Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kakamega Orphans Project news - from Sukie Rice 2/14/2008

Dear friends,

It is with real relief that I can write that the reports we are getting from Kenya is that there has been a continued calming of things all around and in the Kakamega area.

With Kofi Annan working with Kibaki and Odinga, the political process is moving forward and people are holding their breath that progress will bring some serious resolutions to the crisis.

With schools and shops re-opening, people are trying to return to "life as normal" (as if there can be a "normal" again with so many shops in town burned and thousands of people in the refugee centers). The calm is like tip-toeing on egg-shells with violence flaring up for moments here and there (especially after a member of parliament was shot and killed a week ago). And everyone is very cautious; but very grateful that things are quieting down.

Friends Emergency Relief Work

The major effort of the Friends in western Kenya right now is the relief work they are doing... and Kakamega is currently the center for their efforts.

They [Friends from all 15 yearly meetings] are working in very close coordination with one another, choosing the sites they will visit together and how best to purchase the supplies they bring.

The Care Centre is being used as the central location to bring piles of blankets and the large bags of maize, beans, rice, cooking oil and soap. These things are purchased from the places where the best prices can be found, brought to the Care Centre and then loaded into a lorry to be taken to the camps where the refugees or IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) are staying.

The International Red Cross is getting to many of the larger camps, bringing tents and food enough for one meal a day. But they are not reaching all the areas by any means, and there is serious lack of food, blankets and sanitary needs in all the camps.

Mt. Elgon area

Last week Friends filled a large lorry full of supplies (such as the forty 200 pound bags of maize) and then loaded up the Care Centre van and a truck full of Friends to go to a couple of places north/west of Kakamega. After dropping off a lot of supplies and a group of Friends at a camp near Kitale, the rest then continued west toward the Mt. Elgon area (Trans Nzoia District) where 4000 people are in camps with NO assistance being brought to them. (The IRC trucks passed them by to deliver food and supplies to another IDP camp down the road where there were Kikuyu refugees. As the Mt. Elgon refugees are non-Kikuyu, people saw this as another example of the government’s favoritism of Kikuyu over others in the country).

It is mostly Luhya and Sabaot people here who have had to flee their homes over a land distribution conflict that has been active for a year and half, and has flared up especially since the election. Over 400 people have been killed there and many thousands displaced. Women with children have been separated from their husbands and fathers when "rebel soldiers" came in and they have no idea where they are. Although many areas of Kenya are calming, this area definitely is not with significant violence and many new displaced people each week.

Dorothy and other Friends spent the day with them distributing blankets and food and praying and encouraging them. It is these visits that have become so important. As one Friend, David Z. [of AGLI] says:

In this kind of work, one cannot get discouraged by the unmet needs, but must focus on what you have accomplished. If people only eat well for a few days, it is still better than having to scrounge around for a little food and going to sleep hungry. Moreover, as I have learned in the past, visiting people who have been the victims of violence is perhaps one of the most important peacemaking activities one can initially do. As the Burundians say, 'A real Friend comes in the time of need.'

Next Stop

Friends are purchasing more food and blankets now and tomorrow they will take another truck load of relief supplies to an IDP camp in Cheptulu, which is south of Kakamega [very] near Kaimosi. This camp is filled with Kikuyu who have been victims of the violence in Kisumu, one of primary centers of the violence.

Dorothy says there have also been truck-loads of people who are Luhya who come from other parts of the country but have been "shipped" to the Kakamega area because it is Luhya and therefore safe. "But they are just dropped here. And they have no homes or family here. So what are they to do?" she asks. People take them in.

All over Kenya, people are reaching out and taking people in. Stretching. And stretching some more.

Happy Birthday

You wanna hear a fabulous story??? You betcha!

Well, one of the Friends at New Haven meeting turned 60 last week and had a lovely celebration with a number of her friends.

She asked people not to give her gifts but instead contribute to Friends of Kakamega, especially for the relief work.

One of her guests had gone on our trip to Kakamega last summer and showed pictures and talked about the Care Center. Well, she just sent me $900 in checks from her friends! Happy Birthday, Barbara! What a great birthday present! Thank you!

And thank you to all of you who continue to hold Kenya in the Light. Here is a prayer which Eden Grace (staff of Friends United Meeting in Kisumu) has sent out.

Please join us in praying for
His hand of calm to stay the angry hearts,
His hand of comfort to bind up the wounded in body and spirit,
and His hand of wisdom to guide all of us who seek to do His will today and every day.

--Received from Sukie Rice, a Friend in Maine.

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