from Nakuru to Migori County in Kenya takes about five hours by matatu. The rains had not yet come to Nakuru in April, evidenced by the billowing clouds of dust that appeared anytime a gust of wind blew across the hardened, cracked fields.
Early Friday morning, two days after arriving in Kenya, my longtime friend and driver Eric Kamau Kuria and I drove away from the noise and heat of Nakuru and up into the highlands west of the Rift Valley. We came to Kericho, where much of Kenya’s tea is grown and harvested, and most of the large-scale tea plantations are found. Clusters of whitewashed, almost adobe-style homes with red roofs lay among wide fields of lush, green tea bushes. “Tea picka’s houses,” said Eric as we drove by. It seemed incongruous to me somehow, these cozy little homes scattered about the landscape, their pastoral appeal belying the wearisome labor that comes with the manual chore of picking bushel upon bushel of tea leaves. I felt grateful as I considered how much I enjoy a good cup of Kenyan tea.
Tea picker’s homes in Kericho – a.k.a. “Tea Country”
Eric and I traveled down through the city of Kisii, where the main industry is sugar production. It was hot and congested, a stark contrast to the acres and acres of verdant tea fields. We were headed for Rongo in Migori County, an area in western Kenya where William Aludo and his family live. EC had hired William to be the Kenyan Program Coordinator in March of 2016, but I had yet to meet him in person. We finally met at the hotel in town where I was to stay for the night, and after a quick stop at a local market for supplies, the three of us drove to his home.
William and his wife Beatrice live off the main road on a small farmstead in Rongo. I marveled at the banana, mango, avocado and papaya trees growing on less than one acre of land that he owns. A garden behind his house boasted of pumpkins (“We even eat the leaves!” William said), kale, spinach, and tomatoes. Every inch of his property was being used for the benefit of others. A large, red brick building that William constructed sits next to his home. His goal is to be able to use it for youth camps and programs. Among his many accomplishments, William has coordinated the implementation of student/youth programs including mentorship, leadership, discipleship and scholarship programs. All of this was done while he was conducting missionary work in his own country of Kenya.
Ruth with John and Synthia, newly EC sponsored students in Rongo
After showing me the grounds surrounding his house, William ushered us inside his home to meet his wife. John and Synthia, two of the students EC is now sponsoring in Migori County were there also. Beatrice was in her tiny kitchen, cooking a meal fit for royalty: ugali, chicken, lamb, spinach and chapatti. Synthia, a quiet but determined 15-year-old girl, brought water, soap and a basin for us to wash with. She is in 10th grade (Form 2) and wants to be a bank manager when she grows up. John, also in 10th grade was just as quiet and very polite. His goal is to become a university lecturer.
The room was big and dark compared with the bright Kenyan sky, but the cool air made it very pleasant. Members of William’s family arrived, his father “Baba Joseph”, two of his brothers and a sister-in-law with a few small children, all found their way into William and Beatrice’s home to meet this American who had come across the ocean to visit them in their country. The conversation was slow but packed with meaning as we made an effort to understand each other. Their hope was that EC would come to Rongo and begin supporting orphaned and vulnerable children in their area. My hope was to find the need that most suited our vision.
It didn’t take long to discover our connection, hindered only by a sudden cloudburst that lasted for at least a half-an-hour. Even this event was taken advantage of as large containers were placed strategically under rain spouts, catching water that would be used for cooking and washing later on. The rain on the roof was deafening, so everyone stood in William’s entryway to watch the downpour. Everyone except John, who zipped himself into his white winter jacket and fell asleep on the couch.
A downpour at William’s home
During this visit I learned that there are two pressing needs in Migori County. One is the need for a lunch program for orphaned primary students. All of the students go home for lunch during the school day, but for many of the orphans and poorer children there is often no food at home. The head teacher (principal) of the Kitere Primary School in Rongo was hoping to partner with EC to provide a daily meal to these students at the school.
The second need is for a primary school in an area called Miruya (Me-ru-ya). There are many children there, but the school that was built for them sits empty. The County government won’t send teachers to this area, possibly because of lack of funding to employ enough Early Childhood Development Education (ECDE) teachers in Migori County. Whatever the reason, the result is that there are children who are not in school.
After returning to the US, the EC Board of Directors held a meeting where we discussed these needs. A motion was passed to approve the funding of an orphan lunch program in Rongo, and a committee was established to begin looking at the particulars of building a primary school in Miruya.
Whenever I travel to Kenya I can feel the prayers and backing of those who support our programs. Going forward, I am excited by the opportunity that lies ahead for all of us in Kenya. My motto used to be: “There is no end to the need”, which always helped me feel better about not being able to address every need that I know exists in our world. Now I find myself saying: “Bring on the need”, because I am confident that the One who created us is faithful to the least of them and will supply enough to meet the needs of those we meet along the way.
If you would like to join us in our efforts to help these children, whether it is to receive a meal or an education, please click here to donate to our programs. As always, asante sana (thank you very much)!