I had an amazing opportunity this fall to travel to East Africa with several other U.S.-based CWS staff colleagues to visit with CWS staff, partners, and projects throughout Kenya and Tanzania.
I met many people whose lives had been touched by their partnership with CWS. I met schoolchildren enjoying the benefit of desks, latrines and water as well as their parents who now have a voice in the education of their children. I met community leaders who showed us greenhouses, livestock and beehives which are providing food, income and hope to their communities. I met youth taking charge of their own futures by supporting one another and lifting up the inherent value each one possesses. And I met Christopher.
Christopher Njuguna is a member of the CWS-supported Mjini Empowerment Group in Murang’a, Kenya.This inspirational group was organized in 2011 by parents who wanted to ensure an education and a secure future for their children. Mjini Empowerment Group now includes 26 parents and still operates under their original motto, “Protect the Child. Each member contributes 100 Kenyan shillings per month (about $1.15 US), and the group provides loans to its members to start, strengthen and grow their businesses. Through these business ventures, the members are now able to feed and clothe their children, pay for school uniforms and fees and continue to expand their businesses. They are also able to support other local children who are orphaned or have been abandoned by their parents. The ultimate dream of this group is for each of its members to have their own home. Toward this goal, the group has purchased some land and is looking to expand it.
Christopher is fortunate in that he already has his own land that he inherited from his father. His lot includes a tiny mud home which is used to shelter Christopher, his wife, his two sons, his daughter-in-law and his two grandchildren. It is not nearly enough space and the walls and roof are continuing to erode with each passing season.
Christopher used to look for work cultivating land for other people. Now he creatively uses every bit of space on his land to produce food and funds for his own family. Christopher farms the land and his wife raises goats. While these business ventures help provide for their family, they were still not able to address the poor living conditions inside that cramped, mud house.
So Christopher decided to take out a loan from the Mjini Empowerment Group to buy a cow. Then he purchased another. With his care and attention, these cows produce 18 liters of milk each day, providing a daily income.
It will take time for Christopher to acquire enough money to complete this new home. So rather than wait until he has it all saved up, Christopher buys a few bricks here and there whenever he can afford it and adds them to the structure. When I visited, he had a living room area done and a couple of bedrooms were mostly finished. The living room was furnished with a wooden table and plastic chairs, and he enthusiastically invited us to come sit and share his company (as well as some fresh milk).
I learned a valuable lesson from Christopher that day: no matter how slow the progress toward a goal may be, to take joy in the success of every small step made. I think that often in my own life and in society around me, there is a sense of needing to get there now, fix it now and get it now. I think that we often don’t value the journey toward the goal. That we forget to take pleasure in the success of each step forward along the way.
Thank you for being a part of these amazing partnerships and for making these stories of progress and success a reality through your support of CWS!