Monday, January 28, 2008

We can't go on...we'll go on...

How many more must die? How many more must lose their homes, their farms, their livelihoods? The weekend was a bloodbath in Nakuru and Naivasha. I spoke to a close friend in Nakuru who is huddled in a house with other Kikuyus as they listen to the screams of people who were once friends calling for their blood. Already two of her aunts were killed in the earlier violence in Burnt Forest.
A Reuters article has "Kenya's Rift Valley burns and death toll soars" and Kisumu was ablaze again this morning. I spoke to my folks briefly and my old friend Dan Prior who is in Kisumu filming events and following up on the tragic story of Heshima. Kenya inci yetu...

And as the people fight a batlle against themselves instead of against the injustices brought on by yeras of exploitation by the very leaders we vote for, the Ladies in Action continue to feed. On friday they visited Saraphine's place again where they distributed basic food necessities. They simply can't be everywhere at once but it looks like if things continue, activities will have to be upscaled. We can't believe this could happen to us and we certainly could not believe that it would go on for this long. We can't go on like this...we will go on like this...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Divide and Misrule (By Stephen Derwent Partington)


What does dug earth care at all about ethnicity?
A Mwangi fits a six-foot hole
as snugly as Owuor.


And tell me, where's the corpse that anyone
can teargas with success?
Or did you do it to augment the tears of mourners,
out of kindness?

Can you tell a foe from how he skins a cow
or peels a spud
or guts a fish?
Are these enough to skin his hide?
Perhaps it's speech, the way she shrubs?
And who's the carrier, his mother or his dad?
Can we locate the gene for Enemy?
Today, can we condone the fact
Kikamba's only got one word for 'enemy',
'Masai'?

Reflect: that family you killed,
it had as little land as you.
Or did you see the old machete used to cut you?
Dented, rusty, cheap, like yours.
Reflect on this.

This warped deflection of your anger
isn't justice:
it's a coffinful of shit.


Friday, January 25, 2008

Arise and Shine

Activities had to temporarily stop due to the unrest caused by Raila Odinga's presence in Kisumu for the funeral of some of his supporters. Despite his calls for peace, his supporters were screaming for guns. We are beginning to fear the worst. There isn't a person in the country this has not affected. To add to the bad news, my colleague David Njuguna (without whom this blog would not exist without) told us that his mother's farm and house in Nakuru has been completely burnt down. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. David's mother is a retired teacher and they all grew up in Nakuru. After retiring, she spent most of her time tending to her farm and involved in various community charitable projects. She has lost everything she spent her entire life building.

The team finally managed to get out yesterday with a trip to Miwani which is on the sugar belt just outside Kisumu to distribute food items to the children at Arise and Shine Home. We are getting better at this blogging business so I've manage to upload a video from the day thanks to Mr.P's ability to multi-task!
video


The evidence is starting to pile up that a lot of the attacks may have been premeditated. The New York Times published an article that examines the issue in various parts of the country. Meanwhile Kofi Annan was in Nairobi and managed to make them shake hands
We are hoping a lot more will come out of this than the shilling suddenly getting stronger because two big men with little time for their people shook hands.

And life goes on...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Kenya is burning...Please sign the petition


Pls support this petition initiated by Avaaz. We are aiming for 100,000 signatures and have collected about 86000 signatures to date. Please click on the link below.

Do you know, Kenya is on the brink of disaster -- bullets are flying on the streets, with over 600 killed and 250,000 made homeless as government and opposition struggle over the presidency. There is something we can do to help before it's too late, so I thought you might be interested.

Only dialogue and an independent election review will dispel the crisis - and the world can play a crucial role: by reinforcing the efforts of mediators like Kofi Annan, and refusing to recognize any government not legitimately established. 50,000 of us have already sent this message to our foreign ministers, and almost all have listened so far. But inside Kenya, hardline leaders are sowing conflict and the country hangs in the balance.

President Kibaki and opposition leader Odinga need to hear that international legitimacy will only come after they engage honestly in mediation. To send this message, we are taking out a full page ad in The Daily Nation, an influential Kenyan newspaper. The ad will list the number of messages we have sent to our governments, the more the better -- so please, click below to see the ad and send your own message:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/kenya_free_and_fair/98.php?CLICK_TF_TRACK

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Letters from the displaced

The scanned letters below are from some of the displaced people who are camping out at the Kondele Police Station. Ladies in Action have been providing basic needs for them.

Monday, January 21, 2008

More than just a volunteer

Ladies in Action have always relied on the goodwill of human nature and that has kep them going all these years. While funding can sometimes be a problem, finding the people who just want to help is always the most difficult thing. Ren is just that kind of person and I just want to thank her for being in my hometown, Kisumu where she is really needed. I asked Ren to give us a little detail about herself:

"In December of 2006 I came to Kisumu from the U.S. to be with my partner, Derrick, while he completed a two year fellowship with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We moved into the house adjoined to the Pabari’s, settling into our new life. I was hoping to find some volunteer work to keep myself busy while Derrick was at work, but my previous experience was pulling shots of espresso at a coffee shop, doing me little good in Kenya. I relayed to Mrs. P my interests in chit chat, unknowing of Ladies in Action. She invited me along in early January to see what they did, and I have been apart of the team ever since.

