Our last day at the lodge was bittersweet. It was raining and the day was cool and gloomy. We had made arrangements to walk into the village to visit the nuns there. A-Leah found me a pair of rubber boots but unfortunately there were no boots of Richard’s size in the camp. He would have to slosh through the mud in his sandals. Off we went with our walking sticks and rain jackets. The dust from the week before had now turned to mud and the creek that we crossed earlier in our travels was now quite substantial. We made it through and across and arrived at the nuns residence about 10 AM. They were so delighted to see us!! They had set out some snacks and poured us some tea. Their story is very interesting and inspiring. There are only three nuns here and they are from India. Their order is The Society of the Helpers of Mary and they have been in Kweki for only a year. The church owned a couple of acres of land with an old building on it. With no electricity or water, they turned this old building into a residence and a chapel room for the three of them. They finally got some solar electricity but recall that the first few months they only had candlelight at night. They have a well now but as it is outside their compound, the villagers use it until the water is gone. They have now fenced in their acreage and have a few chickens and have plans for a bigger residence and a school for girls. There is a half finished building on the property that they are planning to build into a hospital. However, they have yet to secure government permits for their land and without these, electricity and water cannot be run through and the hospital cannot be completed. Things in Africa move pole, pole (slowly, slowly) so though they have big plans ahead, they can only do so much. They see a need within the community as does our host Darryl but changes are slow to come. Many villagers do not see the need for change though teen pregnancy and infant mortality rate is high. The nuns (who are teachers and nurses) are looking to empower the women of the community. It is a long, slow struggle with little rewards at this time. They are very optimistic though and said they can’t wait until we return so that we can stay with them in their new home and see all that they have accomplished. We left there feeling humbled by their dedication.
Our next stop was back at the secondary school to meet with the headmaster. He had been unavailable when we were there last week. He explained to us the trials of running a large school with little resources. However, his biggest concern was for the students that had to walk more than five kilometers each day to school and back. There is a residence on the property but it can only house a few girls. There are no school buses that run for the public schools – only the private schools. After we left the school we had a discussion with A-Leah about taxes and where the government gets money to pay for schools (or the lack of them). They do have income tax for people that have a formal job but most work for themselves so do not pay taxes. There are no property taxes so most government income comes from park fees and tourism. With so many people to support, you can begin to see why things are slow to change and government cannot keep up to demand. Once back at the compound I asked Darryl what we can do. He said that though it sounds self serving, money for support of causes such as the nuns projects are probably the best way to help at this time. Communities need to rally together and help each other out of their current state of living. NGO’s can come in and build a school or a residence but unless they stay to maintain it or teach people to do so, it will eventually fall to ruin. There are no easy answers and we leave here with more questions than we anticipated.
For our last evening at the lodge, the Maasai gentlemen who are part of the Dashir family put on an excellent show of dance and theatrics, We had a wonderful meal and a lovely evening. We packed our bags yet again and after a restless sleep and another fantastic breakfast, we said goodbye to our hosts and their wonderful staff. We will never forget this part of our journey and how well we were treated and the things that we learned. To us, (TIA) This is Africa.