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Birth and Naming Traditions in Kenya

Guest Post by Gloria Teimuge Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. This is part of our series highlighting the geography and culture of Kenya. My middle name is Jepkoech, which means I was born at dawn, right before sunrise, when the first light appears in the East. I have adapted well as an early morning riser, getting that morning run and energy boost before the schedule begins. My Mom says she was going to name me Jepkorir, which means born at korir, slightly earlier than dawn. Names and their meanings can rub off on us, make us who we are, and establish an identity. Culture and Traditions Our next topic in this blog series is one of my favorites: the culture and traditions of the Kenyan communities! I will share some of Kenya's practices, some of which still happen in many tribes and communities on the African continent. This shared ancestry is a reminder that we are one; we are the same people. One notable thing across the continent that I love for sure is the sense of community. African proverbs talk a lot about unity and togetherness; for instance, "If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together." On Mashujaa Day, 10th October, the National Museums of Kenya in collaboration with Google Arts & Culture unveiled a beautiful exhibition that explores the 44 Kenyan tribes, their heroes, stories and fashion. Also included is the music scene and contemporary creatives. Follow this link and discover Kenya virtually. Koitalel Arap Samoei: The Mighty Prophet (Nandi Community) by Shujaa Stories National Museums of Kenya Welcoming a baby A baby is welcomed with ululation and joy. An expectant mother is usually well taken care of and respected. Midwifery was the norm and is still common in some areas. Mkunga, as she is known, helps women with newborn delivery at home. Many of the mkunga inherit the position from a family member and learned this skill from their predecessors. Presently, they are 'birth companions' and accompany the women to hospitals in case of emergencies. Traditionally, women gave birth at home. The mkunga was always on call. They would monitor the pregnancy, especially towards the last trimester, and ensure safe delivery. When the baby is born, the women in the room would announce the gender to those waiting outside, and there would be a celebration. In some tribes, three ululations would signify a boy, and two would be a girl. (Photo above: Kenyan mom-to-be Mercy Tarus, used with permission.) I learned more about this work when I had the opportunity to work at the health development center in Makunga, a rural town in western Kenya. We educated women on the importance of ante-natal care and regular clinic visits during maternity. There was a lot of reluctance to visit the hospital. Traditionally, they strongly believe in herbal medicine and home-based care, and it has worked for centuries. So, we had to break down the conversation and address the basics. This opportunity was an eye-opener for both parties, and we also learned the importance of natural and herbal medicine. Naming practices I just heard of a friend who named her child Lord Tyrion, a Lannister from Game of Thrones! As a GoT fan, I'm all for it. When Barack Obama was elected president of the US, so many mothers that year named their newborns after him. What an honor. Naming children after influential people is becoming quite common; and in general, naming practices are changing and becoming more westernized these days. The order of naming in Kenya is: Christian name, traditional name, family name. Traditionally, there was no premeditation when it came to the naming of babies. Our middle name is a traditional/tribal name. We are given a traditional name according to the time of day/night, season (rainy, drought, famine), activity (harvesting, taking the cattle out to graze or bringing them back in the evening), or in honor of ancestors, etc. In the Kalenjin tribe, the suffix 'Che' is for a girl, and 'Kip' is for a boy. For example, the drought season is usually from November to early March, so a child born during this time would be Jepkemei (girl) or Kipkemei (boy). A child born in the rainy season would be Cherop or Kiprop. My friend Chebet was born at noon. Chepkogei or Kipkogei means delayed child labor. Dawn in Zambia Sometimes, the elderly family members would meet in a room with the child and start mentioning names of ancestors at random. If the baby sneezed after a specific name, then that would be its name. It was considered a connection to the people they loved through the newborn. Names can also be changed, which happens during circumcision or marriage. Circumcision traditionally happened for both boys and girls and it was considered a rite of passage. After being circumcised, then they would be given new names. When married, a woman would automatically drop her family name and take her husband's family name. These days, it's more a personal choice, and many women prefer to hyphenate their spouse's name or not to take the new name at all. In every society, naming is an effective form of identity, and it gives a sense of belonging. We pride in our names, and no matter where we go, our names will always be the identification and tether to our heritage. #kenya #culture

Fall Newsletter! Updates, photos, and a new sewing project in Burundi!

The 2020 Spring & Summer newsletter is here! You can view a PDF version here! Students and teachers at the Flaming Chalice International sewing training workshops in Burundi wear masks and sit outdoors. In this newsletter we feature: Sewing training underway in Burundi - outdoors and with masks "Start with what you have" - The 5 Ss for Business Success! Who are SIA's Partners? Building Relationships for the Long-term Women in Kenya finding ways to work during a pandemic Ann, Gladys, Maurine, Dennis, Esther with one of the prayer mats that they have for sale, to earn extra income during the pandemic. Sharing the Gift: Universal Love Alliance in Uganda organizes women’s groups to collectively raise pigs. Here, Nyakaikara group members receive the gift of piglets shared from another group. Donate to Spirit in Action today!

