Hippos are typically seen at sunset in lake Victoria near Kisumu in Kenya.
Malunga, North West Gem is approximately 12 km from Siaya Town, the Government Headquarters for the Siaya County, and located 70 km from Kisumu the nearest city.
The topography consists of small hills, valleys and sparsely scattered water springs. The soil is suitable for agriculture and sufficient rainfall usually enables two season crop plantings.
Utilities are sparse. There is electricity in some parts of the area and but there is no proper water supply or sanitation. The nearest medical hospital is in Siaya. Road infrastructure is limited and problematic, particularly during the rainy season.
Some 10,000 Luo tribe people live in and around this area. The majority of people are women and children as most able-bodied men seek employment out of the area in towns.
Members of the community live on compounds in thatched mud huts and depend on small scale subsistence farming. Crops grown include maize, sorghum, finger millet and beans. The only other major cash crop grown in this area is sugar cane.
Women undertake most of the heavy household tasks as well as crop planting. They can carry 20kg of whole maize to the nearest grinding mill which can be 3-5 km away from their huts in order to secure maize flour.
The young boy (above) lives in a hut close by the spring in the Malunga area. He collects water from this ‘unprotected’ spring which is close by a latrine. This water is used for drinking, cooking cleaning and to bathe with. This spring is the main community water source.
Children’s attendance at school is impacted by their responsibilities at home which at times requires them to care for younger siblings and fetch water from nearby springs. Carrying containers of water can be heavy task involving long walks.
Primary school education is now free in Kenya but a high illiteracy rate among the people in Siaya County remains. Strong traditional attachments, which include witchcraft, have hindered involvement in education.
In April 1995, David and Anna Tawo together with Paul Ochieng established African Word Development Organisation (AWDO) and their mission mandate is to ‘Fight Poverty with Education’.
- To assist in the development of poor third world rural communities and to participate in or contribute towards any project aimed at bringing development in the communities enabling these communities to be self-reliant and to build their own futures.
- To educate children who were destitute, orphaned and poor and to feed and clothe these children.
- To assist widows in the community.
- To train youth to become self-reliant, responsible citizens.
- To organize seminars, meetings, training workshops and other activities concerned with the development of rural communities.
- To initiate or collaborate with others in the establishment of medical clinics, schools, technical institutions, polytechnics, safe water projects and community development programs.
As a result of AIDS many children have been left orphaned. For those children who have nowhere to go they are welcome at EBENEZER CHILDREN’S HOME. There are presently 22 children in care. Each child has been accepted due to dysfunctional or non-existent family or abandoned or children who are at risk. Staff are involved in a ministry of care and love to support the development of these children who often on arrival are traumatized and withdrawn.
The children are housed in brick dormitories which are warm, clean and safe. There is a boys’ and girls’ dormitory and dining hall and kitchen.
WORD ACADEMY is a “School with a Difference” providing quality education to orphaned and destitute children from low socio-economic backgrounds. This in turn empowers them to reach their potential and break the chains of poverty in their lives.
As the school receives no support from any government body the “Buddy Sponsorship Program” was implemented to run the school. $35 (Aus) per month will allow a sponsored child to attend the school completely free – school fees, uniform, stationary and lunch are all covered under this program. Sponsorship also covers wages for teachers, teaching apparatus, play equipment, medical assistance when required and the feeding program. Donations help to run the building and the school. A short fall remains as many parents of the children who are not sponsored are unable to pay the school fees.
The school was started in 1999 as a Nursery School. In 2006 the primary school commenced with Standard 1 and continued adding a class every year through to Standard 8. The school has a population of 354 students who come from poor backgrounds.
SCHOOL FEEDING PROGRAM
The School has a feeding program and all children in the lower classes receive milk enriched porridge mid-morning and the upper class students receive lunch as they stay the whole day.
The fluctuating fortunes of families in relation to food provision has often resulted in the school providing both breakfast and lunch for students. Sometimes this is the only food received by students all day.
The school’s performance has been pleasing. In the last National Primary School Examination held, Word Academy emerged as number 6 out of 600 schools in the Zone. Not only are students doing well academically but they are also making positive gains in the Arts and Sports. The schools’ emphasis on improvement is ongoing.
The Nursery School is presently housed in a tin shed building and 6 of the 8 classrooms operate from the new two storey building. Phase 2 of the School Building Program is underway which will assist with better facilities for students and staff.
