Westgate – one year on

Memories of heavy smoke billow-on a year after the Westgate Mall attack in Kenya:

Of how Kenyans, and the world helplessly watched, clueless as to what exactly was going on inside the mall; a swing of relief each time a message of hope came, then another pendulum swing into gloom and tension as the hope faded. We remember the country was paralyzed for days.

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Photo credit | The Daily Nation

The photo above and minimal words would probably have been ideal to commemorate this day, but leafing through ordeals published on Kenya’s dailies today, some accounts beg to be written, especially remarks from parents of Former Bidco Sales & Marketing Director, 38 year old Mitul Shah.

The late Mitul passed on after he offered himself as a hostage to save lives of a group of children at the mall. Only pain can so vividly express pain, his elderly parents know this:

He was the best son any parent could have asked for. He was the life and strength of this family, the glue that held everything together. With my son by my side I had the motivation for life, I could take risks even with my business because I knew that he had my back. Now, I am much weaker and take no joy in anything – Amu Shah (Father)

We know it is a year since Mitul died, and we know we are supposed to feel better, but to us he might as well have died yesterday because the wound is as raw as the day we found out about his death. No pain compares to that of losing a child – Sudha Shah (Mother)

Even deeper scars from families of the 67 lives lost in this ordeal live on, and today, as more chilling stories emerge, we grieve with families, friends who lost loved ones, and the tens of survivors who remain maimed for life. May God comfort and give you strength.

A year on, #Westgate

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5 admirable qualities in a church

The meteoric growth of a church in Narok made me reflect about my own; the more members discussed, the more I drew parallels between them and the early church. Today I want nothing more for my church. . .

Below, members of the African Gospel Church share five things that the Church Community Mobilization Process (CCMP) has done in helping them turn-around. I juxtapose each with scripture from Acts 2:38-47 (NIV):

Reaching out
Acts 2:39: The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off
“The facilitator challenged us to start visiting people who stopped coming to church. We rarely thought about them but we started.  . . For instance, we visited a couple who had been involved in an accident and whose mother had became ill shortly after. They were so happy to see us. After that, they rejoined the church” – Irene Limo.

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“We started constructing a new large church, but we have realized that if we invite (and care about) people as we have been taught, we might need a larger church” – Pst Jonathan Limo

Having joy and compassion
46: they broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts
“We have learnt to take keener notice of our neighbors too, and visit them from time to time. Whenever we do, we purchase something we know they might need for their house” – Irene Limo

45: …selling to give to anyone who has need
“There is a church/ group member who was sickly. Although she recovered, she really desires to own a cow that she can milk some¬day, and maybe even have some extra to sell. We are all contributing monies to purchase one for one her.”

38: Repenting . .
“Patricia (World Concern facilitator) helped us to repent, and be true Christians. After showing us the characteristics of a succeeding and the failing church, I decided that I am not going to be the one to pull the church downwards. . . We’re fighting for this vision” – Chepchirchir Sang.

At the start of the course, participants are asked to reflect on what they want to see in the church in 5 years; what is preventing them from getting there; and what do you need to do in order to get there. Then together with the facilitator, the group analyzes characteristics of a growing church and those of a dying church and members place themselves in one of the grids.

47: . . .the Lord added to their number daily
“There is a woman who is not a believer, but whenever her husband who works far away visits home, he comes to church. After visiting her, she started coming to church every Sunday together with her children” – Irene Limo.
Through the CCMP, members have also realized that small things matter, for instance decorating the church, being punctual, and making the church lively when it’s worship time. This marks new beginnings for them.

The CCMP empowers communities to meet their own issues through better understanding of their contexts. It focuses on the process rather than the product. World Concern has added the CCMP as a component to savings groups training curriculum in Narok. “If you want to initiate meaningful development, start in the church and it will stand,” facilitator Patricia believes, before outlining the whole curriculum off-head during this interview!

Which of these aspects is common in your church?

Through the eyes of children

We asked pupils aged 8-15 years the question: What work has World Concern done around you, has it impacted your life in any way?

Their responses . .

ASCA_Group
Availability of business capital for mum from her loans from savings group

Livestock_upgrading_project

Bigger and improved sheep breed for more milk at home

Solar_lantern_project
Bright solar lantern so I am able to study comfortably at night
New_church
We now have a new church building to worship in
Clearing_compound
Hygiene club lessons in action which have improved our general cleanliness. Also there is a flourishing school garden
School_garden_project
Our nutrition is improved due to well maintained school garden
school _sanitation
Improved water and sanitation in our school due to new toilets and water facilities
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My father’s cows drink from a nearby water pan

Well, what more! 🙂

Conspiring to succeed [Part I]

There are things that make my eyes moist:

  1. An infant’s smile, giggle or mispronunciation of a name they are fond of.
  2. An artist in their full expression
  3. People so tightly knit by their aspirations that they give themselves unreservedly in the quest.  

I met such people, a week ago when I visited Narok – tightly knit and working towards a goal together.

Individuals, one-after-another, could tell what their group goals are, and what they are parting with daily, to achieve. Especially seeing how concerned members are, to each other made my heart tender through and through.

From the Latin “conspirare” – which means “to breathe together,” I would say they are conspiring to succeed.

Through World Concern’s ASCA’s (chamas), groups are facilitated to make financial and social goals and then individuals work towards them, all the while monitoring each other’s progress.

It’s amazing.

One such group (Dupoto Self Help Group), set a financial goal to save Kshs. 300,000 by November, 2014. This saw each member increase their weekly sav­ings from Kshs. 100 to Ksh 315. This September, the group will hold a party to celebrate attaining the Ksh 225,000 milestone.

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Dupoto Self Help Group

Social goal: ‘Each member will replace their house mud-roof with iron sheets by November 2014.’ To do this, member are making individual savings from their businesses.  “At the end of year, we shall visit each other’s houses to see if this has been attained,” said group secretary Regina Koinag.

They have become families, ‘breathing together’ as it were, as members get involved in each other’s lives in a way they had never done before.

Below, a few people I met. . .   

Alice has also expanded business from loan borrowed from group
Expanding her business from a group loan she borrowed, Alice is saving part of the business proceeds to meet her social goal. She has so far purchased 8 iron sheets out of her planned 20

I was ill in December 2013. Since it was on a Monday, I was waiting for my husband to sell a sheep on market day (Wednes­day) in order to raise my transport money to the hospital.
However, the Dupoto group quickly mobilized funds on that very day and I was rushed to hospital. I returned on Tuesday. That action really motivated me, and reignited my commitment to the group – Alice Meegisho

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We voluntari­ly decided to raise separate monies to purchase 20 ewes, one for each member, every week. Yesterday, we completed the round, and 8 members have reported that their sheep have given birth already. We will now decide on whether to purchase calves for each member as the sheep project is now complete – Regina Koinag.

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Jonathan borrowed money for compost, while his wife Irene used her’s to purchase maize seeds. Their harvest is soon calling

I have learnt that poverty diminishes the mind, but where there is hope, the mind expands. World Concern training on saving and businesses management has expanded our minds – Jonathan Limo.

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  • Accumulated Savings and Credit Associations (ASCAs) by World Concern initially consist of around 12 self-selecting members (though will often grow spontaneously to 20-25 members)
  • Our training includes setting up group governance structures, business management and new investment opportunities.
  • ASCAs allow savings to accumulate into an increasingly large pool from which members may draw loans. Eventually, the group may even offer loans to people outside of the group.
  • Interest earned on loans devolves to the group as wealth is created and redistributed within the community.
  • According to Trainer Evans Nyaga, members have been able to settle medical expenses, school fees and even start businesses.