Why haven't we heard about COVID outbreaks in Kenya or Uganda?

I admit it. Early on in the global pandemic, I was really worried about my friends and colleagues in Africa. I had my share of doomsday scenarios of hospitals over capacity, people dying, and whole families sick. I assumed that their governments wouldn’t have money for testing and that the virus could spread rapidly in places where people don’t always have accessible water for hand-washing. Seven months along, it seems my worry was misplaced. The chart below show the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases per million people in various countries. You can see that Uganda and Malawi both had fewer cases per million than even New Zealand. And while in the US and Canada we heard a lot about how well New Zealand was doing, I didn’t really hear anything about African countries keeping case numbers low. Looking for Explanations What about testing? It is true that some countries like Tanzania decided to stop reporting case numbers so as not to cause panic. And the number of tests per 1,000 people in Uganda and Kenya are much lower than in the US. So there may be undetected cases there. However, the percentage of tests that are positive in Kenya is about on par with the US (6% and 7%, respectively), and Uganda’s percentage is much lower (2% positive). A higher percentage suggests that countries may not be doing enough testing to understand the extent of the outbreak. (I played around a lot with the Our World in Data charts, which use European CDC data.) David Zarembka, an American Quaker living in Kenya, and others have pointed out how American and European organizations and news sources seemed reluctant to credit African governments with making better decisions around managing a pandemic. Some theories that emerged to explain away the low case numbers in Africa included suggesting that African people had some genetic difference that kept them from getting the virus (you’d have to ignore the outbreak in South Africa…). Others suggested that hot temperatures were preventing the disease (never mind that Brazil has a similar climate…). David summarizes by saying, “Notice that all of these explanations give no agency to Africans themselves, their governments, or their health officials. It is all due to external factors. They are also all false, but the racists can’t see beyond their racism to understand the real reasons Africa have done so well. They are unable to accept that Africans are doing much, much better than the Europeans/Americans because of their own efforts. Moreover they cannot comprehend that they could learn from the positive successful examples in Africa.” Lessons Not Yet Learned What lessons could Western countries have learned? Kenya and Uganda completely shut their borders after the very first cases were detected in their countries. All flights in and out were cancelled. Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, was shut off from the rest of the country, so that any cases that might have come from the single case were not spread to the rest of the country. That same week, all schools were closed and a nighttime curfew closed all evening entertainment. When I arrived in the Nairobi airport last year, I had my temperature checked to screen for ebola. That was already normalized there. In Kampala, the capital of Uganda, all transportation was immediately prohibited, unless you had a special permit to drive. This forced everyone to stay in one place. In both countries, masks were required inside all buildings. (Read also what Ghana did right.) Meanwhile, the US borders were still open to flights, and people weren’t being effectively told to quarantine upon arrival. Domestic flights within the US and Canada were (and are) still operational. And case numbers continue to grow. Emergency Support Still Crucial All this is not to say that our SIA partner communities in Africa have not been affected by the virus. While African countries have managed to control virus outbreak (they’d already had practice from dealing with ebola), the Emergency grant funds that SIA sent were still crucial. I’ve written about how hunger increased under the extreme lockdowns and all sources in income were lost. The food and emergency aid that we sent was absolutely necessary to reduce suffering. Kenyan and Ugandan governments haven’t done as well at supporting their citizens to weather the storm. There aren’t the same widespread government safety nets of unemployment insurance and stimulus checks. However, it is time to revise my thinking about how African countries acted in ways that contained the virus, and what Western countries could have done differently, if we have looked to them for inspiration.

