An article in the South Wales Evening Post !!!

‘I will only come home when I feel my work is complete’

TRAVELLING by van through the dusty roads into the rural village of Runnyenjes, two hours from Nairobi, Christine Gibbard could see first-hand the cruel sights of poverty surrounding her.

She saw a community riddled with health problems who lived in clay and wooden huts, locals who lacked basic skills and education and a village who were deprived of the basic essentials that we take for granted.

 

An inspiring story: Christine Gibbard, pictured in Kenya with Sharon, a little girl who needed an operation before getting prosthetic legs. Sharon has done well and can now walk.

An inspiring story: Christine Gibbard, pictured in Kenya with Sharon, a little girl who needed an operation before getting prosthetic legs. Sharon has done well and can now walk.

 

Yet despite the poverty and low quality of life the villagers faced there was a certain beauty and charm that the former head-teacher fell in love with.

After her first visit in 1990 with her church she spent the next 20 years spending her school holidays travelling to the region, and not only helped to provide aid, but also taught villagers how to become self-sufficient and be not as reliant on the western world.

“I was struck by how poor the area was and felt I wanted to make a difference to help improve their lives,” says Christine, who was brought up in Swansea’s Manselton area.

“Until you see how much they need your help, it is difficult to understand how moved you feel.

“The Kenyans are so lively and joyous and they are such friendly people. Seeing how much our work was paying off and watching the locals learn new skills was so rewarding I felt compelled to keep returning to the country and continuing to progress with the work.”

Three years ago, Christine took early retirement after 34 years of teaching to pursue her Christian work in Kenya.

“The time was right for me to leave,” she says.

“I loved my job and my school, but I had to fulfil my promise to get a community centre up and running in Kenya.

“My heart was in Africa and it was hard to leave my family and friends, but it was something I had to do.”

Christine has been based between the market village of Kigumo and the main road shops at Kathageri for more than two years.

“If I buy clothes they are usually off a trader on the street and are clothes people donate to charity shops,” she says.

“They try to sell it to me more than double the price of what it is worth!”

Christine has had to adapt to their culture and it’s a far cry from her lifestyle in Britain.

“As you would expect, it is such a simple way of life,” she says.

“I eat a healthy diet which usually consists of food off the land and maize.

“I do miss ice cream and cheese! But you can get almost anything from Nairobi. Sometimes sticking with the same meal you feel like pulling your hair out, but we are thankful to have food.

“I miss British culture and everything associated with it. I miss going to the theatre or a concert, listening to the radio and going to a nice restaurant with friends and family.

“But I do have some good friends in Nairobi who let me go to them for Christmas and so on.” Christine is the only British woman permanently living on the site, although she gets visits from other peacekeepers and volunteers.

Some of her past pupils have visited her while on gap year opportunities, as well as some of the teachers from her school.

“They have offered their time at local orphanages, hospitals and schools,” she says.

“We are teaching people to become self-sufficient and set up a few projects to support them to become sustainable. They have got things to eat, fruit is dripping from the trees and they have maize, but after eating they have no money to do anything. It is a case of giving them training.

“There are many teenagers and young adults who are unskilled and need employment. Drug misuse is very high and we offer rehabilitative counselling and accommodation to addicts as well as teaching about HIV/Aids-related risks.

“One of the biggest problems we have is watching people die because we can’t get the simple medicines. People have funerals in their gardens and it is so sad seeing how many people die needlessly.”

Christine spent two years building a community house which was hit by fire last September.

“We were at the funeral of our foreman in western Kenya when the fire broke out,” she says.

“It was quite a life-changing day. Hundreds of people turned up to try to put the fire out and save some items. The Kenyans don’t know how to handle a fire. They smashed all the windows thinking they were helping, but it made it worse. But they did their best.

“The community rallied around and now they have said they want more involvement in the rebuilding of a new house. It will not be seen as the White’s House, but the Kenyan’s own centre.”

Christine’s sister, Margaret Jones, of Ael Y Bryn Road, Fforestfach, says she and her other three sisters worry about her safety.

“She is out there on her own and lost everything in the fire,” she says.

“We have very little contact with her as getting a telephone connection to Kenya is very difficult. Her laptop was lost in the fire and we were out of touch with her for a while.

“We haven’t seen her for two years. She has given up her life to do this and it is incredible the amount of work she does.”

Christine has had malaria three times and has had jiggers in her feet — a parasitic flea living in the soil and sand — which had to be cut out.

