With an infant mortality rate of almost 20 per cent, a life expectancy of just 58 years, and an HIV/AIDS epidemic that kills 50,000 people a year and has orphaned as many as 700,000 children, the stark facts about life in Kenya can be depressing.
It is only when you work alongside the extremely poor that you realise that statistics never tell the full story. Witnessing the resilience of those living in poverty, and seeing firsthand the individuals working so hard to change the status-quo, is enough to make you believe in hope, and in the goodness and generosity of people.
We recently partnered with Gorta and The Alan Kerins Projects, organisations that share the same clear focus and dedication to eradicating poverty through long-term development work. Together as Gorta Self Help Africa, we are doing a fantastic job in Kenya and many other African countries, lifting people out of the poverty trap by working side-by-side with them in solidarity.
Gorta-Self Help Africa is implementing a variety of programmes across Kenya, working with local organisations, Irish missionaries, and the Irish Government through Irish Aid, to transform the future for thousands. The focus is on food production, education, healthcare, water, sanitation, and promoting sustainable ways for rural families to make a living.
Many of the poorest people in Kenya live in vulnerable households, often headed by women. Studies have shown that an increasing women’s income has a disproportionately greater effect on the lives of the families they support. As a result, much of Gorta-Self Help Africa's work gives particular focus to supporting women.
The story of one woman we met in Nakuru perfectly embodies the impact such support can have. Berala Sifarani is a farmer whose husband passed away from AIDS, leaving her supporting four young children. For years Berala struggled to grow enough, but supported by Gorta-Self Help Africa she has increased her harvest to an extent that this year it filled her small storeroom.
She hopes one day to build a new storeroom and buy dairy cows, but for now she is happy being able to feed her children nutritious meals every day. For the first time in a long while, thanks to the support from Gorta-Self Help Africa, Berala is feeling optimistic about her children's future.
I have seen first hand the affect living without any hope can have. I saw this in the slums of Nairobi, where 60 per cent of the city’s four million people struggle to eke out a living among the most unsanitary conditions imaginable. Everywhere I went I saw children with that look on their face which says 'I have no hope for the future'.
This sense of injustice and solidarity is what motivates the work of Gorta-Self Help Africa. By providing practical training to thousands, the organisation is enabling individuals across Africa to become more effective and successful, whether they are farmers or small business people, giving them the know-how to lift themselves out of the poverty trap.
Gorta-Self Help Africa is doing tremendous work in Kenya and in many more countries on the continent, but there is a long way to go before achieving an Africa free from hunger and poverty. People living in poverty or in hunger cannot wait. They have but one life and their needs must be met today. For them, tomorrow is too late.
With strong economic indicators and a sturdy political system, Kenya looks poised to continue on its current trajectory of rapid development. As Kenya moves forward, it does not do so free of problems. It still remains saddled with a high birthrate, a high incidence of preventable disease, and a poverty rate that has remained stagnant despite the economic strides of the last decade.
These issues are serious, and require focus and innovative approaches in the coming years, but they do not overshadow the reality of Kenyan development, and the benefits that it has brought to the Kenyan people. The work that Gorta-Self Help Africa, Irish Aid, and other organisations do in Kenya may seem like a drop in the ocean, but it is having a real impact.
If you would like to support Gorta-Self Help Africa’s work in Kenya, or in nine other countries in Africa, you can make a donation by phoning 01 6778880, or simply send whatever you can afford to Gorta-Self Help Africa, Westside Resource Centre, Seamus Quirke Road, Westside, Galway.
As the needs of the poor are ongoing, the ideal way of supporting Gorta-Self Help Africa is by setting up a monthly standing order with your bank or building society. For further details contact Ronan Scully at [email protected] or phone 087 6189094. Alternatively, visit www.selfhelpafrica.org