Kenya: Bringing hope in difficult times

Originally published
By Wangui Iregi, Kenya Red Cross Volunteer

It has been a rough road for the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) camping at the Kirathimu Red Cross Center in Limuru. Most of them, both old and young, are from the Rift Valley area. Walking across the camp, one can tell the hardship they have gone through just by looking at their faces. Each of their stories are heart wrenching. It is quite difficult to interview most of them as they break into tears of pain when they recollect their hardship in the last few weeks. To these people, the Kenya Red Cross is a real godsend. Apart from the assistance it is offering to the IDPs in form of food, shelter, clothing and other relief support, the Kenya Red Cross is also helping them to piece together the broken bits of their lives.

Due to the confusion caused by the flare-ups in the clash-torn areas, quite a number of families were separated. Joseph Githunguri, a 43 year old man with fresh scars on his face has been in Kirathimu for a week and a half. He was separated from his wife and three children when fighting broke out in Narok South, the only home he has known for 20 years. Though the future looked bleak for Joseph, whose property was destroyed by armed youth who chased him out of his home, his priority remained finding his family. He expressed a lot of confidence in the Kenya Red Cross Tracing team who have reunited over 300 families all over the country. 'I have faith in their methods and I am sure they will deliver my family to me safe and sound,' he said optimistically.

As a way of keeping the IDPs busy and making them feel useful, the Kenya Red Cross personnel at the Kirathimu camp have come up with a system of assigning chores to the IDPs within the camp. Eunice Nyambura, a 44 year old woman from Burnt Forest, has been assigned to the kitchen chores. 'I prefer working in here because it keeps me busy and gets my mind away from my family, who I left behind. Otherwise, I would go crazy just thinking about them,' she said.

The Kenya Red Cross has assisted a number of IDPs at the camp to secure jobs in some of the companies around Limuru area. Charles Ouma, the Kenya Red Cross First Aid instructor and youth chairman at the camp said that these jobs would help most of the IDPs to save some money, which would help them in rebuilding their lives. Charles noted that it had been difficult to get jobs for most of the IDPs because the relevant documents such as national identity cards (IDs) were destroyed, mostly in house fires, as is the case with Eunice.

The Kenya Red Cross has put in place a team whose main job is to conduct the registration of new IDPs, as well as the re-registration of those who lost their IDs. 'These will make it easier for them when applying for jobs or when they finally leave the camps to re-start their lives elsewhere,' said Charles.

It has been almost four weeks since schools reopened, but the children at Kirathimu will not be going back to school for an unknown period of time. 'Most of these children are very bright and eager to go back to school, but some are withdrawn and would not do well if they went back to their studies without recovering first,' said Mr. Peter Gachanja, a counselor at the camp. Everyday, some of the Kenya Red Cross personnel at Kirathimu take the children to a nearby field for some educational games. 'It is a good way for them to learn informally and also relax and take their minds off their current situation,' said Mr. Kagwema, another counselor at the camp.

The Kenya Red Cross has been helping the IDPs to deal with the trauma they have undergone through a system called psychosocial support. The IDPs are divided into groups according to age, and then in these groups, they open up and share their stories. The counselors are then able to effectively counsel them according to their individual needs.