A year later, the day to day outings have changed. While we planned to be visiting primary schools this time of year for de-worming, medical camps and such, many schools have not even opened. Those that have opened are only half full with pupils. We complete a days work now with food distributions and other forms of assistance to groups in rural communities and to displaced Kenyans staying at local police stations.

Life in Kenya is on hold for most people these days. Derrick and I have personally sponsored a girl for boarding school. We were called 8 hours after dropping her off that the school received threats and we were to pick her back up the next morning. Now a week and a half after school would begin, she waits at her grandmothers for a new opening day. Really, we are all waiting. Each day I wake up and turn on the radio, hoping for news of progress, not a tally of casualties. We judge the day by the number of shops that are open or how many cars are on the road. Meanwhile, Ladies in Action continues doing what it can." Ren Odabashian

Friday, January 18, 2008

Remembering the elderly

The past three days have been tainted with violent clashes between the police and the opposition but one would never know living where we do. Somehow, the police have contained the riots and we ostensibly plod on with our normal lives. It would be easy to forget that there are still people dying out there and hundreds of thousands of displaced and hungry people. The BBC continues to provide regular updates and Africa News has set up a specific platform with videos and direct reports from obeservers.
But, having said all this I truly believe that the majority of us in Kenya just want peace. Kenyans have come out in the masses to help victims, to ease the suffering and to show that we are one nation made up of many different cultures but bound all by one thing - our love for Kenya.
And no politician can ever take that away.


Meanwhile, Kisumu remains a ghost town and most people are desperately trying to claim their lives back. Ladies in Action had to put activities on hold for the past three days due to the nationwide protests that turned into small battlefields. Five people were killed today in Kisumu alone.
On tuesday, they did manage to get out to Chiga and Kibos where they managed to distribute maize flour and biscuits to over 800 children and the elderly. It is a sad fact that the old are often forgotten in poor communities.



Thursday, January 17, 2008

A Tribute to the Man in Black - By Vivek Mehta

This is a tribute to the “Man In Black T Shirt”
His name we may or may not know
But that’s how he was referred to by the KTN Television network
The date was Wednesday 16th January 2008
I spent an hour sitting alone last night replaying the KTN clip in my mind

Did you see it?
The Man in Black was dancing in Nyanza , Kenya – was it in Kisumu?

He was Dancing and also Protesting with his friends

He was exercising one of his basic Human Rights – The Right to Free Speech and Assembly

He had no stone to hurl and no panga in his hand to hurt
He was just Dancing and Protesting

He was not looting either

Just Dancing and Protesting
Then came the grand finale

He was running away… he was not fighting

He was not dancing or protesting either

The Man in Green was only a few feet away

Two rapid shots from an automatic rifle

and the dance was over ….

The Man in Black lay on the floor together with his friend

He tried to get up one more time – he was only dancing!!

But the shot had done its job

As he tumbled down yet again the brute in Green had to kick him

Probably to kick the Man in Black’s last breath out

That was the sudden end to the Dance

Farewell Man in Black – a friend I never got to meet

A friend who gave up his life for Kenyans’ freedom

As I sat I realized that The Man in Black was probably a ‘poor man’

No riches and no bank account either to his name

All I can offer his Soul are my Prayers for His Soul’s Peaceful Journey

And May My Prayers and those of Many Others enrich your Soul

And May that Enrichment of your Soul be our reward and thanks for your Sacrifice

May that Enrichment Power your Journey

And your Soul be Blessed with Riches not seen

I take Solace in that the Nature of the Soul is

WEAPONS CUT IT NOT, FIRE BURNS IT NOT, WATER WETS IT NOT, WIND DRIES IT NOT

After this thought propped up in my Being

Yet another Powerful thought Burst thru

This was the one that surprised me, my friend

May the World of Justice Notice this Brutal Crime against Humanity

In the Meantime May Peace and Justice Prevail in Kenya

When will we see sense in this beautiful Land and Country called Kenya?


By Vivek Mehta Jan 17th 2008, Mombasa


Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Hit Parade

Since we started this blog, we have received donations from almost 100 of our friends, friends of friends, friends of Kisumu, friends of the Ladies in Action. We have hit £4000 in less than two weeks and for those of you following the blog, so much has been done in such a small amount of time by members of Ladies in Action. I posted a breakdown of funds earlier this week and tremendous work has been done thanks to all your support.
I wish I could say this is it. Thanks and we are getting things back to normal. For a moment there were signs of hope until yesterday when the 10th Parliament opened and today when the first of the calls from the opposition for mass protest rallies started. Kisumu and Eldoret have been the worst hit yet again. Nairobi's CBD was virtually abandoned and clashes in Kibera continued. I have put various links to fellow Kenyan bloggers and some of my favourite news sites on this blog for more indepth news and analysis.
We are grateful to all of you and knowing that all of you who this is for, I don't feel I need to keep saying thank you. I am depressed and I am ashamed that this is the face of Kenya...

