Investing in Leadership Through Water

Kenya is in a historic drought. Many continue to lose crops and animals due to the poor rainfall. In Alendu, some families pay 50 shillings for 10 gallons of water. People with motorbikes ride to a water source, retrieve water, and bring it back to sell door to door. The water they sell for such a high rate is brown and muddy, but people rely on it.

To Americans, it might seem a simple thing to say, “Then we must drill them a well for clean water!” And that well is currently being prepared. But this decision was far from simple, and it continues to face challenges.

One challenge surfaced in the first community meeting held to explain the plan and pricing for water access:

Community buy-in is critical because without it, the well will not succeed, despite the need for clean water.

Often in the community, people have misconceptions that as a non-profit, Rafiki Africa should be giving the community water for free. In these community meetings, Dorothy and Roger re-affirm Rafiki’s place as a community supporter, not a charity for the village to become dependent upon. Instead, Rafiki Africa will issue membership cards for the water supply.

Drilling for the well

The well will have six water access points: four will be accessible by community members who use membership cards to purchase water for about two to five shillings per ten gallons. This water is chlorinated and filtered, and the shillings will go to maintaining the well and water system.

Still, a two hour meeting became a five hour discussion.

But, when Dorothy recounts the challenges of the community meetings, she also talks about the students’ involvement. In their involvement, she can see the future of the village becoming stronger.

A few students attended the meetings to learn how their community were talking about this major issue. Then, they brought the conversation back to the school for their classmates to discuss. Drought is a big problem in their little community, and they want to figure out how they – the students -can let the world know what is happening in their village.

Community leaders and teachers also encourage students to bring the conversation to their homes. We already see evidence of this happening: a principal from another school came to talk to Dorothy about it. He heard about the program through his cousin’s son – a student at LightHouse Academy. This principal’s school cannot hold classes in the afternoon as students need to travel to a water source and retrieve cooking water for the next day.

This conversation, this discussion about community problems as a school group, is one of the greatest byproducts of building a well.

The LightHouse Academy and Rafiki Africa’s mission is rooted in investing in the students, including teaching them how to think about, discuss, and make decisions about challenges that face their communities. They are the community’s future. They will make these kinds of decisions for their community in the future.

Water Mission International anticipates it will take two months for the community to understand the sustainable water and well model. We pray that it won’t take as long. We also pray that we can raise the final $16,000 that is still needed for the well.

If you are interested in investing in this clean water and community project, please visit our water page.

UPDATE: The well is funded, however do feel free to donate toward clean water in Alendu. Maintenance and  training locals are still program costs.

Sew Long, Poor Attendance!

Rafiki Africa strives to provide women and girls with feminine hygiene education and materials.

The beauty packs available for our girls help us meet this goal. Starting in April, the new tailoring class will meet the needs for other schools, as well as LightHouse Academy.

Disposable sanitary pads in Kenya are expensive: not every girl can afford them, and not having sanitary pads means girls miss a week of school every month.

To meet this need, the current Women & Girls group are learning to tailor sanitary pads and panties. These garments are made of cotton fabric on the outside and the insides consist of an absorbent woolen material. The girls can hand-wash the garments with soap and reuse them for three months. The cotton material is relatively inexpensive because they grow and process cotton in the country. As well, the reusable nature of the panties makes this project more affordable.

The local and neighboring schools have said sanitary pads improve the girls’ performance and school attendance, so there is a strong market and need for these materials.

Therefore, after meeting the need in Alendu, this group will start selling the panties to neighboring schools, increasing even further the impact Rafiki Africa has in the greater community.

How you can help:

Pray for the current group of women and girls who are learning to tailor pads and panties.

Sponsor a Beauty Pack- 1 girl for 1 year – $50.

Sponsor a sewing machine, which allows the girls to make the garments -$150.

Snapshots: George

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.

George is a young boy in the seventh grade with four paternally orphaned brothers.

He lost his father over five years ago in the war against AIDS. George’s mother was then given a husband to look after her and the boys. As it turns out, they are both HIV positive, and she visits a clinic each week to receive antiviral therapy. Concurrently, she is pregnant with a sixth child to her second spouse, who does not provide for the family.

Daily at sunrise, the four oldest boys, George, Stephen, Clifton, and Brian, walk hurriedly together for LightHouse Academy. The journey takes over an hour, through the hills and under the hot Kenyan sun. There, they find the only consistent food and clean water in their lives, learning and singing along with their classmates. After a full day of classes they face another adventure returning home. The boys have only one hour of daylight to complete any schoolwork before it is too dark to read.

The bed George and his brothers all sleep on together, laying sideways so they all fit.

After sunset, the four eldest sleep together on one bed, lying width-wise with their legs hanging off the edge.

Brighton, the youngest, shares a bed with his mother. On weekends, the young boys show tremendous entrepreneurial spirit and make rope from sisal leaves, and burn trees to make charcoal. They sell both products to buy and plant seeds to grow food in support of their family. Clifton, who is only in sixth grade, is also reponsible for taking care of their neighboring grandparents.

A day of making charcoal will yield 100 Kenyan shillings, or the US equivalent of earning $1.15.

A few bundles of rope produce half that sum, enough for a large bottle of Coke. Their mother supports Rafiki’s vision entirely, knowing that her boys’ only hope for a promising future rests entirely on the education they receive at LightHouse Academy.

UPDATE: Because Rafiki recognizes the interconnection of people and the environment, we no longer support the burning of trees to make charcoal. Drought is a huge problem in Kenya, and destroying trees, which bring rain and purify water, makes this issue worse. We work with families of our students to find other sources of income, and all students at LightHouse Academy receive environmental education and hands on experience.

Intern Begins Composting 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.

I accepted a two month internship in Rafiki’s Food Security program, and spent the months of February and March living in Alendu.

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 helped to build compost bins on Rafiki’s farm to create fertilizer to use on our own crops, and provided a demonstration for the community to see.

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 students afterwards took it upon themselves to begin composting up at school as well.

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.

I was blessed by the hospitality of the Luo people in Alendu as they welcomed me into so many homes in the area.

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!