On 26 December 2021, five staff members and three SU alumnae set out to Turkana by road. The beautiful, green, scenic hills of Kapenguria and the sight of Mt. Elgon from a distance on your way to Turkana was breathtaking. Long hours in the van with the sweltering heat made the air condition system seem irrelevant.
While approaching the Northern part of Turkana, it was interesting to note the changing terrain as the lush green vegetation slowly faded away to a vast desert-like area with scanty and sparse vegetation. The ground displayed wide cracks as if rain were a distant rumour. Distant mirages created by the hot thermals held little promise to the weary herdsmen watching over cattle and goats. The oven-like conditions could drive one insane. How were the locals acclimatized to the heat?
After fifteen hours on the road, we arrived at Napetet, Lodwar. Fr. Donald Imo Bassols, our host and the parish priest at Napetet Parish, warmly welcomed us. Our home for the five days was the Diocese of Lodwar Guest House, often referred to as Bethany.
Unfortunately, late last year, some houses in Napetet village in Lodwar were razed to the ground. A fire destroyed all that they called home. Grass thatched houses and strong winds, the fire quickly spread and they did not stand a chance against the flaming tongues. An accidental and an unfortunate incident caused by one of the women in the homesteads cooking their evening meal.
In response to the situation, the Community Service Centre organised a Christmas donation drive to put a smile on their faces. Mother Teresa once said that “it is not how much we give but how much love we put into giving…” The twelve affected families each received food packages, dry foodstuff such as unga, cooking oil, sugar, salt, rice, ndeng’u, beans and bars of soap. 16 sacks and 11 boxes of clothes, toys, shoes, sanitary towels, reading materials, stationeries, sports equipment such as rugby balls, footballs and jerseys were among the donations received. Students, staff, and friends of SU fundraised money that amounted to Ksh. 61,740.
Changing the narrative
Turkana has been the victim of an uninformed narrative that paints it as “nothing works, or grows there.” With very few individuals getting access to education, girls married off at a young age, boys herding family livestock and in search of greener pasture and water, education has not always been seen as a necessity. The youth were lost in drugs and substance abuse. It is easy to write them off.
In 2019, the Strathmore Turkana Mentorship Programme (TMP), initiated by Strathmore alumnae; Lydia Ekai, Hellen Ateyo and Rebecca Eyanae, sought to change the narrative and to bring a ray of hope for the locals at Napetet.
The programme was an opportunity to offer mentorship sessions to children and the youth, teaching life skills, and offering career guidance, all in a bid to bridge the educational gap by creating awareness on the effects of drugs and substance abuse, teenage pregnancies and early marriages. To this date, the impact continues to be felt as many flock the Parish, hungry for education. Indeed, education is a powerful factor in the development of a country.
During our stay, we got the opportunity to interact, mentor and encourage over 100 high school and university students through peer mentoring that focused on creating a sense of motivation to the students in their pursuit for education, as it is the key to their success.
The thrill of football…
Without a doubt, the youth are the heart and soul of every society. Their energy and vibrance gives life to otherwise boring situations in life. We were lucky to witness this first hand during a nail-biting football match organised by the Parish. The men’s team, Homeboys and Kings, were meeting to finally settle the ongoing debate: which is the stronger team? The field was swamped with supporters from each team chanting songs for their teams. The adrenaline. Players drenched in sweat.
“The Homeboys have it!” They were saved by a penalty kick. The crowd of spectators ran to the pitch, children with bright smiles sang and danced, raising some happy dust in the process. The winners won sports equipment, Ksh. 10,000 and trophies.
Looking beyond the vagaries of the scorching sun, one can see resilient people who eke a living in an area that experiences harsh climatic conditions in the country. Children and the youth seeking education to turn their lives around. Their future is promising, all thanks to the TMP.
I would go back to Lodwar to mentor the young students and youths in a heartbeat! It was a memorable experience. Huge props to those who participated in the Christmas Donations Drive. May God richly bless you.
This article was written by Jemmy Kamau and was narrated by Mercy Mukulu.