Monthly Archives: May 2013

Gratitude is Abound

Archer’s Post, Samburu – This area holds a special place in my heart as it was my introduction to Samburu in 2005. In 2011, The Samburu Project expanded its reach beyond Wamba and moved into Archer’s Post and Sere Olipi. With six wells in Archer’s Post, Lucas and I had a full day of visiting communities.

Evelyn and Miriam

Evelyn and Miriam

I met a young girl today named Evelyn. Her father is one of the elders in the Lolgerded Well community. When Evelyn was five, she was attacked by a hyena. Miraculously she survived and after two years in the hospital in Nairobi she was able to go back home. She’s now in Class 7 at Lerata Primary School and dreams of becoming a nurse. Math & Science are her favorite subjects. We had the great fortune of driving Evelyn and her sister Miriam back to school after our visit at Lolgerded.

Lolgerded is the kind of community that really inspires me to work harder. They take great pride in their well which was drilled in 2012 and were overflowing with gratitude during our meeting. The women adorned Lucas and me with jewelry while the they shared their future plans for the well.

Before the Lolgerded Well was drilled, women in this community walked six hours each day in search of water. The water they drank was from hand dug wells that were contaminated and salty. Many people in the community were afflicted with diarrhea, the common cold and eye infections due to drinking and using dirty water.  Thanks to their well, overall community health has improved significantly.

Art Project

Art Project

One of the highlights of our visit to Lolgerded was our art project on the back of the truck. Everyone gathered around to make a sign to thank Pittsburgh Children’s Foundation who funded the well. The big topic of conversation was the crayola markers. None of the children had seen anything like them and were incredibly fascinated. A great reminder to be thankful for what we have!

The Final Product

The Final Product

 

The rest of the day was filled with more wells: Nakwamuru, Supalek, Laresoro, Lolparuai and Lerata  B. With each well and every community there are handfuls of stories to tell. The one story line that runs throughout is that access to clean water changes lives and for that everyone is grateful.

Lolparuai

Lolparuai

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“Kristen, this is Africa. Isn’t it cool?”

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Ladies singing in the pick up

Yes…we finally made it to Samburu and saw some wells today!

The truck is fine. Something must have been dragging from the undercarriage last night, but miraculously by this morning it was gone. Big sigh of relief!

One of the great gifts The Samburu Project has to offer the people of Samburu is a ride in the back of the truck, with all the thanks going to those who donated to our Truck Campaign! Today there was a constant flow of people jumping in and out of the pick-up as we drove through the bush. The ladies pictured to the left joined us at the end of a very long, hot day and were so happy for the ride that they broke out in song. It was delightful!

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Singing & dancing on the way to the well

One of the benefits of people riding with us is that it is a perfect opportunity for community development. It’s a no pressure environment to ask questions about what’s happening in a community and for those that have a well, how it is working, what issues have arisen and what difference clean water makes in their lives. A few of the ladies pictured to the right live in the Nairisha 2 Well community. Exhibited by their singing, the incredible dancing that we did on the way to the well and the hundreds of times I heard “Ashe Oleng” (thank you in Samburu), their gratitude was overflowing. It’s these moments that make the challenges I face in my work more than worth it.

So, we visited four wells today in Sere Olipi and Ndonyo Wasin. Being that I am somewhat of a Samburu-phile, this was super exciting as I have yet to travel to these areas. The Samburu Project expanded into Sere Olipi in 2011 and then Ndoyo Wasin in 2012. Nothing like getting some more of the Samburu East road under my belt…and it’s a lot of road.

Road to Ndonyo Wasin

Road to Ndonyo Wasin

Our first stop was Ndonyo Wasin and it truly felt like driving to the end of the earth. Albeit beautiful, it was a long, hot and bumpy road. We arrived at the well to find two children there taking water for themselves and their animals. Nenderua (11-year old girl) and Leipua (9-year old boy) are typical Samburu kids; sweet, giggly, shy, and very, very curious. The Nesesiai Well was drilled at the end of 2012. It was clear that they were excited about the well and that it had changed their lives drastically. They have yet to go to school as there is no primary school close to their home.

Nenderua & Leipua

Nenderua & Leipua

After I said goodbye to my new friends and started to make my way up the hill to the truck, they started yelling. They wanted to see the pictures I took of them…OF COURSE. I must be rusty if I didn’t offer to show the kids their photos! I’m so glad they mustered up the courage to ask. Nothing better than watching Samburu children look at pictures of themselves!

We made our way back over the long, dusty road to Sere Olipi. There, we visited three wells: Sere Olipi Trading Centre, Sere Olipi Primary School and Nairisha 2. The wells in Sere Olipi were all bustling. Prior to The Samburu Project drilliing in 2011, Sere Olipi had never seen a hand pump before. Many of the people in town drank water from a dam about 5 kms away. The dam’s water is very salty and causes diarrhea. Between the Primary School and the Trading Centre wells, the 5,000 people in the whole town are quenching their thirst!