"Big Five" and Family Totems in Kenya

Guest Post by Gloria Teimuge Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. This is part of our series highlighting the geography and culture of Kenya. About a month ago, I was chilling in Nairobi, watching news on TV with my friend Julie. I got a call from my brother telling me to watch out and be cautious when walking the dogs at night or jogging. A mama leopard and its cubs were spotted in the neighborhood. I was surprised and kidogo (a little) scared. But my friend was completely unbothered! In the cities and large towns, such sightings are rare. The Kenya Wildlife Services will act fast to make sure there is no contact between humans and animals, and that the animals can get back to their reserves. Leopards are more common in places like Kapcheblanget, a small, beautiful village in rural Trans-Nzoia. The name Kapcheblanget means ‘home of the leopard’ in Kalenjin. Going back centuries, these lands were exclusively home to wildlife, so the current inhabitants do their part in ensuring peaceful coexistence with leopards and other game. The Big five animals in Kenya’s tourism are: the Leopard, Lion, Buffalo, Rhinoceros and the African Elephant. They are named so because of the difficulty and danger posed during their hunting in the past. Now, they are an iconic quintet in safaris. (PSA- we do not tolerate poaching, it’s against the law.) Top photos by Kigan Teimuge. Bottom photos by Tanya Cothran. Totems and Clans In our sub-tribes and clans, we have totems that are meant to symbolize the characters of its members. Totems can be animals, nature, or and seasons. We follow and respect our clans and clan totems very much. The terik, which I come from, is the clan of the elephant. My paternal lineage is terik and my maternal lineage is talai (toad). Our ancestors believe that we are connected to the elephant and the toads. We are expected to value and respect that connection. There are also rules and conditions which we adhere to; for instance when it comes to marriage. Certain clans cannot inter-marry, it’s against customs set ages ago. So during a ‘show up’- a traditional sit down before the engagement- both families have to go through the family tree and ensure there’s no relation or clash of clans. If there’s no issue, they proceed to the engagement. If there’s a problem, the engagement is annulled. I remember a story my Dad (Samuel Teimuge) told me about elephants being the superior animal of the savanna. Whenever the elephant passes, all the other animals bow and make way as a show of respect. People too! Annually, they make their way through the forest during their migration to Kerio valley. They go there to lick salt, to satisfy a craving perhaps. Salt is an essential in their diet, so they make the 50km trek once a year. Elephants never forget their path. They mark their paths and cover them with broken branches in the forest. They can smell and detect from kilometers away and are excellent trackers. They maneuver if they have to but they get back using the same route. When my Dad mentioned that, I was surprised. So intelligent! Elephants pass across my Dad's farm, so he puts out a huge barrel of water for them to drink. They pause for a while, drink and go on their way. In Rimoi national reserve, that pack of elephants is known as the largest single herd in Africa, and the world. They move together, stay together and feed together. Such a community. Until next time, take care!

Romano Iluku: Passionate about Transformation

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This is one of Romano Iluku’s favorite quotes and it comes up often as he talks about his work with families in the informal settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Romano has a fundamentally positive outlook and in the midst of the fear about the pandemic, he reminded me that he has seen his community in Kenya respond with resilience to the HIV/AIDS. Romano is a Spirit in Action Small Business Fund Coordinator and his organization is a SIA grant partner. Here, he writes about his vision for sustainable and transformative change in his community. My name is Romano Iluku from Nairobi Kenya. I’m passionate about education and transformation. I believe that we are all called for a purpose in our existence. My passion towards transformation and my desire to learn, love, and serve humanity has led me into starting an organization by the name of Empowering Communities as Actors for Transforming Societies (e-CATS). Economic Empowerment E-CATS aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and inequality among vulnerable populations in Kenya’s informal settlements and rural homes. This is through fostering basic entrepreneurial skills and offering micro loans/grants to boost existing small business or start and grow new ones. I have been working with communities in the informal settlements in Nairobi on the area of peace-building and social reconciliation. While undertaking this projects, there have been some gaps especially on the area of economic empowerment. Since SIA is working with households on the area of economic empowerment and poverty reduction, I saw an opportunity to integrate this into the peace-building and community work I am involved in. Watch a video of e-CATS mutual aid response to the pandemic. In the immediate crisis, e-CATS helped supply people with food. In the long-term they are supporting small business rebuilding. In my pilot project with SIA and e-CATS, young mothers were selected and trained on basic business skills, after which they were given grants for their small business. So far, the pilot project has benefited over twenty families hailing from the two major informal settlements (Kibera and Korogocho) in Nairobi. Pre-pandemic business training for women in Kibera Informal Settlement. By growing and improving their trades, these families are able to pay for their house rent, medical bills for themselves, and their children will stay in school without being interrupted for fees. Families graduating from the program will pay forward to help the next family with startup contribution. This will make the project more easily sustainable. Local Knowledge E-CATS is well placed to direct the initiative because we are a grassroots organization which operates on the ground. We have a direct link to the recipients of the microgrants. Our team includes diverse, young, proactive, and passionate individuals who are involved in the management of e-CATS. We all work on voluntary basis at the moment. This team draws its experience from basic accounting and finance skills, community development, entrepreneurship and economics. We are committed to transparency not only to the recipients of the microgrants but also to our development partners and donors. We understand the context on the ground and the issues faced by the community in Kenya’s informal settlements and rural areas. Wambui Nguyo and Romano Iluku, e-CATS co-founders and SIA Small Business Fund Coordinators in Nairobi. #kenya #localorganizations #guestposts #empowerment #SIAteam