Kenyans for Peace, Truth, Justice

Statement from Concerned Citizens and Governance, Human Rights and Legal Organizations

We speak in the name of Kenya's governance, human rights and legal organizations, as well as the concerned citizens who have been working with us over the past weeks.

We have received alarming reports from human rights monitors in Nairobi’s low-income areas, who have reported that local political leaders are mobilising gangs of youth to deter attendance to the rallies called by the Orange Democratic Movement on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

These leaders are taking advantage of the police ban on the said rallies to incite youth along tribal lines with calls to rise up and ‘defend their government’. This information is already causing great anxiety amongst residents of the affected areas, causing further displacements of families as they seek to flee the threat of violence. We are concerned that these insidious activities are confined to low income, high population areas, and that police protection for the poorest sections of society is sadly wanting, allowing such militia to rein havoc.

We are concerned that the continued ban on public rallies, is creating an environment for the criminal element to breed fear and perpetrate acts of violence against innocent Kenyans. The ban creates the impression that the government is at war with its citizens, and that citizens need to take sides-perhaps even through violence. This situation is untenable, and unless addressed we fear it will degenerate into a catastrophic cycle of ethnic hate and violence.

We hereby reaffirm the universal right to organise and assemble and ask the police to uphold this right, as well protect the lives of each and every Kenyan citizen despite their ethnic origin economic status and political persuasion.

We are further concerned that the continued lack of dialogue between the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement is driving further divisions between communities in the country, and urge comprehensive dialogue not only to redress the electoral travesty that took place, but to also address the underlying causes of ethnic division and political violence in our nation.

Lastly we urge the police to investigate these reports with haste, and to immediately arrest the said perpetrators of political violence, and to ensure adequate security and protection in the affected areas and other political hotbeds around the country in the days to come.

Signed:
Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG)
Awaaz
Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION)
Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD)
Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women (CREAW)
(CRADLE)
Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO)
East African Law Society (EALS)
Haki Focus
Hema la Katiba
Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU)
Innovative Lawyering

Institute for Economic Affairs (IEA)
Institute for Education in Democracy (IED)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
Kenya Leadership Institute (KLI)
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)
Kituo cha Sheria


Tuesday, January 15, 2008

...In Action!!

When Ladies in Action was founded, it was indeed a group of ladies from Kisumu that got together just to do their bit for the society that so desperately needs support. Over the years, it has grown well beyond but always dependant upon the goodwill of individual donors and volunteers from all over the world.
My father recently retired after 30 years of hard work. He thought he was going to now sit back and rest his feet. Alas, Kenya had different plans for him and now he is not just taking care of the books for the Ladies, he is one of the Ladies in Action! And there has certainly been no time for resting.
Ren has also been with the Ladies in Action for a year now and Derrick joins them quite often.
Yesterday, they visited Nyakongo Primary School and distirubted essentials to 180 children and then went on to Mayembe Kodera School where 100 children were given basic food needs to take home.
I have always had great respect for those who just get out and do what needs to be done, particularly at this moment as I listen to the radio boradcasting live from the opening of the 10th Parliament. Our MPs are all squabbling over whether to have a secret ballot or public one and being paid hundreds of thousands of shillings. If they could all just accept to give up one month of salaries (our MPs are one of highest paid in the world) and donate it to the needs of our country and to all the chaos, deaths and displaced people that are a direct consequence of their politics. They must all be held accountable.


From Saraphine


Monday, January 14, 2008

Arise and Shine

"Arise and Shine Orphanage was started in January 2007 in Kogony Sublocation within Kisumu Municipality. We are based within the community where there are a large numbers of orphans, widows, and elderly mothers - some even without shelter. Since moving to this community, our focus has been on helping the most vulnerable children and elderly mothers. We are now seeking financial support, which will enable us to help the large number of orphans here. At the moment we support 32 children in the center and 14 from the surrounding community.

We are very thankful for the work of Ladies in Action. We have known their team since 2005 when we were working with another children's home. Since the start of our new project, they have donated 2 bunk beds and 4 mattresses for our girls who had been sharing their bedding. Additional donations of food and children's clothing were also given at Christmas for around 120 children. We see that Ladies in Action has a big heart, and greatly appreciate how they have helped our needy chilren.

