Refugees, Business Women & Inspiring Children
The last of the schools we visited yesterday, at Aberdare Ranges, caters largely for the kids from New Canaan Village, which is a community built by refugees over the last 10 years. The camp was formed to house around 6,000 Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who were driven from their homes by violence resulting from the 2007 general election.
Violence usually accompanies general elections in Kenya as the results are generally disputed, with the result of the 2017 elections being legally disputed and another election held shortly after which the opposition refused to participate in until electoral reforms are passed.
Once the election chaos was over and peace returned to Kenya, the refugees in the IDP camp were offered US$100 per family to relocate back to their homes, but many chose not to return to villages where their houses had been destroyed and livestock and property stolen. Instead they pooled their money to buy the land that they were camped on, divided it into equal-sized plots of land and began the process of replacing their tents with homes, a process which is now complete.
We arrived at New Canaan village and divided up into smaller group so that we could walk around a little more freely. Once again, we were swarmed by kids and they fought over who would get to hold our hands as they showed us around their village.
It was hard to focus on what we were seeing in the village because the children where asking so many questions and pointing out their own homes as we walked around.
After walking through New Canaan Village, we stopped off at a house just beyond the boundary to visit a remarkable woman named Margaret. She was a recipient of one of the business loans and she explained how she ran her business and what it had done for her family.
Within just 2 and a half years, with the help of micro-finance projects run by the excellent So They Can, she has become a supplier to local restaurants and hotels. She buys her greens from the farm in bulk and then sells 3 times per week to her customers. Her husband had died, and she discovered 6 years ago that both her and her youngest daughter were HIV positive. Owning her own business has allowed her to send her children to school, buy her own land, and afford medical care for her family. She has since had a little boy, pictured above who is now 3, and due to the medical care she received managed to avoid transmitting HIV to him – an amazing accomplishment.
I felt so impressed by her story, she is positive and charismatic and is totally uplifting – an utterly inspiring woman.
The micro-finance loans can transform lives from as little as $50, and as the loans are repaid they are loaned again to more women, to keep the momentum of positive change. Along the with money through loans, So They Can also provide mentoring and business coaching to the recipients, helping them to manage their money and run their businesses. You can learn more about the wonderful work they do, and that B1G1 supports, here: www.sotheycan.org
So They Can is an incredible organisation, and after finished out walk around this village we were invited to visit Miti Mingi Village.
The Family Strengthening Program that they run is designed to help children remain with their family when this is in the child’s best interests, but in cases when that is not possible or the child has no family they may be placed in a family at Miti Mingi Village.
Here is some further info from So They Can’s website:
Project Impact : Creation of 15 loving, safe, non-institutional family based homes for 120 orphaned and vulnerable children being nurtured by a dedicated full-time ‘mama’ giving these children a true sense of security, stability, trust and love.
Project Goal : Our goal is to deliver an upbringing for all 120 children in our care that is as close as possible to the dynamics of a family home
About The Miti Mingi Children’s Village : Miti Mingi Children’s Village, meaning ‘many trees’ in Kiswahili, provides a home and family for those who do not have or are unable to remain with their family of origin. Miti Mingi Village provides a safe and loving home for 120 orphaned and vulnerable children who are cared for by a team of dedicated ‘mama’s, our Village Director and Village support team.
The Village is a bright, colourful and safe place with 15 individual family homes, each with 8 children ‘siblings’ and each with a nurturing ‘mama’ who has committed to being with the children for life.
The other kids from this family were at a local sports day. We were able to see their rooms and they showed us their books and where they helped their mama to cook dinner. The youngest girl here was new to this family, and was bursting with questions. She wanted to know if in our countries, we had tables and chairs? And if we had clocks? and if we had books? She was the sweetest little thing.
After a little bit of shopping at the Sew Woman Can store, we took a group photo before board out bus to return to our accommodation.