Kenya's Savannas and Wildlife

Guest Post by Gloria Teimuge Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She is a long-time friend of Spirit in Action. Aaah...wildlife. You probably know so much about Africa’s wildlife already. There are so many wild animals to mention! I’ll let the internet assist you on that. During a safari, what you see for miles and miles are silhouettes of giraffes feeding on acacia trees in the vast savanna grasslands. Wild animals in Kenya typically stay and live in the wild; some are protected in parks and reserves. Since reserves characteristically aren’t fenced (because they are hectares and hectares of land), it’s not uncommon to come across people grazing their livestock alongside wildlife. Risaf, (our lingo for reserve), also known as the countryside, is an area where animals and humans have coexisted with little to no problems for centuries. It’s brilliant how most of the towns and villages in Kenya are named after inhabiting wildlife or the environment. They are named how the villagers see fit. Emsea is from the words emmet-ab seat, which means ‘home of seaat’ (a tree species). Kipchebos means a place that is bald implicating bareness; seasonally, the area becomes arid and bare. Monkeys are agile, tree hopping primates of the forest. In risaf like Kapsoo, Kessup and Nandi, they can be such a nuisance especially during the maize maturing season. They love to eat maize, the premature cobs with milky kernels. If not careful, monkeys can demolish an entire plantation in a week! So, the villagers have to be up by 5am during that season to shoo them away. They carry drums and empty buckets, sling shots and sticks to try and wad them off. Very cheeky and fast, the monkeys can keep one running around the entire day. The colobus monkey, the vervet, and baboons are some of the most commonly seen species of monkeys. My parents tell us their experiences about this very important responsibility growing up, and we crack up laughing at the mischievousness of the monkeys. It is a difficult job. We still watch out for monkeys in the farm in Kerio Valley. I remember in high school (boarding school) during the dry seasons, when it was too hot outside and the vegetations were all dried up, the monkeys would come into our dormitories to look for food. If someone left the window open, a surprise of mess and clatter would be waiting after class in the evening. So we learnt to be observant of seasons. Photos provided by Gloria Teimuge Long before urban centers swelled in population, giraffes could be seen walking around. Even now, on rare occasions, giraffes can be seen in the Ngong area. There are signs on the road for Giraffe-crossing. Animals seen relaxing in recreational parks and along major highways are baboons, warthogs, antelopes and zebras. Quick question: Are Zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? There are thousands of bird species in Kenya. Some of them are migratory birds that migrate to and within Kenya yearly because of the favorable weather conditions for feeding, breeding, and thriving. My brother, Kigen, is a bird enthusiast and has taught me how fascinating an activity bird watching can be. The Lilac-breasted roller and the Rooster are Kenya’s national birds. Two birds you wonder? Kindly consult with the Luhya community in Kenya. There is no way we would have a national bird that isn’t a chicken. We love our kienyeji chicken (free-range), perfect meal for any occasion. Poultry farming is a commonly practiced activity in Kenya. The roller on the other hand is a colorful bird endemic to Africa. It has a plumage of purple, azure, olive, black and brown shades with white streaks. The rooster crows while the roller has a distinct vocalization and also sings! Still more to come about the semi-arid grasslands of Kenya. Until then, take care.

Testing for a Different Virus

Last month, Universal Love Alliance in Uganda began a new virus testing program. But instead of testing for coronavirus, this program is for preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS. Twelve participated in a ULA training about HIV and about how to use HIV self-test kits. Doctors and clinical officers from a local hospital provided the technical training. “The key message in the opening session was that HIV is a virus, not a death sentence,” says Samson Turinawe, ULA Director. Other sessions discussed safer sex, including condom use, and how to use pre- and post-exposure protection against HIV. PrEP is a pill that can be used by women and men to prevent HIV infection before (a high-risk sexual encounter). However, PrEP does not prevent transmission of other STI. PEP can be taken after a high-risk sexual encounter or needle-stick injury (within a limited time period of 72 hours). After lunch, the doctors held a practical session on how to use HIV self-test kits. Self-testing is an important option for people who are either unable to get to a clinic, or who fear judgement and stigma if they are known to be going in for an HIV test. During this session the participants tested themselves. They also learned how to test others and how to train others to use the HIV self-test kits. There is a further need to expand this program to reach youth in the communities. Because ULA is seen as friendly, their team will be able to reach youth for testing, which traditional hospitals have struggled to do. So far, ULA has helped test 72 people with the self-test kits. “Our attendees are people from the LGBTI community,” explains Samson. “We hosted the training in the ULA offices, which allowed them to feel safe. There was no fear or panic. Our participants were happy and felt appreciated.” SIA supports ULA with general operating funding, so that they can spend their time running programs like these instead of fundraising. #Uganda #HIVAIDS #SIAPartners #ULA

