Living the experience
In a crisis, you do not have time make a neat plan or pattern. It is these times that call forth the best out of us, when who we really are is put to the test. The political crisis in our country has called to account anything we ever heard or knew as a congregation about helping those in need.
When mayhem broke out after the elections, those in the Kibera slums ran to the Jamhuri grounds for refuge. The camp, that was set up ad hoc, is right in our backyard. The agricultural show ground was not prepared to house the 6,000plus people it ended up hosting for the 2 months it has run. It actually exists to showcase the best products of the land one month a year. I remember walking into the camp and being totally overwhelmed by the hundreds of children running around and the desolate faces of so many women and men on the 31st of December.
As a church we responded fast to show mercy in the difficult situation at the camp. On that day, while a group of us started collecting data on those present, others made calls to source for food and help to manage the overwhelming situation. That night, we placed 10 women with infants in homes of church members. It took all evening to organize for their accommodation, but many hosts quickly made room in their homes for mothers with newborns and infants.
Our pastors sent out a distress call to the congregation to come to the aid of the people in Jamhuri. Within that first week you responded swiftly with relief supplies, volunteered to prepare care packages and distributed them. The response brought tears to my eyes the many times I came to the tent to receive donations. Many people went to volunteer in Jamhuri- to counsel, talk with the people and to run the kitchen. Some Ekklesia groups identified families to help. Through our volunteers and ground staff, some of you have offered jobs such as cleaners in offices, house helps and farm workers.
When Red Cross and alliance of churches stepped in to run Jamhuri, we then prepared food packages and distributed them in the Kibera through the Pastors’ network and ladies homecare fellowship. At that time Kibera residents had no access to food at all.
Later on we even prepared to open up our tent to receive the internally displaced people (IDPs). And although that did not happen, many of you stepped forward to help set up and run the camp.
Healing and Hope
Through you and your networks, we have brought healing in hurt and hope to despair in ways that are hard to quantify…or even enumerate! Thank you for the donations of airtime, food and clothes. Thank you to those who have volunteered time to ensure efficient administration of the work. Our pastors have received a continuous stream of encouragement and moral support—thank you. You have refreshed us through your words and your prayer, especially when the feeling of doing little amidst the great need has threatened to overwhelm us.
Even as we share what we have been doing and outline the way forward, this brochure is a celebration of each one of you. You, who gave till it hurt, but gave anyway; you who brought in what you had – yourself; you, who networked and brought in others that have facilitated all that we have done as a church, we celebrate you and bless you before the lord.
You have exemplified and lived Paul’s words to the Romans:
Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction
Faithful in prayer; share with god’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality. (12:9, 12-13)
I am honored to belong to the family of Nairobi chapel and to work alongside you. On behalf of the children, the cucus and gukas, the women and men you got out of the cold into the warmth of your embrace, I thank you.
God bless you.
The Continuing Work
Taking children back to school
Through your generous donations we have put over one hundred and ten children into boarding schools, a hundred of them in primary schools around the Kikuyu-Limuru and Ruiru areas and 11 in high school. Some of the schools have either waived or subsidized actual school fees. We are paying the subsidized amount and for food, school uniforms and basic necessities for the children.
Currently we have a waiting list of 300 standard eight children from Kirathimo and kikuyu who need school fees. We urgently need to respond to these as the deadline to register for the kepi exams with the ministry of education is next week. Beyond the standard eights there are hundreds of children in class seven downwards in camps but we are concentrating on the standard eights.
Rehabilitation of families in halfway homes
We have been running two halfway homes to help whole families from the camps to return to normal life. Three more will be fully operational in the coming week. Nearly 100 people have stayed in the homes over the last four weeks. After their bitter experience of being in camps, those who come through are totally overwhelmed by this gesture of generosity.
Our ground team goes round the various camps, and screens those who really need special care before they are able to pick up their lives. We take in vulnerable mothers with young children, elderly women, the sick, teenage mothers and those who are deeply traumatised. We run the halfway house like a proper home setting, complete with medical care and counseling. After about two weeks, many are ready to transition.
