This programme is in the north of Meru District in the Nyambene Hills with stunning ‘moonscape’ views. It is an area of poverty and deprivation, although the owners of large miraa plantations who export this drug to Somalia and elsewhere (also used to be to the UK, but it has now been banned!), are very wealthy. Many of the local men, previous owners of the plantations, who sold them to (mostly) Somalis for a quick profit, chew the drug which is also used by long-distance lorry drivers to keep themselves awake. When taken with alcohol the men often become violent, there are fights in the town, and inevitably the wives and children suffer. There is a higher ratio of bars per capita, selling both legal and illegal brews, than anywhere else in Kenya!
There are many AIDS widows who are living with HIV, and about 1,600 orphans living in the area. As a result there are also many child-headed households. The project has a comprehensive programme of care which seems to address all facets of the needs of these children, supporting them and enabling self-sufficiency and mutual support through groups which are led by the young people themselves with guidance from excellent community workers.
Food, such as maize and beans, is provided to the families monthly. The children are educated at local schools and nurseries, and if they do well, at secondary schools and further. Those who are not academic are counselled and given the opportunity to do a vocational course and then equipped to start small businesses – again with support.
This huge programme of holistic care is supported by many donors and organisations. Karibuni’s support is a small percentage – but as we all know, every little helps, and in Kenya a little goes a very long way.