Success story: Food distribution offers an opportunity for counseling

Report from Jonathan Hamisi TAI CBO Program Officer, Kenya At present, many communities are being forced to change rapidly because of changes in the economy and the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lives have changed so much that old ways of coping do not work anymore. In such situations, it really helps to have someone to talk. This is what TAI Community Based Organization (TAI CBO), in partnership with Spirit in Action, has done in Maua, Kenya. (See TAI CBO's website.) It all started when we received the first grant from SIA to facilitate making and distribution of reusable face masks and liquid soap. The project was very successful; however, we received requests from the families to intervene also on the volatile food situation. Through an additional grant from SIA, we have been able to reach forty families and supported them with food stuffs that could last for some weeks. We were also able to pay rent to one family who was being thrown out of their rented house, and pay a pressing hospital bill for another family. There were some important lessons we learnt while visiting the families in their homes. In one the families we visited, we found children alone in the homestead but when we inquired about their mother’s whereabouts, the children informed us that she was asleep due to stress. After engaging her she replied, “Today my son is celebrating the occasion of initiation from childhood to manhood and I don’t have anything in the house to prepare for him to eat.” We realized the kind of stress and mental effect the present situation had put on this mother. It is a true fact that, “just as a woman’s body can be healthy or unhealthy, so can her mind and spirit.” We offered her counseling first before we handed her the food. Children are an integral part of our program. Kimathi insisted that he wanted to receive the food on behalf of his mother, Margaret. “You have surprised me! As an old granny I didn’t expect this, may God so richly bless the work of your hands,” said Kabuku, crying while receiving the food items. Silver Linings of COVID-19 Every coin has two faces. With bad comes the good, and these are some of the positive feelings in the community now. (1) This pandemic has helped some families to build genuine relationships Everyone has been so busy living life and many had lost those real, genuine moments they have with their loved ones. Now, the COVID-19 situation has positively impacted the way members of families emote and maintain relationships. Many are spending time at home with their families and plan their work better. This actually helps families build a better future. “As life slowed down, we have found ways to stay connected with people, and reconnect with our loved ones, especially these daughters of mine,” said M’mwirabua, a single father. (2) New Hygiene Habits These recent times have made everybody aware of how to engage more hygienically. From shaking hands to greetings, we all have had a lifestyle change for the better. Being hygienic is no longer just a good habit, but the very skill we all need for survival. “Me and my daughters are going to remember to cover our mouths when we cough, to wash our hands after touching anything else because we now know what can happen if we don’t,”said Kaimuri, the TAI group secretary. At TAI CBO we believe that as countries everywhere are still fighting this pandemic, by God’s grace we are going to overcome this. We’re more than conquerors and a race of survivors. We’re going to win this too. The battle is hard and long, but we are looking forward and focus on the brighter side. We are grateful for all that we have in these difficult times. Stay physically distant but socially connected. Please take care and be safe. Report prepared by: Jonathan Hamisi Program Officer Contribute to SIA's COVID response fund here. #kenya #emergencyfunds #covidresponse #grassrootsaction #localorganizations #bodymindspirit #SIAgrants #grantreport

