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.
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.
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.
This spring, I was blessed with the opportunity to take a semester break from school to serve a 2 month term with Rafiki Africa Foundation in Alendu, Kenya. I was looking for a non-profit group to partner with in Africa. When I heard through a friend about the work Rafiki is doing in Alendu, I decided to pursue a connection. I hoped it would be beneficial for Rafiki and an invaluable experience for myself.
Specifically, my internship focused on community research throughout the area. I went into many homes and asked families questions regarding their food supply. Especially in the months at the very end of the dry season, many homes in the community are experiencing a severe food shortage. With Rafiki, I looked into the biggest problems families are facing in growing enough to eat. I wanted to know what steps Rafiki could take to solve these problems and increase the food supply in Alendu. During my visits, I kept hearing from families about the problem of decreasing soil fertility leading to decreasing crop yields. So I decided to take the tangible step of starting composting as a way for families to create their own fertilizer for their farms, rather than having to buy expensive fertilizer.
I also got to meet with the Agricultural Club at LightHouse Academy to discuss the benefits of composting. The students even took a field trip to the farm to see the successful result.
The huge problem of a limited food supply is daunting. However, there are simple steps that Rafiki can take toward helping families increase their food supply. Along with composting for fertilizer, the community desperately needs gutters and rain barrels to collect water during the rainy season. The water they collect can last them through much of the dry season, when even the rivers in Alendu disappear and many families suffer. Similarly, homes need more seeds to plant. Practical knowledge of proper planting and harvesting methods would also help maximize their crop yields.
It was encouraging to meet many families who desire to work with Rafiki to improve their standard of living. As a result, the community as a whole will grow. I am hopeful that Rafiki will be able to find volunteers willing to partner with them. Such volunteers can help continue to provide tangible progress in Alendu. It was a privilege to spend even a short 2 months living as a part of this community, and I was incredibly blessed by the opportunity. Thank you for your support of Rafiki Africa Foundation!