Friday, August 12, 2011

The Road to Kisumu

Today we left Nairobi and headed NW to Kisumu and Lake Victoria. Kisumu is the 3rd largest city in Kenya and 40km south of the Kakamega Tropical Forest. Within a few hours we crossed into the highlands area of lush green rolling hills of fertile soil. Quite different from South East Kenya where we traveled a few days earlier.

We then reached Limuru – which is the leading producer of potatoes in Kenya. From a popular overlook we viewed a stretch of the Rift Valley (divides Kenya from Ethiopia in the north to Tanzanian border in the south)

Making good time we stopped at the Lake Naviasha for a boat ride and tour of the national park. During the boat ride we saw different birds and group of hippos just lazily taking it easy in the water. Being used to visitors they kept a side glance at us but otherwise continued their leisure swim.

After crossing the lake, another guide took us on a walk through the park. To our surprise we were able to walk among various wildlife (only because they are not considered predators): zebra, water bucks, gazelles, blue wildebeest, giraffes and a camel were there for our entertainment and education. This was Africa!!!!! But not as I expected --- so much, much better!!!!!

As we continued on the road to Kisumu our eyes witnessed a breathtaking landscape change – luscious, green tropical forest trees and rolling hills known as the highlands. This was Londiani. We stopped to purchase vegetables from the kids selling them – huge bunches of carrots, peas, and cabbage! Bigger than I have ever seen! So here there is more rain, more food, more of anything that is not in Northern Kenya where the worst of the drought is occurring. The farmers in this area have worked hard to produce their best harvest, but there is no way that all this food can be consumed by their families or in their markets. The harvest is plenty! Irony maybe, tragedy definitely! Adequate infrastructure does not exist that could be used to transport this food to places in Northern Kenya and beyond to places that are in desperate need.

As we contemplated the reality of our situation we continued on the road to Kisumu. Due to road construction we were diverted into an alternate route that took us around the construction. This road was quite bumpy and definitely not one for the faint of heart. Thank God for such a skilled driver, Silas! Unfortunately, because of the rain and condition of the road we were soon met with a traffic jam - many other travelers taking this alternate road which typically carries travelers going to Uganda. We learned the traffic jam was due to a tour bus and transport truck that was stuck in the road. Well, we learned that the less traveled road is not always the easiest road, but it is the one that has many lessons for us to learn. Looking at the bright side of the situation, we noticed that the entire village had come out to see the traffic jam. This was a rare opportunity for them to look at the travelers and provide fresh discussion for the next month. They smiled at us, we waved at them, the kids gave us their most serious expressions and then broke out into grins when we took their pictures – of course they quickly ran back to the safety of their parents soon afterwards.

After a few hours we made our way through the alternate route and joined our original road to Kisumu. We arrived safely and definitely quite tired but learned much this day. This 2011 Journey may not just be about the fabulous work that World Neighbors and their partners have accomplished, but how many obstacles they (and the communities they support) face each and every day to create and maintain sustainable livelihoods. One drought, one road diversion can mean the difference between a community having enough food to eat or getting adequate supplies to where they are needed. The best lesson of all is that perseverance, patience, a lot of hard work can make the difference in any situation – even on this less traveled road. I’m very glad we took this road today.

- Beverly Thompson

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another day, another exciting experience

We visited two women's groups today in the villages near Tarime, Tanzania. The work focuses on child and maternal health challenges.

A school health club has been established to teach children early in life about the importance of personal hygiene, proper sanitation and nutrition. Secondary students are encouraged to practice abstinence and are educated about reproductive health issues.

There are very well established women's savings and credit groups, vital and thriving crops and kitchen gardens, and improved stoves for cooking, instead of the unhealthy indoor three-stone and open-fire previously used.

Together, the villagers are working hard in this early stage of development and had much to share about how their lives were much improved since beginning work with World Neighbors. I was thrilled to see they were growing okra!A little bit of home for this Oklahoma girl.