Eneo La Ardhi - Kenya's Landscape

By Gloria Teimuge This week we are continuing the series of posts highlighting the country of Kenya, brought to you by Gloria Teimuge. Gloria is a public health practitioner and consultant, photojournalist and writer living in Nairobi, Kenya. She is a long-time friend of Spirit in Action. Kenya is located in the Eastern region of Africa, on the equator with an area of about six hundred thousand square kilometers (225,000 sq miles). The Kenyan coast borders the Indian Ocean to its South East and has charming tropical islands worth checking out, notably the car-free Lamu island! Today, we’ll delve into Kenya’s terrains (eneo la ardhi in Swahili). Kenya’s landscape is vast and diverse with the terrains ranging from the low coastline (sea level) to mountains, ranges, and escarpments at 5000m (16,500 ft) above sea level. There are many plateaus and savanna grasslands in the middle of that range but you don’t need me to paint a picture for you on that – documentaries about Africa have done an excellent job. Then of course there are deserts, forests, lakes, swamps, rivers, waterfalls, hills, valleys, reefs, and any other byproducts of the mentioned. Perhaps the most majestic (and rightfully so) phenomenon is the Great Rift Valley. Having lived close to the rift valley growing up, we enjoyed the cool (sometimes cold) highlands weather and rugged terrains for hikes and treks. In school, we learnt about its history & geography, and took field trips to better understand its formation. Friends visiting from other countries made me realize how incredible it truly is, seeing it through their eyes. It feels different when people travel the world to come and experience it. While standing on any of the viewpoint cliffs and sipping on the view of the lay of the land from different angles, you see its remarkable magnificence. Formed ages ago by fault lines and the shifting of tectonic plates, the Great Rift Valley system is a long and deep valley with escarpments for walls. It’s a stretch of thousands of kilometers traversing 10 countries with two branches; the Western and Eastern Rift Valley. Beginning in Eritrea, the rift stretches through to Mozambique in Southern Africa. In Kenya, it runs from Turkana County in the North to Kajiado County in the South. This formation gave rise to lakes and rivers that have become a home to diverse wildlife. The valley’s floor and escarpments are geologically active with chains of volcanic hills and mountains, craters, geysers, and hot water springs dotting the landscape. In locations the agro-climatic zones differ. For instance, from Tambach heading down to Lake Kamnarok- the region is densely forested, full of huge soft boulders, has loam then sandy soils and large deposits of the mineral Fluorite. The escarpments and mountain ranges are rugged with green vegetation and deep dark volcanic soil. Located on high altitudes, these areas are very cold and often foggy. Most of the forests in these regions are of endangered indigenous trees; reforestation and afforestation plans are underway to encourage an increase in forest cover in Kenya. The soil composition in these regions and in most parts of central and western Kenya are loam soils (rich red soils) that are perfect for farming hence supporting agriculture, a great contributor to Kenya’s economy. The lake regions are mostly rocky or sandy, hot and humid. Usually, there’s a slight breeze shifting the reeds and swaying the boats while cooling off which most people find relaxing. The fine grained sands of the beaches at the Kenyan coast paved with palm trees are a sure way to unwind and chill. Clear blue waters, warm weather and some madafu (coconut water), will get you captivated for sure. Also, you can experience the spectacular bioluminescence in Kilifi! The coast is also home to well-preserved eco-regions such as mangrove forests. World-renowned Kenyan athletes train in areas along high altitude with the challenging topography. This helps to build their endurance. Towns like Iten, Eldoret, and Nandi have been dubbed as home, city and source of champions respectively for producing dominating race-winners. I remember staying in Iten during my second year of school (for an elective) and constantly feeling the psyche to join the athletes during training. I observed their resilience during practice and consistency to show up regardless (especially during the cold rainy or foggy mornings!); and that explained the importance of discipline in sportsmanship. Fun activities we love to engage in regularly are hiking, cycling, aquatic sports, safaris, sampling different cultural cuisines, camping, horse riding in the wild, archery, picnicking, fly fishing and visiting museums & culture centers. Other activities worth checking out include; zip lining, paragliding, riding a matatu, a tuktuk & piki piki, jogging with the athletes, triathlons, adventure sports, desert sports, a homestay in the villages with preserved cultural practices and so much more! A little info on devolution in Kenya; In 2010, a new constitution mandated the decentralization of Kenya’s national government. Previously, Kenya had eight provinces but according to the new constitution, Kenya reconfigured to forty-seven counties. These counties have their own system of governance; run by governors and legislated by senators. The national government still runs and maintains core functions; however, sectors like agriculture, health and tourism were devolved to the county governments. I hope this has been enlightening. Until the next article, stay safe & take care. Asante! #kenya #guestpost #greatriftvalley

