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  • Jenny Smyth

Working Together

Leaving Archbishop Richard and Rev Adrian in the capable hands of Archbishop Chama and the Scotts, I flew on to Nairobi on Monday to visit CMSI’s two global partners in Kenya - the Urban Development Programme (UDP) of All Saints' Cathedral and the Diocese of Kajiado, where CMSI mission partners Ronnie and Maggie Briggs are placed.

Nairobi is a fast changing city with masses of construction on every corner. Many parts of the city are hardly recognisable from my previous visits several years ago. All Saints' Cathedral has its own big building project on adjacent land. The trees are being cleared for the foundations of a new Youth and Children's Centre. Over 1,000 children attend the Sunday schools of the various services so the present marquee does not provide adequate teaching space. Such investment demonstrates the priority given to work with youth, building up young people in their faith.

Yesterday, I had the privilege of visiting UDP with Louise, Kathleen and Isabelle (a CMSI Associate) all of whom have been involved in the programme for over 25 years. We travelled the 20kms to Kayole, Soweto zone, where the various projects are based.

We started off at Tusaidie Community School where we were welcomed by head teacher John along with Lucy and Esther who live in the community and have been key members of this most inspiring self-help programme since its inception. It grew from the slum clearance programmes of the mid 1990s. Following the bulldozing of hundreds of poor homes, people were allocated 10’ x 10’ plots on which to begin life again. Soon temporary shelters appeared made from anything people could scavenge. The living conditions were appalling, no toilets, water, electricity or road system.

Yesterday, I witnessed a highly organised school, neat children engaging in class, taught by motivated and interested teachers, all operating in a small and very basic school, but with hope and optimism. I visited Tumaini ‘hope’ youth centre, a well kept hall with books, lighting, furniture and several teenagers happily studying. It's run by Antony Joroge, Lucy’s son, who organises a football league and a whole range of other activities. The most striking thing was the monthly meal the teenagers organise when they cook and serve a drop in lunch for the elderly folk in the community.

Most of the homes in Kayole are now stone built with a sewerage system and electricity. Water pipes run to the homes, but the devastating drought means that the city water supply has not reached Kayole for months, so residents have to pay for water to be delivered by tanker. Each home has a plastic tank for water storage supplied by a World Bank programme.

I asked Lucy and Loyce what was the most important element in their successes over the past 25 years. Without hesitation they both answered "working together." They outlined the process:

We meet, discuss our problems, decide on the priorities, look for solutions and campaign for resources.

I asked why this community has developed such a deep commitment to one another despite the many challenges..."Because however small our plots may seem, we own them and this gives us security."

The members of the UDP programme have also campaigned for a pastor and now have a thriving parish church, a focal point in their own community.

There is much to be learnt about the potential of a committed community to bring transformation.

As I write this I am sitting on the porch of Ronnie and Maggie Briggs’ home in Isiniya, listening to the evening birdsong and watching the skinny cattle dander home. I am looking forward to the next few days here in Kajiado Diocese, to experiencing something of the vision the Church has to demonstrate God’s transforming love in another very different context.

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