We humbly take this opportunity to ask for assistance of any kind, especially food, in order to help the children staying around the Kogony area. We have many orphans staying with their grandparents, most of whom are elderly, have no steady source of income, and largely depend on the community for survival. Some have even lost their eye sight, while others have been living on small incomes from selling firewood and sisal fiber at the Bandani and Mamboleo markets.
With the current situation, this has come to a stand still. In early December, a tin of maize cost 35/- shillings. At the moment it has risen to 100/- shillings, making it difficult for them to afford even one meal a day. Being a Community Based Organization, these children and their grandparents have been showing up in our compound for help and support, but the situation has overwhelmed us. Previously, we had been giving the children at least a meal a day at the compound. Now because the number has greatly increased, we have only been able to give a single cup of uji (porridge). Prices of breads have also tripled and vegetables are not adequately available for even the orphans staying in the center.

120 orphans benefited from the early Christmas gifts brought to them. 40 widows who care for them also benefited. Please, we will appreciate any additional help you are able to provide." Yours faithfully,

Nancy Joan Okoth and Joahanes Okoth Obonyo
Managers
Arise and Shine Orphanage
P.O.Box 118-40123
Kisumu
Janesokoth@yahoo.com

Arise & Shine Orphanage has received 50 kg of Uji (porridge) Mix to start feeding the orphans around the area. Nancy has been informed the we hope to give her regular supplies in future.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Your Donations

Sunday evening and all seems fairly normal - at least from where we are sitting. I wish that were the case everywhere but the death toll still continues to rise and the number of displaced people increases.
As the news is highly censored here and the international press has moved on, Kenya is certainly not on the top of the list anymore. In my experience, this is when the work is always at its most difficult point.


My Dad sent a note yesterday and a breakdown of expenses so far:


"Today we managed to visit a total of three places. First thing in the morning Ren and Derrik went to the Kondele Police station and gave maize meal to about 70 people who are stranded because of the clashes.The second place was Masogo, Sarafina's place where we managed to give maize flour, biscuits, soap, matches and cooking fat to 300 women, children and disabled adults. Our last visit was to the Atorney General's premises opposite the Central Police Station. There were 30 people stranded, as they have no where to go. Some of them come from places like Londiani where there is trouble. We gave they a sack of maize meal and some biscuits. There is so much to be done. It is hard to know where to begin..."

Kshillings Pounds

TRANSPORT KIBOS-CHEMELIL 2000 15.2
FOOD (RISE & SHINE HOME) 200 1.53
MAIZE FLOUR 76000 580.15
BUS TRANSPORT (23 pax) 34500 263.36
GROCERIES 63700 486.26
MAIZE FLOUR 74300 567.18

TOTAL 250700 1913.74












Saturday, January 12, 2008

Where should we call home

In an earlier post, I wrote about several families that had taken refuge in a school. Ladies in Action managed to find transport for them out of Kisumu where they were under constant threat of losing their lives. Many had already lost property. Most of the families are Kikuyus whom are the innocent targets of the political whims of the elite. Estimates are up to 500,000 Internally Displaced People and now there are fears of major cholera outbreaks in certain areas where thousands are seeking refuge. Thanks to Ladies in Action and your donations, these families will have a chance to live...




Friday, January 11, 2008

Tobias Kadongo - A man with a mission

I have known Tobias for years. He has become part of the family and like my father is another Lady in Action. Tobias, like so many of the community outreach volunteers, is an ex-teacher. And like my father, I don't know what my mother would do without him and I certainly don't know what Kisumu would do without him...

Tobias wears many different philanthropic hats. On the one hand, he is the coordinator for Ladies in Action and the Klara Foundation whom I have mentioned in an earlier post. He is also an active church leader in Sinyolo, which has been affected by the elections as it is border area between different the Luhyia and the Luo:

"On behalf of the Sinyolo Community I thank you for the support and donations. Today we have managed to cater total of 480 elderly mothers/ fathers and children. May almighty God Bless you as you carry on with this service for the needy once.

Tobias Evans Kodongo

Church Secretary "

Tobias also sent us an email to give you all a little more background to Ladies in Action:

I, Tobias Evans Kodongo aged 57 ,have been working with Ladies In Action and the Klara Foundation for the last 8 years, as Regional Coordinator under our Director Mrs. Nejla Pabari.
Our work involves:
  1. Helping the widows & widowers, orphans with vulnerable cases. We normally give them groceries, cloths, blankets etc.
  2. We sponsor students for various training of their choices for two years.
  3. The widows and widowers are given garden tools, seeds and technical advice to make the self sufficient.
  4. We hold medical camps at different places once a week during school days.
  5. We carry our de-worming at various schools and centers for the local community.
  6. We build class rooms for schools
  7. The disabled once receive items like wheel chairs, etc. We also assist them by taking them to doctors for operation smile
  8. The dilemma now is the current crises in Kenya after the Election. The needy cases have increased and we needy lots of assistance in form of money to buy items like food, blankets, soap etc .

We hereby kindly request for any form of assistance to get these items. Any kind of support is welcome so we can continue helping the needy once in Kenya.