I had a lovely conversation with Winnie who teaches Standard 6 English and Standard 4 Math. She has been teaching at Sere Olipi Primary School for five years. She said that prior to the well, water was the biggest challenge she faced at the school. After long days teaching she would have to walk far to get drinking water. Washing her clothes was nearly impossible because it required walking 5 kms to and fro. Beyond her personal challenges, she spoke of the relief the well has given to the girls she teaches. Because personal hygiene is such a challenge in the absence of water, many girls were inconsistent with their school attendance. With water, they can now focus on their studies without interruption.

Teacher Winnie & her students

Teacher Winnie & her students

Night began to fall so we had to cut out of Sere Olipi before visiting our last two wells: Nolkapur & Nairisha 1. I was so exhausted that I dozed off on the way back to Archer’s Post only to be awakened to a BIG giraffe walking across the road. Lucas laughed at my reaction and said; “Kristen, this is Africa. Isn’t it cool?”

 

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Isiolo

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Time is ever a challenge in Africa. Lucas and I are consistently overambitious about what we can do in a day. Despite the long drive from Nairobi to Samburu, we thought we were going to make it there this afternoon in time to visit a few wells. On the contrary, we are staying the night at the Transit Hotel in Isiolo town which is the last stop before Samburu. The great part about this is that we got to visit an old friend of The Samburu Project, Alice Lenanyokie Lengalen and her new baby girl! Alice recently moved back to Kenya after many years in the US and is living in Isiolo (soon to return to Samburu!).  Beginning in 2007, Alice worked with The Samburu Project as a representative of her tribe.  She came to our events and shared first-hand the story of the Samburu people. The early years would not have been so successful if it weren’t for Alice.

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Before leaving Nairobi, we spent a couple more hours with Ajah Shah, our well driller. It’s always exciting to strategize about the future and discuss how we can work smarter together to maximize our impact in the Samburu community. I have been working with Ajay since June 2006. We met under less than ideal circumstances. I arrived in Nairobi, still bright eyed and bushy tailed, for our first well drill only to find out that our original drilling contractor was backing out. I was in a panic. I spent a year putting The Samburu Project together and this was the opportunity for the fruits of my labor to come to bear. My friends Ted and Belisa were flying in the next week to film the occasion. At that point, not drilling was not an option. Yes, I wanted to bring people clean water, but beyond that I HAD SOMETHING TO PROVE! I literally got down on my hands and knees in the lounge of the Nairobi Safari Club and cried.  It wasn’t pretty, but Ajay consoled me and reluctantly agreed to drill the wells. It was the beginning of a long lasting relationship.  We’ve hit some bumps in the road as you might image would happen between a drilling contractor and a nonprofit organization but in the end we have drilled a lot of wells (44 of 52) together that are providing thousands & thousands of people with clean, safe drinking water.

Once on the road, Nairobi traffic was relatively manageable and we sailed out of the city into the beautiful Kenyan countryside. I was so excited I even posted this picture on Facebook.

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The post included the note:  Heading north towards Samburu…it’s a smooth ride in the new truck…

Hope I didn’t speak too soon! After a stop in Nanyuki for some shopping and dinner we continued to head north and then there was a THUMP and dragging noises ensued! No, we did not hit anything living but something happened.  We just weren’t sure what. Lucas got out of the car to inspect, but by this time it was pitch dark. As you might imagine, there are no street lights or much light at all in rural Kenya. Lucas drove slowly to Isiolo. Everything was seemingly fine with the exception of the horrible dragging noise.  After our arrival and our brief visit with Alice, we checked into the Transit and Lucas took the car to “a mechanic”. It was already 10 pm. Wish I had more to report, but now at nearly 1 am I have yet to hear from him.  And, of course, his phone has been shut off!

Hope we still manage to meet our 7 am departure time. I’ve been traveling for three days and have yet to see a well over flowing with water.

More tomorrow…

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Nairobi

KK & LLI felt great when I landed in Nairobi at 7 am thanks to the “No Jet Lag” remedy I picked up at Santa Monica Homeopathic Pharmacy. Lucas was waiting for me just outside baggage claim. Stepping out of the baggage hall is always exhilarating – even with limited sleep my senses all perked up to the sights, sounds and smells of Africa.

As we made our way through the parking lot I could not tell who was more excited to see the new truck. We celebrated our new wheels all the way into Nairobi as we fought morning traffic which didn’t bother us because we were in our NEW TRUCK!!! Through the years, transportation has always posed an enormous challenge for our little organization so the truck is a significant milestone for The Samburu Project.

Our day was filled with meetings, but first we went to the NGO Coordination Bureau to check in on our NGO status. Did you know that The Samburu Project is a US nonprofit, a Kenyan NGO and a Kenyan CBO? These are all great things for good reasons, but each requires attention to stay in compliance. Just a few of the glamorous details we have to handle in order to run an international organization.

We met for hours with Kariuki, our hydrogeologist and Ajay, our well driller. It’s so fun to sit down with people who are as passionate about water and love doing it as much as we are. We shared ideas about ways to better our work. In the end we set a schedule for our 2013 Well Drill. Now, I just have to be sure that all of our funding comes in by June 30th!

Afterwards I had the chance to meet Duncan who has just begun to consult with us on our Kenyan accounting and financials. He too was full of ideas and gave me hope that we may not always be bogged down in the paperwork.

After a long day in Nairobi we are headed to Samburu. Stay tuned!

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