Monday, 10 February 2014

Life in Mauko Village

For the past five years the girls and their cousins have been raising funds to support Mauko Village, a small rural village in Western Kenya.  Mauko Village was always a stop on our world tour and I was pretty sure it would be a highlight.  I knew it would be remote, with little services, and that there would be poverty.  I knew that it would be an emotional learning experience for all of us, and that the people would touch our lives.  What amazed me was that we had set out to give; however, we have left Kenya with far more than we ever imagined.   We have met beautiful people that have become friends.  We have left with pride and confidence, knowing our efforts and funds are making a difference in the village for so many, and... we have left inspired to continue our efforts and do more for the people we have met.

Out visiting the neighbours on a village walk.
Mauko village is located a days drive outside of Nairobi, and the residents consist of mainly subsistence farmers.  The roads were rough, poverty was high, polygamy was common, and families were large.  Smiling children played in barefeet and ran to wave at the "Mzungus" (white people) passing by in the car, which was also a rarity in the village.  Other than our Auntie Marilyn and her group of retired teachers, which had visited the village years before, we were the only white people that some of the villagers had ever seen.  Many of the younger children cried in fear and ran to hide in the skirts of their older sisters or mothers.  Yet it took no time for the children to realize they had nothing to fear and an afternoon game of Ultimate Frisbee soon took hold outside our compound.  Children of all ages would come daily from far and wide, wanting to play.  They laughed, ran, tickled and played together with us, and would always leave for home as the sun went down.  Little girls carried their baby siblings on their backs and the children looked after one another despite their very young ages.  George, the boy living with his mother on our compound, became fast friends with the girls.  The community was so welcoming, nobody passed by without a greeting and handshake, and many went out of their way to invite us into their homes.

It was getting dark, time to say goodbye!
Ally and Mark playing Ultimate Frisbee with the kids.
George and the girls became fast friends and spent their evenings together playing games, laughing and
sharing stories together.  We were able to purchase George a new school uniform while we were there.
The community was large and spread out.  Families lived on land known as compounds with many huts.  There are many traditions and expectations with regards to land and building homes in the village.  The tribe that lives in Mauko is known as the Luhya tribe and tribal loyalties and traditions run deep.  I loved listening to Antonina share her stories about marriage, gender roles, laws and expectations in the village. Dowry's are still paid in the village and usually consist of cows, and there are three different types of marriage recognized there.  I was shocked to hear that when Antonina lost her husband, his brother tried to 'inherit' her and take over her land.  This was a typical practice that still happens in the rural areas.  Luckily, she was well educated, fought for her rights and ended up winning the case.  She was awarded her late husband's land and was required to claim the land by building a home on it.  We visited her 'married' homestead and learned that it would eventually be passed to her youngest son. When her sons came of age they were expected to build their homes on the land as well.

Antonina's new home.  The bricks will be added next.

Antonina lost her father a little over a month before our arrival.  We were there for the 40 days celebration.  There
was a memorial service which Mark piped at, and the men took part in a 'cyphen'.  The men sat in a circle drinking a traditional brew from a single pot with very long grass straws.  
Although there has been much progress in recognizing and awarding the rights of women, unfortunately, there is still much work to be done. Polymgamy still occurs and far too often, woman are left with nothing, to raise their children.  The woman we met, living next to our compound, had just learned that her husband had taken a second wife.  He had left her and their four children quite some time ago.  She was supporting them by growing crops on the little land they had.  Their future was not bright as the crops would barely sustain them throughout the year.  She was not alone in this situation and we were conforted to hear that the women in the village, support one another, as best they can.

This is a woman's group.  The money on the table is used for micro lending small business ventures for the
members.  They also do a merry-go-round collection where once a year each member will receive a small pool
of money to better herself.  
Travel in and around the village was done by foot, bicycle and motorcycle.  We were amazed at what people would transport on their bicycles; goats, chickens, crates of eggs, furniture, and several other people were among the more common forms of cargo.  Although there was no electricity in the village, everyone had a cell phone.  They would pay a couple of cents to charge their phones at the village shop, where a car battery was used as the electrical source.  The most common form of lighting was by parafin lamps and fire was used to heat water and cook.

Some of the interesting loads we saw!
In addition to providing educational scholarships for children to attend highschool, these are some of the other projects Auntie Marilyn's Mwikase Group and the Cousins for Kenya 
were able to introduce in the village during our stay.

The Nuru Energy presentation.  We were able to introduce a power cycle and headlamps in the village.  The headlamps  can be recharged for a small fee, allowing villagers to replace their paraffin light sources with a safer and cheaper alternative.  During our launch, 27 headlamps were purchased, more than 50% of those in attendance bought a lamp.  In the following days lamps continued to be sold - what a great success!  The funds received to charge the headlamps will be directed to the Community Resource Library to help employ a full time worker.
Introducing Solar Cookers to the villagers.  The cookers will allow the women to purify water and cook their meals
without the use of firewood.  This project was also well received in the village and one cooker was purchased on the spot with three others being spoken for.  
Cows were purchased at the local market to be given to the schools.  The cows will reproduce which can be sold to generate an income for the school in addition to the benefits their milk will provide.
We helped to purchase books for the Mwikase Community Resource Library which is set to open in June.
Kaite, one of the Cousins for Kenya, donated her birthday money to purchase a shelf in the library, now
we have something to put on the shelf with many more books to purchased later in the week!
Life in the village was certainly hard, but not one person we met complained of the hardships they were faced with.  They were hardworking, generous, caring people with strong religeous beliefs and hope for the future.  Their positive outlook and genuine interest and compassion for others was commendable.  On numerous occasions we saw people with very little, give freely.  The less they had, the more they seemed to give.  We were so blessed to have experienced such selfless acts of kindness.  We were treated like celebrities for the work we were doing in the village. Everywhere we went we were welcomed and thanked.  Many supported their arm as they shook our hands as a sign of respect and many even bowed.  We didn't deserve this praise and recognition, we only set out to help in the best way we could.  What we realized is that no matter how much we tried to give, we found ourselves taking away far more from our experiences and interactions then we ever thought possible.  We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit Mauko Village, it has changed our lives, and it certainly won't be our last visit. 


  1. What a fantastic story, great to hear about your Kenyan experience!
    Jessie, Charles and I are really enjoying your blog. Thank you!


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