From Halfway Homes back to communities
Once people are ready to move on we rent houses for them in areas where they will be safe. We look for and hire the house for a month, buy food, household items and settle them in. We then help some get casual jobs like cleaning clothes or house help work. In partnerships with microfinance organizations, we help others to start small business to sustain themselves and their families. Some can only settle and work in farms, since that is all they have ever known.
Resettlement directly from the camps
Some people from the camps just need help to get a new home. Some had jobs they to go back to or businesses to restart elsewhere. To these types of people we find and rent houses in safer areas. Our team on the ground goes and pays housing for them and settles them in with household basics. We have settled about 200 families this way. This is an ongoing need and we are looking to settle another 300 by the end of this month.
Resettlement with relatives
There are some people in camps who knew of extended relatives in rural areas but had never visited them and so did not know where to start looking. Several of our ground staff have gone out with these to trace families and reunite them. Some of the families coming through our halfway houses have been resettled this way and through contacts at the camp.
Transport to rural homes
Resettlement has also included providing secure transport to relatives in rural homes. Those who were from Thika wanted to go to western Kenya and those from Nakuru and Eldoret wanted to come to Nairobi and to central province and eastern to look for relatives. There are many people that have been arriving at Jamhuri camp in buses from parts of central province. We have helped about 70 people to return to different directions. We also found that there were several organisations that were offering transport and we have been partnering with them.
Pst Faith Mugera: Faith is our Social Justice Pastor. She is the team leader of the IDP office, giving oversight to church’s response to the displaced people’s situation. She is also networking with more churches and partners to respond to the overwhelming needs of those in camps.
Maggie Gitau: Maggie has previously been working as Pst Oscar’s PA. She is in charge of communications and Public Relations for the IDP office. She is also keeping everyone on the same page.
Anne Mburu: Anne has been working in our Youth Department. She is ground team leader, running the Halfway Houses and overseeing resettlement. Anne has a large ground team working with her, including Mrs. Irene Maina and careen Ikua, the two ladies who run our weekly benevolence ministry.
Wambui Mburu: Wambui works with Kipepeo designs, but she is volunteering some of her time to us. She is the IDP administrator, assisting in setting up administrative systems for the project.
Damaris Matindi is a social worker by profession. She is running the school resettlement program, connecting with school principals and assessing the school needs of standard eight children in camps.
William Maura: Billy is an intern with us. He is seeing to the logistics and needs for the halfway homes. He is also running errands on behalf of the various teams.
Wanja Kimani: she is volunteering as a consultant to network us to corporate organisations.
Brigit Gakii (BG): she is working hand in hand with Anne Mburu to manage the ground teams.
Nancy Fleschig: she is assisting in logistics, communications and ground work.
Hasmik Babayan: she is an intern with us. She is managing the day to day financial needs of the work.
“My life changed…because of you”
Before the election crisis I lived in Kibera in a two roomed house that I had lived in for 16 years. I worked for a family in Olympic. When chaos erupted on the 30th of December I fled empty handed to Jamhuri. I could not go back to work because the home where I worked was burned down. Three weeks ago the Nairobi chapel workers took me out of the camp and put me in a halfway home. Afterwards they helped me to get and pay for a house in Kabiria to live with my two sons. My son did his KCPE exam last year and got 346 marks out of a possible 500. He was admitted in government provincial school.
Thank you for the help to rebuild my life. I’m now volunteering with the Nairobi chapel IDP ground team, to screen and resettle people. We are helping to get children back to schools. I have rededicated my life to Christ and I have a new hope, I have home, new friends and I have a new beginning.
“I have no regrets for giving up my business premise”…Alyta
It was my first time at Nairobi chapel when Pst faith made an appeal for people to open up homes to those in camps. I immediately felt convicted. I approached her after the service to offer my business premises, a rented piece of property on which I run a guesthouse. The following week they brought in 30 people to live at the house. My staff and I dedicated ourselves to offering them a homely environment.
I’m glad I did not think twice about it, and I have no regrets for giving up my business to help those in need. It has changed my life to watch those families come and ‘live’ once again. The lord has used this experience to change me. I realise how blessed I am even to have my home, my family and many basic things I always took for granted. I will need to start trusting god for the rent for the house soon, since I’m not making an income, but I have no doubt the lord will provide.
