On 6th February sixteen intrepid travellers met at Heathrow Airport with mountains of luggage, many cameras and much fear and trepidation mixed with excitement and expectation! Several had been on safari to Kenya before, a few had been with Karibuni on a work party, but for most it was a first-time experience of visiting what became known as ‘the real Kenya’.
We divided into two groups of eight. One group worked at Tusaidie Watoto, Kibera where they cleaned and painted the whole mud building: Two classrooms, the church – which is used by the Baby Class each day – and three offices. They put up shelves, which was no mean task on mud walls, found the electrics were in a very dangerous state and found an electrician on site to put everything right – a magnificent job. The children were so excited when they returned to the nursery, and the staff were delighted with all the improvements.
The other group stayed with Kenyan families in Embakasi and worked in the project there. The iron sheet classrooms are unbearably hot in the sun, very cold out of it, and rain on the roof is deafening. Our job was to insulate the classrooms by lining the walls with plywood and the roof with soft board. The women painted countless plywood sheets and soft board before they were nailed to battens that the men had fixed to the walls. Although the church is still being built, it does have a roof, so when heavy rains came several weeks earlier than usual, we were able to paint the boards in there. We finally left the classrooms looking very bright and clean and when Joy Murphy visited later, the children spontaneously stood and clapped and sang their thanks!
The groups worked together at the Meru Township Programme, where the dining room was in urgent need of paint and there was no shelter for the children to queue for their lunch each day. The women set to cleaning and painting inside, while the men helped the local people to make a veranda – breaking stones for the foundation of the footpath and erecting an extension to the iron sheet roof to form a shelter. We actually had too many local helpers – all the carers turned up and we had to ask them to come in shifts for the rest of the week. The older youngsters came from their vocational training courses and enthusiastically helped with the painting. One of our group laughingly said, ‘I know we asked them to paint the windows, but we only meant the frames, not the glass!’ However, by the end it was another job well done and the children and staff were very grateful and happy with the improvements.
None of the work in any of the projects could have been completed without the skilled fundis (local artisans) who were our foremen and worked hard with us, the children’s carers, church and management committee members, local ministers and others who came to work with us – and to marvel that we had travelled so far and even at our own expense, to paint and scrub and break stones! ‘How much you must love us when you don’t even know us’ said one group.
For us, what a privilege it is to stay in people’s homes, when they don’t even know us, and have the opportunity to get to know them!
Maua Methodist Hospital AIDS Orphans Programme
During our stay in Meru, the group took a day off from painting and breaking stones, to visit Maua Methodist Hospital and spend some time with both projects there. We were taken to visit the school at Athiru Gaiti which provides education for some of the many orphans in this area. We met the teachers who are themselves orphans and graduates of this holistic care programme run under the umbrella of Maua Methodist Hospital. It was a very moving experience. They also told us about the continuing shortage of water locally and the high cost of buying clean water for the children. We were told of plans for a borehole in the compound – when they have managed to raise the necessary funds. Some of the group later met together and decided to raise the balance of money needed to complete the project.
Amazingly they raised the £3,500 needed within two months. The money has been sent to Maua Methodist Hospital and we are waiting to hear that clean water is available free to the school, and to the local community at a fair price.
One impression from a work party member:
“The students still live in the Kibera slum. It is hard to imagine how they have managed to keep up with their studies when they live in such poverty, in small homes with their families. They show a good deal of motivation and discipline to work at their education. We visited one or two homes during the week. It is difficult to describe what we saw and heard. They have nothing of the home comforts we take for granted, yet these are such warm, friendly and welcoming people who live and work to the best of their abilities.”
Interested? Look out for news of our next work party – possibly February 2015.