Snapshots: Benta

This is a continuation of “Being a Friend to Kenya“, written by Jordan Bush, featured in the November 2012 issue of the Fine Living Lancaster magazine. View in the PDF version of the issue here.  You can find the article on page 142.

Benta is a mother of nine children, a grandmother to four, and is the first wife of Akuno, who currently has two spouses. Her oldest three daughters married when they were children, in a culture that readily chooses marriage for a fourth grade girl over an education. Their husbands cannot afford to support their children, so Benta has taken them into her home. Akuno is unfaithful, but he ignores Benta’s pleas so every six months Benta goes to an HIV clinic and waits for the result; still negative, though she believes it is only a matter of time until she tests positive for HIV. Akuno doesn’t see the connection between his unfaithfulness and the costly potential, as his personal actions have thus far gone without consequence.

Akuno tells Benta that she can go back where she came from if she isn’t happy, yet she has remained faithfully by her family’s side.

Benta lived a life entirely at the mercy of her husband. She existed as a second-class citizen, subject to physical and verbal abuse with no hope for independence. Today she works for Rafiki managing the farm, directing staff, and cooking amazing food. Benta is the sole provider in her growing household. She is also a member of Rafiki Women, a women’s empowerment program that provides life and agricultural skills, economic and spiritual support.

Benta has become self-aware, and is one of the few independent women in her culture who can stand up to her husband, rejecting violence and gaining equality.

She is among the most loyal, dedicated and courageous to be found anywhere, having an immensely driven work ethic and devotion to her family. Other women in the community are beginning to see the difference in Benta’s life and asking questions on how to start their own journey of empowerment. To support other women who are on this journey, volunteer with us or support our women’s program.

Read Snapshots: Meshack & George.

Being a Friend to Kenya

Featured in the November 2012 issue of the Fine Living Lancaster magazine. View in the PDF version of the issue here.  You can find the article on page 142.

Written and photographed by Jordan Bush of Jordan Bush Photography.

Take a stroll through Lancaster Central Market on a Saturday morning. Weave through the communal hustle and bustle and you will find far more than fresh, aromatic foods, where Rafiki’s Deli is among the many stands offering one-of-a-kind delights.

Not only will you find authentic African dishes full of color and flavor, but you will be greeted with the same hospitality that, through this very market, offers refuge to the AIDS-ravaged community in Alendu, Kenya.

The beautiful remote village of Alendu rests just south of the equator, not far from Lake Victoria, and is the birthplace of Dorothy Dulo, who with her husband Roger Godfrey, are the founders of Rafiki’s Deli as well as Rafiki Africa Foundation. In 1996, during a visit home from school in the United States, Dorothy returned to find 13 children living with her parents. Orphaned by AIDS, they had no place to find refuge. These children were no exception to the rule, as the entire Nyanza Province has been decimated by AIDS,  losing nearly an entire generation to the disease. Consequently, this has led to greater preventable disparities, reciprocating poverty, illness, HIV, malaria… the list is seemingly endless. It was then that Dorothy started on this journey; it was then that Alendu started to find hope.

The community may not know what they need, but they know deep hurt. Rafiki’s approach is to start with that and work with the community to identify their needs, providing training, equipping, and supporting both individuals and families.

Rafiki’s goal is to achieve optimum health: the capacity of individuals, families and community working together to transform conditions that promote sustainable spiritual, emotional, physical, social, environmental, and economic well-being. While it may seem unfathomable, the dismal collision of cultural tradition and oppression make it difficult for the community to discern even the causes of transmitting HIV/AIDS. Through the  loss of so many, there has been a breakdown in passing on education, technical training, and life skills.

LightHouse Academy is a school founded exclusively for children who have been orphaned, abandoned, and would otherwise not have the hope of an educated future.

Their teachers are immensely invested in their students, to the point that they will often cover student fees independently. In a country where resources are limited, Dorothy had established the anti-private school. Rafiki provides medical care to the students and, as resources permit, to the surrounding community at a small fee — a means to instill ownership. This is often met with great animosity, as the “Missionary Model” of free services has replaced independence with entitlement through generations of fruitless handouts. The development of Rafiki’s farm provides some of the daily food needed for breakfast and lunch for their students, often the only consistent meal in their lives. The following stories from Alendu intimately reveal hope that Rafiki has bestowed upon the community.

Read more: Benta’s, Meshack’s, George’s and Evans’ stories.