I can hardly believe it has been 12 days since I got on a plane to come to Kenya. It feels both like the days have crawled and sped past at the same time.
Katrina and I are slowly getting to know Kisumu whether we are walking through clouds of rust-colored dirt on the way to OLPS or desperately clinging to the worn, vinyl bench of a tuk-tuk as it weaves dangerously close to a van overflowing with commuters.
We had an incredibly busy week and have had the chance to visit all of the projects Mama Hope is currently funding through OLPS, not just our own. Katrina is here working on the Children’s Rescue Center, so we had the opportunity to see that building and walk through it with contractors as they took the specifics on what still needs to be done to the building. We went out to the Rita Rose Garden to see the garden (more of a farm with its acres of land!) as well as site of the borehole and kiosk that is the starting point for my own water project. There is also a fish pond there with a tortoise in residence.
We also had the opportunity to visit the future sites for the Yes to Hope school garden program, which will be bringing drip-irrigated gardens and environmental education to two of the Kenyan primary schools in the area.
And all of this while still trying desperately to adjust to the nine hour time difference. Whew!
The most amazing part of the last week, however, was meeting the caregivers of the Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) at the site of the future water kiosk.
These caregivers are absolutely inspiring. They are almost all widows of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and many have their own children to care for, and despite the fact that all of them live on less than one US dollar a day they each take care of 2-5 orphans from OLPS. About half of these women live in Chiga and can access the water at the original kiosk, but the other half live in Kadiju, where the only water access they have during the dry season is from a natural dam near the river which they share with livestock and wildlife.
Children are particularly susceptible to waterborne diseases so they requested that a water kiosk be built within their community so they can have access to clean water. In addition to the kiosk, a garden with drip irrigation will be built as a demonstration and learning center for people in the community so everyone can improve their crop yields.
One of the caregivers, Pamela, agreed to have the kiosk and demonstration garden built on her land, which is centrally located in Kadiju. Her property faces the main road, so thanks to her generosity, the kiosk will be easily accessible to any of the 9,000 people in the community.
I cannot explain in words how much the water kiosk means to these women. They work very hard from sun rise to fall, taking care of many children as well as the house, cooking and spending an inordinate amount of time collecting water that is not even clean. I cannot imagine the amount of work they put into each and every day. Just hand washing my own laundry yesterday was enough!
When we visited these women in Kadiju, they insisted on showing us the spot the water kiosk is to be placed. We had been sitting under a tree to avoid the hot afternoon sun, and we stood to make our way across a short field to the corner of Pamela’s property. I stepped off the dirt road into the high grass and the women burst out into song. These steady women who had been straight-faced and quiet as we sat under the tree were all smiling and dancing. One of the women grabbed my hand and insisted I dance with her and they all laughed at my attempt to meet their rhythm. They are truly overjoyed.
We now have the site chosen, so the first thing to be done is to extend the water tower at the site of the borehole up to 27 feet so that the water can be fed via gravity filtration to the site of the new water station without the need for additional electrical equipment. This will minimize the need for replacement parts and reduce the overall cost to expand to further villages, so it is a very important step! One I hope we can start on before the long rains come.
In the next week I will be trying to speak with some of the social workers that cover Kadiju and Kamrongo to learn more about the area as well as the people who live there, but we will see. I am learning patience, if nothing else here. Everything will be done in its own time and no faster. Polepole (slowly, slowly!) as they say.