We are now immersed in the reality of 6,500 people living in tents each on about 21ft x 27ft of land. A lot of these people lost relatives and friends in the uprising in late 2007 – when they were attacked and their homes and businesses burnt. Whilst the political unrest still exists – these people have moved to this camp Pipeline Camp- in an area where they are less likely to be at threat – and now are trying to establish new lives.
The other volunteers here before we arived have been doing great work – and they are very well received by those in the camp. Volunteers have been coming to this camp for only a few months – but when we speak to people in the camp we hear nothing but enthusiasm for what they have done and how they have helped – in many different ways.
We have walked the camp talking to people to gather information on their health, occupation, number of children, what they did before the crisis etc. Many were succesful small business men and women before – and nearly all had secure jobs and were supporting their families – which frequently number in excess of 10! They have strarted a building program (GVN and VICDA funded) – for 40,000 shillings (A$700) they can build themselves a house (made from stone and concrete about 3m x 6m) – and with some donations they have started about 10 of these houses. Only about 790 to go!!!
The rest live in an assortment of tents and shelters – the tents are falling apart – and many leak – both from the rain and the ever present dust.
The Government wants to show it can look after itself – and has recently ousted the UN aid that provided the food to the camp – now they have to find a way to feed themselves – which is near impossible for most as they have no work nor other income. When food does come via donations there is often not enough to go around, and it is mostly just maize flour or rice – which does not provide much nutrition. The current rivalry in government is preventing decent help getting to these people.
They are always in need of medical supplies which can be readily purchased locally.
There are many people within the camp who have the ability to run businesses – but don’t have the access to the market, or to employment opportunities. In some cases (yet to be checked out), they could start viable businesses for as little seed capital as a few hundred A$. We will be checking this out more in the next few days. If they can get their business and work going – then they can better fend for themsleves in all respects.
There is just so much to do here – and the people are really receptive and can make good use of resources when they are available – it is really sad to see some of the conditions these people are living in – 3 month old babies twins – fed maize porridge as their mother cannot feed them and there is no money for baby formula – what chance do they have?
We are actually comfortable with our host family Peris and her daughter Mary. Meryl is called Mary here too as it is difficult for the locals to pronounce the r and l. We have our own room with a bed, there is a separte pedestal toilet and a pit toilet, a wash room where you can use a basin in privacy, and electricity!! the food is very different – so much carbohydrate – but tasty and filling. We have purchased drinking water in 10 litre bottles and fruit and cereal – so we are much better off than the people we are working with.
As mentioned, there is so much to do here, we are really tired at the end of the day, but really loving the people and their friendliness. Next week Meryl is going to assist in coordinating a family planning clinic with a local clinic nurse. Contraceptive injections can be provided for as little as 35c!!
To all of you reading this, we hope we have given some insight to our experience, and will give you more updates next time we get to an internet connection.
Kwaherini (Goodbye to you all)
P & M