What’s the most important appliance in your kitchen?  Is it your sink or refrigerator? Or maybe it’s the stove or microwave since those are needed for cooking.  A toaster and blender probably wouldn’t make the cut, even though they’re nice to have.

In the past three weeks, I’ve asked lots of detailed questions to families within Kager, some of them related to kitchen appliances.  It’s all a part of a household survey I’ve been conducting for the Jubilee Village Project in order to better gauge needs in the community.

Not exactly my idea of running water, but it works for lots of women who come here every day to collect water for washing.

So, in addition to asking about the size of their farm, illness in the family, and whether or not they have a mosquito net, I also inquire about their house, and specifically the kitchen.  And as you might imagine, the questions – and answers – are quite a bit different than a home survey in your neighborhood might be.

Where do you gather your firewood?  Do you cook outside or inside? Does your kitchen have a window or vents for smoke ventilation?  How many minutes does it take to walk to the pond or well? How many trips do you make to collect water everyday?  Do you treat the water before drinking it?

The JOY Kitchen water filter in action.

Let me just say, I’ve been amazed at the conditions in which women work here (and yes, it’s only the women on kitchen duty in Kager!).  Most of their day is spent on providing just the basic necessities for their families – food and water – and often problems like smoke inhalation and unsafe drinking water are hazards to their health.  Those are the reasons that JVP started a new initiative to support and empower these women.  They call it JOY Kitchens, which stands for “Jesus, Others, Yourself.”

Dorene uses her improved stove to make and sell “mandazis” or doughnuts in the village.

As a part of the program, the first group of 8 JOY Kitchen members received some very valuable tools: a durable water purifier that uses a sand and gravel filter, an “upesi jiko” or improved stove that uses only small amounts of fuel and produces hardly any smoke, plus a solar-powered flashlight that cuts back on kerosene consumption, since so much household work is done at night.  Another favorite tool for these women is an insulated “basket cooker” that is used to finish cooking food in a pot after it has been heated on the stove, which dramatically reduces fuel consumption and time spent in a smoke-filled kitchen.  For those women who have indoor kitchens, they have also received a smoke-hood chimney for ventilation.

But the JOY Kitchen initiative amounts to more than just “appliances.”  Since JVP is holistic in its approach to development, and aims for sustainability in their projects, they also encourage economic and spiritual development among the women.  In their bi-weekly meetings, these motivated women have a Bible study (using their precious Luo language Bibles supplied by JVP) and also engage in small business projects.  So far they have been producing more “basket cookers” to sell, experimented with food canning, and are making plans to open a small bakery.

It’s their focus on building a strong sense of community, more than simply making cooking more convenient, that has led to the JOY Kitchen’s success.  Last year, when JVP found more sponsors to support an expansion of the program, the Joy Kitchen members had no trouble finding willing participants.  In less than 2 years, the original group of 8 women expanded to 16, then doubled again to include 32 members total.

The JOY Kitchen women after their latest Bible study and business meeting.

So as I visit homes around the village to complete my household survey, it’s always a highlight when I come across a “JOY Kitchen” home.  I know that for these families, common struggles like affording fuel and finding safe drinking water are no longer such a worry.  In place of those burdens, they’ve gained a lot: deeper relationships with their peers, the rare chance to study the Bible in their language, and opportunities to earn money through business ventures – all reasons for real joy!

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Next Steps
    • Try cooking for a few days without your microwave…see how much more energy and time it takes!
    • Sponsor a new Joy Kitchen and provide these valuable tools to more women in Kager. Contact Ned at ned.jubilee@gmail.com if you are interested.
    Next Steps

About the Author: Jessica Shewan is a journalist with World Next Door. She graduated in 2009 from The University of Evansville with a bachelor's degree in History. She loves making new international friends and is passionate about seeing the global church pursue justice and peace!

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  1. Jim.M said... 


    May 31st, 2010 at 2:54 pm  

    The kitchen…the hub where much of family life is retold, or planned or played out. The micro community of “family” is sustained in this “space”.

    Odd that you would write about this “space” in Kegar when we are discussing “family” and the story is being unpacked from a “kitchen” set up within the church here in Indy.

    Reading this report made me think about the “why” in this observation…why is the kitchen such a vital space to a family, and you have given much insight to the answers.

    The kitchen is culturally a common area for family life, here we are nourished, loved, coached, corrected, taught, it is where we read, pray, think, worry, create, plan, correspond, and on and on….It’s where I read this online magazine and have my coffee in the morning. It is open and yet it is generally a more private family space than say the entry to your home or the “living room” where guests frequent. It’s family inhabitants change with time as kids grow and leave and then return with the next generation.

    What makes this space a family stopping spot for decades, sort of a family work shop…a pit stop where we refuel and re equip for the days journey….partly it seems it is the tools in this space, the things you describe in the article, running clean water, cooking equipment, and light… things we have, and take for granted…stuff (and so much more).

    It is also the head of that kitchen…often the woman,…. the mother or grandmother who fills the space with all he stuff, and the love that make it what it is. The heart and soul of that woman, ultimately determines what that “space” produces.

    It’ so easy to see God’s hand in the work of JVP, they are helping with “the stuff”, in the kitchen, but they are more importantly strengthening the hearts of the women who live there. Providing the stuff..the water, the cooking equipment, it would be easy to stop there….but, there is so much more here, isn’t there. Thank you Jess for giving us a very rich story.

    I pray your readers will pass this story along to others, and click on the “next steps” link and help out.

  2. Ned Campbell said... 


    May 31st, 2010 at 4:38 pm  

    Okay Sister J — you saved the best for the last! Your story about JOY Kitchens really rand deep into the soul and captures the heart of the Jubilee Village Project. It is so cool to see the vision for JOY Kitchens being realized — lives being improved with simple household solutions and a community being transformed through the discipling and empowering of women. Can’t wait for you to be back and to hear more of these stories and see your pictures — every one of your posts made me “home sick” for Kager. Safe travels and have fun in Nairobi!

  3. Mummy Linn said... 


    May 31st, 2010 at 5:06 pm  

    My Dear, it just makes my heart sing to read what you’ve written about the precious JOY Kitchen women. Your own heart is showing, and it’s all sweet and Spirit-filled. And that’s positively the best pix of the women all together I’ve seen…all smiles! I jokingly called you our Intern Par Excellance, but it’s no joke, Jess. You’ve done a magnificent job and I can’t wait to hear every little detail. Love you, Sister. Mummy Linn

  4. Steve Bliss said... 


    June 1st, 2010 at 12:18 am  

    Jessica, thanks for the article. The water filter looks great and we are working on a similar one that, as our stove, can be produced on site by locals using a mold. If you think this is an area that would like our stove mold for smokeless stoves let me know and we’ll put them on our tour list. Or maybe we can just get you one.

  5. Virginia Baldwin said... 


    June 1st, 2010 at 4:29 pm  

    I once had a motto on my kitchen wall that went something like this” Of all the places I entertain my guests, they seem to like my kitchen best.” That is why I like big kitchens.
    And I like the idea of a “Joy Kitchen” that is a help to others. It is Jesus, first: others,second and yourself last , not only in the kitchen but with everything else. Good work , Jessica

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