Mukuru kwa Njenga comes calling

Sunny, yet so chilly. Nairobi.

In mid-July, World Concern launched The Nairobi Slum Development Programme at Mukuru Kwa Njenga in Embakasi. Tens of representatives from 5 youth groups who are impatient to see positive change attended.World_Concern_Kenya_Mukuru_Kwa_Njenga

The launch was for an multi-sectoral programme in which World Concern is partnering with Commons Agencies, to build capacity in the slums. Youth who had taken part in an earlier Common Agencies’ training programme on self awareness and empowerment dubbed ‘Pepeta Initiative,’ described how it had impacted them:

“When we started out, we were earning about Ksh 5, 000 per month. The 35 of us would share it among ourselves. Now we earn up to Ksh 80,000,” said Alex Kyalo, Chairperson of Vijana Wa Neema self help group.

Together with partners, World Concern will offer Biblically-based life-skills training, Leadership development, Group management, Entrepreneurship, Mentoring, Apprenticeship as well as Addiction and family counseling. We will also empower churches to become agents of reconciliation in their own communities.

In his speech, Kenya Country Director Harun Mutuma emphasized that real transformation comes from Christ, terming that as a distinct area of focus for World Concern’s programme. The programme was then commissioned by Pastor Christopher Maina of LifeSpring Chapel-  Embakasi.

Some photos from the launch, below.

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The music stopped playing – Garissa University Attack

On Kenya’s darkest Thursday, 147 bright young men and women had their lives stolen in cruel fashion. It’s 8 days since. Each day dragging on for months – months of pain, rage and an unending nightmare that can never be eloquently expressed.

Photo credit | @MaudJullien
Photo credit | @MaudJullien

Yet it feels like yesterday.

Gunmen stormed into a Christian Union group gathered at Garissa University for early morning prayers, shooting them, and then proceeded to murder students in the University’s dormitories. They even forced some to phone their parents goodbye before ending their lives.

Isaac Bushen Kosgei was one whose lives was cut short. Reports say he loved his music. “He always wore his headphones, even when asleep. He loved country music and it is likely that he did not hear the gunshots. He died, probably with music playing.”

He and his roommates often discussed their plans, with Mr. Kosgei saying he would join the music industry while the rest planned to teach Geography and Business Studies after graduating.

Such young, energetic souls gone.

We are numb with pain.

Photo credit | Capital FM Kenya
Photo credit | Capital FM Kenya

Not sure how exactly to handle this, groups are keeping vigil  in memory of the departed; we are telling their stories; we are trying to find strength together. Artists too are painting their sadness.

Credit | Daks Lineker
Credit | Daks Lineker on Facebook
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Credit | Ben Omoke & Sam Kihanya

Really, our hearts are heavy with grief. Every one of the students is a precious life in God’s eyes. Please pray for their families and for the injured victims – who just days ago could walk, but now have to use wheel chairs.

00291923-fe291ca8a969a19334a40c0d6c746e64-arc495x324-w495-us1Pray for peace, safety, and protection over this beautiful country.

Second chance for ‘Solar Mamas’

I recently met four grandmothers who returned from India with skills in fabrication, installation, repair and maintenance of solar lighting systems after a six month hands-on training facilitated by World Concern.

Seeing them made my trip one of the most memorable.

A grant from UNDP has given these solar mamas, as they are fondly called, a second chance to light homes in Narok.

Kirotiana Kibubuk Narok

Through World Concern’s partnership with UNDP, 65 year old Kirotiana Kibubuk is assisting to light up to 300 homes with bright LED lights which have USB power outlet for radio and phone charging.

The project which begun in February 2015 sees Kirotiana receiving a commission for each house she powers. Her 30 year old Paul is excited, especially when he sees her in her element. “The way I see her working, she knows a lot! She tells me names of complex things, even though she never stepped into a nursery classroom,” he says laughing.

Kirotiana is humbled to assist in lighting up her community. “This is something that God has brought . . .”

We had a tête-à-tête with the mother of eight. Below:

1. How did you feel the first time you went to make an installation?
I was a bit scared and worried that I might have forgotten some things.

 2. How many houses have you installed so far?
Seven houses.

 3. How do you feel about your skills now?
I am very confident. I even know how to re-inforce a solar panel on top of a mud house so it doesn’t cave in together with the roof, when rain falls.

4. What are the must-haves in your tool kit when getting ready for an installation?
A pair of pliers, hammer, screws, pins and a wire.

 5. While handling a role predominantly reserved for men do you feel discriminated against or looked down upon be­cause you’re a woman?
Many who see me working say that I’m a hard worker, but I can secretly see that they wish it would have been them doing this.

 6. In your view, how will solar assist Enoonkoijiok commu­nity?
First, houses will be brighter. When a house is dark, there is a potential of having snakes hiding. With solar lights, one is able to see inside clearly.

Solar light in Narok
Beneficiaries receive last minute instructions during purchase, on maintenance of solar sets

Also having a security light will help keep wild animals at bay. The main problem we’ve had in the past is that hyenas have been eating our sheep. They fear light and can’t come here now.

7. How did an experience in a new country change your world view?
I observed that people in India are way ahead. I would wish to implement some of those things I saw there, but they require money. I pray that by God’s grace I can do some of those things one day.

8. Is there anything that especially struck you during the visit?
Women are in every field. . . be it construction, fabrication, or even tailoring.
Again, they are not wealthy, but they use many machines to do their work.

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Due to remoteness of some areas in Narok, residents lack access to electricity power grid. World Concern is filling market gaps by providing bright four-lantern system sets at subsidized price and at a one-time cost, with 2 year warranty support.

The uniqueness of the project is in empowering not only the solar beneficiary but also helping to equip Solar Mamas like Kirotiana. “The money goes back to the same local economy. It’s more of a community project than business,” says Narok Program Officer John Leyian.

Reducing the use of diesel and kerosene for lighting has also positively impacted on health besides making it easier for school-going children to study.

Praying through transitions

Every year, World Concern staff members across the world dedicate a day or two in prayer. In Kenya, we felt led to pray for our partners, and then meditated on a sermon from Mark 4:35-41 titled Fixing our eyes on Jesus during transitions.

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It will interest you because transitions are part of your life and mine, each day.

The take-aways:

  • There is a call to move to the other side for a new experience
  • Transitions are difficult
  • Storms in life lead to a deeper understanding of Christ

“God is calling us to make adjustments not for ourselves but for Him. He will be with us, and we’ll come out stronger on the other side,” said Africa Regional Director, Peter Macharia, while giving the message.

Peter Macharia“When we fix our eyes on Christ and not on the storm, we are able to handle it,” he said.

Praying for Partners
As the day closed, we felt convicted to pray for the churches that have stood with us.

We clasped our hands on top of tiny pieces of paper, each with a name of a church partner and prayed. Individual members of staff then picked one piece each, at random for a church they will be praying for.

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We feel perhaps, that the best way to thank these churches is to pray for them and use the resources they have bestowed on us as intended.

Thank you!
Thank you!

We’re grateful to each of our partners. We pray that God may refresh you, heal and provide for you. Thank you for providing tools that empower thousands of our beneficiary partners in Kenya, Chad, Uganda, South Sudan and Somaliland to lead full and productive lives!

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

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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
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Our nutrition is improved due to well maintained school garden
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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.

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.

Anne_Turgut_World_Concern_ ASCA

“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