Haba na Haba is a new Kenyan youth initiative that inspires and skills young people for a positive future. Thanks to funds raised by Palms Australia supporters in 2017, volunteer Heather Henderson has been working to help this grass-roots organisation build a positive future for rural youth in Kenya. Heather has shared an update on their progress from their headquarters in Mukuru Kyaba, Nairobi.
Haba na Haba is located at Landi Mawe in Mukuru Kyaba, Nairobi, in a village called Kenya Wine. The Kenya Wine Company has a big warehouse in front of the village, so the village was named after the company. I love that about Kenya. There is always a story behind the names of everything.
When working to allow the community to take responsibility and control, things happen slowly.
I have to keep reminding myself that I am working in community now. I am relearning patience. The government here has the country in a stranglehold. The corruption is insurmountable.
We are currently re-establishing the executive team at Haba na Haba as things have changed for some of the existing executive members. There is a slow maturation happening with both the growth of Haba na Haba and the personal relationships that the young people have had from school into adulthood. There are painful realisations as they grow into their adult lives and the understanding of the parting of ways. Andrew, the Director of Haba na Haba, is beginning to see that his friends are not necessarily the best people to have on the management committee. So we are going through a painful rebirthing.
Christine, a young woman who is working with us now, is experiencing her own challenges as she rises to the challenge of establishing a foundation, which she is most capable of. These challenges slow the process down; everyone has their own family and work pressures. Andrew has twins that are not yet one year old. I had no knowledge of this until recently! I’ve found that Kenyans are very private people and share very little with one another until they have your trust. There is a mistrust amongst people and a fear still remains about evil intentions and black magic. Some people here will do things to stop others who they see are rising to a more successful life. It takes a very long time to learn about personal things with individuals here. It is so very complicated, but as I said, I am learning patience again as we slowly move forward. And we are moving forward at least.
The most heartbreaking thing here is to watch the corruption continue through the government and the rich getting richer from the poor.
Even the ministers in their pop up churches and the grand chapels that hold 4000 worshippers, giving tithes from the little that they have because there is nothing else for them to hang their hopes on. So the ministers get richer and just keep robbing the desperate congregation.
Yesterday, Christine and I had a good breakthrough with getting Haba na Haba’s Aim and Vision/Mission Statement written. We have a full day workshop organised for the committee to establish the governance around the election of the chair and the committee. There has been a big disruption to membership as people have become suspicious of what Haba na Haba has been doing and the changes that have come. When things change like they are, people start asking questions. I am quickly getting used to the suspicions people have here, so we have to move carefully and with great transparency.
I also have to keep stepping back out of the limelight that the community keeps shining on me. They tend to see westerners as the holders of truths, wisdom and money, forgetting that they have their own wise people and their government is funding projects also.
The team I am working with are wonderful and really appreciate my support and encouragement for them to step forward.
Things are going well all in all, however slowly. I continue to build good relations with the community and they can see the benefit of partnering with Haba na Haba. Christine has a very good understanding of how things need to be established with the governance, and it’s good to have a woman who is highly organised and motivated. She will push these young men and eventually get things done.
We’ve had a small amount of rain in what is usually the dry month, but this is good as there was a drought last year. People are really suffering from that now as the cost of electricity has gone through the roof. The excuse being that they reverted to diesel power generation and now have an enormous bill. So now they are making the people pay. You can imagine how that will impact everything; there are people still suffering from the losses created through that prolonged election debacle.
Christmas here is a non-event. It is creeping in with the middle class but the poor just have a holiday and catch up with families. I spent a week at the beach on the Mombasa coast. I did enjoy some orchestral Christmas carols in one of the shopping centres. The number of lives lost on the roads at this time of year is astronomical; more than 2000. A number of reported bus accidents took an average of 30 lives at a time. Then there were the ones never reported. The answer to this problem was to ban night travel on buses and matatus (small buses). The same approach was taken when there were a lot of truck accidents. Now trucks and buses cannot travel after 6.00pm. Again, the impact on peoples’ lives is huge.
So, Kenya is a place of huge ups and downs and challenges not for the faint hearted.
But the rewards are huge and the work is so worthwhile when you see the way people here manage these challenges. They teach me so much.