I was born on 29th November 1999 to Wafula’s family. I am the first born in a family of six and I grew up in a village where many girls try hard to make a better life for themselves. When I was five years old, my parents separated and my life changed greatly after the divorce…… I think it was because too much drinking of the local alcohol on the part of my father.
After my mother left life became miserable and unbearable without hope of going to school. We had to move to our grand parents’ home. Life at grandpas was very hard as we all depended on the little that was raised on their farm. My father became a bad alcoholic addict and he was always drunk and abusive. Knowing this, I continued to appreciate myself despite knowing that I have no parents who could send me to school. Time went by, I admired other girls going to school and coming back carrying their books and I wished I were like them. Two years later, I gained courage and I told my grandparents that I was meant to go to school.
Three years passed since I started nursery school. What a hard life that was! I kept on coping with my situation believing that one day I will make life better than this. Obstacles succumbed; sometimes I was harassed by many that I was a poor child, that I didn’t deserve anything in life. I was not alone being poor and desperate. Other girls in our villages who were the same as me ended up working as maids before ever being able to achieve their dreams and goals. Life was a struggle. Going to a public school, teachers were often sending me home to bring the school fees. Failing to get them, I ended up staying at home. It was an unimaginable and unbelievable hardship that I will always remember.
The most devastating thing was that I was being mistreated by my drunkard father. I would wake up at dawn to work before going to school. I walked about six kilometers barefoot to school and sometimes went without food. I was only barely surviving, being emaciated for lack of food.
Five years went by and I was in standard five. Life got more difficult because sometimes my drunkard father would abuse me saying I needed to marry a rich man near our home, but the words hurt me very much. I prayed God to give me strength to face this. Making a decision was not an easy thing, and I struggled very much. I tried to figure out the right way to get through it. I was lucky that my grandfather stood by me all the times.
As a desperate girl, my thoughts of lacking parental care flooded my innocent mind vividly. Life continued being hard, but I did not give up. Years went by and I was in class eight in 2013. I did my first exam of Kenya Certificate of Primary School (K.C.P.E.). After a few months, the results were out and I was as eager as a bride and groom to see the results.
Looking at it, my happiness overwhelmed me. I had passed very well getting 367 and it was an unbelievable thing. With a mean grade of B+, I started forgetting the problems that I was going through. I received an admission letter from Butere Girls High School and again school fees became a problem. I was again about to go to a day secondary, when a church member told my grandfather about Lenana Girl’s High School.
My heart pumped very hard and I was told me I was supposed to go for an interview.
Now here at Lenana Girls High School is where my life has changed. I have hope for an education. It has influenced my life and it will continue until I complete my studies. What will my life be like after ten years? I hope to have a precious and prosperous life. I look forward to when this dream becomes a reality. My fear is not that I am inadequate, but that I am powerful beyond measure.
I will live to be remembered.
FIELD OF DREAMS
HOW LENANA GIRLS HIGH SCHOOL IS CULTIVATING HOPE IN THE LOCAL COMMUNITY THROUGH GROW BIOINTENSIVE FARMING.
Farming has always been a part of Elizabeth Wekesa’s life. Like many people who grew up in Kenya, Elizabeth was born into a family that relied on working the land to grow enough food to keep them alive. Her home is in the rural community of Nakwangwa, located along a river of the same name in the easternmost part of her village.
When Elizabeth’s husband died 10 years ago, leaving her to provide for 9 children on her own, she did so through small scale farming . “My life would not be possible without the farm,” Elizabeth says.
That reality echoed in the lives of many of her neighbors, too.
In response, Lenana Girls High School that was started with funding from WHY Hunger started a community outreach programme in Elizabeth’s neighborhood. There, community members come together to plant gardens, water, weed, and harvest. And the harvests are providing hope.
LIFE IN NAKWANGWA
In Nakwangwa, a small community of about 1000 people, mostly occupied by victims of post election violence of 2007/08, opportunities for employment are few. During the dry season, some people find work making bricks, but most people farm, either for themselves or someone else. The plowing, seeding, watering, and harvesting are all done by women with the help from older children, both girls and boys.
The majority of harvests meet only the most basic nutritional needs. Most families in the village – many of which are also headed by single mothers like Elizabeth- are able to eat once a day, although this can decrease to once every other day during the rainy season from April to July, when crops are growing but there is no food to harvest as they wait for crops to grow.
Of course, hunger is just one of the challenges families in Nakwangwa face. The lack of clean water further complicates life. Although the village is next to a river, the water is not clean as the sewage from Kitale township drains into this river. During the rainy season, families capture rainy water in buckets, but in the dry season the entire village draws water from a single hole in the ground. By September, the closest place with any water left is a three-Kilometer walk.
Local health care is also limited. Malaria is a major risk in the area and with no clinics or pharmacies close by, community members must travel 30 kilometers over rough roads to Kitale to see a doctor or purchase medicine. If people get sick during the night, they must find someone with a bicycle or motorcycle who is willing to take them to town, or else they have to wait until morning to find a car taxi.
The pursuit of education requires even more walking. It’s more than 7 kilometers each way to the nearest school. And with tuition at the closest schools ranging from Kshs. 300 (US$3) to Kshs. 106, 000 (US$ 1, 060) per year per child, local families are rarely able to send all their children to school. Typically, when parents have to choose, they send the boys before the girls.
HOW DOES THE GARDENS GROW?
“The lack of food and basic provisions for families was our main motivation in starting a farm, “says Cynthia Khalayi, Principal of Lenana Girls High School. I wanted to help women and children (who are most vulnerable) have something to eat.” Most garden covers nearly a half an acre of land. They grow Kale, zucchini, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, and tomatoes grow alongside corn, cabbage, pigeon peas, millet, and a leafy green vegetable known locally as suja.
SHARING THE HARVEST
When the crops are ready, families take what they need and leave the rest. Anything left over is sold, and the income is used to provide for basics such as hygiene items, education, improved housing, and medical care.
“I use the income to purchase other things such as soap, clothes, corn flour, and rice,” says Elizabeth, whose personal farm has generated enough income to build a house for her family and sustain their basic needs. “My children have all been able to attend school because of the farming,” she adds. The school also runs a food program for children, offering three meals a day. The school feeds about 553 children each day.
THE FRUITS OF FAITH
The community outreach started with 3 community groups and it has grown reaching out to 45 community groups, welcoming 30 people on average per group each week.
Cynthia Khalayi says she is encouraged by “new community members coming to the community outreach programme, helping people learn gardening skills and deepen their relationship with the neighbors. It is also encouraging to see members of a given village teaching each other.” The villagers have begun to build a new church building and it hopes to build a local school soon- a step that would give every child in Nakwangwa the chance for an education.
“You must cultivate both the physical and mental needs of people,” Joshua Machinga says. “We are teaching them to take care of themselves through farming. And, our motto is to help one another.”
Helping one another is an established practice in Nakwangwa, where farming is a community endeavor. Those who do not have land to grow their own vegetables can help’ farm others’ land to earn food from the harvest in exchange for their work. At the school’s farm, every student in school participates in planting, watering, weeding, and harvesting, which means every one benefits from the harvest too. The dream the Principal has for the school is simple. “My desire for the school, for the people, is to serve to be served.”
As for Elizabeth, she is able to serve her family by putting nutritious food on the table. “God has provided all I have through students at Lenana Girls High School, and it makes me very happy,” she says. “My faith is the only thing that keeps me stable. Even as a widow, I must trust in the Lord. He has supplied all my needs. Thanks to WHY Hunger for supporting Lenana Girls High School”.