The annual training program for all of BOMA’s Village Mentors, dubbed Mentor University, was conducted in a conference hall at the Samburu Sports Club — a round building held up by long narrow poles and a cement half-wall. The panels between the poles in the upper half of the walls were covered in nylon sheeting or netting, allowing a breeze to pass through the building. The poles that hold up the tin roof came together at the center in a round peak.
As Sarah Ellis and I joined the group, Teresa, our Village Mentor from Loiyangalani, was leading a training session. She emphasized the importance of the business groups selling in a common location and not from their homes. “They should be encouraged to sell to more than just their relatives or clan if they want to be successful,” she told them. “To be sincere, this is not an easy job, but it is important that you encourage them to do it right.”
At the afternoon tea break, Kura took me to my lodging for the next three nights. We were sharing the club with representatives of Lake Turkana Wind Power and the World Bank, who would be certifying Lake Turkana’s CSR (Corporate and Social Responsibility) program during the construction and running of the company’s huge wind farm.
After a quick meal I joined the last training session of the day, sitting at the back of the room to observe our team of mentors. Halima looked elegant, in a cream-colored dress with gold highlights and a leaf pattern. Her matching headscarf set off her beautiful skin and elegant profile. The men were mostly in neatly pressed shirts, buttoned to the top. Hafaldo of the remote village of Farakoran, who lives with his family in a small traditional hut, was elegantly dressed in a crisp white shirt with cufflinks. Benjamin, an outstanding BOMA Mentor from the village of Loiyangalani, was the only Turkana in the group. He towered over everyone and the acquisition of new glasses had given him a professorial air. Carol, one of our new woman Mentors from Olturot, was in jeans — the first time I had ever seen such attire on a woman in northern Kenya. The rest of the women were in colorful dresses with head scarves, except for the three younger ones, who had their hair in cornrows.
We had full attendance. As the late afternoon heat settled into the building and air became still, people started to wither. Kura called on different people who were known to be good entertainers — they would lead the group in a series of songs and clapping games that had everyone laughing, including the two babies who were passed from lap to lap. Now refreshed, the room was full of faces with vitality and hope.
At dinner that night I visited with some of our new mentors. Bosco, from the remote village of Lontolio, is the only educated person in his village. He serves as the head teacher overseeing a group of volunteer teachers. “Sometimes the elders come to the school to discuss with me an issue and I have to tell them to go away, I am busy teaching. They have a hard time understanding this issue of school.”
Hafaldo told me that he has never had an opportunity like this to meet with people from other villages who are from different ethnic groups and clans. “We are getting to know each other and now we have a bond, Mama Rungu. That is good.”