25 Sept 2012
It is not possible to convey all that happens in a journey here. The travel by car is long, hot and exhausting. The roads are treacherous because of the long rains. The days are long and frequently there is no noon meal, just water and some nuts so I don’t go into diabetic coma.
And all this is as if nothing when I am working with KMET. We meet early in the morning to go to Nina School, the poorest one in our program. Debra, Rosemary, Beatrice, young women really, but with a wisdom beyond what most professors of economics teach about how to empower a poor community. They are gathered up along with Peter from micro-finance and go in their van while Monica and I are already thinking of the way forward.
OVAAT and KMET are organic, growing, changing organisms that learn from best practices where the gaps are. A feeding program given to a school is bound to fail. But allowing the members of the community to decide on it themselves makes it theirs.
Today and yesterday we met with community. Mzee is a term for an older and wiser gentleman. We were blessed to have one in each meeting. So many things I learned. I asked why they wanted to feed children that were not their own, and after the usual answer of it being their Christian Duty some really cool answers came out. If they feed the children, then they will stay in school, they will grow up to become farmers or business people in the community. And the adults will be safer because these children will grow up to earn money and not steal from the members of the community. Now that, my friends, is really good logic.
In Nina school another Mzee spoke eloquently of realizing the power of his farm and his resources. He came up with so many good ideas that I can’t even remember them all, but thankfully they are on tape. The team then led the community to an area of dirt that would become their “Community Map”.
Community maping is an ingenious measure to help all the people in a community to see what their resources are and what their gaps are. And they come together to make the map.. First they all go and gather different things, twigs, flowers, leaves, jacaranda leaves, rocks and the process begins.
They outline their town in sticks and then mark the rivers with leaves. They use flowers to show the mills for maize and other crops. Leaves mark churches, bright yellow flowers become the roads, and slowly all parts of their village are shown. One thing to come out of it was that they don’t have but 1 clean water supply source and that they need to develop another.
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The women quickly chimed in about where to put a new borehole since, they are the ones that carry the water. It was totally amazing to see a map that all could read, in any language and even if they are illiterate. When we finished we returned to our benches and talked about the way forward.
It was a long day, 2.5 hours to get there, 2.5 to get back and 5 hours of meetings. In the end, as we climbed wearily into the care, Monica and I were exhausted but already thinking of how we can have a more effective program.
All in all a good dog day.