Children from the Alur Moyie Children’s Club in Nyanza Province, Kenya


Summer 2006

While I didn’t get to partake in any of the usual American Independence Day festivities this summer, I did participate in celebration – of a different sort.

Throughout Nyanza Province are self –help groups comprised mostly of women who have been affected or infected with HIV/AIDS.  Many of the groups care for widows and orphans in their communities as well as the sick and dying.  These groups, filling a vital role in their communities, engage in income generating activities as a way to fund their service to their community. The groups also work with children through children’s clubs, an effective vehicle for getting health messages to the youth (and a time for some good old-fashioned fun!).  On July 4th I accompanied members of the Safe Water & AIDS Project team to Gem, Siaya District to visit the women and children of the Alur Moyie widows and orphans group.  While the project team visits groups regularly, this visit was special in that we were off to deliver bed nets (to prevent malaria), blankets, and soap to the 100 children in the group’s club.

We arrived at the family compound where we were to meet with the group.  (In the Luo tradition extended families live in compounds where each grown son builds a house for each of his wives and their children.)  Before we could get out of the vehicle we were welcomed with song and dance – a delightful custom of the Luo people.  We set up under a tree, the local meeting space, and before handing out the donated items we were treated to poems and songs from the children.  The items were passed out one-by-one, each child receiving his or her own net and blanket.  Upon receiving these seemingly simple offerings, the children clutched them as though they were the most precious items they owned. We visited with the group members, thanked them for welcoming us into their community, and in return they thanked us, with more song and dance!

I can’t say I missed my American 4th of July traditional cookout, fireworks, and the rest.  But I did pause that day and think about the many privileges being an American has afforded me – like being there that day - and was grateful.




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