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Kenya Reports

Report #62
August 28, 2008

Growing Up:

When Gladys and I returned from our latest trip, one of our nephews, Duncan, came to see us. He came to thank us for having sent him through college. He attended Maseno University to become a secondary school Math/Physics teacher. He had finished a year ago and got a local hire position which paid him 6,000/- ($92) per month for salary! He came because he has just received an appointment as a regular government secondary school teacher and his salary will now be 25,000/- ($385) per month. He was so excited that he hadn't slept the night before coming to visit us.

The point of this bit of family information is that it illustrates how difficult it is even for a youth who does well in school and "follows all the rules" to get ahead in Kenyan society. In Duncans case he was lucky to have relatives who were willing to support him through college. We appreciated his thanks.

But what happens here in Kenya when you don't have family to support you in your young life's journey?

As part of our contract with the United States Institute of Peace, in conjunction with the Laikipia Nature Conservancy, we just finished three Basic AVP workshops in Kitale (a town north of Eldoret at the eastern base of Mt Elgon). The participants were youth living on the streets, sex workers, drug addicts, etc. In other words, those who have no family to support and guide them. Eunice Okwemba, who was the lead AVP facilitator in these workshops, told me that one young woman (16 or 17 years old) was an orphan and already had a baby. A Pentecostal Fellowship with support from Norway was working with these youth and arranged the workshops for us.

On day one of the first workshop 57 youth showed up! They had to turn away half of them. Normally we have 20 to 24 participants in a workshop, so 30 was already over the limit. In the end we conducted three workshops with a total of 85 youth. Eunice said that the workshops were remarkable. As I listened to her stories, two aspects came to the fore. First the "respect for self and others", which they had not experienced much in their lives, gave them positive hope. Then the "transforming power" led them to realize that they had within themselves the resources to change.

After the last day of the third workshop the youth, on their own initiative, decided to have a closing ceremony. They invited the government officials and media to attend. Getry rushed over from Lubao to participate and the youth presented a petition to the government to give more peacemaking activities to the youth. Two TV stations filmed the event, although I haven't heard of anything being broadcast.

In the United States young people have so many possibilities that it is difficult to decide what choice they want to make. Here there are so few possibilities in life that the transition from youth to responsible adult is fraught with discouragement.

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