Tobias Evans Kodongo

Coordinator

Ladies In Action & Klara Foundation

January 10th 2008

And a final note of thanks to everyone out there. You have raised £3,500 all together!! And that is just what has come in directly to the blog!

On a housekeeping note, there was a comment stating that the donation button is not working. We have just checked it and it seems to be fine. Please make sure you enter a number in the donation square before you click on the paypal.

And the show goes on as we continue to clean up from the political games that our leaders play with us...

This says it all...

































Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Exodus...

Over the past week, there has been a mass movement of people from various parts of the country who are fleeing persecution. Estimates are ranging between 300,000 - 500,00 Internally Displaced People. This political clash of the power hungry elite has opened a huge can of worms that is far too complex and perhaps not the right platform to engage with. The bottom line is ethnic minorities all over the country are running for their lives if they can. Our close friends, Alison and Chege came back to Kenya a few years ago to set up an eco-retreat and community centre of in Kisumu called Heshima. When the election results were delayed, the surrounding community who are Luo looted and burnt their place down. With 3 children, Ella who is only 2 weeks old at the time, and Chege being a Kikuyu, they had no choice but to leave their home and run for their lives. Alison was asked to publish a diary of the events on the Observer
There are hundreds more who are less fortunate and have not been able to leave Kisumu. Each day could be their last.

From Mr. and Mrs. P in Kisumu...

50 people including children have taken refuge at a primary school next to Kibos Prison on the outskirts of Kisumu. Hundreds of people if not more were all worried for their lives and desperate to get out having witnessed countless persecutions.
The only problem was lack of money. None of them can afford a bus ticket as they have had to abandon everything.
Ladies In Action made the decision that helping them leave Kisumu is the only solution for now. We are trying to organise the Akamba Bus Services to ferry them to Nakuru, Naivasha or Nairobi where they have family and friends and will be amongst their own communities. The total
estimated cost is KShs. 1000/00 per person. There were no tickets available for today or tomorrow but there may be a possibility for Friday. Discussions have been made with the District Commissioner to
bring them from Kibos to Kisumu. One family wanted to travel to Chemelil and one to Kindubay. We immediately gave them the cash as they were certaint they could find their own means.
We don't know how many people in total want to leave immediately but we feel that this is the best thing we can do to help these people. The situation may get worse since President Kibaki has sworn in part of the new Cabinet which has not been accepted by the opposition.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The Media supports our initiative

Not even two days into fundraising and we have received over £1,700!! That is the equivalent of Ksh. 240,000?-!!! Wow! Ladies in Action can feed hundreds daily from this. Thank you all so much. We are receiving donations from every continent and the amazing thing is that so many of you are sending out the appeals through your own networks!

Unfortunately, good news never comes without bad news. Elodie just spoke to my mother and heard some rather depressing news. 60 children have been abandoned at the Kibos Prison on the outskirts of Kisumu and they are starving. One of the partners has reported it to the police. Ladies in Action are investigating the situation at the moment and no matter how bad it is, they will get on top of it. We will update you as soon as we know.

Meanwhile, the media is also being extremely supportive as they also want to highlight stories where people are trying to deal with this mess our politicians have got us into. Africa News have released a front page story. Please click on the hyperlink or on the Related Links on this page to read the full story. May I also encourage people to leave comments on their site as this always encourages others and is a great way to get the news out far and wide!

Once again, thanks so much to everyone out there...tuko pamoja!

Message from Seraphine

Hello friends of Ladies in Action. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Seraphine Muge. I am 58 years old and reside in a village called Masogo. It is located in Nyando Constituency within Kisumu District, Kenya. Having retired 3 years ago from teaching, I continue to keep busy by assisting with the needs in my area, specifically trying to address those of child welfare and supplying necessities for those of old age.

I have been working with Ladies in Action since the year 2000. Today, I met with the team to discuss the current crises. As you all know there is violence all around us. Much of this distress is because of, as well as the cause for, a lack of food. Where there is food to be bought prices have doubled, even tripled or more; for the basic needs such as maize and cooking fat. But items are becoming scarce as shops are emptied by looters.

You see, our community is poor to begin with. With a population of about 5000 in just our small area, families have gotten by, over the years, with the little that comes from small sales of vegetables or basket weaving. Others have money sent by family members working outside of our area and sending money home. However, many of them are now stranded with no money left; some with no job to return to. The poor are now destitute. The hungry have no food. The old cannot get more. One sad example is an old woman whom I went to visit a few days back. She was complaining that she was sick, but I soon realized, she was in fact starving, having not eaten in days. Of these elderly we have about 20 who need immediate assistance.

As always, our needs are many and while food is most important for survival I am seeing children with no clothes to put on and no blankets to warm themselves with at night. I humbly ask that you consider all of our needs as you continue to read.

