Welcome to Kenya B

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.

St. Dominique Saviour School, Manyatta Lengina Village.

No building, no books. A volunteer teachers provides instruction to a group of students in northern Kenya. This is what Kenya B looks like.

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.

Posted in Northern Kenya | Tagged | 5 Comments

This Water Belongs in Mombasa

It is inevitable that Kura and I would eventually become increasingly removed from the day to day work that happens on the ground in our region in northern Kenya.  BOMA now has a new field officer, Meshack, who works closely with our Mentors and businesses and Kura is now assuming more responsibility in our Nanyuki office as our Program Director. With over 1000 businesses established and 32 employees in two countries (90% in Kenya), our efforts now include keeping the overall enterprise functioning so that it efficiently continues to deliver our poverty graduation program.  We have accountants and auditors and payrolls and reports.  And like most non-profits, there are few large repeat sources of funding.  So every year you restart the clock, looking for funds that will support the heart of what we do – help some of the poorest women on the planet start small businesses so that they can feed, educate and care for their children.

Kura and I had planned this trip a few months ago.  No matter how many written reports you see, no matter how many meetings we have, I have to talk to the women myself to see how their lives have changed.  Every person has a story to tell and I want to hear theirs.  I want to dig deeper and spend more time understanding what an economically empowered woman from northern Kenya looks like. I want to invest most of my time listening – still the greatest investment that we made when we started our work.  Now, it is the women in our program who are teaching us and we still have much to learn.

It won’t be all work – during our journey we will have time to revel in the beauty of this raw, rugged land – from a swim in the jade sea to falling asleep to the whoops of the hyenas to taking that long-awaited sponge bath by the light of the moon after a long hot day of dust and mud and travel.

Could be dust, could be mud

There will be challenges too.  The story of northern Kenya is usually about drought, but for the past few months the rains have been generous.  The dust and sand that we are accustomed to has now become wet cement and lorry swallowing potholes.  I expect that part of our destiny will include getting stuck, changing tires and digging out vehicles over their axles in mud.

All of it to tell us that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work, we can never control it all.  There is a great moment in the movie Out of Africa where Karen Blixen is trying to create a dam for her farm.  Farah Aden, the head of her household, keeps trying to tell her that she must not try and stop the flow of water.  “This water belongs in Mombasa…” he tells her.

At the end of the movie, as she deals with another round of crisis’ that includes a deluge of rain, the dam breaks and she finally tells the workers, “Let it go, let it go. This water belongs in Mombasa.”  And so maybe this trip is when we also let it go just a bit. Let life take its course and we just sit back and let the women of northern Kenya tell us how the story goes.

Posted in African women, Economic empowerment, Northern Kenya, REAP (Rural Entrepreneur Access Project), The BOMA Project | Tagged | 1 Comment

Inspired by Dr. Paul Farmer

I am always humbled by what women tell us after they start earning an income with their new BOMA businesses.  During a recent visit to the village of Ilaut, a woman named Nkaroni told us, “Before, I could not rest. I was running everywhere, looking for food. But now my kids can eat something. My kids are not starving anymore.”

You cannot work in northern Kenya and not be witness to the protruding ribs and distended stomachs of malnutritioned children. Yet it is still difficult for me, as a mother, to comprehend what it must be like to wake up each day and fight to feed your children.  All across the arid lands of Africa (40% of the continent) women like Nkaroni wake up every day and worry about food for their children. Some philanthropists would say that the intractable cycles of drought, conflict and famine are so immense in these areas, and the solutions so expensive and risky, that they are not worth the investment.  Some donors prefer to invest in more “cost-effective” solutions that lead to a vision of First World success, where university educated entrepreneurs start businesses that employ hundreds.  “Poor women in urban environments are just a better investment,” one potential donor told me.

This is why BOMA fights for the Nkaronis of the world.  Every day we compete for donor funds that will fund training, mentoring and seed capital grants that replace short-term solutions like food aid with business income.  Some donors tell us that you can’t simply give poor people money.  Instead, they say, we should make loans so that our participants “have some skin in the game.”  But if our women squandered the seed capital grants that we give them to start a business, then why are 97% of our businesses still in operation at three years?  BOMA women are earning a sustainable income and providing for their children. Businesses are distributing profits and accumulating savings within two months of start-up, a statistic that no micro-lending program can claim. With the right training and mentoring support, poor women, we argue, are a great investment of donor funds.

