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Could you survive on a cup of water a day? A visit to Kiamuri, Kenya

Though Youthlinc has worked for four years in Kiamuri, Kenya — though I’ve read reports, seen photos, and heard stories – I was truly amazed to see with my own eyes the work our teams have done. In two days, our in-country coordinator Sister Mary Wayua showed me water systems, classrooms, vocational training equipment, libraries, women who have received microcredit loans, and the countless smiling faces of the villagers. Everyone passes their regards to their American friends.

Kiamuri – all of Tharaka District – is experiencing an extreme drought. Many people are subsisting on one cup of water a day. Stop for a moment and imagine that. Think about the quantity of water you use each day: to drink, to shower, to cook your food, to brush your teeth. Could you live on one cup of water a day?

Kitchen gardens are dried up, so food is scarce. There is famine in Kiamuri. People are lucky to get one meal a day: perhaps a little millet porridge, perhaps not. I hope you will join me in praying for rains to start in Tharaka in March or April.

It’s difficult to contribute to one’s community when one is dehydrated and hungry, yet the people of Gikuru – one village in Kiamuri area – have managed somehow to construct another classroom with their own meager means. This is a contribution worth $4,500 in-kind. It is helpful to think of the Gikuru villagers’ contribution when considering a donation to a classroom in Kiamuri.

This classroom supplements the two that Youthlinc donors built and teams constructed. More good news: the Kenyan government is currently building two more at the request of Gikuru villagers. Our goal for this summer is to add the final two classrooms, so that the mud & twig structures – dangerous and leaky – can be demolished and the children of Gikuru Primary can learn in a minimally safe and sound environment.

Even more good news: A Rotary International Global Grant – supported by Rotary Clubs of Park City Sunrise, Park City Lunch, Vernal, Richfield, Southwest Valley Sunrise, Centerville/Farmington, Sugar House, and Middleton, England – will provide a huge rock water catchment system in Gikuru! With this US$12,000 system, the people in Gikuru will have a reliable water source in times of drought. This year’s team will see the huge granite slab which will form the basis of this catchment system when they are in Gikuru this June.

This is our last year in Kiamuri. There is still a bit to be done. Besides the remaining classrooms in Gikuru, Kauthene still needs water. These villagers drink from the same deep well that the local animals use. So the source is polluted. Because of the generosity of the Michel Family Foundation, the primary school will receive rainwater catchment gutters and a tank. Still, at least one more tank (a mere US$700) to ease the water crisis during the seven months of drought each year.

Finally, a Rotary Grant last year provided the equipment for a bread making enterprise in Kiamuri. However, there is no electricity to power the machines. The government power lines are just over 3 kilometers away, but there is no telling when or if electricity will arrive in Kiamuri. Youthlinc would like to provide a generator (US $2,000) so that our students can begin teaching baking lessons this June and Kiamuri residents can undertake a profitable small business.

I was not part of the site visit to Kiamuri which established this area as a Youthlinc site five years ago. Having seen the place, I wonder if I would have recommended that we proceed. It’s always been my philosophy – and the Organization’s philosophy—that we need to partner for quality of life change. Seeing the drought, seeing perhaps half of Kiamuri still without water (even with the systems Youthlinc and Rotary have brought), I wonder how these extremely impoverished people even survive, no less partner. But they do. And that puts the human spirit in perspective. And it reminds us how much we have, how little we need, and how great is the calling we have to help.

Kiamuri Secondary School classrooms contributed by Youthlinc donors and built by the community & Youthlinc teams:

Rainwater catchment at Holy Family Primary School, Kiamuri. Built with a Rotary International Grant through the support of Utah Rotary Clubs and the Rotary Club of Middleton, England:

The mud & twig classrooms that Youthlinc teams & donors have been working to replace in partnership with the village of Gikuru:

Downtown Gikuru:

Youthlinc

Youthlinc is a Utah-based 501c-3 nonprofit dedicated to creating lifetime humanitarians through local and international service. Learn more about our programs by visiting our website: www.youthlinc.org.

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