WERE IT NOT for the resilience of these women of Kakola and Maraba Self Help Groups in Kisumu County, Kenya, life would have stopped and their children would never have seen the doors of a classroom again. The groups have become ideal centers of literacy, advocacy, awareness, hope, academic excellence, sustainability programs based on the IHOPEE education for empowerment model.
Life almost stopped when death struck upon the homes of these widows at different times in their lives and made them vulnerable and helpless.
Torn between hostile cultural practices, floods, lack of income, poor health, school fees for their children and other odds, the women remained hopeful but very vulnerable. They however refused to give up on life. They refused to die.
After she witnessed the perils of these widows and orphans, President and founder of IHOPEE non profit organization, Rose O. Oginga’s heart softened towards them. As an educator and teacher, she hatched a plan and reached out to those who could help.
Along with her team comprising Dr, Pauline Kibisu (Vice President and Director Medical Mission), Jacque Miano (Treasurer and Education Director), Roselyn Okendo (BSN/RN Board Advisory) and Veronica Oguna (BSN/RN Board Maternal/Children’s Health Coordinator) they swiftly moved in and provided an anchor for the widows to lean on.
It was not an easy feat but the women were creative and resilient and they came up with plans and goals which they enacted. For them it was a matter of life and death and they took every project seriously.
Today, they can proudly retrace their footsteps and appreciate their journey of hope.
IHOPEE is an acronym for International Health Operations Patient Education and Empowerment.
It is a collective vision of North Americans and Kenyans who want to make a difference through community outreach, support women group empowerment through programs and educational scholarships, spread health education and mental awareness.
Tujipange Africa Media talked to some of the women involved in the project.
“We cover three sub locations. We are very active 25 committee members, within the area. We have a small room office in Ahero market. We started the group in 2008. We registered it in 2010. We have certified our objectives and continue to uplift living standards of orphans and widows,” says Margaret Anyango Gwayo, a widow within Kisumu city, Nyando county, Ahero Ward, Kakola location.
Besides Table banking and horticulture (rice), the women hire out chairs for funerals, weddings, church services and other local events
Animal farming includes sheep, goats, cricket and local poultry.
The group weaves using banana fiber as major material.
One of their proudest achievements is ‘money laundering’ which educates orphans and vulnerable children. So far, three are in Tertiary, five completed A-levels (high school) and many in primary school. The children continue to realize their dreams against life’s odds.
Planting trees alongside river Nyando for prevention of soil erosion at the bank of the river, and in hospital and in public places. They paid fees as shown above from group business profit, farming, members loan interest and revolving money profit and interests.
“Our group comprises both old and young widows. We reach out by buying food and other basic items to old widows who do not have any family support and are not able to support themselves,” reports Rose Oyoo, IHOPEE Team Member based in Kenya
The group has goals that spans two to five years.
1.Train youth on weaving and different farming methods so that they can get capital to start on their own.
2. Invest more on local poultry rearing because the market is there but they do not have money to put spacious structures to accommodate more than 50 chicken; thus they need money to expand the current structures to rear more chicken. A structure which host 50 chicken is put up at a cost of about Sh70,000, each.
3. Pawpaw farming, Caro and chairlady need to do the seedlings, which they will buy from them. Each member plans to plant about 20 pawpaw trees so that in the next one year, they should start earning about Sh12,000 per month per member.
The women’s’ empowering vision and mission remain practical and powerful: to assist orphans attain their education, eradicate poverty among the widows, keep awareness among members on HIV/AIDS.
Achievement group has received loans from WEF to enable the group actively participate in doing their activities and they pay back within a year. The group also saves and loans among members. Well-wishers prompted the group with finances for their Table Banking. They held a Harambee (community unity fundraiser) to promote the group.
Lack of adequate entrepreneurship skills for reasonable profit. Maraba needs to partner to enhance their dreams.
Another challenge is the school dropouts for lack of fees. Widows also become weaker because of lack nutrition.
The group is grateful to IHOPEE for its resources and unwavering support.
“IHOPEE leader may God bless you with your team. you will hear more from us. God lead our group. we shall send more and more photos that is my name and the group Kakola widows and orphans’ women group. Have our warm greetings,” says Abala in a letter addressed to the IHOPEE.”
Maraba women group in Nyakach, Kisumu County is moving on with the sheep project and table banking activities. A sheep bleats as if to acknowledge the great work that the women do.
They hold meetings every Mondays where they repay loans and make new contributions.
“We try to uplift the living standards of the women so as to be able to meet life challenges. additionally we have the intention of expanding the basket making business. We have 37 members,” says the group chairperson Salome Obala.
Maraba group has been discussing about some book donations for Maraba Primary School and are preparing for a major fundraising for the school but lack the resources to implement their plan.
The group stays unlimited as they dream of a digital future.
“Skype at the suggested time is not tenable right now as those facilities such as internet and electricity are only found in town centers and not deep in our villages. We hope to discuss this matter so we can effectively achieve better communication,” says Maraba Widows and Orphans Chair.
Maraba Group’s prayer and priority is that their orphans go back to school.
Plans include expanding the table banking, diversifying into basket-making and strengthening the sheep and basket project, equipping a library, mentoring, individual counseling and adopting a school. IHOPEE has trained coaches that counsel students on the ground in individual sessions.
“On the library project our bigger picture was a great success with 15 schools getting books and friends and well wishers making it happy,” says an elated Oginga, IHOPEE President.
“We need about $200 to establish such trainings in a school with an additional class to train few teachers to be our ambassadors. They will help with accountability and implementation of the program. Finally, we urge people to donate books or help start school libraries in remote parts of Kenya,” says a hopeful Oginga. She is grateful to the community for actively participating and supporting the widows and orphans.
To learn more about Kakola Widows and Maraba Widows’ projects including Equip A library/Adopt a library 📚 awareness, please visit www. Ihopee.org Academic excellence or contact Kenyan coordinators – Irene and Rose, Dickens and HeadTeacher: Maraba school https://youtu.be/cEY3DV7YtCQ