Anna Perlini-Tawo tells the story of Verrah:
“This is young Verrah who is very special to us. She started attended Word Academy when she was 4 going on 5. She had travelled a long distance and had jiggers on her feet. These are like ticks but they eat the flesh. She was malnourish as most of the kids are. Verrah had lost both parents to AIDS. We took pity on the child and asked her guardian to let her stay with us so she would not have to trek so far. That was the beginning of our time keeping this child alive.
We first took her to the hospital where we found out she not only had the jiggers but also malaria, TB and full blown AIDS. The doctors were wonderful and treated her for the malaria and TB. She was also put on the HIV programme and as her CD4 count was so low was put on antiretroviral drugs. The patient must take the drugs at the appointed time each day. Every morning and evening Verrah would come to my house where we would give her the medication. She improved, but with AIDS, even the common cold can kill you. Every time Verrah sneezed or got malaria it was a trip to the hospital. The worst time was during the riots. When she became ill, Paul (Malunga Community director) had to find a way through road blocks and rampaging youth to get Verrah to hospital (12 km away) for much needed treatment.
We were told that most HIV kids on antiretroviral drugs normally die by the time they reach puberty. Verrah is our miracle, she is 13 and still going strong but we do keep an eye on her and give her multivitamins etc. She had a crisis about 2 years ago when she realised why she was taking drugs but with counselling she has turned the corner.”
Gem is an agricultural area and through our programs the youth are taught better farming methods which enable them to improve the quality and quantity of crops from which they can derive income.
Every student is taught how to cultivate a shamba (garden). When they graduate from school they know how to feed themselves. What the students are picking are the local green vegetables. They are highly nutritious and it comes from the garden straight to the cooking pot. The house mothers always makes sure that there are local vegies grown in our gardens. The kids love them and it helps supplement their diet.
Behind the trees are the maize crop. Maize flour which makes ugali, which is the main staple that is eaten at every meal. Even the porridge is made with the flour.
WIDOWS AND WOMEN’S PROGRAM
Women in the area are often suppressed and suffer from low self-esteem. Cultural practices make it especially difficult for widows left with children to raise.
AWM has a vision to help these women reach their potential and become self-sufficient. Various projects have been implemented one of which is “Women of Valour Catering Group”. Based on cooking knowledge and skills with some entrepreneurial support, the program enables the women to either offer their services as caterers or supports them to hire out equipment purchased to support the enterprise.
This brings in money which is shared amongst them. The women have responded positively to the challenge of this work and are now seen as contributing to the community.
Widow’s hut where she lived with her children. Thatching and walls were crumbling.
New Tin Sheet Hut provided to her by AWDO members. This hut is secure and warm.
Infant/Childhood mortality is high due to malnutrition, malaria, AIDS and sickness related to poor sanitation and contaminated water supplies. Child immunization rates are low as is the uptake of education. Many families are poor and find it difficult to send children to school.
HIV SUPPORT GROUP
The Siaya District has one of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the country. The HIV Support Group reaches out to 200 plus people who are affected by HIV. The members receive counselling, education on health and hygiene and are sent to the nearest medical centre where they are tested and given the necessary medication.
Two shallow wells have been dug for the Malunga community. The community has the use of one of the wells while the other well serves the children’s home, school and other projects at the AWDO compound.
Paul Ochieng, Project Manager.
A community well has been installed with a USAID water cleanser for the school compound. Once activated with a drop of chlorine into the bucket, statistics show that water borne diseases are dramatically reduced.
However, families living in huts outside the Malunga compound use the water from ‘unprotected’ springs because it too far to carry water from the compound to their huts.
So, children go to the ‘unprotected’ springs to collect water. Some of these springs are used by animals or are close to a pit latrine. These springs are the source of a lot of water borne diseases and the cause of much ill-health.
With support from IHO Global, AWDO will be able to progress work of building capacity in the children and adults of this poor, rural community of Kenya through –
- Education for children
- Vocational training for youth and adults
- Widow and Women’s programmes
- Enterprise education leading to employment opportunities
- Sustainability through community workshops and leadership training
- Provision for better health care
- Social justice for the most vulnerable members of the community. (Widows, orphans and disabled)
Malunga Community Project needs your help. Your gift will go a long way to help this community rise above poverty, hunger, malnutrition and sickness. Your gift can make all the difference!