After an initial investment in a three woman business – $250 in seed capital, training and mentoring – women like Halhalo and her partners have over $2000 in business assets and savings at three years.

So our battle is more than a fight for foundation grants and big donations. It is a fight to challenge fundraising trends like “impact investing” that ask program participants to pay for the programs benefiting them, either through interest payments or pay-it-forward strategies.  We compete for funds in a world where rich women philanthropists invest millions of dollars in women leaders, fancy award ceremonies and documentaries, but leave the communities that surround them still destitute.

That is why I am so inspired by the work of Dr. Paul Farmer, the anthropologist and physician whose public-health initiatives in Haiti were documented in Tracy Kidder’s best-selling book, Mountains Beyond Mountains: Healing the World: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer. Farmer is widely recognized for fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Haiti and Rwanda, and is the founder of Partners in Health (PIH), an organization dedicated to providing comprehensive health care to poor communities around the world. (PIH’s co-founder, Jim Yong Kim, is now head of the World Bank.)

In a speech at Yale Divinity School last spring, Farmer said that in the mid-1990s “we started fighting for access to care. There’s only one standard of care, only one intervention that’s going to alter mortality in HIV infection, and that’s these drugs. And it was a long struggle. It was a huge debate. Our peers—policymakers, international health experts, even physicians, I’m a little embarrassed to say—were saying, ‘Well is it really cost-effective or sustainable to use these drugs in resource-poor settings?’”

Farmer had to fight against the “religion of cost-effectiveness.”  He believes that poor patients are entitled to the same level of care as rich ones.  And he believes that this fight is not just about healthcare.  It is about poverty and social justice.

So I take heart when foundations tell us that our model is not “high-impact” because we don’t have a revenue strategy.  Or foundations tell us that they’ll fund us this year, but next year they want to see us do something different (why?).  Or funders that tell us that they wish we had a strong story-telling component to our model (Hello? Have they paid any attention to what we say and how we say it?).  Most of these funders want to see success in First World terms.  I once had a fairly sophisticated donor tell me, “I’m really not interested in saving a bunch of starving people.  I’m not interested in a program that has poor people selling stuff to other poor people.” Another donor told me, “Why don’t they just move?” This person had obviously never been to the slums of Nairobi, where most rural migrants end up.

Donations to organizations like BOMA, which works on the front line of extreme poverty, used to be about charity and humanitarian empathy. Now too many donors seem to be focused on cost-effectiveness and a return on investment.  In a world of limited donor funds, I understand this trend, but we’ve lost something in the process. When Farmer sees someone who is suffering he would say that we must do whatever it takes to relieve the suffering of that one individual.  He said, “For me, an area of moral clarity is: you’re in front of someone who’s suffering; and you have the tools at your disposal to alleviate that suffering or even eradicate it; and you act.”

So that is what we do.  We act. We may not receive the big multi-year grants or the big awards, but we can offer what many of these programs cannot: impact.  We have measurable outcomes that prove our program of income diversification works.  It is one of our best tools in the fight against the ignorance and prejudice of donors who think that poor people cannot be trusted with cash.

Oh, and that issue of cost-effectiveness?  We’ve got that too.  But it’s not what we stand for.  Our number one commitment is to help those who suffer the most.  And maybe someday we’ll find that foundation or philanthropist that says to us, “We value every human life, even the poor ones that live in impossible circumstances.  We’ll join you in this fight and we’ll be with you until you get the job done.”

Posted in African women, Economic empowerment, Empower African women | Tagged , | 3 Comments

A Blogger from Kenya Talks About BOMA

David Muchui from Meru, posts about The BOMA Project:

Manyatta Banking, Enterprises, Taking Root Among Pastoralist Communities

Posted on October 16, 2012 | Leave a comment

A group of women guide their donkeys through the vast Kaisut Desert of Marsabit County laden with shop supplies bought from Korr trading centre miles away from their Manyatta where they are now operating kiosks.

