In 1971, John and I went out to Kenya to work, John for a firm of consulting engineers designing water and sewerage treatment plants, myself to teach in a state primary school. We fell in love with Kenya from the very beginning: the wide open rolling plains teeming with wildlife; the forests and hills of the Aberdares and Mount Kenya; the salt lakes with their vast flocks of flamingos; the fine white sandy beaches and coral reefs of the coast – and the people, especially the children!
This was just eight years after independence, and there was a sense of freedom and optimism for the future. Sadly not all those hopes and dreams have been fulfilled. Development has been patchy and there are still huge problems, not all of their own making. Indebtedness to Western governments and organisations has hampered growth. The rush to the cities in search of the ‘streets paved with gold’ has spawned the slums of the shanty towns. The effects of climate change have resulted in degradation of the coral reef and prolonged and serious periods of drought inland over several years (they are currently in the midst of the longest and most severe drought in living memory). The north of the country has been overrun with refugees from neighbouring Somalia, and there have been terrorist attacks both there and even in the capital, Nairobi, itself, which has hit the main foreign currency earner, the travel industry.
And now, Coronavirus.
Imagine trying to self-isolate if you live cheek by jowl with hundreds of others in a slum, or on a village compound with several generations of your extended family. Imagine trying to wash your hands several times a day when your only source of water is the village stand-pipe, or a river bed a couple of miles away.
I was pleased, therefore, to see that Christian Aid is focussing on Kenya this year for Christian Aid Week, which runs from May 10th – 16th. They want to support the country as best they can, through their local partners on the ground, to mitigate some of the effects of the pandemic, to provide clean water to help halt the spread of infection.
It will, of course, be a very different fund-raising appeal this year. In normal times, many of us would now be steeling ourselves to set off door-to-door with our envelopes, a task which we often dread but which is much more pleasant when it happens. And there would be fund-raising events, like the Big Breakfast, or sponsored walks, to boost the funds. In a normal year Christian Aid raises about £8 million in this week alone.
As a church, we are unable to make a collective response because of the lockdown. However, if you would like to give something, however small, as an individual, you can do so via Christian Aid’s ‘Just Giving’ page.
Also, all profits from the sale of the music CD ‘Michael Gough … in the Gallery’ are being donated to this cause. Michael is a member of Norley Methodist Church and is training to be a local preacher. He is also an excellent guitarist and composes much of his own material. Please donate on-line, or buy the CD (via PayPal).
The reflections here are written by members of our congregation.