Today was the first full Panua day here in Kenya for the June trip, 2017. For 9 of the 12 trip members, it was the first day for them as part of the Panua team in country. For three of us, it was old hat! Well, so we thought….
We met with four of the neighborhood groups and their mentors: Kihoto, Manera, Viwandani and Kabati. These groups started in the program this past January. They have just completed the life skills portion of their training. You know from looking at their profiles that gave you the basis for writing your letters that all their situations were/are dire. I had prepared the group for probably a shy, timid and maybe scared reaction to our presence. I think I missed the mark! They overall were able to introduce themselves, and tell us about their family members and what they were planning (at this time) to ultimately do for a business. You could tell that the groups were familiar with each other and able to laugh and encourage each other. I give the Kenyan staff immense credit for taking them so far so quickly. I have great hopes for this class as they move through the Panua program, and look forward to the next few days of meeting the other groups.
Maybe the highlight of the day was distributing water filters to each youth, thanks to the FUMCWP Easter offering! The company behind this effort has worked with Panua in the past, and as I understand it, this version of the filter is better and easier to keep clean and working than earlier filter models. The filter is rated for 10 years with proper care. It basically consists of what look like two five gallon plastic paint buckets (similar to what you might see at Home Depot). The one on top has had a hole cut into the bottom that the filter is inserted into and it sits on top of the bottom bucket, which has a plastic drain to let the fresh water flow out. Dirty water is poured into the top and filters through into the bottom. You can process approximately 30 liters per hour of clean, drinkable water. Access to clean water is a major issue here, and these filters will go a long way toward helping with that!
What struck me the most is how the staff talked about the life skills classes and the importance of staying healthy, and how often drinking tainted water has made the community members sick and unable to work. The youth know from their classes that making good decisions is paramount to moving forward, and how this one item (maintaining and using their new water filters) can help them stay healthy and achieve their goals. Then the staff moved onto the most important point: by sharing this with their neighbors, this is their first step in becoming community leaders by helping improve their own communities. They realize this is not only important to them, but that what they are learning in Panua will end up improving others around them as well. This one small step gives them the opportunity to show God’s love in a way that they never could have before. Matthew 25:40 – (my paraphrase) “whatever you did for the least of these you did for me”…. so we can also read this as the least of these doing for the more least! That’s how I’m looking at it. ~Larry Brown