At a Manyatta in Korr, another group of women is all smiles as they go through their record books and surrender part of the money earned in small businesses for saving in a Manyatta Bank.

This is a big contrast from the past when nomadic pastoralist women only engaged in domestic chores while being perceived of no value economically-it was a taboo for a woman to fend for the family.

While the men moved with livestock in search for greener pastures during droughts, women and children were left behind with only the weak animals and no source of income or food leading to immense suffering.

As a result, the constant droughts that ravage the northern parts of Kenya had turned most pastoralist communities into dependants of hand outs and relief food from the government and other humanitarian organizations that have heavy presence in the Arid and Semi Arid areas.

Gladly, this vicious cycle of living from hand to mouth among nomadic pastoralists is now being broken by a new initiative dubbed Manyatta banking courtesy of an NGO, Boma Project which is running a programme known as Rural Entrepreneur Access Project (REAP).

Three Lock Metal Money Box

A BOMA Manyatta Banking Training Program with the three lock box for savings

In the recent past, the banking industry has been growing and expanding tremendously in various parts of the country while coming up with ingenious products to appeal to Kenyans of all economic backgrounds.

However, the cut throat competition by SACCOs, Mobile money transfer services, Commercial banks and Deposit taking Micro-Finance institutions has not yet been felt in the lives of most pastoralist communities where the majority remains unbanked despite their riches in livestock.

The nearest commercial banks in these areas can only be found in Isiolo, Maralal and Marsabit towns which are as far as 200 kilometers from the villages where Manyatta banking is now taking root. Likewise, few of these areas have reliable mobile network hence mobile money transfer in these areas is still a pipe dream.

This is despite estimates from the Ministry of Agriculture, showing that Pastoralism accounts for about 10 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) and 95 percent of family income among pastoralists.

In Samburu and Marsabit Counties, tucking of money under the mattress is still a common practice which is mostly facilitated by the mobility of the pastoralists as well as in-accessibility of commercial banks save for the now vibrant micro-savings program that is revolutionizing the entrepreneurial and saving culture of  pastoralist women.

With a three lock metal box, the women who are teamed up in groups of three can now save their daily earnings and lend to members at a low interest.

“This initiative has brought life into our village. We had never imagined of saving money to the tune of Sh100 thousand. I am happy that we will no longer rely on relief food because we are the lenders,” says an overjoyed Amina Guyo.

Former Foes Coming Together

BOMA Project provides seed capital and training on the establishment of savings associations which are made up of several REAP business groups for women in Marsabit and Samburu counties.

“We are very happy that we don’t have to wait for well wishers for food. We can afford to feed our children and take them to school even if there is drought. The small businesses have given us a new lease of life,” she says.

Women in Loiyangalani, Samburu, Marsabit, Laisamis and Archers post are a joyful lot after BOMA Project officers imparted them with the business skills and how to operate a village (Manyatta) bank for their groups.

The Women from Rendille, Samburu and Turkana communities which have been historical rivals over the culture of cattle rustling put aside their differences and work harmoniously in the REAP business groups to achieve a common goal-profits and savings.

According to Ahmed ‘Kura’ Omar, the Director of Operations at Boma Project, the program was initiated to alleviate the struggles of pastoralist women by replacing aid with sustainable income through small businesses.

“Whenever there is a drought, pastoralist communities are the most affected through loss of livestock. Most of the women relied on their husbands for food and other needs. This made it hard for women and children to cope after men left in search of water and pasture,” Ahmed says.

Under the REAP programme, Ahmed says that the women are organized in groups of three where they are trained in business skills, given a grant of Sh11, 500 to start small businesses under the guidance of a village mentor for two years.

“Once the three member group has established their business, they are provided with a lock box. Every member makes a specified contribution every month and the money is kept in the box. The box has three padlocks which means it can only be opened when all group members are together,” the director explains.

