Welcome to Nyaoga, Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria. If you were to walk down the dirt road leading into this village you would meet extremely poor people struggling to survive. You’d notice that their feet were severely cracked and callused. If you entered one of the mud homes, you might see a woman stirring a large pot of ugali (corn meal and water) her family’s one meal for the day. You might see kerosene lamps in a few of the homes, and maybe one or two pit latrines. Some of the children you’d meet would be attending school, but many more can’t afford the school fees, uniforms and books. You’d meet some people who have enough strength to work in the fields all day or who have a small business. They’d share their hopes of rebuilding their village. They’d show you the medical clinic and water projects, huge milestones, and life-saving projects. You’d see the success and understand the continued need for help. They’d describe their agricultural and business endeavors. They’d tell you they simply want to feed their families and continue to improve the health of their community.
Meet the people of Nyaoga. The Women’s Group who helped make the Nyaoga Medical Clinic and Nyaoga Water Project a reality; the Victoria Young Women’s Group who understand the intrinsic value of education, and the Women Living Positively, who are working to support each other and lessen the stigma of HIV/AIDS. Together they represent the success that is possible, and the power of hope. But there is much work to be done.
NYAOGA CLEAN WATER PROJECT
Lake Victoria, the only source of water for the village of Nyaoga, Kenya, is desperately polluted. For years, it has been making those who must rely on it ill with various water-borne diseases. Women and children spend 2-8 hours a day fetching the poisoned water from the lake. Wells cannot be dug because the ground water is too sulfuric to be consumed and even bringing the water to the surface would damage the land.
Phase I of the Nyaoga Clean Water Project involved years of extensive research and investigation. Based on the findings, the local community-based organization, along with Give Us Wings, determined that the most viable solution was to connect to a circle of piping that the government had formerly established and had privatized in 2006. However, the circle of piping was in disrepair. With intense advocacy from Give Us Wings, the people of Nyaoga, and water experts here and in Kenya, the government and the water company was convinced to repair the circle of piping.
In the summer of 2007, with the support of many Give Us Wings donors and the hard work of the people of Nyaoga, ground was broken and construction began on a network of pipes connected to the existing water pipes to bring clean water to the people of Nyaoga. The community laid three kilometers of pipes that connect to the water company’s treated water pipes. They also built 13 kiosks at locations throughout the village, including on the grounds of two local schools. In the summer 2008, water began to flow intermittently.
Phase II of the project is the construction of a 500 cubic meter holding tank. The tank is currently under construction at the point where the Nyaoga piping connects with the water company’s piping. The tank will store a supply of water and also help to moderate the water pressure in the pipes.
MEDICAL CLINIC PROJECT
The Nyaoga Medical Clinic serves a large community (over 15,000 people). Previously, residents of Nyaoga had to travel over an hour on deeply rutted roads in unreliable transport vehicles to obtain medical care at a government facility. Often, people were unable to make it to the hospital in time, and they died on the way. With assistance from Give Us Wings and hundreds of hours of hard work by members of the Nyaoga Women’s Group, a beautiful medical clinic was opened in 2008. This seven-room clinic was built by the people of Nyaoga, the Nyaoga Women’s Group, and Give Us Wings’ volunteers. The community tells us that many lives have already been saved.
The clinic is in a secure location and is equipped with a laboratory and a pharmacy. The Clinic employs a full-time nurse, a lab technician, and a trained pharmacist. Sally Otieno, the staff nurse and primary care provider is also the Director of the Clinic. Additionally, many community members have been trained in health care issues and help in community outreach efforts. A recent outbreak of cholera was quickly brought under control, in large part, because of their skills and training.
In conjunction with the new clinic, Give us Wings has supported the construction of staff housing on site. Twenty men who did not have jobs were put to work on this project. The men have learned how to make eco-bricks and construction. They now have a skill and a way to support their families.
NYAOGA WOMEN’S GROUP
The Nyaoga Women’s Group was formed in 1991 by 20 local women to improve the income, food security, and health status of the village. They were a group with ideas and determination, but lacked funds and training and support. Each of the women told a similar heartbreaking story: they were, and still are, extremely poor, malnourished women who eat one meal of ugali (a mixture of corn meal and water) every day. They are up at dawn and work until midnight in the fields, carrying water and caring for their families. They can only work for a few hours at a time, because they are so weak from not having enough food to eat. They are often mothers of very sick children and the daughters of ailing parents.