- Jan Taylor

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crossing the border

Today we traveled from Kisumu to Tarime, a district just across the Kenyan border in northern Tanzania.

We stopped on the way for lunch, and also at a soap stone store where we saw the products being made, starting from the natural stones to the finished products. We all managed to find treasures to take home. When we reached the border, we went through immigration with no difficulties. Tarime was a short drive from the border.

In the middle of the village behind white walls with an iron gate, was our next home for two nights, The Goldland Hotel. We sat outside for dinner and enjoyed the nicely landscaped patio.

- Jennifer Estes

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Monkeys, a spiritual rock and a hike

The day began with a visit to Kakamega Forest, considered the eastern-most remnant of the lowland Congolean rainforest of Central Africa.

Our guide educated us on the types of trees and vines growing there some with medicinal properties. On our two hour walk, we were entertained by several different species of monkeys. Next we drove to Kakamega Country Club for lunch. The weather could not have been more lovely for dining outside while watching horn bills swoop from tree to tree.

In the late afternoon on our way back to Kisumu, we stopped at Kit Mikayi "the rock of the first wife," a very dramatic rock formation and site of spiritual significance for the local Luo-Kakello clan. An elderly clan member was our guide and explained why this rock is so special to his people. Lots of religious groups, such as the one we saw "Ladies of Maria" Catholic Church, come there to pray, fast, light candles and worship. There was another colorfully dressed group huddled on an outcropping singing. We did some rather precarious hiking with our leader but the view was wonderful.

When we got back down, a group of ladies gave us a lively farewell dance. We joined right in much to their delight. Getting back to the hotel, we freshened up, then walked to an Indian restaurant down the street from our hotel. I never have much trouble sleeping after our very full days!

- Jennifer Estes

Friday, August 5, 2011

Beyond the End of the Road

Today we visited the Friends of the Katuk Odeyo Development Program (FOCODEP) in the Lake Victoria basin. This is a population dense area of more than 200 people per square kilometer. The region is challenged by population increase, environmental degradation, wide-spread unemployment and public health issues including HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria.However, within this region facing such great challenges are hopeful villagers who in 2005 began partnering with World Neighbors. Three thousand people in 23 villages have taken dramatic strides in building a better life for themselves and their families. This transformational change has been brought about by:

1. identifying leaders and offering training

2. establishing 4 savings and credit groups

3. environmental, soil and water conservation

4. group development dynamics

5. livestock management

6. food preservation by dehydration

7. tree nursery establishment

8. seed bulking

9. farmer field schools

10. household or kitchen gardens

11. safe water and sanitation

Our group was very impressed by Steven, age 28. He plants trees on his father's farm to sell in prevention of erosion. On this small plot of 3 hectares his family raises goats for milk and sale, chickens, cows, mangos, cotton, bananas, sorghum, cowpeas, squash and peanuts. There is a water catchment tank for storage of clean water and a tap. They have also dug a collection pond for watering of animals and stocks. The family is especially proud of Moses, their champion ram who won a local prize. The villagers in the community hand-dug a 4 foot by 50 foot pond to raise tilapia and also have a large pond used for watering of stock and gardens. Steven is extraordinary in commitment to caring for his parents, wife, children and extended family. He is studying American History and as we bid him farewell he asked us what our thoughts were of Abraham Lincoln and the Gettysburg Address. Catching us speechless, I understood at that moment the meaning of World Neighbors message of inspiring people and strengthening communities beyond the end of the road.

- Jan Taylor
Oklahoma City, OK

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kenyan Developments in Agriculture & Economics

Before leaving for the Voi Wilderness Lodge this morning, we drove down the road where we were told there had been a "kill." We were able to see a pack of lions sitting full and content under a bush and right beside them their water buffalo kill. Rather glad we happened on it "after the fact."

