25th November 2011 – a cold freezing rainy Friday morning. Despite the dull weather, the bright smiling faces of the staff at the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) who were up early site analyzer tool
and eager for the dedication ceremony of a completed house to an Internally Displaced Person (IDP) at Mai Mahiu brightened the day.
The OAIC had planned for the ceremony for a while now and had anticipated for a beautiful day and even the gloomy weather could not stop those plans. The hour or two road trip to Mai Mahiu w coinstar competition Coinstar Money Transfer, ROMANIA, VASLUI
as smooth all the way even as it drizzled all the way. The house whose dedication was the focus of the day had been fully sponsored by the OAIC for an IDP Margaret Wanjiru and had finally been complete and ready for occupation by its new owner.
It had been months since the Organization of African Instituted Churches had decided in collaboration with the Habitat for Humanity to construct a house for an IDP as part of its larger vision that seeks to improve the well-being of the communities and the society at large.
The place was alive and green; the healthy plants on the small piece of land and the chirping birds told the story of the beautiful environment that welcomed us at Mai Mahiu. This was a sharp contrast image of what we saw a few months back. On our initial visit to the IDP camp in Mai Mahiu we were met by the glaring eyes of the IDP children staring at us blankly wondering what ‘the visitors’ had come to do or brought them . The young ones state of affairs reflected a desperate situation at the Vumilia – Swahili for patience – IDP camp in Mai Mahiu – A Kikuyu word for a place of hot water – which leaves many wondering why four years after the post-poll chaos the government has not been able to resettle all the IDPs.
As part of OAIC’s wider array of activities which seeks to enhance the well being of people in society in various aspects, Margaret Wanjiru, a mother and grandmother has a house she can now call home.
The General Secretary of OAIC, Reverend Nicta Lubaale recalled how he had been called by the Director of Just Communities Reverend Phyllis Byrd who wanted the Organization to think about participating in a project that would ensure that an Internally Displaced Person’s family gets a roof on their heads as many had been staying under the tents since the post Election Violence (PEV) in 2008 under inhumane conditions.
“It was not an easy decision since we are constrained financially as an organization and our budget is minimal. We thought through this idea and decided that this was definitely an opportunity for us to participate by taking up the challenge of constructing the house for a family. We did this to show solidarity with all those who were affected with the post election violence which was a misfortune that should never happen again in Kenya,” Reverend Nicta stated.
“Today I stand here glad that we made a good decision. If more resources come our way we will be more than willing to construct another house for an IDP. We will endeavor to indulge our churches to ensure that everyone lives in fullness. OAIC should not be the only ones to thank, but rather we should all thank the people of Vumilia camp and congratulate them for standing together and supporting each other throughout this healing process. When the government finally provides the land that it has promised, we will endeavor to offer any possible assistance to ensure that agriculture which is the backbone of the nation is done here in abundance,” added the General Secretary.
The General Secretary then went ahead to officially open and hand over the house to Margaret. He also gave a bible to Margaret urging her to find solace in the word all the time amid songs of worship from the women in Vumilia camp who had come to celebrate with her.
“As a mother I understand how it feels to see your children in desperate cries. I have thus brought today with me 2 beds, mattresses, a table, chairs and other furnishings that will go a long way to at least make you comfortable in you new abode. We have also brought you some food stuffs and this has been done not seeking for praise but for God to be glorified. Unlike other organizations, OAIC has very little money but we chose to share the little we have, realizing that as one shares, God blesses one in return,” stated the Director of Just Communities, Reverend Phyllis Byrd during the ceremony.
Reverend Phyllis Byrd Ochilo, who previously served at the board of the Habitat for Humanity in the United States of America, was instrumental in bringing the organization to New York Brooklyn and she was full of praise for the Habitat which she stated had done tremendous projects to improve the livelihoods of people. She was glad that they had been in the forefront of ensuring that IDP’s are resettled.
“When my daughter Atieno asked me why we had to have a dedication service for this House in Mai Mahiu today and its importance, I told her that it is necessary to let God lead the way in everything we do as without Him everything is in vain. I would like to thank the mason who was responsible for its construction and everyone else who necessitated its completion. Psalms 127 alludes to the fact that “unless the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain, that “unless the Lord guards the city, it is all in vain,” thus the importance of this dedication ceremony,” stated the Reverend.
Margaret Wanjiru finally had a place to call home after all the nights in the cold. She was overwhelmed with joy as her glowing eyes and bright smile told it all.
She recalled how she got a message from Reverend Phyllis telling her that the OAIC was going to construct a house for her and she could not hide her joy as she thanked the organization for the kind gesture.
“My neighbor’s houses were completed before mine and I could see the sadness in my granddaughter’s eyes. She spent many hours just sitting in the neighbor’s houses as she was very comfortable there. She kept on asking when our house would be complete and I am very glad that this day has come to pass. My granddaughter had always confessed to us having our very own house and I know those confessions have come to pass,” stated Margaret.
