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News Around East Africa – July/August 2013

By Eden Grace

Bio-sand water filters

In March 2013, High Point Friends of North Carolina Yearly Meeting sponsored Del and Suzanne Livingston to teach a workshop on bio-sand water filters at Uganda Yearly Meeting’s new headquarters. From as far away as eastern Congo, 34 attended the workshop. During the training, they noticed a young boy who hung around and watched….

“The day after the training closed, the young neighbor boy, Bashir, who had been attracted to the training site by the activity and asked if he could join, invited us to his home across the road. There we found he had collected the needed two sizes of gravel from off the roadside and put it in small bags. He had gathered sand, washed it, and put it out to dry on a piece of plastic bag, as we had done on large tarps at the training. Bashir believed in bio-sand water filters, and wanted one for his home. This was more than child’s play. This was a little boy who had learned well and wanted to find a way to share the good news to help his family. We were inspired by Bashir’s work.”

African Ministries Education Secretary

In 2012, FUM added a new position to the Africa Ministries Staff: Education Secretary Zadock Malesi. With nearly 2,000 schools under the care of Kenyan Friends, there is an enormous cry from the yearly meetings for help in managing and enhancing the ministry of Friends’ education. Zadock has more to do than 10 people could possibly accomplish, but his enthusiasm for his work is infectious. “My big dream in the days ahead in a world that is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, chaotic and ambiguous is to focus more on issues that can have the greatest multiplier effect in our schools. Some of these are continuous professional teacher development and enhancing the individual, organizational and network capacity of education secretaries at the yearly meeting level as a way of making them more visible, strong and functional in the truest sense of the word.”

Young Friend at Kaimosi Hospital

FUM’s project partners regularly host students, interns and other young people exploring a vocation in mission by spending some time “on the ground.” Last year, Kaimosi Hospital hosted a young American woman named Hannah who was trying to decide if medical missions was the right career choice for her. After six months in Kaimosi, she was convinced that it was.
“Getting to work closely with patients and helping to provide hands-on care to a community are unique experiences. I came to Kenya to get a better understanding of what it means to be a health care professional. I came hoping to observe the doctors working in different aspects of their profession. What I came away with was a vast and deep understanding of in-patient care, trauma and preventative medicine. Working with the staff at Kaimosi Hospital, I was encouraged to ask questions and to engage with them as well as the patients. Sometimes it is hard to recognize how special something is until it has passed. Coming back to the states, I think back to my time at Kaimosi Hospital and realize that it gave me an opportunity to engage and explore in a way that I could never have asked for and will probably never experience again.”

Friends Church Peace Team

Friends Church Peace Team (FCPT), a Kenyan Quaker peace organization founded during the 2008 post-election violence, has worked extensively at the grass-roots level teaching peace, reconciliation and non-violence. One of the most troubled areas is Mt Elgon, site of a brutal inter-communal conflict from 2006 to 2008. FCPT has found that the program Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC – pronounced HEE-rock), which was developed by Rwandan Quakers in response to the genocide in that country, is particularly effective in the Mt Elgon region. One participant reflected on her learning:

“When we did the trust walk at HROC it helped me know that in life there’s a time when you’re blind and you need a guide. In life there are so many things we undergo that make us blind. When HROC came, it helped me realize that I was traumatized during the 2007 election. My brother was killed and thrown into the forest. We’ve never seen the grave. My sister-in-law was picked out of her home. She was pregnant and they mutilated her body and left her there in the forest where she died. That affected me for a long time. HROC taught me how to get out of those effects and I got out. Many of the women I counsel have trauma. I’ve tried to help them following what we were taught at HROC. It really helps the women.” In an area where there have been cycles of violence over several decades, a participant reflected:

“The Quaker effort is bringing people together. It has also helped people to understand that even though we had been apart or we have wronged one another, there is room for forgiveness. In the year 1992 we also vacated from our place, almost everybody, because we are afraid of each other. Each and every tribe sees the other as if it is an enemy. At the moment, we are together, we now respect each other, and we are like brothers and sisters. I have been a part of several trainings, several seminars, but HROC is a bit unique because it touches the inner part of the life of a person. The way they train is not the same like other people or organizations that just train the outer person, but can train someone in and out. After being healed on the inside, you can now feel health.”

Lindi School

Ruth is a very intelligent young woman from a very poor family. She lives with her parents and siblings in a one-room shack in Kibera slum in Nairobi, one of the largest slums in the world. Her parents work as day laborers when they can find work. Having graduated first in her class from Lindi Friends School in 2011, Ruth was admitted to several good high schools, but, her parents had no way of paying for her to continue her education. Her family and former teachers were very concerned that she be able to attend high school, and Ruth herself was determined to learn. The Lindi School Board recommended Ruth to FUM as a possible candidate for financial support, and awarded her with a scholarship. At that point, she had missed nearly half of the school year, but a boarding school agreed to give her a chance. She caught up very quickly and zoomed to the top of the class. Her new teachers were amazed! When the Lindi headteacher sent us Ruth’s final report card for 2012, he commented, “We do hope this report will give you a clear picture of the enormous will your support has poured into the academic resolve of this little girl. We also hope that the success of this girl will propel more pupils to greater commitment in their schooling, hence improving their results.” Indeed, Ruth spends her school vacations volunteering at Lindi School and is a shining light of inspiration for all the young students who wonder if education is truly a pathway out of extreme poverty.