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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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
- 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!
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!