The Village

Posted May 06, 2010 by 4 Comments

I’ve finally made it to the famous village of Kager (pronounced Ka-GAIR).  At first glance, it doesn’t look like anything more than some homes, churches and schools scattered on the top of the hill that is also named Kager.  And after a few days here, I realized that’s really all the bigger it is!  There is no market or real businesses, just a few paths and a road connecting the various houses to each other.  But even if it’s small, it hasn’t taken me long to realize just how extraordinary this community is…the people, their challenges, and their vision.

Bright smiles welcomed Linn and I the moment we arrived!


“Feel free”

From the moment I arrived, I experienced a new level of hospitality.  Even more than the nice bedroom reserved for me, the abundant meals I am served or the many people who want to shake my hand, I can feel it in the genuine acceptance the people of Kager show to newcomers.  And it’s really not just because I’m the novel white “mzungu” in town!  Actually, the fact they don’t call me mzungu is very refreshing!  Instead, I’m known as a “visitor” – just a temporary member of the community.

Many poor families in Kager live as subsistence farmers.

Since we arrived at the beginning of a women’s conference in the local church, I got to see this hospitality played out on a wider level.  Our hosts welcomed, housed and fed not only the two of us Americans, but also lots of other “visitors” who came from other towns to attend and teach at the 4-day conference.  Each time they welcomed someone new, the invitation was the same: “Feel free,” and make yourself at home.  And they meant it!

Rural poverty

On my last trip to Kenya, I became pretty familiar with urban poverty – crowded, bustling slums are part of the fabric of big cities like Nairobi.  And while it might look different in a beautiful setting like the green, rolling countryside surrounding Kager, I didn’t have to look far to see poverty here, too.  Many people live in “semi-permanent structures,” which is a nice way of saying houses with mud walls and floors, and they spend lots of energy and time walking to find clean drinking water or firewood.   Kager also has almost no access to electricity, which means no computers in schools, refrigerated medicine in the clinic, or light to do homework after dinner.

As the JVP Education partner, Linn made fast friends with the local secondary school headmistress.

Perhaps the most telling signs of poverty and malnutrition is disease – I’ve never before talked with an HIV-infected widow, another woman with malaria, and a student just diagnosed with typhoid all in one day.

Real Community

What I like the most about Kager so far is the incredible cooperation I see within and between the families who live here.  No one does life alone – partly because poverty makes it necessary, and partly because they just know how to do community right.  I’m currently living with a pastor’s family, named the Kayandos, and they seems to know everyone, literally everyone, in Kager.  Their church offers a vibrant spiritual community to more than a hundred people, plus the clinic and community center they administer serve hundreds more.  From their family alone, I can already see the positive transformation a connected and motivated village, that is empowered with the right tools, can bring.

It’s no wonder that the Kayandos have also been at the center of establishing the Jubilee Village Project here.  Now that they have welcomed the JVP partners from Indiana to Kager, they are simply long-distance members of the community who are also working together to eradicate poverty in Kager.   And I think it’s just that kind of genuine commitment and partnership that is going to make it happen!

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Next Steps
    • Head over to JVP’s website to learn more about how the partnership got started.
    • Look up Nyanza Province online, the place Kager is located, to see what more you can find out about social justice issues in western Kenya.
    • Find a “community event” in your town that sounds interesting…then go support it!
    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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Comments

  1. Bill Shewan said... 

    Reply

    May 6th, 2010 at 9:44 am  

    Jess – It’s so good to hear of vitality in the even a remote part of the globe. It truly is a global village – a truth I am more fully grasping because of your writings.

  2. Jim.M said... 

    Reply

    May 6th, 2010 at 11:24 pm  

    Jess,

    Thanks for the pictures, the smiles hide signs of malnutrition in the children you photographed in this story. What is a typical days food intake for these little ones? What sources of protein do they have?

    Thanks for being there with them, and thanks for bringing them here to us.

    Pax
    J

  3. Carol said... 

    Reply

    May 7th, 2010 at 8:42 am  

    “Njoki”,
    Welcome back to Kenya, truly Kenya is your home. Nice they don’t call you muthungo/mzungu in Kager, gal you are a gift, the way you hook up with the local folk so fast it amazes the Kenyan in me. Can’t wait to see you sometime soon.
    Baraka Jessica

  4. Jessica Shewan said... 

    Reply

    May 15th, 2010 at 4:54 am  

    Great questions, Jim. I’ve been doing home surveys to help JVP prepare for grant-writing and further projects. Most families don’t eat meat. They rely on beans and corn and nuts from their small farms, and maybe some chicken or fish occasionally. Their diet really fluctuates depending on the season. In between harvests, there is a lot of hunger, and yes, you are right that the poorer children are evidently malnourished.
    But there’s hope! I’m doing a story soon on some farming initiatives JVP started that have been dramatically increasing crop yields:)

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