UK Registered Charity No. 1108996
What We Do - Community
Kosele is a very poor rural community. Many of the people living in this community live on a dollar a day or less. It is often hard to know the best ways to help people in this situation. It is heartbreaking listening to a mother tell you that she has no food for her children, or an elderly member of the church say that she has not eaten for 3 days. We have often wished for millions of pounds to solve the problems - but know that money on its own is not the answer. Deciding how to help people who live in desperate circumstances often feels like "playing God". We can't be the answer to everybody's problems and we don't want to make anybody dependent on us. Our biggest challenge is to help people to help themselves.
Richard Stearns, the President of World Vision wrote a book called "The Hole in our Gospel." It's a very challenging book, and sounds a real call to action to anybody who cares about the plight of the world's poor. In the book he writes: “We must never see poverty or justice as “issues” that need solutions; rather we must see the human beings at the heart of these issues as people who need and deserve our love and respect. I believe that we really can alter the world, but we can only do it one person at a time. And when enough people choose to do this, even a crisis on a global scale can change.”
Ideas about the 'right' way to help people living in poverty come and go. There is a whole industry devoted to the 'relief of poverty'. Looking at the evidence around us it's hard not to conclude that nothing much has really changed for the poor around our area. We still receive frequent requests for all kinds of assistance for very basic needs - medical care, jobs, inputs for farming, places for orphans in our children's home. We don't have all of the solutions. We wouldn't have even if we had millions of dollars. Since Hope and Kindness first started we have narrowed our focus to education, farming and making disciples. We can't do everything and we want to do what we do well. It is, still, impossible to completely turn your back on a neighbour in need. Jesus boiled the whole Bible down to two basic principles - love God and love your neighbour. We've been trying to live out that Bible since we first came to Kenya. It will always be challenging but we will keep on trying.
School children all over the world will learn about 'subsistence farming'. Some may have the imagination to really imagine what life at the margins is really like. Nothing can prepare you for livingin a subsistence economy. From a Western worldview it is beyond understanding. The community around Kosele is living, predominantly, at subsistence level. This creates hopelessness and makes community members vulnerable to all of life's trials and tribulations. It's not a good place to be sick, or old. Living like this is not what God intended for people. Hope and Kindness has, over the years, supported community members by building houses, supplying water tanks, paying medical bills, giving food assistance and encouraging enterprise.
Given the huge number of health problems that they experience our neighbours are very resilient. Local health services are of very variable quality, overcrowded (3 sharing a bed in hospital is not uncommon) and mostly unaffordable for the majority of people who live around Kosele. The lack of health facilities is compounded by a widespread lack of knowledge and understanding of the causes of many illnesses and conditions. The two most common health problems that we see are malaria and typhoid. In developed countries they are problems that have solutions. In Kenya they are a constant threat to life - especially to children. Every week we supply free malaria treatment to pupils and students in our schools. We regularly pay for hospital treatment for very sick people.
The Real Picture
The picture on the left is taken from one of our neighbour's Bible. It is a grim and very tragic record. It lists all of the members of her family (sons, grandchildren) who have died. The HIV/AIDS infection rate around Kosele is very high. Although free drugs are available for HIV/AIDS sufferers it is often difficult for them to take the drugs successfully due to a poor diet and dirty water supplies. Around Kosele a number of traditional cultural practices actively contribute to the problem. There is a whole generation of 25-40 year olds missing around here. We are optimistic and believe that a proper education and careful nurturing can save the next generation from experiencing the same problems.
Rural Urban Migration
It is always tempting, as a parent, to hope that your children will stay close to you as they grow up and have their own families. There are few opportunities for paid employment around Kosele. The practice of sub-dividing plots of land following a death in the family make it increasingly difficult for children to stay on their land and make a living. All of these pressures lead to an exodus to urban areas, especially cities like Nairobi and Kisumu. There are, undoubtedly, some opportunities in these places but there are also many dangers. Our neighbour's list (above) is a sad testimony to life in the city. Carefully preparing our children to make good decisions will be extremely important as more of them come up to school leaving age.
How You Could Help Us To Help the Community
We do not believe in the 'hand out' economy which prevents people from taking responsibility for their own lives. It is, however, impossible to turn our back on cases of genuine need. We need money to help us keep an adequate supply of malaria treatment in the school. We would like to be able to respond to requests for help in starting out in sustainable enterprises. We would like to make further investments in training in new approaches to farming and sanitation.
In our experiences volunteers who come and work with us strengthen our capacity to build up local community members.