Finding Stability and Hope in Kenya
By Melissa Hinnen*
August 8, 2008—Theresa, who is a widowed mother of three, wakes up every morning in a crowded tent at a camp for internally displaced people in Mathare, Nairobi. She has lived in the camp since January, when her home was destroyed during the political and tribal unrest following the Kenya presidential elections.
Although the violence has subsided, more than 62,000 people remain displaced in settlements like that in Mathare. Many more are displaced and living with family or friends. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is providing them with hope and stability.
UMCOR executive, Melissa Crutchfield reports, "UMCOR has not forgotten them. We are working in partnership with the East Africa Annual Conference, the Methodist Church in Kenya, and the US Agency for International Development to provide medical supplies, blankets, dry food goods, school supplies, and more to help communities that are most in need across Kenya."
During the crisis, Theresa's home was burned to the ground, leaving her to live in a camp constructed on the Star of Hope Academy school grounds, just steps away from where her former home once stood. Her children, like many of the people who were displaced, are staying with other family members until Theresa can find a new home. Though she earns a small income, she is uncertain when she will have enough money to obtain suitable housing and care for her children. She is thankful for the food, supplies and support she has received from the Methodist Church in Kenya.
People of Faith Respond
Because the government has expressed it will provide assistance, humanitarian agencies have wound down their operations, and are no longer distributing food and supplies. The government programs are still not accessible in many areas, however. Consequently, significant needs are not being met in the lives of those most vulnerable. Communities of faith have stepped in to take responsibility for their neighbors. With the help of UMCOR, the Methodist Church in Kenya (MCK) and the United Methodist Church in Kenya (UMCK) are serving hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people. Lucy Kaindio, a coordinator for MCK rhetorically asks who looks after the people now that the humanitarian agencies are gone and the government has not yet been able to fully respond. She firmly responds, "Churches."
Churches are coordinating large scale distributions of goods and supplies, in addition to working in the small camps and unofficial settlements, assisting families and communities who have the fewest options. They are creating networks of care, providing host families, securing donations, arranging for medical care and setting up childcare. Not only addressing immediate needs, UMCK is also continuing to support small-scale microfinance projects to help rebuild livelihoods, HIV and AIDS awareness workshops and scholarship programs for orphans and other vulnerable children.
While the needs among the internally displaced people of Kenya are great, and the future for many of them is uncertain, Theresa affirms that God has been with her through it all, protecting her against the odds and providing food and shelter through the compassion of those who have reached out to help her.
How You Can Help
*Melissa Hinnen is the staff writer for UMCOR communications