Dennis Kiprop Kurgat: A catalyst for positive change

Today we hear from Dennis Kurgat, who is a member of the SIA African Advisory Board. He lives in Eldoret, Kenya and has been part of the SIA team for 12 years! My Background Story I grew up in Eldoret, close to the Ilula Training Center in Kenya. I come from a family of six kids: three boys, three girls, and I am the firstborn. The first 15 years of my life were relatively stable with steady income from the family farm. My Dad had a good job too. I didn’t know what it meant to be poor materially. My life took a dramatic turn in the year 2000 when I lost my dad to alcohol and diabetes at age 46. We as a family not only suffered the terrible loss of our father but also of income. The family farm was impossible to maintain. At the time, I was at a boarding school high school about 30 miles from home (boarding school is very common in Kenya). My mom could no longer afford transportation to and from school so I walked the 30 mile trek. I often pondered along the way why life had to be so hard on me. I grew up as a self-described “half-Christian.” My mom brought me to Sunday school but my Dad didn’t go to church at all. I learned about God but my personal relationship with Jesus was a foreign, underdeveloped concept. I was plagued by a lot of fear. Releasing Fear In September of 2003, my last year of High school, I heard a sermon on the “Transformation of the Mind” from Romans 12. At that point, the message helped me to understand God more and how God calls us to offer our body as a living sacrifice. This shift in perspective led me to make a personal decision to fully accept Jesus into my life on September 26, 2003. The journey of growing in relationship with Jesus began. I admit it wasn’t easy! Next year after high school, I ask my mom to help me repair an old bike to start a boda-boda (bicycle taxi) business. Perhaps God utilized the 30 mile walks to prepare my legs for the boda-boda stint! I would ride about 40 miles per day ferrying clients to town, making about 300- 400 shillings ($3.50-$4.50). Dennis finds joy in meeting with entrepreneurs like Grace, talking about her farm and business plan. He loves to drink chai everywhere he goes! A few months later at age 19, I heard about construction for a new Children’s Home in Ilula. I tried to get a job but was turned down because they thought I was “just a kid.” I had been waiting over a year to get a permanent ID card proving I was eligible to work. I didn’t give up. I came back the next day and convinced the guys to let me work for a few hours. The few hours turned into three and half days that week. Each morning there was a devotional from Don Rogers or Samuel Teimuge or a visitor. I was inspired by their teaching and ached to learn more. Eventually, Empowering Lives International hired me for a six-month period to help make the roofs on the Children’s Home (pictured right). One day I was on top of chimney working on the roof when Ezekiel, the construction foreman, said, “Hey Dennis! Can I talk with you?” The voice of fear echoed in my mind, “Oh no! What did I do? Are they going to fire me? Am I in trouble?” Ezekiel said, “I want you to help with inventory.” Even though I had no skill in this area, I readily agreed. God used this time in my life to introduce me to my mentor, Samuel Teimuge. With daily devotions I started growing spiritually. My fear was replaced with Faith. Do you know how many times “do not fear” appears in the bible? 365 times! That’s the revelation I got. I realized God gives me an opportunity every single day to fight fear with strength, courage, and hope from God’s word. A Catalyst for Positive Change I began saving money through various entrepreneurial efforts for my college education. I attended the Kenya Institute of Management (a junior college) for three years to study management. I graduated with baccalaureate degree December of 2007. September 2009, I began my undergraduate studies at Moi University Business School. I officially graduated in 2014! Currently I am pursuing a Master’s degree in Strategic Management at the same school. In 2008, I was introduced to Spirit in Action (SIA) by Samuel. I have witnessed families being transformed by the grants they receive from SIA. Small businesses have started and families are able to have three meals a day, which wasn’t true before. I have been a SIA Small Business Fund Coordinator since, and last year I was invited to be on the SIA African Advisory Board. (Dennis is pictured above with Tanya and Canaan from Malawi.) I owe a lot to all SIA team, our founder Del, Tanya, Samuel, Our Beloved Barbara, and the African Board. They’ve all consistently encouraged and cultivated a spirit of gratitude and networking. I am inspired to be a catalyst for positive change. It’s so beautiful when you see social and economic justice prevail in the world and you are part of it. My drive is discipline and determination are to finish the course I am called to. God has called us to a higher agenda. Now I am willing to share my knowledge to empower others. God is my foundation, and I make a daily commitment to share my experience, strength, and hope with others for holistic transformation. My JOY! ….is to see every struggling home in Kenya live a sustainable life that honor God. #aab #siateam #inspiration #guestpost #kenya #dennis