Our meeting today with Ladies in Action has given me much hope. Despite their limited funds, I will be taking home 20 kilos of unga (maize flour) to make porridge for the elderly this week! With plans to deliver it prepared, we must keep ourselves safe, however, as even those with the best intensions are at risk of theft or being beaten.
The meeting has lead to further plans for grocery distributions of maize flour, cooking fat and salt to the community, targeting 150 adults and 200 children. Urgency of fulfilling this need is not just for the well being of Masogo, but for Kisumu town as well, to help keep the peace and deter looting and violence.
Because of the lack of safety, we are arranging this distribution with discretion. For the adults I am arranging a meeting for prayer of adults, with no announcement of groceries to be given. At the conclusion I will hand out the goods myself so as to avoid a mob or a rush, saving a few items for those that are in need but did not make it. As for the children, I will call only those within close proximity to my home with the allure of a sweet. When they have all arrived I will distribute whatever has been provided to help them and their families. This form of distribution is the safest to arrange right now.

As I wrote before, all are at risk, the store owners, the looters, the elderly, the children, and even the donors. I very much hope that when things calm down, the Ladies in Action team will find their way safely to our area personally so that we can greet them in peace.

Thank you for reading my story. May God bless you all

Seraphine Muga

P.O.Box 1623-40100, Kisumu, Tel. 0720229741

Monday, January 7, 2008

From Kisumu, with gratitude

For a change, we are really at a loss of words. The response from all of you out there has been overwhelming. If only our politicians cared for their own people as much...Thank you - it restores some faith in humanity.

Below is a copy of an email from Ladies in Action (written by my father who is not a Lady!!).

Dear all,
The situation in Kisumu has started to get normal, though quite a number of shops are still closed. Some of the lo
oted ones have started cleaning and restocking. The only supermarket which is open is Nakumatt, but they are allowing only a handful of people inside - leaving people standing in long lines under the hot sun. But, at least they are able to shop. Banks are also open but they also only let a handful of customers in. Most of the hardware shops still remain closed. Milk and bread is available but at an inflated price.
Vegetables are not coming in. The only vegetables available are tomatoes and sukuma wiki. This is a locally grown kale which is part of every Kenyan's daily diet. It literally means, "Push the week!" I believe this is where my son, Dipesh got the idea for the name of this blog!! Let's keep pushing Kenya

The Ladies In Action are already in action. Saraphine Muge from Masogo village has received some flour to feed some old women who had not eaten for a week. Arrangements have been made to purchase maize meal flour from a local miller.

We would like to thank all those who are assisting in fundraising. Special thanks to Dipesh and Elodie and Susan Deans in Jersey. They have put tremendous effort in to creating a blog for this purpose. It has been less than 24 hours and we have already received £1000 sterling!! It's fantastic - a long way to go but we know we have all the support we need out there. Thank you.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT NOW

Ladies in Action, which was founded by my mother, Nejla Pabari and a few other ladies from Kisumu has been involved in child welfare and other community needs for several years. Projects have always been flexible in terms of meeting the needs of the communities which range from reconstructing schools, digging boreholes, planting trees, paying for further education and feeding orphans and elderly people. With a strong network within the surrounding communities and no shortage of volunteers, Ladies in Action is able to reach out to literally thousands of needy people.

Ladies in Action have two main funders in addition to various individual supporters: the Klara Foundation which is based in the Netherlands and Jersey Overseas Aid . Susan Deans was a volunteer who came out from Jersey and was so touched by the work that Ladies in Action are doing that she set up the Kisumu Orphans Education Fund [Member of Jersey Association of Charities no 306] as a way to keep raising funds for the overwhelming number of orphans around Kisumu.

Due to the clashes caused by the elections, thousands of people have been displaced having lost their homes and their livelihoods. Hundreds of children have been left at various police stations, schools and hospitals for their security; and families all over have little if nothing to feed themselves on. There has been a tremendous amount of support from Kenyans within the Nairobi environs. Mine, my sister and Lorna have been out the whole day in the Nairobi city helping distibute food and other supplies. Unfortunately, there has been as much civil support within Kisumu.

Therefore, Ladies in Action are reaching out to assist clash victims, orphans and affected familes with food supplies. Children will be given one proper meal daily which includes a plate of beans and porridge which costs Ksh. 20/- per child (about USD $ 0.32). Children will be encouraged to come to various outreach centres to eat and the Ladies in Action will organise large deliveries of porridge to be taken to orphanages.

$32 can feed 100 children daily!

In addition, weekly shopping bags will be given to displaced families. This will include: cooking oil, maize flour, 3 boxes of matches , and a small packet of salt. Each grocery bag will cost
Ksh. 150/- per fami
ly (USD $ 2.4) .

$24 can provide basic necessities for 10 families weekly!

The other major concern is health. For several years, Ladies in Action have organised free medical camps to treat basic ailments such as malaria, open infections and wounds and worms. This will have to be stepped up.

To treat 400 children costs Ksh. 20,000/- (USD $325).

