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0000017c-83f8-d4f8-a77d-b3fd0d820000Just before the pandemic shut everything down, WNIN's Steve Burger traveled to East Africa to learn more about a deep and lasting connection between Evansville and the people of Kenya. This story has many layers, inlcuding an unlikely meeting in the dead of winter in Chicago, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Signature School and the village of Ekerenyo in Southwestern Kenya.Thanks to a partnership with the Youth Cafe in Nairobi, producer Angela Noi also contributed to this series.

The Amani Connection- A Kenyan Perspective

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Angela Noi
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A Kenyan producer tells us the story of how the project is changing views about sustainability and health care.

Kenya- a country with an area of 580,000 kilometers squared and a population of 51.39 million people,  bordered to the north by South Sudan and Ethiopia, east by Somalia and the Indian Ocean, south by Tanzania and west by Lake Victoria and Uganda.

Kenya is famed for its scenic landscapes and vast wildlife preserves. The country’s diverse wildlife and panoramic geography draw a large number of tourists. Travel and tourism contributes ten percent to the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the economy.

There are forty two tribes in Kenya with different languages and cultures, all merging to make one unique mixture of the Kenyan culture. The national language is Swahili with the official languages as Swahili and English. The capital city of Kenya is Nairobi, the largest city in the country. It blends people from all the forty two tribes of Kenya and international guests.

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Credit Angela Noi
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Forced out of the studio by the coronavirus pandemic, producer Angela Noi improvised an audio recording studio in her home in Nairobi.

Away from the city that never sleeps, whose rhythm is fast day and night, moving away from the busy city, to the west is the Rift Valley bordered with escarpments to the east and west. Passing through them, we are met with large fields of tea that leads us to Nyamira County, whose economy is mainly derived from commerce and agriculture with its main cash crops as bananas and tea. Ekerenyo is a small town in Nyamira County characterized by a hilly land, cold climate, tall trees and birds that sing every morning.

We take a road that leads us to Lynne Renne Avenue and as the gates open, we see the Amani Learning Center, and hear children singing, in Swahili,  “Watoto tuungane tumalize kazi, Bwana amekawia kuja kutuchukua tumalize kazi.” ("Let's join in and finish the work. Father has delayed to pick us up, let's finish the work.")

To go back to how all this began,  we meet with one man, Peter Mageto. He narrates to us how he went to the U.S. and in a meeting with Signature School,  shared his dream.

“I shared with them how I had gathered all these books, but my plan was to begin a library in my village”

With the help of Signature School students, Lynne Renne and other partners the dream was realized as the Signature School students raised funds through things like car washes, selling snacks and dinners.

The Kenyan team was led by Peter’s brother, Clement Maiko. He said,

“We negotiated the land, we took transactions of the land and I assisted them in terms of managing resources and making sure the building was done.”

The building later expanded to not only be a library but to also satisfy the dire need of health care.

Dr.Frank helps us understand the partnership between the medical camps and the county hospital. He said, 

“We come in, we bring our skilled care but we use the equipment that is in Amani Center. For advanced cases is when we take them to the government hospital.”

The common narrative in Kenya is that people mind their own, they don’t have the heart of supporting the needy guys in the village.

But, the Amani Center is changing that narrative.

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Credit Karin Heinicke
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A visitor gets her blood pressure checked at the Amani medical camp in February of 2020

“My name is Engineer Clement Maiko. I have contributed in terms of my knowledge and knowhow and my time and my experience.”

“I am Dr.Frank Okada Nyakago, ophthalmologist in Nyamira County Referral Hospital and being the first ophthalmologist in Nyamira County, I have to also use my skills to give it back to the community”

Clement added, “All the projects like what you have seen the thing has been painted, the community has done it.”

Dr. Frank continued with how the center benefits the entire region.

“Medical camps bring the patients to our attention and  apart from that it brings the medical care near to them. If the cases are more advanced, they need surgical care and in-patient services we can take them to the hospital.”

Clement added, “Some people go to government hospitals, they get prescriptions then they are told go and buy this medicine. They are not able to buy (it), but when they come to the center they get it for free. You can imagine how happy they become.”

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Credit Karin Heinicke
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A dental exam at the February 2020 Amani medical camp.

In regards to education, Clement added how their free library benefits seven schools in the Ekerenyo area.

“So many people have come to the reading center and they have seen computers, they have found books there, especially children from the very poor backgrounds”

Testifying of this is Nyadiga who is a class five pupil. He tells us the story of the Hyena.

“One day Hyena goes to Hare’s farm and took some carrots, stole some carrots that the hyena had planted. Hyena came one day and….and”

Though he couldn’t complete narrating the story in English, He showed he understood the meaning by speaking in Swahili.

“Akampata anaiba,akamkata sikio na huyo Hyena akaenda hospitalini na akapona” ("He found him stealing and cut his ear and Hyena went to the hospital and was healed."  

So what does the future look like for Amani?

Dr. Frank’s view, “These medical camps will be getting bigger.”

Peter’s view, “That dream of a library must remain.”

Clement had the final word, “That Amani Center has been realized and, for sure, soon or later we are going to have a full-fledged medical center.”

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