Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Planning, budgets, programs...some of the work we (and MCC) do in Kenya

As we have been quiet on our blog these last couple of months, I thought I’d give you some idea of what we’ve been up to. We just emerged from a heavy season of planning and preparation for the new fiscal year that began in April. During December, January, and February, Rand and I have been involved in budget development and proposal writing, reviewing, editing and finalizing for MCC’s work in Kenya. We have done a lot of this on our own, and much of it with input from program specialists with MCC in Canada and the US. Most of the proposals that we support have a three year duration, so developing them is not a small task for our partners who implement them.

MCC’s method of working in most countries and areas is by partnering with established organizations, or partners. In other words, typically MCC would not come into a community and say, “You need a well, and we will fund it. “ Rather MCC’s partners are organizations who are already at work in MCC’s strategic and geographic areas of interest and share MCC values.

In Kenya our areas of focus are food security/agriculture/water, health (including HIV/AIDS prevention), education, disaster relief, and peace-building.  The majority of our money is spent on water/ag/food security.  All of our partners use methods and techniques that are unique to their environments, populations, and particular needs; no two programs look alike.
A Self Help Group building a sand dam in the Ukambani region of Kenya.
In the food security/ag/water sector, our partners build sand dams, implement various methods of water harvesting, tree planting, and conservation agriculture. I realize as I write this how new these terms are to me. Even food security, a term I’ve been familiar with and involved in for years, takes on greater meaning in sub-Saharan Africa. 

A sand dam with water flowing over it. In the dry season
the water stored in this dam will be crucial for crops,
livestock, and people in the area. 
Our health work primarily consists of funding HIV/AIDS prevention programs through the Kenya Mennonite Church, but also with a Presbyterian organization in Ewuaso, a rural Maasai community. AIDS is a concern globally, of course, and the task of educating and empowering youth and young adults to make healthy choices is important in slowing transmission. Additionally, certain cultural practices in some communities make the task even more urgent and difficult. We work with strong community leaders who are motivated to educate folks about the risks of unwise health decisions and the role of traditional cultural practices in spread of HIV. This is not easy work, nor is community behavior change easy. At times, this work takes on an added dimension to me as I see some of these men who are leaders in their communities and who have become meaningful spokespeople in explaining the dangers of gender-based violence and why the church should be leading the discussions in these issues.


Bottles laid out to sterilize in the sun at Menno Kids Academy. Each student and
teacher has his or her own bottle that is laid out each day. 
WASH (or Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) is an important focus area; for the majority of Kenyans, clean water is nothing to take for granted. Several of our partner schools implement programs in their schools and surrounding communities.


We also support several schools through MCC’s Global Family Fund. We partner with schools and organizations in our country that face incredible challenges – they strive to provide quality education to vulnerable kids and provide them a loving, stable environment. Visiting these schools and seeing the tireless work of the teachers is amazing. We have also been fortunate to have a young, bright service worker (i.e., MCC volunteer) work with these schools. 
The kids at Mukuru Menno Academy holding up their water
bottles after sitting in the sun (the SODIS method is part of our WASH
programs at the schools. Clean water is not to be taken for granted here.

I realize that climate change is a controversial term in the US, fraught with highly politicized factions. That is not the case here: it is a hard reality that millions of people in this region of Africa deal with on a daily basis. It has changed the rains, the water availability, the crops, livestock breeding patterns – almost everything. The increasing number of droughts has required that we work with our partners to provide relief and food aid. There are various ways we do this, and we know that at some point in our term, we will face another serious season of food shortages. We fortunately have seen good rains over the last month – albeit strange, as they started in February, rather than March. We hope that crops will grow and produce well this season.

Two participants engaged in the "river of life" exercise during the Justice
that Heals Learning Community, led by MCC partner DiPaD.
Kenya has a long history of inter-tribal violence and border disputes, often escalating around elections. Although the past election, a year ago, passed without overt violence, there are still tensions that many Kenyans feel. MCC supports organizations that work in this area. We are also excited about a new program that starts in April in Eastleigh, the neighbourhood in Nairobi where most of the city’s Somali immigrants and refugees live.

The tasks of developing a budget (and you will be relieved to know that Rand does most of that!) and revising and editing plans can feel a bit cold and disconnected from the workers in the communities. At the same time, it gives us the opportunity to see the hard work that our partners put into providing services for the people they serve. We really are amazed at what can happen in these communities with limited resources and less than ideal circumstances. For those of you who give to MCC, thank you, and please know that we really do work hard to ensure the money is spent wisely and with kindness and compassion. https://donate.mcc.org/

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