Ahmed adds that the REAP business groups form savings groups comprised of three to eight business groups. Each REAP business group contributes a monthly amount to the group savings account which is used as a source of credit for expansion of individual group businesses.

The beneficiaries of Boma Project are now running businesses ranging from village kiosks, butcheries, bakeries, tailoring and laundry, beading, fish mongering to petroleum products which are building a vibrant economy among the pastoralists.

“With the individual and group savings in the local lock boxes, the REAP business groups can lend to other community members during harsh times. We have launched over 900 businesses in Samburu, Laisamis, Loiyangalani and Marsabit Districts. We are now seeing a self reliant community in this region,” remarks Ahmed.

Women who were once reliant to portions of relief food now have no time to waste thinking about the next journey to aid centres to collect food rations, but how they will grow their new-found enterprises.

“Our lives are now much better and interesting because we have something to do and earn a living. It feels good to sit and plan on how to improve our business and increase the savings,” Gumato Lomurut, an entrepreneur says.

Following the improved livelihoods brought about by the women entrepreneurs, the once conservative men are giving up the age old beliefs that work against women.

“Men have now started doing away with strong cultural beliefs. They are appreciating their women because they are reducing the burden of fending for families. These roles were wholly left to men but now women have come in with a lot of energy,” John Lesas, a Village Mentor at Ngurunit, Laisamis says.

With some families having been deprived of livestock through the persistent droughts and raids by cattle rustlers, the Boma Project intends to train men on technical skills in mechanics, masonry and carpentry.

The resulting diverse economy among the pastoralists is expected to cushion them from the adverse effects of drought making them self reliant and entrepreneurs.

ENDS…/David Muchui/

To see the original post go to: http://ciameru.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/manyatta-banking-enterprises-taking-root-among-pastoralist-communities/

Posted in African drought, African women, Economic empowerment, REAP (Rural Entrepreneur Access Project), The BOMA Project | Tagged , | 1 Comment

A Response to The Hunger Season

The BOMA Project’s response to a post in the Stanford Social Innovation Review: 

Roger Thurow is right: Nobody should have to die from hunger. I applaud One Acre Fund and its mission to eliminate the “hungry season” for smallholder farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa and to “attack hunger through agricultural development rather than food aid.”

But it’s not just smallholder farmers of food crops who are struggling to stay alive in Africa.  In 2011, the worst drought in 60 years triggered a hunger crisis in East Africa that impacted 13 million people and left an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 dead. The United Nations estimated the cost of the humanitarian response at $1.5 billion. That crisis happened not in the agricultural regions of sub-saharan Africa but in the dryland regions of Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya.

Marginalization, the lack of infrastructure investments and the provision of basic services like health care and education have all contributed to this growing crisis. But these regions share a number of other things in common.  As the climate changes, we are seeing an alarming rise in extreme poverty, hunger and armed violence. Drought is disrupting the traditional livestock industry and clashes between ethnic groups over increasingly scarce natural resources are rising.

A Rendille herder in northern Kenya

The focus for avoiding hunger crises in the drylands of Africa, from the Horn of Africa to the Sahel and western regions of the continent, lies in enhancing the resilience of pastoral livestock communities.  The focus should be on building infrastructure investments and diversifying livelihoods, especially for women and their dependent children who are particularly hard hit when they are left with no means of support as men travel with herds for months in search of ever-more-elusive pasture. Most are forced to rely on humanitarian food aid, a short-term solution that saves lives but reinforces the cycle of poverty and dependency in the African drylands.

Long term solutions are desperately needed.  Our organization, The BOMA Project, works to identify the most vulnerable women in dryland, pastoral communities and graduate them out of extreme poverty by putting them through a two-year program that addresses low incomes, inconsistent cash flows and inadequate financial instruments that are characteristic of the rural poor who have no access to traditional financial services like banks and cell phones. We move women out of extreme poverty, from beggars to lenders, so that they have increased assets, a committed savings income, usefully large sums of money for bigger expenditures like healthcare and education for their children, and most importantly, the ability to respond to shocks like extreme droughts.