Ladies in Action would like to do this for the next three months. We do not know how many people are out there that need support. It is impossible to know at this point since the country is still so unsettled. They will basically provide for as many people as there is funding. All funds donated online will then be transfered to the Ladies in Action bank account in Kisumu. Please note that 100% of funds donated (minus bank transfer costs which have no say over) will be used to buy and distribute supplies and we will post regular reports on the activities.

So there it is. What more do I have to say...

Let's do our bit for Kenya...

Thank you.

Dipesh, Elodie and Maya (Nairobi)

Mr. and Mrs. Pabari (Kisumu)

Susan Deans (Jersey Island)

Mine Pabari (Nairobi)

Signs of peace but the work just begins...

Sunday morning: I think for the first time since the elections on December 27th, things feel normal - at least for us who are fortunate and have not been directly affected by the senseless violence caused by the elections. For the innocent victims, their struggle continues as more than 250,000 people have been displaced. The WFP has been quick to respond to the food crises as reported on the BBC
I spoke to my folks this morning who went for a drive in search of bread and they said they are also seeing the first signs of attempts to return to normal. There are a few people on the streets and some people are coming out to sell what little they have. There has been quite a large exodus of minority communities including South Asians but my father has strongly expressed to the media that this has not been against the South Asians. This has been about Kenyans as a whole. He spoke to the Hindustan Times.
So now it is time for the people of Kenya to pick up the pieces and rebuild the country that has been destroyed by our leaders who we had so much faith in. As you know Kisumu, the third largest city which is predominantly Luo, the main ethnic group that supported the opposition - ODM - has been one of the worst hit areas in terms of destruction and loss of property. People are hungry as the shops are empty and not fresh food has been arriving in town.
Ladies in Action have started preparing the mass feeeding programme. We have been working hard to get the online donation facility running. Fortunately, we have also found a much easier solution to receiving funds and delivering to Ladies in Action. Susan Deans from Jersey Island, UK, started a registered charity: Kisumu Orphans Education Fund [Member of Jersey Association of Charities no 306]. They have been supporting various development and poverty eradication programmes in Kisumu for a while and are now making appeals to raise funds to deal with the current problem. The Kisumu Orphans Education Fund has kindly agreed to allow us to use their charity to receive the funds that we will be requesting on this blog and they will transfer the funds to Ladies in Action. We should have the application up and running today thanks to David Njuguna who is a computer guru and my colleague at WildlifeDirect
Have a wonderful sunday and if you pray, today is the day to remember Kenya's people...

Kenyans For Peace, Truth, Justice

We speak in the name of Kenya's governance, human rights and legal organizations, as well as the concerned citizens who have contacted and chosen to work with us over the last week.

We strongly condemn the violence that has erupted across the country following the questionable outcomes of the counting and tallying done under the electoral process. We express our deepest sympathy to all those who have been injured, raped or killed, those who have lost property, those who have been internally displaced as well as those who continue to live in fear. We are only too acutely aware that the survivors and victims continue to be those with the most to lose from the violence as well as those who least deserve to experience it—Kenya's impoverished women and men in both low-income urban areas as well as in rural areas.

We are aware that the violence experienced has taken three primary forms. First, disorganized protest at the supposed results of the presidential tally. Second, instigated and organized militia activity particularly in the Rift Valley, but also through the re-activation of Mungiki in Central and Nairobi and, now,Chinkororo in Nyanza. And third, extraordinary use of force by Kenya's Police Force and General Service Unit to the extent of extrajudicial executions violating the most fundamental of freedoms and human rights—the rights to life and the safety and security of persons. We strongly condemn all three forms.

We note that the violence experienced is being used to legitimize the curtailing of the most basic of freedoms and human rights—the freedoms of expression, assembly and association. These freedoms and human rights are guaranteed by international law, regional law and our own Constitution. They must be upheld at all times—especially as the exercise of these freedoms and human rights is the only way for Kenyans to legally and legitimately express their protest at the alleged presidential outcome of the electoral process. We believe that the repression and suppression of legal and legitimate forms of protest can only perpetuate further violence.

It is also clear to us that, at the heart of the violence now being experienced, is a violation of other fundamental freedoms and rights directly related to the electoral processes. It is clear that the electoral anomalies and malpractices experienced during the counting and tallying of our electoral process were so grave as to alter its outcomes. Some of those electoral anomalies and malpractices were, in addition, illegal—thus rendering the supposed presidential outcome not only illegitimate but also illegal. We therefore consider Mwai Kibaki to be in office still on his first term.

Our hope lies in Kenyans standing up against the travesty that has been made of the electoral process. Our hope lies in Kenyans who have, at great personal risk, and without regard to ethnicity, on principle provided security, shelter and safe passage to those Kenyans targeted by the militia activity in the Rift Valley and elsewhere. We note the domestic humanitarian efforts coordinated by the National Council of Churches of Kenya with statistical support from the Catholic Relief Services—efforts to which many individual Kenyans and Kenyan businesses have now associated themselves. We note too the domestic peace initiatives being worked on by Amani Focus, the 'Ibrahim group' (including Ambassador Kiplagat and General Sumbweiyo) and Peacenet. And we now invite other concerned citizens to join the 'peace through truth and justice' efforts being carried out by domestic governance, human rights and legal organizations.