We returned to the Ngua Mlambo Development Trust (NMDT) program so that we could follow the director to the village we were to visit. After a bumpy dirt road ride, we arrived and were joyfully greeted by a group of women and men singing and clapping for us. After our extremely warm welcome, we sat on benches outside, opening with a prayer, introductions, then explanation of their goat raising project. World Neighbors gave them their first buck and two does in 2006 and since that time they have bred and upgraded their herd so that they were producing more milk and becoming more valuable animals. The villagers told us of their challenges and future plans. Very touching and humbling how special they made us feel. Spirit filled pastor gave awesome closing prayer. I have no idea what she said but I felt prayed over and blessed!

- Jennifer Estes
Wichita Falls, TX

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Coming Together, Unity, Taking Steps to Move Forward

Karibu! Jambo! These two words mean “Welcome” and “Hello” in the Swahili language. There is no other place on earth where you will experience the warm embrace of hospitality and sincerity of these simple words than here in Southern Kenya. Kenyans are indeed quite friendly and if you take the opportunity to grace their front door they treat you as if you were one of their own. Last night w traveled from an inspiring and comprehensive presentation and small reception from WN’s director Chris Macaloo and staff at World Neighbors headquarters in Nairobi to VOI , located about 4 hours away in southeast Kenya. Situated about 140km from the eastern coast of Kenya, we made our way to the VOI Wildlife Lodge. This beautiful lodge with spectacular views is located in Tsalvo East National Park, one of Kenya’s largest and oldest national parks covering almost 40% of the area of all of Kenya’s National Parks. As we settled into our rooms and prepared for dinner we had the special delight of watching a small cluster of elephants drinking from a water-hole situated outside of our balconies. What a delight and it being our first night! Even though this haven is settled in a remote location outside of VOI proper, crossed only by dusty, bumpy roads, the views experienced were well worth the trip. There was a sighting of a Lion (heard roaring again at 3:30am) and various other animals from gazelles to water bucks and various species of birds.

Feeling less Jet-Lag than before, Tuesday morning we took a 15min trip to the Maungu Village to learn about the NGUA MLambo Development Trust. The NDMDT and World Neighbors Partnership was active from 1999-2006. The work done by the NGUA and the community it supports, serves as an example of partnerships that create sustainability, community-owned, participatory strategies that build resilient communities within the Maungu Village and beyond the VOI borders. NMDT was birthed as a result of the Taita World Neighbor’s program which operated in the former Mbololo location. MLambo means “Coming Together, Unity, Taking Steps to Move Forward”. As an exit strategy (a key goal of WN projects is to phase out their primary role as the community becomes more self-sustaining) during the transition period in 1999 World Neighbors mobilized these communities to form a local organization which became a Trust in 2000. From 2000-2006 World Neighbors continued their partnership with the NDMT in various programs. Those programs include Institutional capacity building, Asset Development, Reproductive/Community Health Programs, Food Security, Saving and Credit, and Sustainable Agriculture and Rural livelihood. Some of the ongoing initiatives include capacity building poultry, Aloe Vera, and Chillie production.

After a presentation by board members from the NMDT, we traveled 30km SE towards the rolling hills of VOI to view the capacity production of the Marungu Aloe Community Group (ALCG). As one of 153 groups within the NMDT in the Taita District, the Aloe Vera C.G. is an example of the success of member groups to not only mobilize their efforts and resources to build a sustainable business for income generation but create a high-quality set of products that have been approved and certified by the Kenyan government (for production and distribution). NDMT has clustered each of the groups into zones of 6-15 groups which undertake similar activities. The Aloe Vera C.G. is among a zone of about 10 members groups. The ALCG was formed in 2006. As a target product for capacity building, the Aloe Vera plant was chosen as a viable product because of multiple benefits it provides to the community.