Welcoming Discontinuities as a Gift

This week we honor the anniversary of the passing of Barbara Deal one year ago. Barbara was a SIA Board Member and also a member of the Legacy Circle, supporting SIA with a bequest from her estate. From Barbara Deal: I’ve come to recognize that these things that look to be negative, that look like they are outside of God’s Plan, are really a gift. And I call that gift discontinuity. Our discontinuities can be our greatest friends, the greatest threshold to truth and to learning, if we just have the eyes to see and the ears to hear. A discontinuity is to be welcomed, steadied, embraced, to see what learning the Spirit has for us in that event. What do I mean by discontinuity? Well, one definition might be, “surprise!” It is to look at the unexpected, to look at the surprises, and find that there is almost always a spiritual treasure hidden in their folds. A deeper definition of discontinuity can be found by looking at its roots. Continuity is something that continues as we expect it to continue, right? Uninterrupted. A predictable flow of life, or of a relationship, or of events. A progression. Discontinuity is an interruption to that expected flow, or event, or relationship. Our human nature is most comfortable when we are surrounded by predictability. And by secure outcomes that we see unfolding around us. However, the treasures are often in the discontinuities and what we learn from them. Discontinuities aren’t always things that we experience as bad things in our lives, either. A new job, maybe which requires a move to a new location, is certainly a discontinuity. An interruption to our expected continuity. Falling in love is a discontinuity of the best kind. Having a child is a discontinuity. A transformational spiritual experience, even a revelation, is a discontinuity, because it is an interruption of how we expect things to unfold around us. We want the good things in our lives to continue uninterrupted, of course. However, I have come to learn that all discontinuities are our friends, because of what they open us up to. I’ve come to think of discontinuity as God’s way of gently grabbing me by the shoulders, and giving me a soft shake, and saying, “Come on, Barbara, wake up. I’m giving you this gift of discontinuity for you to discover how to grow in Love, to grow in awareness, to go farther out in discovering spiritual principles.” Discontinuities can plow us – and plow the heck out of us – and plow us ever deeper turning up fresh and fertile soil for growth. Memories of Barbara, from Gloria Teimuge: Gloria was one of Barbara’s caregivers in her final days. Gloria is also writing a series for the SIA blog about Kenya. (Pictured Left, L to R: Tanya Cothran, Gloria Teimuge, Dennis Kiprop, Samuel Teimuge) Barbara Deal was gentle, kind and wise. Those are the qualities I first noticed when I met Barbara. One afternoon, I had a nudge, a strong feeling, that pushed me to go see her in her room. Barbara and Tanya had arrived in Eldoret a few days prior and were still getting antiquated with the environment-it was a bit cold that time of the rainy season. Barbara was so pleased to see me. We had only communicated via letters before and had never met until her visit. So it was quite a big moment for the both of us. We had a long and warm conversation about everything from career choices to school, relationships to environmental laws and everything in between. She loved to engage in conversation and we had discussions that enabled us to understand each other more. I could sense her wisdom and discipline, words of encouragement, and understanding as we talked on and on. She was well-traveled and told me the stories of places she had been, people she had met, and memories that she cherished. We found time to chat each evening and explored different topics. As we mark one year since we laid Barbara to rest, we are celebrating a life well-lived. A life that was full of love and peace, and a love which was led by faith. A special tree was planted in memory of Barbara on July 11, 2019 (pictured right). I remember Tanya Cothran, Naomi Ayot, Miriam Leting, and I going to look for the perfect tree to plant. We got a hardwood tree, Elgon teak, which is known to be strong, durable, and resistant to harsh environmental conditions. As the tree grows beautifully every year, we are reminded of a dear sister and friend. She was a strong Christian and a child of God, and never hesitated to mention that. Through Barbara, I have made friends that I am forever grateful for. Through Barbara, I have learnt the power of friendship and gratitude. #Legacycircle #BarbaraDeal #Inspiration #Faith #guestpost #gratitude

Holistic Community Development

Kakuuto Development Initiative (KADI) is not just an education organization. It’s not just a farmer’s cooperative. It’s not just an advocate for health and wellbeing in the community. KADI in rural Uganda, does all three, plus so much more! Like so many of SIA grassroots grant partners, KADI is a true community development organization. Food security is one of KADI’s top priorities. They are coaching people to start kitchen gardens, which grow food for the family, but also are dynamic family spaces. Lubowa Joseph, one of the KADI team describes them this way: "The backyard garden can be defined as a farming system which combines different physical, social and economic functions on the area of land around the family home. Within the typical home garden are social areas for meetings, children's play area and gardens for display; economic areas for growing food, medicinal plants and trees and for raising animals; physical areas for storage, living, washing and waste disposal. It is a place for people to live in and it also produces a variety of foods and other things for both home consumption and income." KADI women in a kitchen backyard garden One of KADI’s collective projects is a community soybean farm (pictured right). Now is the growing season, and KADI is hiring community members to help with hoeing and weeding the five-acres of farmland. “We hope that at the end of the season, all harvests will be pulled together for sale as one union so that there is better bargain ground for better prices,” says Joseph in his latest report to SIA. Some of the KADI team attended a farming exposition last year and they are training others in the techniques they learned. Kato Male is one of the people who helped with the farming last month. He used to work in Kampala as a car washer but came home to Kakuuto village after he lost his job as a result of the pandemic. Most Ugandans who live in the cities also have extended family in the rural areas. Kato used income from digging at the KADI farm to open a local chapati (flatbread) stall. Chapati is a staple of Ugandan meals, and also a favorite snack! When SIA African Advisory Board Member, Naomi Ayot, went to visit KADI last month, she stopped at Kato’s shop to hear his story. Part of KADI’s response to the coronavirus pandemic has been to install a “tippy tap” in the marketplace. The “tippy tab” is a water jug with a string attached to a stick. When you step on the stick it tips the jug on it’s side so that the water pours out like a faucet - no need for hands! At the end of Naomi’s meeting with KADI, she visited one of the elderly women who received food assistance from KADI and SIA last month. Naomi gave Mudo (profiled in the latest SIA newsletter) a pair of shoes and some food as a way of Sharing the Gift. Naomi says, “I shall always share my gift and extend my love in the poor rural community as my honour to Del Anderson's vision and to honor Barbara Deal, especially when I am able to reach out to older women without children.” #communitydevelopment #grantpartners #siagrants #covidresponse #uganda #kadi #rural #farmers #foodsecurity #gardens

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