There is a Kenya A and a Kenya B. If you were to divide the country in half, Kenya A is everything south of Eldoret in the west and Isiolo in the east. Kenya B is to the north – stretching from the border of Somalia to the east and South Sudan and Ethiopia to the north.
Kenya A has schools with textbooks and hospitals and paved roads and public transport. They have cell phone networks and banks and post offices. Kenya B has school buildings (if they are lucky) but no textbooks. Many of the schools are a chalkboard leaned up against a tree that provides shade for the students and the volunteer teachers who receive no pay. Health clinics can be as far as 300 kilometers away but most of the towns simply have a government dispensary providing aspirin, malaria treatments and rehydration meds from the bad water that brings constant bouts of life-threatening diarrhea. When cholera strikes like a death wave, it is the residents of Kenya B who have no recourse but to sit and watch their loved ones die.
Today we passed from Kenya A to Kenya B. We made the customary stop in Isiolo to pick up the last of our supplies and do the final checks on our two and cruisers. We then embarked on the short journey to Archers Post, where Semeji, BOMA’s security man, picked up his AK47. It had been checked at the police station. Guns are not allowed in Kenya A, but Semeji is a recognized home guard, authorized to carry a gun to provide his community with protection since Kenya A does not see the value in signficant investments in security or a justice system for Kenya B residents. We also picked up our second security guard, Aribo, whose name in Samburu literally means savior. He has a G3.
Kura and I are spending two weeks in the field, checking in with our mentors and the women who are now running small businesses that BOMA helped them to establish with grants, training and mentoring. We are joined by the generous presence of David duChemin, a humanitarian photographer who traveled with us two years ago thanks to a gift from a donor. Now he is coming back, as his gift to us, and he is joined by Corwin Hiebert, his best friend and manager.
Kenya B is not all hardship. For our first night as we head north, we are staying at Sabache, a new tented camp on the flanks of a mountain of the same name. I’m sipping my Tusker, listening to the melody of frogs who inhabit a nearby pool. A group of warriors are perched on their haunches on the other side of my tent, attending to cattle that are shiny and fat. This is also Kenya B. When it is green, everyone is happy. And I have never seen Kenya B so green.
It is a good start to our journey.