Friday, May 22, 2015
An interesting day in Nairobi
Friday, May 22, 2015
We left for the office at 9:30 AM. We had a meeting with the men in the office to discuss all the problems of projects that were broken and what to do about them. Probably the most useful thing we discussed was that in future these men all ought to be involved in any future water projects, to get their input, to get better prices for services, and to serve on a committee with the humanitarian couple and when we are there, with us. We need local input; we always have.
Because our meeting was too long, I had to leave it to meet with the Mission President, Brother Hicken. I was really impressed with him and some of the things that he is doing. One of them is to make sure that the couples had adequate vehicles because of the conditions here. You need a vehicle that can ‘get out of its own way quickly’ because the highway is treacherous because of all the slow trucks and everyone is always passing. You need one that has a good safety crash record as we see accidents daily. You need one that has 4-wheel drive if you drive out of Nairobi. When we left the mission years ago we were appalled that couples who drove every week into the bush didn’t even get trucks with 4-wheel drive. There are many dicey situations that require it. He also said that the extra price will be made up with the fact that they don’t need fixing very often, and that the resale value will be much higher.
President told me his program of how he handles welfare requests. He requires a contribution from the person requiring assistance, even if it is 10 cents; he requires backup paperwork; he makes sure that no one is given money but instead bills are paid directly such as medical bills. Because of the paperwork many don’t bother and the requests have gone down. He also said that many who joined the church just to eat, are being retaught the Gospel so that they understand it and perhaps then can learn to live it if they are truly converted. In the Chyulu Hills area they have enough members to make a Stake instead of being a District, which is under the Mission President. The reason they can’t progress is because there are not enough faithful men who hold the Priesthood and could serve in leadership positions. Many of them drink; many don’t pay tithing. He focuses on temple blessings, which in turn helps give them the desire to live the commandments. When they do, they will become a Stake.
Not only was it exciting to see all our friends from the office like James, Jadmire, Paul, and President Usi (who used to be a 70 but has now been released), but Owens Obaro came to the office looking for me. He is the young man that used to give me Swahili lessons 10 years ago. We had since connected on Facebook but it was so much nicer to see him in person. When he taught me he was so skinny and now he has filled out and looks great. Even better, he has married and has 3 children! I thought he would never get married. He is going to visit us next week before we travel about again.
After we were finished in the office we went to lunch at the Java House with the Shakespeare’s. I felt like I was home in California. All the food was American and it was reasonable and I ate a salad, something I would not do in West Africa. The food is safer in Nairobi. And to top it all off, it was reasonable!
We went back into the traffic (there is always traffic now, and I think it has doubled in 10 years) and headed for another spoiled project that was done at a slum school in Nairobi. It is a borehole and pump that was to deliver water to the school and to a few other places. It worked for several months. When it stopped working, both contractors involved said it was not their problem, it was the other guy…sound familiar? We don’t know if we will fix this or not.
Afterwards we headed for a place we were told 10 years ago not to enter—the Kibera Slum. It was then off limits to all the missionaries, young and old. We did go in there a few times but with an African escort. E/S Shakespeare introduced to a school. They helped them by building simple latrines and are soon adding another section. He showed us the desks they had built for the school and they got a few sewing machines to be used for the older school children. They plastered their floors.
The nice desks provided by LDSC at this school in Kibera. They also plastered their floors and gave them sewing machines for their older students to learn a trade.
We could not believe it, but the government is fixing up Kibera. It is the largest and worst slum in all of Nairobi. There are well over 1 million people living there. They used to have 7 toilets for all those people. Some large NGO came in and is building housing for the people. They are removing some of the kiosks and living quarters (which are primarily made out of mud and sticks or iron sheets) and widening the streets. They are paving them! They are building toilets where they charge a little bit of money to use so that they can be maintained. Elder Shakespeare thought that it was because the large world NGO is forcing the government to do something while they are building the housing; he’d also heard it was the Kenyan President’s wife—who knows. All we know is that there are wonderful improvements happening in Kenya. It is a nice surprise to us.
We went to see some other project that Elder Shakespeare saw one day and said was an ‘Asian toilet’. They pay to use it. It smelled, just like most latrines do. They have a bucket underneath where they collect the waste. They have a process that they use to turn it into fertilizer in 6 months, after which they use it to fertilize their garden, which is in a greenhouse. Interesting.
We learn something new every day, and most times, many new things.
Love, from Nairobi