Published: July 4th 2010June 29th 2010
Community: a group of interdependent organisms inhabiting the same region and interacting with each other
So today marks a week since we arrived in Mutumbu and there is so much I could write about that it’s hard to know where to start.
All the team have adapted quickly to village life and love our new base. For us, home is now the “white house”, a large compound which until about two years ago was painted white, but now thanks to telecommunications company ZAIN it is a blinding shade of pink with a touch of fluorescent yellow. It keeps its nickname due to the fact that it has ‘whities’ staying in it almost all year around (all WYI volunteers). We have electricity about 70% of the time (blackouts have quickly lost their novelty), but no running water. Our water comes from a local creek and is brought to us on the back of a donkey (or two if we are lucky)!
Due to the lack of running water, washing now consists of bucket showers….which is literally tipping a bucket of water over your head. It doesn’t sound the best but I swear, with a bit of practice and some
good technique, these things are amazing!!! It’s unbelievable how incredible a bucket of cold water can make you feel after a hard day on the worksite. All our meals are cooked on a gas stove but we are lucky enough to have a lovely lady called Penny who cooks lunch for us each day and it generally consists on something like beans, rice, vegetable and of course… CHAPATI (only the most delicious savoury pancakey thing you have ever tasted). I swear I am going to start to turn into chapatti soon if I eat any more of it… but dam its good! Penny is also my washing mamma so for 200bob a wash (about $3 AUS) I give her a huge bag full of muddy clothes and the next day she brings them back cleaner than ever…she is a miracle woman I tell you! If only I could take her with me for the rest of my travels
So Thursday saw us begin work on our first construction project. We are building a room onto the local GEM Community Centre which will be utilised as a tailoring shop where women from around the region can come to learn
how to sew. It will help provide women with a skill which they can then attempt to make an income from to help support their families.
Our first few days on the worksite were physically intense and to be honest I think we all got a bit of a shock as to just how knackered we were afterwards. But they also proved to be productive as we managed to lay the entire foundations for the building. This involved digging deep trenches, mixing a TONE of cement, and carrying bloody huge rocks …just to scratch the surface. However despite the heavy lifting, one of the biggest challenges for me was actually getting the local fundis (tradesmen) to believe that me and my 6 ‘whitie’ companions were actually capable of manual labour. Honestly, it took a lot of explaining for them to realise that we were actually going to WORK, and were capable of more than just standing around. At one point I had to actually remove a shovel from a guys hand and start using it before he believed me…I think he almost died of shock in the process. Women on a construction site is rare to see even in
Aus, but in Kenya…its quite the spectacle.
So after being in the village for only a few days, our team decided to prove our hardcoreness (yes I made that word up) by not taking the weekend off and instead constructing a house. You know…just a usual weekend activity!
For a bit of perspective, World Youth International has a gift catalogue where you can purchase things for your loved ones, but instead of them getting an actual gift, a needy family in Kenya receives it (check out www.worldyouth.org.au to see it….yes shameless plug). My team was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to construct one of these houses which had been purchased by a generous Aussie. So we decided there was no better way then to get straight into it and make the most of our weekend.
The house we built was for an incredible woman named Christobel. She is training to be a nurse and is currently residing in very run down accommodation provided to her by the clinic she is working at, however this is only a temporary arrangement and she needed a home badly…and fast. Christobel’s husband passed away a few years ago leaving her
and her three children homeless. We spent Saturday and Sunday chopping down trees with machetes (great anger management and surprisingly very empowering), digging holes, and nailing bits of wood together. Then for parts of Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we made walls from mud and had a hell of a time doing it (think extreme mud fights).
One of the most beautiful things about this week was turning up to the house on the last day of construction. It seemed as if the whole community had come out to help us complete it as there were men, women and children everywhere. Local mammas helped us pack mud bricks, while the men dug the mud up from the ground out the back. Even Christobel’s children had taken the day off of school to help us out….it was a really incredible sight. That night we had a celebratory dinner in the new house which saw a wondering chicken loose its head and end up on our plate….delicious!
The sense of commune that is present in Mutumbu is both calming and inspiring and their hospitality is overwhelming. We have been welcomed into the local’s lives as if we are here to live
forever which has helped everyone adjust to village life quicker than ever. Who needs luxuries like running water when you have such an incredible sence of community?
There are more photos below