The remote drylands of Africa are not easy to work in.  Most are lawless regions with no police or military presence; pastoralists are forced to be armed in order to protect their assets.  But 40% of Africa is classified as arid or semi-arid. They capture headlines and are portrayed by the media as a disaster in cycles that generate high profile short-term solutions.

We don’t see it that way.  We see communities of pastoralists who have been adapting for centuries.  Our women entrepreneurs enjoy the support of pastoralist men who face the daily challenges of providing for their families in an increasingly devastating cycle of droughts.  We see success every day.  97% of the businesses we launch are still in operation at three years.

The international community needs to focus on solutions for the drylands of Africa where hunger doesn’t exist and aid is no longer needed. That, in the end, is the only sustainable solution.

To see the Hunger Season post in SSIR: http://www.ssireview.org/blog/entry/the_last_hunger_season

Posted in Africa, African climate change, African drought, African women, Climate change refugees, Economic empowerment, Empower African women, Kathleen Colson, Kenya, Mama Rungu, Northern Kenya, REAP (Rural Entrepreneur Access Project), The BOMA Project | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Elsa’s Grave

I sleep lightly on safari because I don’t want to miss anything.  My eyes are closed, but I hover in a dreamy half-awake state with ears attuned to every sound.  During the middle of the night, the wind died.  It was hot and still.  I was cocooned in my mosquito net and sleeping on top of the covers.  Slowly I became conscious of something on my toe.  I reached for the flashlight under my pillow and turned the light on. Bright eyes beamed back at me and I realized that I had a visitor, and that he had been nibbling at my toe!

My midnight guest – on my bed!

My guest did not move – his eyes just grew wider and he was probably thinking, like me, about who would flee first.  It was a stand-off of just a few seconds, but I got a good enough look at him to know, by the distinctive long tail, that it was a genet cat.  Slowly I moved to the edge of the bed in order to lift the mosquito net.  My movements startled him and he jumped, entangling himself in the net.  I reached down, pulled the net up, and the genet slinked away to a branch outside my room.  I got up, tucked the mosquito net FIRMLY under the mattress and went back to sleep.

At dawn, Christopher brought me some coffee and biscuits.  I had time for just a quick cup and decided to deed my biscuits to the other invaders of my room – rock hyraxes – that were perched on the same branch as the genet cat during the night.

It took us over an hour of straight driving to reach the gravesite, set along the Uru River.  The camp had provided us with a guide in order to find the site – we would have been desperately lost for hours without the assistance of Wilson.

The Adamson’s work with lions, particularly George’s, was controversial.  A number of people were mauled by George’s lions resulting in his eventual banishment from Meru to the remote wilderness area of Kora.  The Adamson’s also lived in Kenya at a time when the treatment of local staff would be considered offensive in our era of enlightened race relations.  Their advocacy for wild animals and their right to return to the wild, however, instead of being placed in zoos, brought attention to the threats that wildlife face as the expansion of human settlements puts ever more pressure on wildlife habitats.

Now, tall double fences at long stretches of the park keep the elephants from wandering into farmland and grazing areas in order to decrease human/wildlife encounters that can be deadly.  The fences also prevent local livestock from reaching plentiful water sources during the dry seasons. The expansion of human settlements into wildlife areas means that this conflict will continue – as the population of Kenya increases and development expands there will be more competition for critical resources like water and grazing land.

Big William at Elsa’s grave. As a young boy, he remembers George coming into town with Elsa in the front seat.

But I was caught up in the romance of the story of George and Joy Adamson living with lions in the wild.  Elsa’s grave was a simple and peaceful place.  The stone had three plaques, one of which was missing.  A simple plaque had her name, birth and death dates (she only lived five years) and an engraved plaque on the top of the grave had a poem in German and English. After reading it aloud to Big William and Wilson, I took a picture of Big William on the grave.

Elsa likely died of tick fever.  This is what George Adamson wrote in his diary, on the night that she died:

“During the night Elsa became restless, walked down to the river and into the water, then crossed to half a submerged mud bank and lay on it until about 4 am, I suppose to cool her fevered body.  Her breathing was very labored and I knew the end was near.

