A Children's birthday party with Nyama Joma

nyamajomaPatrick, a soon to be public prosecutor whom I met in Nairobi 8 years ago when he was still a law student, invited me to his son's birthday. Little Ian turns 4. His grandfather picks me up and drives me the 45 minutes to Nakuru, the next bigger city near Nyahururu. I arrive early and am allowed to assist in the slaughter of the sheep that will be put on the grill to celebrate the day, a real Nyama joma. It is expected that the older boys also help, after all, they need to know how to do this once they’re grown up. Gradually, relatives, friends and neighbours arrive. While the men gather around the grill with some beer, the children play around the newly built house and the women work in the kitchen. After a while, some selected pieces are taken from the fire, chopped, and served as a snack to the children. Little Ian is happy about the ball I brought with me, and he’s sincerely convinced that my name is Mzungu. Mzungu is the Swahili word used to denote a white person; literally it means ‘strange’. Then comes the meal: sheep meat with rice, and carrot and pea vegetables. Of course also Ugali is served. The men remain around the fire and since my first name is increasingly difficult to pronounce at the late hour, I am unceremoniously  renamed to Kamau, a common local name.

Clean up

abwaschOn November 11th was Saint Martin's day. Of course, this is also celebrated every year at St. Martin CSA. The entire staff with relatives, as well as various delegations from partner institutions, other related organizations, and the local government, including one department each from the district prisons for men and women, are invited. There are about 500-600 people exspected. To start, all receive a cup of chai and a piece of pastry, then the large assembly hall is filled. After a series of presentations, the choir and the mass, the visitors are fed. Needless to say that the preparations take time: The day before, all the chairs and benches need to be arrange, tents to set against the possible rain, and the kitchen to be installed, this year the cooking will take place on open fire in the emptied out garage. I am assigned to the vegetable section and release peas from their pods for two hours. Then one hour of cutting up carrots and finally one hour of peeling potatoes. All this with a team of 10-15 people and a lot of laughter.
On the festive day itself, the morning is used for cooking. The food is served by three stations, one each for children, women and men. And then it is time for washing the dishes which lasts for three hours. I'm back on the scene too, this time responsible for the supply of hot water out of the garage kitchen. And after that it's going out to the next bigger city of Nakuru.

Lunch at l'Arche

mittagstischL'Arche pursues a simple principle: the cohabitation of disabled and non-disabled people. It is not about a residence with rotating caretakers or accompanied living, the caretakers live and work around the clock with the mentally disabled adults. Some of the core members, as they are called, need more care, others less. However, it is the goal for all of them to increase their independence and to find ways and means that they can at least partly determine their own lives. In the morning, the core members work in various workshops, such as candle casting, leather work, paper and card board work, as well as in a small bakery and in the kitchen, which prepares the joint lunch. All products are offered for sale in a shop, to locals and tourists. At the end of the week everyone gets a small wage to their free disposal. Some put everything aside, so that  they can give their families something for Christmas. Others buy a perfume or finally a garment that they finally can choose for themselves. All things that were previously denied them.

After the lunch there is a little siesta, followed by various activities, such as gymnastics with dancing, "home economics" (= How do I go shopping on the market, how do I go to a restaurant?) All this is meant to enable some of them to find a small job outside L'Arche and thereby working towards the main goal of the organization: show that the disabled can be well integrated if the community accepts them as they are and gives them a chance.

Tai Chi in the Rehabilitation Centre

taichiI am barely for 24 hours in Nyahururu  and already involved in a small Tai Chi demonstration. And that’s how it happened: On my first day at work I am introduced by Alice, first to the headquarters of St. Martin, then we visit two of the four homes that they run: Thalita Kumi, the home for HIV-positive children and the rehabilitation center for street boys. In the latter, boys between 6 and 16 years of age are accommodated, which were picked up on the street. The boys learn there (again) how a normal everyday life looks like. They cook and wash themselves, go to school on the grounds and spend their free time there too. Meanwhile, St. Martin’s social workers are trying to locate their parents or relatives (some are orphans who have not been cared for after the death of their parents). It is clarified why the boys have ended on the street and who can take care of them after their rehabilitation. If there is no possibility within the family, a foster family is searched.

While Alice explained the background to me and the boys told me about their daily routine, we all sat down on the lawn: I as usual cross-legged. And the boys quickly tried to follow suit, causing much laughter while rolling backwards on the lawn. Of course they wanted to know why I can do that, if it comes from sports and if so from which one. So I explained some basics of Tai Chi to them.

In a nutshell

Ausreisegrupe 2018In October, I am traveling to Nyahururu in Kenya with Comundo, where I support the St. Martin Catholic Social Apostolate and l'Arche Kenya in communication for three years. On this website, I'll report about who or what I meet, what I notice and what I learn from it. These pages should also serve as a hub for my network group.

What is Comundo?

Comundo is one of the leading Swiss organizations in the field of personnel development cooperation (PDC). It sends professionals to Africa, Asia and South America, where they work directly in local organizations. COMUNDO is committed to more social justice and selects its local partner organizations accordingly. These then decide what kind of specialist can be to the best use to them.

What do St. Martin CSA and L'Arche Kenya do?

St. Martin CSA is a so-called faith-based non-profit organization that works for socially disadvantaged and marginalsied groups. St. Martin takes care of orphans around Nyahururu, mentally and physically handicapped people, and victims of violence and addiction. It is also committed to peace building and reconciliation in the region. St. Martin CSA employs about 90 people and works with more than 800 volunteers.
L'Arche Kenya, on the other hand, focuses on mentally hondicaped people and runs two residentail homes with integrated workshops.

What is a network group?

The network group supports the specialist with personal support. Furthermore, it should help to make the work of COMUNDO better known in Switzerland and is also a means for fundraising.

If you want to join my network group, please register here. Specifically, you will then receive a newsletter from me three times a year and twice the Horizonte Plus publication from Comundo. Joining the group is not binding and you will not receive any other mail.