Monday, 20 April 2009

Shalom City IDP camp

Picture of tents within shalom city
(soz only phone pic as cant get from cam)
I have arrived in the city of peace on friday morning. Shalom City is an Internally Displaced Persons camp- that exists as a result of the post 2007/08 election trouble within kenya. It resulted in many (mainly)kikuyu tribes people being forceably being removed from their homes in the rift valley- during this time many were many tortured, raped and murdered. Many of the survivors arrived in Nakuru and an emergency camp was set up for them in a showground. They were then moved to an area just outside of Gilgil which they have named Shalom City. Each of the IDP families where given a token from the governement of 100 pounds sterling with which to start a new life. A group of people decided to pool their money and have bought an area of land now known as Shalom City.

It is hard to explein the journey to Shalom, you arrive in Gilgil and you begin to drive up a very rough bumpy road; as you take this journey you try to imagine what you are goinjg to be greeted with. How there can be so many people awaiting you at the end of this road that appears to lead to nowhere. Then suddenly you are there- a small house and then beyond it a sea of deteriorated tents. 14,000 people are recorded to be living in Shalom, the youngest i have seen is a three week old baby who has been named after one of the volunteers here. The next day i took a walk through the camp- you walk for about 20 minutes at a steady pace and it is just tent after tent- each one packed with people; holes covered with any materials that can be found. It is a breath taking sight and i have never experienced anything like it.

ONe of the most heart breaking things are the stories that you hear from people. How they arrived in this camp- the journey and difficulties they have had to overcome a nd the wickedness they have endured. Watching family members be murdered, rape and as a result getting HIV, watching all of your possesions being burnt to ashes and then fleeing for your life bringing only what you can carry. On talking to some of the young people, people who are smart and educated who are used to an extremely different lifestyle, yuo find that they no longer want to think of what was once home- the life they lived that is now a distant memory, family members that have been taken from them prematurely. how quickly it all happened. Yet you talk with them and from somewhere deep within there is hope that immerges- where it comes from i do not know; but is there and it is vibrant. people who are dtermined not to quit or buckle.

The conditions that these people are living in are dire. The rainy season has arrived late as a result people are drinking bathing and washing clothes from a stagnant pool of water that used to be a river. Now that the rainy season is arriving and there is incresaed risk of flooding, the tents cannot withstand the conditions and people who are cold, damp and malnurished are at incresaed risk of disease. Even within their limited resources the people are welcoming and make the best of what they have. These people are a strong and determined people.

There are no international aid organisation based at the camp; actually the only non-idp here are myself and two other volunteers; one who arrived with me and another who was here two weeks before. The goverment gave each of the idp families a 100 pound donation at nakuru to start a new life; this meant that these people were now integrated IDP's and the governments responsibility towards them appears to have weakened. Up until last month the Red Cross which is somehow contracted by the government was providing food distribution; it even distributed food from other organisations. however the Red Cross is no longer allowed to m,ake such deliveries. THere is enough foof in storage for another two weeks. Although the camp chairman who is a 28 year old idp says that they have a reserve of maney from the initial payout- this is set a side to buy more land which will ensure long term that each family has somewhere to live when they eventually move out of tents. If they use this money to buy food it will mean that the people will be left to live in this condition forever as the reserve of money only pays for a 10% deposit for the needed land. As you can imagine they are extremely reluctant to use this money to buy emergency food and medication (required for the high proportion of HIV sufferers). I know that you my wonderfu;l friends are much smarter and better connected than me, so i was wondering if you could link me to any emergencty aid organisation for short term and then maybe long term developmental agencies that can be involved in creating a town for 14000 people from nothing. Your help would be greatly appreciated. The pressing needs are food, water, medication and shelter.

On a personal note i am keeping well. i am feeling alive being here and even in the past few days have loved engaging and interacting with these people. A lot of my time will be spent working with young people and kids- helping to raise spirits and listen to their stories. Alongside that thrying to raise local and international awareness of the need here- if you no other people who would be interested in this please link them to this blog that i will try to keep updated weekly if at all possible. One of the IDP's has adpopted us aher own and feeds us and looks after us, i have perfected my aim on the long drop toilet and im getting used to being sat upin even squashed beside a chicken in the matatus (basically a camper vans) that are used for transport. That reminds me, we have chicken flying in the room of where we stay, which i think is dinner tomorrow. We are isolated but quite safe, the elders of the camp keep and eye out for us. We have electricity a few hours each night and our water comes from the river.

Thank you for all of your prayer support and encouragement.



sheenamull said...

wow. sounds hard, amazing, overwhelming but sttetching in a good way. will contact my friend mark who is soon to become regional director of CAFOD in Sub Saharan AFrica I think...he is moving to Zimbabwe in the Summer and may be able to connect in with this. not sure tho. worth a go. Bless ya bro and prayers going up :)

... said...

Bro! So good (& hard) to hear! - will send u e-mail. Sheena making contact with a guy she knows about some stuff.

J-Mac said...

Thanks for the update Rick...I was hanging on every word. You're really on the front line there. Praying for you bro that you continue to have strength and courage for all you face. love j

Anonymous said...

Glad all has went well for you but not for the chicken.This is an amazing trip and experience for you- Enjoy every day and make deep impressions as you walk for God.We have you in our hearts and our prayers.Gerald and June