Friday, March 25, 2011

Guruguru, Kenya; the reason I was willing to go back.

The children we meet along the way are unfailingly polite and welcoming as are their families.  These are preschoolers in a program Bishop Samuel's church provides in Mariakani.  They sang a welcome song for us, and each one came and shook hands politely.  It's a great work for these kids by the church community.

Click on the photos for a larger view.
Bishop Samuel and I drove up to Guruguru today to see the area and incidentally, to meet the children you helped back to school.  It's a long way down a terrible road, of course.  Fortunately, we know Samuel and he's dedicated to serving the people there, so we have an in.

Guruguru used to be a bustling market center.  Back in the 70's when the area was fertile, folks gathered there to sell their fruit, vegetables, and milk.  They could raise pretty much anything in those days, even pineapples. Since the famine around 1980, the area has declined, the locals tell me.
Vendors here in the photo are all are from up country as is the produce since so little is produced locally.  Families in Guruguru struggle to feed their children, subsisting mostly on maize meal (corn meal, polenta) as their primary staple.  The price for food has doubled in the last year (reported July '11 by the World Bank).
Deforestation, blamed on locals who cut the trees to make charcoal, has cleared out all the forests and left the land generally infertile with little vegetation, no agriculture to speak of, and only a few cattle and goats.  The nearest forest is now 30 km away by bicycle path.

They have a brackish well (salt water) in the town which a German group tried to equip with purification equipment.  They spent  about half a million on the project before political difficulties killed it.  It was abandoned, leaving non-functional equipment in the field.  Folks walk long distances to unreliable pools.  All the water is muddy right now; we're waiting for the rainy season.

Our kids are in the elementary school in the distance; it's a government-run school, built by donations from foreign friends.  Near foreground, left, the framework for a hut stands waiting for mud to be applied to the walls.

We arrived in time for the kid's mid-day break.  The bishop had asked them to come meet us at an adjacent village.  Ages spanned preschool to 17.  This is Wakili in his new school uniform; serious for the photo, of course.  He was the first to run home to welcome us and say thank you.  Nice fellow; ten year-old.  Each one said hello politely and shook hands with Samuel and me, smiling tentatively at the new guy (but not for the camera).  They looked great in their (mostly) new uniforms.  Shoes are next for the ones that need them, plus a continuation of their required tuition fees for the next term.
We'd brought orange juice and treats for the kids to celebrate their return to school.  Girls are in skirts, but their short hair is just like the boys.  I asked them all if school was good; they all lit up at once with smiles and said yes, yes, it's good, it's good!  The school is overcrowded and the teachers are overworked, but it's what's available.
The photo here is of a grandmother and several family members.  There are 10 kids in her family that can't go to school; we're adding them to the 20 we've already supported.  Grandma is so grateful.  I only saw one father in evidence here, but it was midday so perhaps they're out.  Nice folks, though; received us warmly.

We took a quick look at the 2 acre plot the village has given Bishop Samuel for a church/community center; it's right in the middle of things and should serve well.


This is the local dispensary; there's only one nurse and no doctors.  They wait in line for hours as you can see here, hoping for something that will help a bit.  The nearest hospital is an hour or more away, depending on the weather.

By the way, the kid's tuition is about $1.50/month.  That and a uniform are too much for many families here.  It's an extraordinarily difficult life.
Reality shock sinks in slowly.