Loyce Ong’udi’s mother, Rosemell, lives, as has she throughout her life, in the small west Kenyan village of Rabuor, three kilometers up gentle hills from Kisumu highway. My friend Loyce recalls an idyll of childhood, playing in the security of Luo tribal life, sheltered in the bosom of Rabuor. Poverty did not grind Rabuor. Villagers ate and bore young and grew old and died, as had Rabuor families for generations. Loyce’s grandfather, an Anglican priest, valued educating children, including girls. Loyce left Rabuor for Maseno Girls Anglican School, then high school in Nairobi. Marriage brought Loyce to San Diego, then turned ugly. Divorce left Loyce in the American dilemma of single motherhood. Loyce persevered. She studies at the University of Washington, her daughter at Seattle University.
While Loyce struggled, so did Rabuor. HIV crept through the population. AIDS struck able young men and women. Rabuor teetered toward social collapse, slowly crumbling into a region of old people and babies. Not individuals alone, but communities also, may die, withered in hopelessness. Herodotus (Greek, 5th century B.C.) said, “Calamities fall upon us; sicknesses vex and harass us, and make life, short though it be, to appear long. So death, through the wretchedness of our life, is a most sweet refuge to our race.” (Histories, VII, §46). Despair is death’s handmaiden. Rosemell resisted. She fanned Rabuor’s ember. Rosemell sheltered area AIDS orphans. Their numbers kept growing. East Africa’s familiar story began a new chapter in Rabuor: disease created poverty, poverty assisted disease, unstable and ineffective government bolstered both. Kenya is only recently unstable. Still, Rosemell was awash in needy kids. She called for help, and many answered, Loyce among them.
Rabuor Village is determined to survive HIV-AIDS. The villagers have taken steps. They have planted sunflowers, pressed them for oil to sell. They feed the husks to hybrid goats, milk producers, of German stock. Men make bricks from local soils. In their new coop, Rabuor raises chickens for ready protein. American friends help Rabuor build recovery. Rabuor Village Project is a Washington non-profit 501(c)(3) that supports these west Kenyan efforts. Rabuor has erected a nursery school for the orphans, a pharmacy, and works toward securing a steady water source. Rabuor has broken ground on a vocational center, located on the valley highway. They will teach marketable skills and sell local products. Rabuor spreads its successes to adjacent communities. Some fifteen hamlets are affected at present. Village by village, Rabuor exports its model of sustainability, straight in the teeth of the HIV-AIDS epidemic.
Octavio Paz (Mexican, 20th century A.D.) said, “Political crises are moral crises” (Postscript). Political crises I leave to our State Department. But the moral crisis of east Africa troubles me. Rabuor Village Project helps, both me and west Kenya.
[Postscript 2011: After leadership disputes, Rabuor Village Project ceased operations in 2010.]