· Planting maize is difficult because of harsh environment

· Aloe is harvested in the dry season which is of benefit during harsh drought conditions

· Additionally, because of the location of the ALCG within the national park, elephants often cross lands, eat and destroy crops and other valuable resources - the elephants do not find it as a source of nutrition

The chairperson for the group, Rose Nwachoki, explained the process of inviting members into the group, aloe vera production, and how the NDMT supports the wider requirements of the CG to insure sustainability. To be a member you must have 50 of the plants on your farm. Initially, the group started with 55 members but now has expanded to 250+. The members of the C.G. were taught the recipes very creating aloe vera products by trainers provided by the NDMT. Because the aloe production process is currently a manual effort, each individual is required to “pull his own weight” within the group. With a smile on her face, yet a serious tone Rose says “You have to be active to be in this group. If you are not, then you are out! Even this woman (she motions her hand to the right), although she is old must share in the work!”. Indeed the process of making aloe vera is a manual labor intensive task but the products developed are quite unique. The product has many benefits include softening the skin as well as healing properties for cuts and rashes. As you could see from the bright, glowing complexion of the women (and men) in the C.G. the product definitely works (smile).

To our delight, we witnessed the actual production of aloe vera body cream as well as visited their shop to sample their displays. We were quite happy to purchase various products from their display which include aloe vera soap, lotion, and two types of body cream. The CG hopes to continue their line of aloe vera products to include capsules, tea and also powder.

Leaving the shop, we bid farewell to our new friends. We took many pictures, exchanged phone numbers, emails and promised to return again with more visitors on a World Neighbors journey. How do you measure the success of community development in remote areas were academic statistics and action research paradigms are not always relevant? I think the answer is reflected in this simple chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. World Neighbors goal is to support the development of a community from the inside out; teaching women, men and children the skills to create resilient communities by harvesting the knowledge and commitment that exists within a group of people. ….I would say, we met many fishermen today!

- Beverly Thompson

Washington, DC

Monday, August 1, 2011

Hit the Ground Running

The group for the 2011 Journey to Kenya and Tanzania arrived to cool and overcast weather in Nairobi, an amazing change for the travelers from Texas and Oklahoma who have had many, many days of 100-degree summer heat.

This is a special trip to East Africa for us all. Mark Estes and his mother, Jennifer Estes of Wichita Falls, Texas, have made the trip, following the footsteps of Mark's grandfather, Pete Estes. Pete is a lifetime supporter of World Neighbors, has traveled to many countries with World Neighbors, and is a personal friend of our founder, John L. Peters. To think that three generations have now come to understand the impact of this life-changing work is very gratifying.

Beverly Thompson of Washington, DC is making her first Journey and brings a great deal of experience in international development on the trip.

Everyone arrived safely and timely, if a bit tired from the days of travel. We have spent the first morning meeting the East Africa field staff, led by Dr. Chris Macoloo and have been warmly welcomed and prepared for our trip.

We are departing to visit our first program village in Voi, seeing a well established program village, functioning beyond expectation several years after World Neighbors has moved on to work with new program areas.

We will make every effort to share our rich and exciting travels through East Africa. Kwa heri! (Good-bye!)

- Jan Taylor

Oklahoma City, OK

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

World Neighbors Programs

Hello, fellow travelers!

For the next two weeks, we are going to travel to some of World Neighbors 70 program areas around the globe. We will be in Kenya and Tanzania, learning about the people who live there and about the work World Neighbors is doing to fulfill our mission of eradicating hunger, poverty and disease. Here is a little bit of basic information to get you started on our journey.

The map above shows Kenya and Tanzania in the context of World Neighbors 11 other programs. Community members in these areas have asked that we focus on the following problems in order to help villagers best improve their lives.


  • Increasing food security

  • Expanding income-generating activities

  • Decreasing environmental degradation

  • Establishing savings and credit groups

  • Creating mobile HIV/AIDS voluntary testing and counseling programs

  • Developing Farmer-Field schools


  • Encouraging efficient use of natural resources

  • Expanding capital for savings and credit programs

  • Facilitating group organizational skills

  • Promoting HIV support groups

  • Establishing individual and school nurseries

Consider this your invitation to join us virtually on our journey to Africa!- World Neighbors

- Headquarters Staff
Oklahoma City, OK