Affording to Smile

27 Mar 2012   |   Blog   |   Long-term Development   |   Kenya

Tags:  community, Kenya, sub-saharan Africa, Poverty relief   |   1 comment

Earthquake damaged cathedral

By Siobhan Jordan, Caritas Australia Program Officer, Africa & Latin America

Back in February I had the opportunity to visit our program in Malindi with Mary Wachira, our Program Officer in the Nairobi office, Kenya. Over the last three years, Mary has been visiting the communities involved in the program regularly.

What struck me the most was the constant reminder of how poverty is not just about dealing with the critical challenges of a lack of food, water and education. Poverty is also about issues of human dignity and of being excluded from participating fully in life.

In every community they shared the joy of having enough food to eat and enough food to sell, and what this means. It means having enough money to send their children, especially girls, to school; it means being able to afford school excursions, it also means not having to marry off their young daughters out of financial desperation.

Having enough food to sell is changing the lives and futures of not just those directly involved in the program, but their families and communities as well.

One moment that really stood out to me was when I visited a community in Kakoneni, and the community members requested a new water pump from the program. Kamau from Caritas Malindi asked them how much they thought a pump cost. They were pleasantly surprised to realise they had earned enough money from the program to afford it themselves. This has given them confidence and a feeling of empowerment that comes from achieving (or being on the road to) self-sufficiency.  

Time and time again as we arrived to visit communities, we were greeted with singing and dancing. Mary constantly expressed to me what a difference this was from when she had first started visiting, when there was no singing or dancing and in fact, no smiles. How do you smile when you live with chronic hunger? Mary reflected this to me many times.

“Siobhan, the fact that they can now afford a smile, this says everything”. And it does.

Learn more about Caritas Australia's work in Kenya.

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1 comment:

  • A friend of Caritas

    “A touching story Siobhan.”