I roused the camp and got my three boys to improvise a stretcher and we carried her back to my tent.  I lay down beside her and started to dose off.  Suddenly she got up, walked quickly to the front of the tent and collapsed.  I held her head in my lap.  In a few minutes she sat up and uttered a great and agonized cry.  Elsa was dead.

It may seem absurd but Elsa meant more to me than any other living creature has ever done.

My Elsa gone.  Gone the most wonderful friend and part of my life which nothing can replace.

George Adamson with Elsa

Why should it be?  Something which has created nothing but good will and love in the world.”

Joy Adamson was murdered in Shaba National Reserve on 3 January, 1980 by a discharged laborer formerly employed by Adamson.  George Adamson was murdered in 1989 while rushing to the aid of a tourist being attached by poachers.

Posted in Africa, African drought, Kathleen Colson, Kenya, Mama Rungu, Northern Kenya, Safari, The BOMA Project | Tagged | 5 Comments

Hope in the Wild

Kenya’s Meru National Park is a dry, rugged wilderness of incredible beauty. Bordered by the Tana River in the south and the Nyambeni Mountains to the west, it is a land of astounding diversity with spring-fed rivers, open grasslands, acacia woodlands and the motherly presence of a few ancient baobob trees.

Joy Adamson and the orphaned lion, Elsa, in Meru National Park.

The park was made famous by the orphaned lion, Elsa, who was raised by Joy and George Adamson of Born Free fame.  Thanks to the books and movie, the park became a mecca for tourists hoping to relive the romantic life in the bush of the famous couple.

But Meru’s magic was not to last. In the 80’s, poaching and banditry set in and the elephants and rhinos were wiped out. According to local lore, the last rhino was shot from a presidential helicopter.  By the 1990’s the animals were gone, the park was dead and tourism had dried up.

Today the park is making a remarkable comeback.  A rhino sanctuary has been established within the preserve and 147 of the best, bad-ass rangers in the country are protecting a good number of black and white rhinos.  Their reputation is unparalleled – not one rhino has been poached in the past four years.  The conservative estimate on the elephant population is over 900.  The big cats – lions, cheetahs and leopards – are thriving.  Birdlife is boisterous and plentiful.  Thanks to investments in improved security and a local community education program, the park has become an undiscovered, fantastic jewel in the crown of Kenya’s national parks.

After three straight weeks of safari work, Nairobi fundraising and BOMA Project staff meetings, I came here with my friend and safari guide, Big William, to inspect the park and some of the camps and lodges in the region.  We arrived at Elsa’s Kopje on Friday afternoon after a long hot drive from Nanyuki.  Elsa’s is a spectacular camp built into a  rocky outcrop that rises out of the plains.  This was the place where George Adamson came to rehabilitate orphaned lions and eventually release them back into the wild.

After settling in, I sat quietly in my banda and enjoyed a spectacular sunset – a silent sigh of reds and oranges. William and I had a quite fancy dinner by candlelight. During the night I was awakened by the staccato grunt of lions, a reaffirming sound that Elsa’s spirit lives on.

On Saturday we traversed the eastern edge of the park and visited two camps.  In our travels, we encountered only two other safari vehicles.  We returned to camp in the late afternoon, just as a cooling breeze was starting to blow.  After a few splashes of cold water and a liter of water, I was refreshed. I sat in my safari chair, looking out over a dramatic, shimmering landscape of wild Africa.  In the distance I saw a family of elephants, some kudu and waterbuck.  I wanted it to never end, this feeling that I was in a place that was reclaiming its heritage, a place that could give hope to those of us that have seen so much devastating change over the past twenty years.

Meru can restore your faith in what is possible. Despite the coming tremor of the Kenyan election, fraught with potential conflict and the frustrated dreams of angry young men, I felt hopeful for the first time in weeks.  Sadness and sorrow were set aside and somehow it seemed possible that on this night, Kenya, a place that I hold so close to my heart, might survive.

Nelson Mandela said, “I dream of an Africa which is in peace with itself.”  That is my dream for tonight.

Posted in Africa, Economic empowerment, Empower African women, Kathleen Colson, Kenya, Safari, The BOMA Project | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments