Some Thoughts

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I have been home from Kenya for a week. I am still working on getting back on the correct clock while being thrown into full holiday mode.

A friend told me that it will take some time to process all that I have seen, heard and experienced during my time in Kenya.

At this time, what I do know is this:

I have seen the problems first hand. The lack of food and access to water and sanitary conditions. The loss of livestock due to drought. I have seen the reasons why some of the things we take for granted and think of as basic necessities, are really not basic necessities for most people in this region of Kenya.

I have seen and participated in the distributions of reusable menstrual pad kits, underwear and school supplies. I have heard first hand the deep appreciation for these items that are completely unaffordable for them. I have listened to their struggles with managing their menstrual cycles and felt their pain.

I have spent time with our sponsored students and some of their family members. I have heard first hand how much this opportunity means to all of them. I received letters, handshakes, hugs, beaded jewelry and even saw tears of appreciation for what The KURA Project is doing for them and their family members. I learned it is not just one person benefiting from this education, it is the entire family.

The mission of The KURA Project is to improve literacy in the Laisamis District of Marsabit County in northern Kenya. By increasing school attendance, especially for female students in primary schools, providing the basic materials needed to learn, and sponsoring students through secondary school, The KURA Project seeks to advance the cause of education and future opportunity for this underserved population.
I believe deeply in The KURA Project’s mission. Education is the way and once you have it, no one can take it from you.

I would like to thank The KURA Project board of directors, our supporters and sponsors for their belief in our mission and for the encouragement and love I felt while I was away. We are doing good work. With your help we can continue to keep students in school and get them the education they need to live a happy, healthy and productive life.

One hundred percent of the money we receive goes directly to the purchase of reusable menstrual kits, underwear and school supplies. We have no administrative fees as our work is done on a volunteer basis. Individual sponsors pay for the school fees we provide for our students. The students selected to receive sponsorships are the individuals who have the best results on their KCPE exam and come from the poorest families in the region.

I would like to leave you with this African proverb:

“If you want to go fast, walk alone. If you want to go far walk together.”

Lets walk together and make a difference in northern Kenya.

Hadi wakati mwingine

Caroline

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Caroline is a product of the Maasai Girls Education Fund. Through the dedicated leadership of founder, Barbara Lee Shaw and sponsors, Karen and Jim Rowley from Philadelphia, PA, Caroline earned a degree in nursing from Kenya Methodist University. She is a vocal advocate for the education of girls, protection against early marriage and FGM. She is currently the project coordinator for a community based organization(CBO) in charge of 7 villages in and around Loitioktok, Kenya. Their mission is to provide vaccinations for children, family planning workshops and education surrounding water and sanitation issues. Caroline and her team are in the field daily providing care along with collecting data on the people living in these villages. The needs are basic. For example, the village we visited today has no water and must be transported by hand from quite a distance away. Bathroom facilities are non existent.

Since beginning the vaccination program there is evidence of progress. They have seen a definite reduction in diseases such as measles, TB, tetanus, whooping cough(pertussis), pneumococcal, hepatitis B and rubella in all seven villages she services.

Caroline identifies HIV as the deadliest disease in this region and beyond. She shares with me the fact that Maasai men refuse to wear condoms. Taking multiple wives and partners is a common occurrence. Until education takes hold and creates a change in mindset and behavior, this will remain a problem.

Caroline enjoys her work and is dedicated to her dream of coming to the United States to receive an advanced degree in public health and social policies. She plans to return to Kenya with this education to better the lives of her people. This determined, hardworking and talented young woman has so much to offer her people and the world. It is my honor to call her my friend.

Hadi wakati mwingine

Loitokitok

 

I arrive at Caroline and Jacob’s Boma which lies in a rural section of Loitotok, in Kajiado County, Kenya. Loitoktok borders the country of Tanzania and is located at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro. The view of the mountain from the Boma is breathtaking. Caroline and Jacob are Maasai and have been married for one year. They have an adorable eight month old daughter, Tinken, named for Jacob’s mother who also lives at the Boma with them.

I learn I have set a record of sorts for being the first Mazungu(this is not a derogatory name- just what they call white people) to ever to step foot in this Boma. Caroline tells me it is so rare for a person like me to come to this area. She says it is a great honor to have a Mazungu stay at their home. The three days I am here curious family members stop by to see me for themselves. They usually arrive in late afternoon when they take tea together before the goats arrive back at the Bomas. Conversing is difficult as the only language spoken amongst the adults is Maasai. I had to rely on Caroline and Jacob to translate. Everyone I had contact with treated me with kindness and respect.

Caroline and Jacob live with Jacob’s mother, Tinken, who is the first wife of four. Her husband passed away leaving herself and the three other co wives, widows. Her husband left 80 acres of land to divide up amongst the son’s from each of his wives. In this culture it is forbidden for women to inherit or own land. The family survives on farming and live stock herding. Jacob owns 28 cows. He tells me it is bad luck to mention how many cows have been lost during the drought but he shares with me it was 7 this year. The family owns 250 goats. Farming consists of growing beans which Jacob tells me is the best plant for drought conditions. They use or sell the beans which when dried last up to five years.

Jacob is very proud to welcome me to the home he built for Caroline and of the two acres of land he owns and cultivates. Two months ago a solar system was added so light is now available. Caroline tells me this is the only Boma in the area with light. There is no running water but a rain gathering system exists so they do not have to travel long distances for water. All the cooking is done on an open fire. The Boma consists of the main home, a slaughter/cook house, chicken coup, outdoor toilet facilities, and fenced in area for livestock.

Caroline and Jacob are both educated and also have jobs outside the Boma. Jacob’s mother manages the Boma on a day to day basis and rarely leaves(read more about Tinken in an upcoming blog post).

This community of extended families work hard and take care of one another. The organized manner of each day reminds me of the smoothness of a well oiled machine.
Hadi wakati mwingine

A Fond Farewell

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It is with a heavy heart I leave Nanyuki and my Kenyan family after a very productive trip to northern Kenya. I have learned so much and gained great insight into the lives of the people in Marsabit County.

Thank you Kura, Jennifer, Gumathi, Sarah, Harrison, Jessica and Sokotey for making me feel a part of your family and giving me the experience of a lifetime.

The final leg of my journey in Kenya takes me to the home of Caroline Senteu Kashinin. Caroline is a remarkable Maasai woman who has invited me to her home in Loitotok, Kenya. Loitotok borders Tanzania and lies at the base of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Stay tuned…

Hadi wakati mwingine