A Tale of Two Camps

Yesterday was a good day. I joined a group of locals from Nairobi – friends of Irene’s, including George, my host dad – on a visit to the two IDP Camps that I’d visited previously: Baruku and Pipeline. Our first stop was Baruku, home of the famous Dust Babies. I really don’t even have words for the situation there, save the Dust Babies, it’s probably the most depressing place I’ve ever seen. The people there, especially the men, simply sit around and do nothing. There’s no energy and, dangerously, no hope. These people have been through so much: being driven from their homes by their neighbors, living as refugees in their own country and, now, needing to restart their lives. As the secretary of the camp explained, most of the men are able to work, they just don’t know where to start. There is a partially completed school on the land, but otherwise there’s nothing permanent. No structures or farms – just hundreds of battered, worn and weathered white refugee tents. Irene’s friends, George, Ruth and Josephine have offered to assist where they can by donating materials for the school’s completion, seeds to start farming and other kids of assistance.

Since the meetings that were taking place were all in Kikuyu, I spent most of the visit with the Dust Babies. What amazing children. Despite everything they’ve gone through, and the fact that they are now living in a depressed and lost community, they maintain a childlike innocence and, somehow, the ability to smile and play and be happy. I’m starting to see that the Dust Babies are the reason I’m back in Kenya. Mary’s School and my babies there are all moved on and doing well – as hard as it is to accept, I’m simply not needed there anymore. But the Dust Babies and the people at Baruku, I really feel like I can be used to make a difference in this place. George is extremely excited about my idea of a chicken farm and he is looking into prices and doing some research. He is going to try to go back with me and Irene (and hopefully some friends from Chicago!) next week to assist in getting things started.

I don’t know if I’m just desensitized to this kind of poverty or if I’m constantly trying to protect myself, but I haven’t really cried about things here since my last trip. But on the ride back to Nairobi, sitting in the back of the van by myself in the dark, I really cried for these kids. Even Irene told me that the first time she saw the kids at Baruku, she came home and just cried. Their situation is so terrible and, at present, their future is so bleak. But I’m hoping, with the help of my friends coming and generous donations from home, to leave something positive in the lives of the people at Baruku.

Our next stop was the Pipeline IDP Camps, just a little further on the Nakuru Highway. It was like night and day. This place is a community. It buzzes with life, people try to keep themselves busy, they’ve set up streets and shops and farms and seem to have come to terms with the fact that this is their life now. With the help of funding from GVN, homes are being constructed and life is moving forward. The landscape is still filled with the white refugee tents and they certainly have a ways to go, but progress is being made. There is energy at Pipeline, and it’s being harnessed and used to the community’s advantage.

I spent a while speaking with two volunteers at Pipeline, Stuart and Maria. Stuart will be there for 6 months and seems to be the man with the plan. Maria is half done with her 6 week stay and has started a kindergarten class for the dozen or so kids at Pipeline living with disabilities. There are kids with Cerebral Paulsy, autism, Downes and physical deformities who come with their mothers to a self help group in the mornings. I’d mentioned Peter and “Mary” in a previous post and I’m thrilled to report that the business center has already placed two people in jobs in the community and the residents of Pipeline were queuing for to see the Ministry of Health who was at the camp providing subsidized medical care. A far cry from the residents at Baruku, just down the road.

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