Peace building in our neighborhoods…
One of the other initiatives going on is peace building in the Dagoretti constituency and moving out in concentric circles to the wider Nairobi, eventually the whole country. Pst Kabibi and his team held meetings with community and opinion leaders in the area. Prior to that, leaflets were passed around ordering people from certain communities to leave the area. At the pastors’ request the chief called a local baraza (a community meeting) in Kawangware. The area mp and councilors addressed the baraza. After that the threats ceased. There has not been any trouble in the area.
The team has mobilised churches to take care of about 300 IDPs who have since been absorbed in the area. The pastors have also rallied to conduct an all churches joint prayer day in kikuyu, to call for healing and reconciliation.
Pst Kabibi, who is also closely working the Pst Ngari of Karura community church, will be going on to Kangemi and abate and eventually the whole of Nairobi in solidarity with other pastors. Wherever they go they are finding favour and willing pastors who just needed someone to mobilise, motivate and inspire in this direction of healing, reconciliation and humanitarian response. We may not hear or see them on the national television but a lot of good is going on the ground. There is even the possibility of long-term partnership among the pastors.
Pst Rick Slingluff is giving us leadership from this end. He is working with the existing networks of pastors in Kibera. These are the pastors who first worked with us to distribute food in Kibera in the heat of the crisis. Together, they have been organising prayer meetings in different churches. At the time we went to the press they were planning to have a Kibera Pastors conference on Friday the 24th, in our Sunday school tent. About 70 pastors had confirmed attendance. The focus for the conference is tribal reconciliation. In the coming months these pastors will call for joint crusades throughout Kibera. They will then build long-term relationships with some of these churches to engage the nine villages of Kibera slums.
Your best foot forward, yet…
Earlier on we said that times of crisis call forth the best out of us. We can all do something. Sometimes it only takes a little help to reverse a negative situation, to safeguard the sanctity of life.
To understand how easy it is to make a difference you need to be in one of the halfway homes when a new lot of IDPs arrive. Their faces are worn, empty, depressed. The loss of land, property, even loved ones, is too much. All that the women can do is cry and you will cry with them. Life in a displacement camp for two months has been too humiliating. The children have this listless and distrustful look you only see in newspapers about neighbouring countries.
If you visit the same group of people at the halfway home three days later, the turn-around is amazing. The women are cheerful and vibrant. They are talking of the future. The same children will be all over you with curiosity and excitement. It just takes a few days of care to restore their dignity. You even begin to see signs of healing for their crushed spirit. In a week or so when they are able to move on to privacy and independence, they are all gratitude and praises to god. You cannot want but be a part of this real life make-over.
“where the rubber meets the road”
The situation in the camps is getting desperate. Our ground staff reports that the level of trauma is increasing because of the deplorable conditions of living, the sense of loss and the continuous waiting while doing nothing. There are increased cases of mental illness being reported. Some people are also coming into the grounds and taking advantage of those who are desperate.
We cannot stand by and watch. These people are not your usual benevolence cases. They are people like you and I. Before the crisis, they were independent and productive citizens of this great country. They just need a hand to rise again. And they are giving us Christians a great window of opportunity to practice true Christianity. Will you stand up and be counted?
How can you make a difference?
1. Adopt a family for six months:
we have settled 200 families. It’s costing about Ksh 10, 000 to resettle in a family. After that each family will need Ksh 3,000 every month for at least 6 months or until they can be on their feet again.
2. School support:
Give Kshs 20,000 shillings to settle a child in a boarding school in one of the subsidized schools. If you are unable to raise that amount by yourself, mobilise your friends at your work place to raise this amount.
3. Food, clothes and consumer items donations:
Keep bringing in provisions of perishable food, clothing, beddings etc. We also have a new need for household items—cups, plates, spoon, cooking pots—for the families when we resettle them in new homes.
4. Open up your home to shelter a family—
a family has an average of five members. Our ground staff will help screen the people to come into your home. Then you can shelter them in your house for two weeks and then resettle them.
5.Give work/ casual jobs
For those of you with commercial farms please employ those who are from farming areas, who would not do well in the city.