“When the mason had completed the house, she ran and tore the tent we had been living in since the post election violence. She then went and told everyone that we were finally going to enter our new house even before the doors had been fitted in. God has been truly amazing and I pray that they way God has been good to me that the rest of the families that are yet to get houses will also have a roof to themselves very soon,” added Margaret.
Festus Mutua the Resource Development and Communications Officer for the Habitat for Humanity stated how the organization had seen the need to resettle the victims affected by PEV in Mai Mahiu as they had been sheltering under tents for a long time without any forthcoming assistance. He notes that there were 335 families an approximation of 1000 people living on a one acre piece of land under tents under inhumane conditions.
“Habitat for Humanity not only builds homes for people but also for communities. We have helped disaster stricken families for a long time and we always seek to help communities get back on their feet. Habitat’s initial thought after consulting with the headquarters in the United States was to build homes for 120 families in Mai Mahiu. We however asked ourselves where would the rest of the families go to? We thus decided that the best option was to try hard and fundraise locally and many partners have come on board to support this initiative. The process of building and resettling IDP’s has been going on for the past two years now,” he stated.
To date 295 houses have been built and others are still being constructed. 275 houses are occupied already. The Population in Vumilia camp is approximately 2300 people.
“The people here are very resilient as they do not just sit and wait for the construction to be completed. They help whenever and wherever they can. The government has promised to give the people more land from this area and this will go a long way in ensuring that some commendable farming is practiced,” he stated.
This was clearly an early Christmas gift for Margaret who for three consecutive Christmases has not known any other home than the tent. She was identified as a deserving IDP by the OAIC and its partners. Margaret, a widow with seven children, was displaced from her home in Rift valley during the 2007/2008 post poll chaos which she still remembers vividly. “I remember we went to vote on a Friday and on Sunday people were not able to go to church as their houses had been burnt down. We woke up to see people trekking with some carrying a few belongings on wheel burrows,” stated Margaret.
She recounts an incident where her sister Veronica Wanjiru Kariuki who had bought land in the region was raped, her house burnt down and she later died leaving her 6 children orphaned.
At the time of the post-poll chaos, her granddaughter who is now 3 years old now was a few weeks old and she remembers being allowed to stay in a goat’s pen in order to try and prevent the granddaughter from getting pneumonia. They later left for the police station where they stayed for three days before they were told to return to their homes but they decided to seek refuge at a Catholic church in the area. After 2 weeks the church urged the IDPs to return to their homes as calm seemed to have returned but they still feared for their safety and decided to join others who were already at the Show grounds and here they were given tents which they have been using to date.
“My nephew one day decided to go back to their home to see if he could get a few clothes. He was attacked and left by the roadside for dead. A deaf man saved his life when he saw a white man passing and he stopped him he pointed to the direction where he was lying. He was rushed to the hospital which only bandaged his entire body and offered little help and he was later transferred to Nairobi for treatment,” recounts Margaret.
After staying at the Show grounds for 2 years, they formed a chama- small savings group -. Each member was required to contribute 2 thousand shillings to enable them search for a piece of land where they planned to migrate to as help from the government was not forthcoming. At one instance, the government gave IDPs 10 thousand shillings and she was unlucky as she was away fending for her children. When she got back, she found the officials had already left. Margaret says she pleaded with her fellow IDPs who accepted to pay for her the 2 thousand shillings for her name to be included in the land-buying strategy.
The government later gave them another 25 thousand shillings. The 335 families decided to each contribute 13 thousand shillings to buy the land they had identified in Mai Mahiu. The money was able to purchase the 21/2 acres of land they are currently in and each person was allocated a piece measuring 100 by 50 feet. They however have not each been allocated a title deed and she hopes that once all houses for IDP’s have been constructed, they shall each have a title deed.
Margaret’s first born is 40 years old and the last born a 29 years old girl in form one and she is the mother of the grandchild she currently stays with. She stays with her two children when they are on holiday from school and college and her grandchild as the rest have their homes.
She says she would not like to see the happenings of 2007 repeated in the country. She accused the Police of being partial during the chaos.She notes that other families who lost up to 5 members from the same family are afraid of ever going back to their farms.
“With all that pain and sad memories what is the reason for going back in those farms? We are aware that some of the land was already occupied by other people,” she laments.
I ask her if she will vote and she states that she does not even know her MP is. She says she has never heard of him nor seen him. “We will decide when that time comes,” she says.
She says though the government provides food to them sometimes after 3 months or so, she says there needs to be measures to avert a repeat of a similar occurrence. Currently she survives by God’s grace as she has no source of income. She confesses to illegally getting some firewood from Kijabe forest. “I wake up by 5 am to go to the forest with others to fetch firewood before 8 am when the forest guards enter to inspect the forest,” she says.
The organization used 250,000 shillings to construct Margaret’s house.
“If we get more funds we will definitely be able to support other IDPs but for now we need to think about Margaret’s welfare and ensure that she has a self-sustaining means of survival,” states OAIC’s Bernard Mwinzi.
By: Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications