WHERE WE WORK
This is Tuwan, home to around 100,000 people.
Most of those people are children, their mothers, grandmothers, or guardians.
We were warned back in 2004 that the slum was too dangerous for us, that no "muzungus" (white people) walked there. Originally a British Colonial Farm, Tuwan had over the years following independence morphed into a large slum, a local center of prostitution, criminal gangs, and the sale of illegal liquor. In 2007, we ventured in with Kenyan escorts, and we have been there since.
We are convinced that God loves these people and that His compassion, demonstrated wisely with practical support, can transform Tuwan, one life and one family at a time. We also believe that transformation will be reproduced in Kenya, Africa, and the world.
Kitale Town is located in the Western Rift Valley of Kenya, about 380 km, or 236 miles northwest of Nairobi. It is the administrative and commercial capital of Trans-Nzoia District, and a frontier town for the northern Kenya region. Situated on the fertile slopes of Mt. Elgon, it is referred to as the country's "breadbasket" because of its tremendous agricultural potential.
With a population of 220,000 in the municipality in 2009, Kitale is experiencing population growth at a rate of 12%, 5% higher than the national urban average; this "urbanization of poverty" reflects a worldwide trend of migration from the rural villages to urban areas, here mainly due to loss of economic opportunity because of recurrent drought, tribal wars, the HIV/AIDs epidemic of past years, and a loss of interest in subsistence farming due to Western cultural influences on the young.
65% of the Kitale population live in slums and informal settlements characterized by insecure tenure, inadequate infrastructure and social services, poor quality housing, overcrowding , high disease rates, unemployment and socio-economic marginalization.
"Tuwan", a name more recently used to describe a loosely connected series of slums north of Kitale, is the largest and most populous slum in the area, with 5000 plots and an estimated 100,000 residents. Little development has taken place in Tuwan, largely due to instability in local government structure, and a lack of proper planning and standards in place to deal with the rapid growth. Conditions are extremely unsanitary, with open sewers throughout and few sources of potable water. Medical facilities are too few and inadequately staffed and supplied.
Here, we are learning to lose ourselves in order to engage with the suffering of other human beings.
We feel inadequate and overprivileged, but we have learned that in the face of overwhelming need,
we can only give that which is in our hands, give it in love, and relay that need to others.
Tuwan Slum, for most of the widows, single mothers and children who largely occupy it, was a last option of escape. Now, they struggle to survive, often forced to sift maize in the hot sun, wash clothes for neighbors who work, or enter into sex work to feed their children and pay the rent. It is a crowded, insecure and often violent space where aimless men wander, themselves having no father figure or personal pride. Children become a burden, often neglected or abused. There is a pervasive sense of shame, fear, and hopelessness.
Yet in the midst, there is beauty. This is where we walk, joining Graceway staff to go with the children to their homes to meet their families. We laugh and weep together, and pray with them for answers. Here, in the dark mud huts, we find astounding courage and faith, warm hospitality, beautiful stories of hope told with childlike simplicity.
Here, we find a purpose beyond self-fulfillment.