place to change her clothes have been difficult.

World Concern has assisted to shield her from cold nights by providing a mat and blanket for her, together with other vulnerable women. 400 of them.

The biggest challenge for residents at the small Hindi village at the moment is in finding sources of income as there are little or no opportunities for labor. We are assisting, and the march is far from over.

3 Lessons on Fatherhood

June 15th,

Probably the most inconvenient night to be born. Instead of fireworks, live ammunition rocked her first few hours on earth. Besides, she was born right inside her young parents’ house, because going to hospital that night would have amounted to suicide.  

Doing their best now, they can hopefully reassure little Christine Mapenzi that it’s not such a bad place after all.

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Little Christine with her mum at Hindi Prison hall

As I interviewed her dad, Charo Safari, it struck me that, although just in his late twenties, he is walking a tight rope  – leading his young family right after the gruesome Mpeketoni Attack . Yet with a calm, confident voice, he detailed his daily routine, never realizing how deep his words sunk. . .

1. A man/ father is punctual

Charo rides his wife and 3 children on a bicycle to Hindi Prison every day. Despite the fact that he spends his day keeping his farm secure from wild animals, he ensures that his family arrives at Hindi Prison by 4:30pm, making them among the first every day.

Their motivation is to book an old cage-like piece of furniture, IMG_2585which serves as a perfect cot for Christine. It not only provides a more comfortable padding at night by keeping her from sleeping on cold cement floor, but it also enables her parents to hang a mosquito net on it. With high ceilings at the prison hall, mosquito nets are difficult to prop up leaving many infants unprotected at night. Charo knows this.

2A father sacrifices

On the day of the interview, Charo had sold a valuable item: his phone, in order to support his family of five because his income streams had run out. “This money (Ksh 1000/ $12) will keep us going for the next two weeks,” he said.

Among his daily expenses include a loaf and packet of milk for Catherine’s dinner and his two sons, aged 3 and 7 years old. “Today I didn’t manage to purchase any milk for her,” he said, fishing out the loaf and margarine from a black polythene bag. Further, he also opts out of supper, preferring to use their coffers sparingly.

 3. A father protects

The reason Charo spends daytime at his farm located at a potentially dangerous zone, about two hours away (on a bicycle) is to guard it against destructive monkeys. He hopes to salvage some during harvest season and put some money back into his pockets again, soon.

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World Concern has partnered with the displaced to provide mats and blankets to assist vulnerable mothers like Catherine (Christine’s mum) at Hindi Prison. Together with their infants, they can now shield themselves from the cold, drizzly nights at the hall.