The Nyumbani Village – a brilliant concept that does a world of good!

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The need – a generation nearly wiped out by the AIDS epidemic left behind both kids and elders…

This is why Nyumbani created the Village. The children (all orphans) live in houses that are designed for ten to twelve children and one grandparent – mostly grandmothers. As far as I know, this is a unique model for orphan care in Africa. Each grandmother is the natural grandmother of one more of the children, and she takes care of the others in the home in exchange for being allowed to stay in the village, where she grows some of the food she needs for the children and receives the rest in a weekly distribution. The whole village community (including the Nyumbani administration and the people they employ to do farm work, plan sustainable programs, manage medical care and psychological care, etc) and the elders work together to provide everything the children need to live and grow to be responsible members of the community outside the village.

Impressive vision and leadership:

The vision of the founder, Father Angelo D’Agostino, Sister Mary (the Executive Director), Nicholas Syano (the Village manager) and the other managers is impressive – to create a community of 100 elders and 1,000 orphans that becomes completely self-sustaining (and self-supporting) by 2015. Their hope is that they will develop a model that can be replicated elsewhere.

They don’t have all the answers yet, and have an enlightened attitude toward change and new ideas and opinions

We have learned about several changes and course corrections during the four years the village ha been in operation. When something doesn’t work, they don’t try to hide it, they discuss it openly and work together to fix it. This might sound obvious, but in my experience with non-profits, too many of them are convinced they have the answers and don’t self correct very well in the face of problems. The leadership here continually asks people to share thoughts about what it is doing well and what could be improved – even from the volunteers.

The village produces its own fruits, vegetables, meat, milk - even sunflower oil. Soon they will add bio-diesel and lumber to the list.

The real meaning of a sustainable community – incredibly, they literally produce almost all of what they need and almost none of what they don’t

Of course, we have all heard a lot about “sustainable communities”, but the meaning never became as real to me as it did upon touring the village. The definition above sounds obvious and simple, but living in the US, I never quite thought of it that way. To me, sustainability meant things like recycling or trying to buy goods with less packaging, useful goals for sure, but nothing like seeing first hand a community that produces almost no waste at all – even the solid human waste is combined with other waste and used as compost. After being in the village, I see that most of us only scratch the surface of sustainability. You can read more details about sustainability – which for the village includes some truly fascinating and brilliant ideas I never would have thought of – in an upcoming post.

More orphans and elders need a place to call “home”

The Nyumbani village cares for over 700 orphans, but there are more in need of care. Kenyans are great about taking care of relatives who have lost their parents, its part of their culture, but so many parents died of AIDS during the epidemic, and the area around the village is so poor, that many children are left with no one to care for them. People tell the village about young children whose parents and last elder relatives have passed away, who are living with and caring for their younger siblings as best they can. They scrounge for whatever food they can find, in most cases they don’t know how to farm, and sometimes the older ones take turns going to school because education is so highly valued and they can sometimes get food at school. The village goes out and rescues those children. Nyumbani’s unique model means that elders whose adult children have died, also have a place to call home, while they provide care and support to another generation.

The houses are built using bricks they make themselves wih local materials. A tank and system are about to be installed to capture rainwater from the roof and filter it for drinking, washing and irrigation of the family farm.

Expanding the village

Nyumbani has raised the money to build more houses, which incredibly, they build themselves – right down to making the bricks from local materials like sand, which they collect with sand dams, and building the furniture.

Shallow well with solar panel to power the pump

What we can do to help – raise money for a well so they can grow enough food

The Nyumbani Village needs another shallow well for irrigation, which costs $10,000. A shallow well is a brillaint concept, because it is only 10 meters deep and work in conjunction with a sand dam that traps groundwater.  It works so well that the village survived a three year  drought using these wells.  Because it is shallow, it takes very little energy to pump the water.

If you haven’t had a chance to donate – please contribute now – even $5 or $10 makes a big difference!

Many of you have already donated – and we are very grateful for your generosity. We have raised several thousand dollars – but we need many others to contribute in order to raise enough.  If you could donate just $5 or even $1 today, it would make a big difference in the lives these children.  They are working hard to create better future for themselves. Please help them to have enough water and food so they can be successful.

Thank you to the students of the Dr. Nermien Ismail American School (NIAS) in Cairo, Egypt!

Be sure to catch our next post about what the children at the NIAS school in Egypt did to help raise money for this well. I admire these students very much because they saw a need, they knew they had the power to help, they formed a plan and carried it out. Bravo to our great friends at the NIAS School. You are making a positive difference in the lives of the children of Kenya and you are an inspiration to young people everywhere!

Thank you to NIAS school students for gettin involved in world issues and making a difference!

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Posted on: November 5, 2010 | Categories: Blog, Education, Environment, Global Issues, Kenya, Poverty, Water, Well for HIV+ Village- Kenya


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