The year 2012 was very busy at Just Communities, the department at the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) with which I work as the Director.
The year 2012 was very busy at Just Communities, the department at the Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) with which I work as the Director. We are beginning to feel the anticipation of the elections in Kenya scheduled for few weeks from now. We are working hard to respond to our communities with voter education before the elections on 4 March 2013. Just Communities just held a follow up meeting with Community Facilitators we trained in October of 2012 and realized that there is a lot of work we have to do on the ground prior to the elections.
Just Communities is working with the Kenya chapter of the OAIC on voter education and the One People Beyond 2013 Campaign. The “One People Campaign” is our peace initiative in Kenya and along with many African countries. This election in Kenya will be under a new constitution adopted in 2010. The new constitution created several new elective positions therefore making voter education essential. In order to reach as many people as possible we trained Community Facilitators from five provinces about how to train members of their community to mobilize others to advocate for delivery of public services. The provinces the Community Facilitators are from are Nyanza, Rift Valley, Central, Eastern and Western. A major focus of the follow up meeting with the Community Facilitators last week was civic education considering the elections are in a few weeks.
Just Communities also hosted the Rev. Dr. Jean Simpson, former Associate Conference Minister in Florida, who visited a group of women in Kawangware, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Many of the women in this group are HIV-positive. They started an income-generating project to support themselves economically. During this visit, we were able to distribute copies of Young African Express to the young people in the community. Young African Express is an education magazine in which Just Communities published our first issue of Vine and Branches, a comic set in an informal settlement and discusses the role of the church members and addressing issues often present there.
Also during the same visit, we met a young girl whose name is Blessing. Blessing, who is four years old, had third degree burns on her head and face. Her mother also in the women’s group explained to us that she did not have enough money to pay the price of the procedure to treat Blessing’s burns. Blessing’s condition was serious, she could not close her eyes to sleep and she had difficulty breathing because the burns had affected her eyes, nose and mouth.
Hawa, my daughter, told me of Comprehensive Rehabilitation Services in Uganda (CoRSU), a hospital in Kisubi, Uganda that performs low cost surgery to children with disabilities. Blessing and her mother traveled twelve-hours by bus from Nairobi, Kenya to Kampala, Uganda arriving on the morning of Sunday 10 February. They had an appointment to see a doctor at the hospital on Monday morning. After the consultation, the doctor felt her surgery was urgent because there were infections developing in her eyes and therefore scheduled an operation for two days later.
We thank God for the medical treatment for Blessing, the doctors have successfully reconstructed much of her face but more surgery is still to come.
We are grateful for the many people who made her surgery possible. I thank God for the prayers and support of churches in the USA that enables me to serve in Kenya.
• Please pray for peace in Kenya as the country heads to the elections and beyond.
• Please pray for Blessing as she continues to heal and recover.
• Please pray for me as I serve in Kenya.
Rev. Phyllis Byrd
Phyllis Byrd serves with the Presbyterian Church of East Africa. This is a joint appointment with the Presbyterian Church, USA and the Common Global Ministries Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. She served as a theological educator in Nairobi, Kenya.