“It is very unusual to get and probably came from the dust of the fire,” she says.

“It was the embarrassment of having to have them cut out of my feet all the time.

“But you can’t fear anything. This is such a beautiful country and the positives outweigh the negatives. I have my faith and want to keep my promise to offer the Kenyan’s a better life.”

Christine has a night watchman who only has a bow and arrow to protect her and she roughs it by sleeping on the floor.

“We lost everything in the fire,” she says.

“Many of the community resources, such as water pumps, sports equipment and office paperwork, were lost so we have to start again from scratch.

“One day I will come home, but only when I feel my work out in Kenya is complete.”

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Link to original aricle: South Wales Evening Post

Photos of the fire damage.

Chrissie has managed to send these photos through using some else’s computer as her laptop was destroyed in the fire.

They’re heart-breaking to look at.

A Review of 2012

For Peacemakers International 2012 has been a year with highs and lows, intermingled with blessings. The biggest blessing of all has been the Faithfulness of God in keeping true to His promise and vision and giving us strength to overcome all the different circumstances that presented themselves to us throughout the year.

I have put bulletins and photographs on our web page, keeping you informed of the progress of our Resource Centre and some of the events that have taken place throughout the year. There have been visitors from the UK staying on site, giving of their skills and enjoying the beautiful gardens and facilities that have been developed and established on barren ground. We were almost at the stage of completion of  the Kisimani House and insuring the whole complex so that we could advertise and hire out the multi purpose buildings and resources; when the double shock came in August that Isaac had suddenly died and a few days later (the day of his funeral) Kisimani house was burnt down.

We were all devastated by this, I personally felt that all the stuffing had been knocked out of me, and struggled to stand in faith for a while. But hearing reports from Christine in Kenya about how the local Kenyans had rallied round and responded immediately to try to put the fire out and salvage as much as possible from the debris, it began to bring a realisation that the Kenyans, at last, were beginning to take up their responsibility in this vision. I’m happy to report that the Kenyans are now involved and planning fund raising events to try and restore Kisimani house, realising its God’s provision for them to use, to care and support the needy in their community and to become self-sufficient.

I have mentioned God’s vision many times before, so I think it necessary at this stage to explain the purpose of building a Resource Centre. As this is quite detailed, please the article previous to this one and read it at your leisure.

When you read the document, much of that spoken about is already in place and buildings that are completed are being hired -out and used. The Centre is unique and is like an oasis in the middle of a disturbed and needy community; and is the first of its kind. There needs to be a Resource Centre like this in every district, and we hope from this pilot example, Kenyans will spread this vision across their tribal districts. God’s vision is for a project like this to be in every African country.

So be encouraged all our Peacemakers’ friends and sponsors, for what you have helped to build, and thank you for your faithfulness in helping to fulfil the promise of God to the Kenyans, despite one or two set backs this year. Already we can see good coming out of the debris.

The Peacemakers’ Team and I, wish to express our heart-felt thanks and appreciation for your constant support and generosity.

Brenda Marshall

Director of Peacemakers International

The Purpose of Peacemakers Kenya.

The following is taken from a funding request to Safaricom Kenya, trying to obtain assistance in rebuilding the Kisimani house after the fire:

Peacemakers Community Resource Centre, Kenya

Vision of Peacemakers:

Peacemakers Kenya is a registered charity based organization (CBO) who have been working near Embu, Kenya, in collaboration with UK well- wishers, for 21 years. Its main mission is to bring people together to become more effective in networking, learning, training and giving mutual support for positive, dynamic community development. It seeks to alleviate the effects of poverty and other social challenges like addictions, disability, gender strife and community harmony. It seeks to support vulnerable individuals and groups to transform their lives and to become sustainable through motivational, entrepreneurial activities. In the past, it has initiated projects and micro-enterprises, trained hundreds in Primary Health, HIV AIDS, Drugs awareness, Physical Education and First Aid. It has donated cows to over 80 schools, thousands of mosquito nets to communities and school effects to link institutions. Since 2008, it has slowly been building a small age-friendly Resource Centre near Runyenje’s in order to fulfill its aim of having a base for a variety of purposes:

  • A vibrant and effective community education and development centre with training opportunities for particular groups of all ages
  • A venue for stimulating activities to aid early childhood education opportunities
  • A community information centre to communicate to all about activities and opportunities for local jobs; a place for help and advice about services; a bureau for typesetting / copying / downloading documents etc.
  • A cyber café for all ages to access technology to improve their learning and living standards
  • A centre for church and faith leaders to come together to discuss spiritual and social issues; to promote peaceful lifestyles and tribal harmony
  • A community health education centre; a permanent facility for HIV AIDS support and access to services where People living with AIDs (PLWAS) can meet regularly to discuss other needs
  • A venue to hold a database for community health workers and contacts; a first aid post and information on primary health; healthy diets ; information leaflets on diabetes , heart disease and other conditions
  • It will have a restaurant for all ages to meet and try new healthy diet recipes; a place to promote value added products, local fresh fruit juices, yoghurts, jams , (cassava/arrowroot/banana flour)breads and cakes; snacks of dried fruits and nuts; locally grown coffee and tea, fruit smoothies etc.
  • A counselling and guidance centre for youth with adolescent and young adult issues around sexual health and relationships; a place for girls to be advised and supported when they have untimely and unwanted pregnancies; a place for teenage mothers to gain knowledge about child –care and healthy development
  • A community library with activities like Book Clubs and Adult literacy classes; a newspaper corner, a cultural and traditional tales/story telling- base’ a venue for television, radio and educative films
  • A community centre with information on projects organized by Non governmental organisations (NGOs); a monitoring centre for NGO officials e.g. Care International; APHIA PLUS etc.
  • A community empowerment education centre with opportunities for demonstrating innovative technology to aid efficiency in farming etc., where value addition to produce is taught and ideas developed ; a place where entrepreneurship development, asset building, business acumen and wealth creation is brought to those whose livelihoods only support meager living standards
  • A community centre which provides opportunities forpeople to demonstrate expressive arts and cultural traditions; where people can practice and produce crafts; where dance, drama , music , and performance arts can be celebrated
  • An eco-tourist accommodation centre; a base for visitors coming to see rural activities and lifestyles; a stop-over for tourists and outward- bound travellers en route to the Mt Kenya region; for students to spend part of their gap-year on voluntary experiences in local institutions; for exchange visits to Europe and beyond for farmers and businessfolk
  • A place for local ministry trainers to reachcommunity members with up to date advice for farming, livestock, fisheries etc.; for short seminars and training sessions of all kinds’ a place for the chief’s barazas ( community information meetings)
  • A show case centre for water saving and water cleaning processes; a place to display energy saving devices and environmentally friendly practices; tree planting schemes
  • A place for meetings for different groups; women’s groups ; e.g. Kenya Women Trust, widows group, health workers; disabled groups
  • A place for youth clubs ; dance; drama; singing and music etc.; a place for youth motivational days and youth information opportunities; e.g. Drugs awareness and HIV AIDS sessions; tailoring, hairstyling
  • A place for family gatherings, celebrations, fund raisings and community weddingsat a very basic cost
  • A short-term retreat for respite care for disabled people or people living in stressful circumstances
  • A place for workshops for school drop outs and disabled people to fabricate items for sale; leather work , beadwork, carpentry, tailoring etc. ; a place to restore dignity and avoid idleness and lack of motivation
  • A drugs’ counselling centre for the Embu district working in collaboration with NACADA
  • A rehabilitation centre with entrepreneurial activities and accommodation for addicts ; a “half way house”
  • A place where facilities, equipment and resource items may be hired to aid the community and to sustain funds
  • A place which is an attractive and peaceful setting for visitors

Project objectives

The resource centre is so well used by groups for meetings, education, motivation , celebrations, faith gathering and a myriad of other reasons. It promotes harmony and social networking. It gives access for less privileged members of the community to gain information and skills to improve their living standards. It is well used by youth for study, entertainment and cultural development. It is used for the disabled groups for meetings and mutual support. It is used by administrative officials, politicians and NGOs working with community groups. It is used by teachers and students for day retreats.

It is used by addicts for counselling and support. Rehabilitating youths and older addicts run a tree nursery and help in the garden produce shamba which is sold locally. They keep rabbits and chickens also.

The place will be for public use and any profits, after expenses will go into supporting community projects that help vulnerable groups and individuals, selected by a community committee. These will be sustainable activities rather than hand-outs, except in extreme cases.

The land and buildings are owned by Peacemakers but the trustees and community representatives are the custodians on behalf of the people and maintain its operational costs and development.

The current and future activities depend on the community centre being well used leading to sustainability and eventual profit. No monies will be deployed to other uses other than those that concur with our overall mission of supporting the vulnerable and facilitating dynamic community development.