“Roads are long; make them short
with good company!”
Mehmet Murat ildan
Jennifer and Kieran join Jeff, Martin, Tony, Chris and me; Martin, with GHNI in Isiolo, has come to accompany us. He arranges for a matatu and we head out for Isiolo, the capital of Isiolo county in what was Kenya's eastern province (divisions in Kenya changed with the adoption of a new constitution in 2013). Big changes around Isiolo are anticipated as part of the development plans outlined in Kenya Vision 2030. We have our sights set on changes, too. Not as sweeping, of course, but certainly important to the villages participating in the GHNI Transformational Community Development program.
We have our own matatu for the drive to Isiolo
On the way to downtown Nairobi where we met Jennifer, we went by a bus. The bus was identified by these words, painted on the side under the windows: Kenya Prison System. Inside the bus, about 100 primary school students. You need a bus, you use the one they send you. Maybe they should consider driving prisoners around town in a bus proclaiming Nairobi Kindergartens.
Once again we travel the new, four lane, divided highway north out of Nairobi. It just like the interstates in the U.S. Except maybe for the towering speed bumps at the crosswalks. I am not making this up – there are crosswalks all along the way. And, pull off areas for the matatus where the drivers can drop off and pick up passengers. These areas also attract vendors who offer their wares by pushing hands full of fruit, meat on a stick or cell phone accessories through open windows. This all adds a bit of sporting challenge to drivers who need to maneuver around, through or over these obstacles.
There are other reminders along the way that we are not in Kansas anymore. Names of businesses and organizations have a special charm. A few of my favorites are:
Spring of Living Word Church
Highway of Holiness Center
Hot Pot Hotel
God is Able and Boutique
I am still trying to sort out that last one. We also stop at an OiLibya service station (pretty sure we do not have any of those here) and see a Starbucks. Sort of.
OiLibya station in Kisumu; restrooms, snacks. And ---- Coffee!
Starbucks right next to the Chicken Inn; too bad, but we
did not have time to check them out.
Farther along, Jeff points to a cloud covered area in a range of mountains to the east. He says that the peak of Mount Kenya is in the clouds. This is typical he says; you almost NEVER actually see the peak. Sure, Jeff…
Jeff: "The Mount Kenya summit is almost ALWAYS cloud covered."
Once again, we stay at the comfortable Bishop Mensa Pastoral Centre. We go in to town and get oriented. Jeff points out the new construction recently completed or still underway. As noted earlier, the Kenya Vision 2030 program promises to bring some big changes around here. There is already an airport capable of serving international destinations – nothing yet, but it is there and ready. One of the newer buildings is a more contemporary hotel.
New construction in Isiolo. Scaffolding and supports are typical.
However, Isiolo, to me, still has the frontier town look. The paved, two-lane highway goes through it, but the brightly colored stores and shops are set very far back and fronted by dusty streets used in a rather free form way by vehicles, pedestrians and the occasional cow and goat. There are a couple of small grocery stores where we can buy bottled water, supplies for lunches in the field and even ice cream treats and cold coke!
Shops in Isiolo town
Jennifer and Kieran at SDJ Supermarket
Back at the center, we meet in the cool garden and talk about what to expect tomorrow – for those of us who do not live in Kenya, the day when we visit Attir for the first time. Habiba and Martin from GHNI in Isiolo are with us; they have worked hard to connect with Attir and set up the TCD program with them. Jeff goes over the elements of the program, which are: Water, Wellness, Nutrition, Education and Income Production. We learn there are about 180 families in Attir, living in homes that are scattered around in a fairly large area.
Meeting area at the Pastoral Center
Water, Education and Wellness are the high priority issues for Attir. Women in the village must walk 5 km (about 3 miles) to get 20 liter containers of water filled in a stream of dirty water, then carry the load back, most on their heads or on their backs, supported by a cloth sling wrapped around their foreheads. Primary school students must walk to one of two “nearby” villages – again, walks of about 5 – 7 km. There is a church building that was damaged in fighting during the Isiolo wars; the people in Attir would like to dismantle the building and move it closer to the heart of the village to use as a nursery school. Martin, a trained clinical officer, is teaching various wellness classes. He told us a few of the challenges he sees, which include a reluctance to use latrines.
The approach is to help the village with development in these areas, not by bringing in and executing big projects, but to offer small levels of resources, but a big dose of teaching and mentoring. For me, I know this means a lot of learning.
Thus armed with this introduction, we share dinner at the center before retiring to prepare for the first real day in the villages – the reason we are here.
My room at the center. The mosquito net is the best I've seen
I got it at Long Road Travel Supplies
En suite! Toilet and shower to the left