Most of you who either know me personally or who have read this blog for a while know about my connection with Kenya. Seven years ago I left my marketing job, packed my bags and journeyed to Nairobi where I volunteered with VICDA for the better half of a year. Since that time I’ve stayed very involved with the Kenyan NGO and have formed a wonderful friendship with Irene, VICDA’s fearless leader. I’ve returned to Kenya several times to volunteer and help out, introduced other friends to the organization and volunteer from the US by keeping VICDA’s website.
My time in Kenya taught me many things: how to flush a toilet when there’s no running water, haggle at markets, bathe using a single bucket, sleep on overnight busses and how to do laundry with a bucket and a bar of soap. But, at the risk of sounding cliche, my multiple trips to Kenya has reminded me of how fortunate I am. I grew up in a house, went to school, always had enough food and clothing and was taken care of.
I worked in the Kibera slum when I first volunteered in Kenya but most of my work post-2007 has been with the IDP camps that are scattered throughout the gorgeous Rift Valley region. Without diving too deep into the causes behind it, suffice to say that several hundreds of thousands of Kenyans were displaced as a result of political violence at the end of the 2007 and beginning of 2008. For over five years these IDP’s (Internally Displaced People – essentially refugees in their own country) have lived in horrid conditions. VICDA has worked hard to implement community development projects, fundraise for the construction of schools and hospitals and otherwise assist their countrymen in this extended time of great need.
For the past several months Irene has emailed me about Manjani Mingi, an IDP resettlement camp in the Rift Valley region that is in dire need of assistance. Since hearing about the camp and their need VICDA has been working to help rebuild this community. Construction for a new school is currently underway and they have assisted with construction of new houses for the residents since many are still living in the Red Cross tents they were given half a decade ago. They also have regular donor supporting porridge programs for the school children.
But there are 331 families at Manjani Mingi and about 1,200 children. Most of the children are too young to remember life before the IDP Camps, knowing no other reality. “They are currently hardly affording to feed themselves,” explains Irene via email, “and for the last five years they have never celebrated Christmas.” Irene wrote me with a simple request this morning: to somehow provide Christmas dinner for all 331 families at Manjani Mingi. Irene sees a lot in her work, people who are suffering, hungry, sick… but this camp has effected my dear friend in a very special way. When she first told me about Manjani Mingi she described them as “forgotten” and has made it her mission to show them they are remembered.
450 Kenyan Shillings (about $5.50) will buy each family 1 packet of chapati flour, a half liter of cooking oil, 1kg of lentils and a small package of biscuits for the children. Chapati is a real treat in Kenya, another thing I learned while living there, as are lentils. So this seemingly modest meal is anything but for these people who have lived with so little for so long. I guarantee these supplies will be extended as long as possible, feeding the family for a week or more. I’ve been thinking about what $5.50 can buy in Chicago… about 90 minutes of street parking, a flavored latte, less than 2 gallons of gas, a cheap glass of wine.
We all have our causes that we support and VICDA is mine. In the spirit of Christmas and Thanksgiving I am raising money to send to Irene to assist in these Christmas dinners. I’ve set up a special Paypal button (below) and will be accepting donations through Wednesday, December 18 after which I will send the funds to Irene. If the story of Manjani Mingi touches your heart as it did mine, I invite you to help me provide Christmas dinner for the residents and show them that they are anything but forgotten. Thank you for considering this cause and Happy Thanksgiving!
If you prefer to send a personal check as a donation that’s not a problem. Please email me at safarijenn[at]gmail[dot]com if you need my address.