In particular, we would like to call on:

1. All efforts and initiatives to consistently stress that peace cannot and will not be achieved without electoral truth and justice;
2. All Kenyans to stand up to be counted not just for peace but also for electoral truth and justice;
3. The state to respect and uphold the rights to the freedoms of expression, assembly and association so as to ensure Kenyans protest only legally, legitimately and non-violently;
4. All politicians and political parties to immediately desist from the re-activation, support and use of militia organizations such as those active in the Rift Valley, Mungiki and Chinkororo;
5. The Ministry of Internal Security, the Police Force and the General Service Unit to exercise their duties within the boundaries of the Constitution and the law and desist from any extraordinary use of force and, in particular, extrajudicial executions;
6. The Electoral Commission of Kenya to immediately resign for having participated in and condoned a presidential electoral process so flawed as to result in our nation's current crisis;
7. African states and the rest of the international community to pressurize for mediation between the Party of National Unity and the Orange Democratic Movement on addressing the electoral travesty that has occurred;
8. The mediation process to, as its first priority, agree upon an interim electoral oversight body to conduct a forensic audit into the polling, counting and tallying process with a view to recommending, depending on its findings, a re-count, a re-tallying or a re-run within a specified time period;
9. African states and the rest of the international community to, in the interim, deny official recognition to the man sworn in as President;
10. African states and the rest of the international community to immediately revoke any and all visas for any and all of the PNU's and ODM's leadership—as well as all of their immediate family members—to ensure they remain in this country to resolve the electoral travesty that has occurred;
11. The man sworn in as President to desist from announcing a Cabinet and otherwise aggravating and inflaming the current violence.

Signed:

Africa Centre for Open Governance (AfriCOG)
Awaaz
Centre for Law and Research International (CLARION)
Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD)
Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness for Women (CREAW)
(CRADLE)
Constitution and Reform Education Consortium (CRECO)
East African Law Society (EALS)
Haki Focus
Hema la Katiba
Independent Medico-Legal Unit (IMLU)
Innovative Lawyering
Institute for Education in Democracy (IED)
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ-Kenya)
Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC)
Kenya Leadership Institute (KLI)
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR)
Kituo cha Sheria
Media Institute
Muslim Human Rights Forum
National Constitution Executive Council (NCEC)
Society for International Development (SID)
Urgent Action Fund (UAF)-Africa
Youth Agenda

Friday, January 4, 2008

Kenya Damu...

Where do I begin. I was reading a fellow blogger the other day who wrote that she was tired of writing about what is happening to our country. I think that is what many of us are feeling as the phones constantly ring, as we meet to discuss what we can do, as we sit in front of the TV and watch the senseless anger, as we talk to people on the streets who tell us that people are hungry, people are running, the Mungiki has started going door to door, that there are militia groups all along the Kisumu - Kericho road, that hundreds of thousands are displaced and that the deathtoll is still rising and the politicians are sitting in the comfort of the press conference rooms preaching peace or meeting behind closed doors making decisions for the rest of us.
We are tired because this is not our story; this is not a story we want to tell; this is a story we are not interested in. But it is happening and we all share one common fear that keeps us going - things are only going to get worse.
So, we have started our own blog, but there is more than this to useless words on the screen - we need help from all of you out there. While the politicians busy themselves with useless dialogue, the rest of us have to get up to pick up the pieces.
There is very little we can do to stop what is happening but we can help those that have been affected. Some of you know my folks who are held out in Kisumu. They have been running a charity called Ladies in Action for several years now to assist the needy which unfortunately, there was never any shortage of - even before this. We want to use this blog for as long as it takes to help raise awareness and funds to help the victims in whichever way we can. My mother has been doing this for years so the least we can do is help her to continue and meet the rapidly growing humanitarian demands.
The photo above was taken by our friend Georgina Goodwin who has been out everyday collecting images and trying to tell the horror story. Food as you see lies in the path of destruction while prices across the country are escalating and supplies are dwindling. Kisumu is one of the worst hit areas. There is nothing left of the town as you can see from the image below taken by my father.

I hope by tomorrow we will have set up a system for online donations. We will use our account in France to receive the funds and then cash it our here and send funds to my folks or buy supplies and find a way to get them to Kisumu. The reason we have to do it like this is that we do not have the time to set up an account overseas and register as a charity and go through the whole process but we will ensure all our supporters that we report accurately and to the cent where the donations go. In any case, this is really a way to mobilise our friends and we believe you all know us well enough and all your friends know you well enough.
So, please would you all start considering this call for help. Most of you will not think twice about donating, but what would also help is if you can think about how you might mobilise others to help.
For those of you that have any link to Kenya...well, Kenya is calling...

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