7. Mobilize your corporate and business organizations to
- Adopt a halfway house for Kshs 20,000 a week
- Support 100plus children to school
- Give donations in kind: toiletries, beddings and food
- Lend us networks for business partnerships and micro finance
Because the lord has anointed me
To preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted;
To proclaim freedom for the captives;
And release from darkness for the prisoners;
To proclaim the year of the lord’s favor
And the day of vengeance of our god,
To comfort all who mourn
And provide for those who grieve in Zion
to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes
The oil of gladness instead of mourning
And a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair
They will be called oaks of righteousness
A planting of the lord for the display of his splendor”
Isaiah 61: 1-3
Two weeks ago we felt the urgent need to open up our tent to IDPs because of the congestion and disease outbreak in the camps that were existing. Several areas like Naivasha, Thika and Limuru had experienced fresh violence as a reaction to the events in the country, particularly the deaths of the two MPs.
The government had also announced that it would like to shut down Jamhuri Camp. When they first tried to close it, we had over 1500 people who we did not know what to do with and who had no where to go. So we came up with the plan to open up our tent. We prepared our site to host the people. They were to occupy our youth tent. We praise God for the goodwill and support with which many members of the congregation embraced the proposed initiative to open up our tents to the Internally Displaced People (IDPs). We were overwhelmed by the response that you showed. Many people brought in food supplies and others came forward to volunteer to set up and run the camp.
Within a few days of our making the decision to open camp at Nairobi Chapel, several bus loads of displaced people arrived from Thika and Limuru to the Jamhuri Camp. So Jamhuri Camp was not closed. Since then people have continued to arrive in busloads.
At our tents, we have remained prepared for any eventuality, that if the Jamhuri camp were to close suddenly or if there was trouble somewhere then we would allow people to stay in our tents. Our staff and volunteers continue to be engaged at Jamhuri. They are offering counselling services, helping with food distribution and preparing people to transition out of the camp.
Still our staff and volunteer teams still went out to Kirathimo, Thika, Tigoni, Nakuru and other outlying camps to meet with the people. They offered to help those who felt they were insecure in those places to move to our tents. We found out that those who were already settled in camps did not want to move from one camp to another. They feared that if they moved they might be targeted. They had other more pressing requests for us. We therefore redirected our relief efforts to the things they asked us to do:
1. To resettle them into safer residential areas in Nairobi and help them start businesses to support their families and move on with life.
2. To find Schools for their children: Many parents cried out that it didn’t matter what they went through in the camps. But they cared what happened to their children’s education. They have been asking that we take their children to school, especially those who are in Std 8 or in High schools. As of now we have settled 10 high school girls from Nakuru and Eldoret in a school in Nairobi. We are resettling another 50 Standard eight children into schools by the end of this week. We also have a waiting list—and the numbers are rising—of 150 Standard eight children that must go to school within the next two weeks if they are to make it for their standard eight exams.
3. To provide Transport to their rural homes: many wanted us to help them get secure transport to take them to their rural homes. Those who were in Thika, Tigoni or Kirathimo wanted to go to Western Kenya, and those in Nakuru and Eldoret wanted to come out to Nairobi, Central Province or Eastern to look for relatives.
A lot of work has gone into each of these initiatives. We will send you a detailed update on each of these and call for further engagement. There is also more going on simultaneously in response to the call to our leaders made that we become the salt and light in our country at this hour.
The task has only just began:
We thank God that there is calm in the country, though it is an uneasy calm. With the semblance of calm, Nairobi, indeed most of the country appears to be back to normal. However, for all those who lost loved ones, whose businesses were destroyed, for those whose homes were burnt or were kicked out in Eldoret, Molo, Burnt Forest, Nakuru, Thika, Kibera Limuru and elsewhere life is not back to normal. It cannot be, for many cannot go back to their homes until such a time as they are assured that it is safe to do so. They cannot make a living; the rains are here but they cannot plant. Their children cannot go back to schools. It will take a long time for them to rebuild their lives. The Lord continues to call on us to stand in the gap, to do whatever we can to care for them and be means of showing God’s love for them. And particularly we must assist those who are most vulnerable in this situation, the children.
Thank You for all your support and prayers for this work.
Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org