They have told Give Us Wings what their hopes and plans are for generating income and becoming self-sufficient. We knew that these beautiful women were strong in their hearts and they are kind, caring, and intelligent. They knew what needed to be done to begin to rise out of poverty… they just needed money and guidance to succeed and make their dreams a reality. The Nyaoga Women’s Group identified medical care as their top priority for the people in their community. This group of 32 women is the inspiration behind the building of the Nyaoga Health Clinic. They had the vision, the hope and the foresight. They have had extensive training in group dynamics, management, business, and health care training. And now the Nyaoga Medical Clinic is a reality. It is their clinic, not that of Give Us Wings. They have helped to transform their community through their hard work.
The Nyaoga Water Project is a reality, too. This is due, in large part, to the unending efforts of the members of the Nyaoga Women’s Group. They are respected and admired in their community and are mentors for young men and women. But there is still much work to be done.
WOMEN LIVING POSITIVELY
In a community where the stigma around HIV/AIDS is wrought with disgrace, this group finds strength in each other.
“I thought I had lost everything, but since coming into this group I have others to help me and I want to live positively for my children. I am happy because I am rebuilding my hope after I have learned that I can stay alive with HIV.”
-Doris Achieng Ayawo, Member of Women Living Positively
Zipporah, 56, was only able to go to school through grade 4, but you wouldn’t guess that upon meeting her and hearing her accomplishments. She is the founder and chairperson of the Nyaoga Women’s Group and because she saw a need and had a bit of training in HIV awareness, she started an HIV/AIDS support group in Nyaoga. She is not HIV positive herself, but many of her friends are, so she brought them together. Her efforts are beginning to lessen the stigma of HIV/AIDS in Nyaoga.
ARVs are the drugs needed to help people who are HIV positive, but without proper nutrition the drugs are rendered useless. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the members of the Women Living Positively group. But they now have what they were once lacking hope. Through counseling they have learned that being HIV+ does not necessarily mean a death sentence. They are determined to provide for their children, and want to remain healthy for them. The support they give each other is immeasurable, the encouragement and financial support from GUW adds to the success of this strong group.
The members of this group want to start their own small businesses, and help their current businesses to grow. Money is needed for transportation to the hospital to get the ARVs, to buy proper nutritious food so the ARVS can be effective, and so they can provide medical care and education for their children.
VICTORIA YOUNG WOMEN’S GROUP
The members of the Victoria Young Women’s Group (YVWG) are young women between the ages of 18 and 28. These women were forced to leave primary school because their families could no longer pay their school fees. Years after leaving school, these young women had married and were raising children, but they still dreamed of finishing their schooling. Give Us Wings listened to these women’s stories and dreams. Together with the Victoria Young Women’s Group, Give Us Wings developed plans to build a school and establish scholarships for these women. Give Us Wings returned to the United States and set about to raise the funds to build a school where these women could continue their education while at the same time, working to support their families and raising their children.
In February 2009, generous donors helped raise $20,000 at Give Us Wings’ Many Strong and Beautiful Women event to establish a scholarship program for the members of the YVWG. The next step was to raise the money to construct a school building. In the summer of 2009, Linda and Peter Quinn, owners of Cafe Latte in St. Paul, MN and Give Us Wings supporters, generously donated the funds necessary to build a school for the Victoria Young Women’s Group. Soon 20 young women began taking classes at the Lake Victoria Michelle Obama Academy.
The development of the school continued when Ann Eilbracht and Dave Thompson, trip volunteers in 2008, donated funds to fully equip the school and an associated internet cafe, which is available to other community members for a small fee. Prior to the creation of the internet cafe, the nearest public internet access was a 2 hour car ride away.
Today, over 20 women attend classes at the school and they are scheduled to graduate in 2013. The women are grateful for the opportunity to complete their education. Since the school building is solar powered, the rooms are lighted which makes completing their education a lot easier because they can study at night now. This is a significant and exciting change! Early each morning, before the young women arrive, the older women in Nyaoga use the rooms in the school to develop their math, reading, and business skills. The Nyaoga Women’s Group Chairwomen’s son has taken on the role as their teacher.
Made from non-fire bricks, this beautiful school was built by twelve men from the village who had helped build the Nyaoga Medical Clinic staff housing. Since this was their second time building with this technique, have a specialized skill and now are certified to work on their own or go work for other contractors.This is a very exciting and life-changing development.
The Victoria Young Women’s Group Academy would have been a dream come true for Grace Atieno, a 22-yr-old mother from Nyaoga who passed away in 2004 from AIDS. She dreamed that one day her village would have a school where women were encouraged to learn how to support themselves. Her most treasured lifetime memory was chasing butterflies outside of primary school before she was forced to leave. The Victoria school’s logo, the butterfly, symbolizes Grace’s dream of providing the women of Nyaoga a way of out of their daily struggles.
Current Needs and Goals:
Scholarships are needed now for these amazing young women, so that they can continue their education. Scholarships are $2,000/person per year. We encourage you to sponsor one or more students, or to contribute to the general fund and help make this dream a reality for more young women.