It won't be long until the Christmas journeys to our relatives begin. Children will be asking 'are we nearly there yet?' As an adult I've sometimes asked the same question. The minutes and hours pass and so do the miles but if I don't notice the landmarks it feels as if I haven't gone very far.
I noticed a landmark recently on my journey with the Maasai. It came in an email from Rebecca our midwife. Normally she greets me lovingly in Swahili. 'Mamangu' my mother. She has called me that since she realised that she is one month older than my elder daughter. That was a landmark for her in our relationship. In the recent email she greeted me with 'Yeyo Takwenya'. That is a Maasai greeting to a woman and requires a particular response. It warmed my heart and stamped a landmark of comfortable intimacy. 'Iko' I return quietly. I feel so privileged to be on this journey.
Today, I phoned Rebecca's husband Timothy. I love his joyful giggle when her realises it's me on the phone. Mama. Habari za siku ? His overflowing joy and love of life is perfectly matched by his straightforward no nonsense approach to practical matters. He knows exactly why I am calling today. Ah the new group? To keep the analogy of being on a journey, my paraphrase of what he said is that they are a bit lost and looking for a starting place. This is a group of women who are not eligible for the cow project (because they don't know how to care for cows and / or do not have young children). There is no doubt that we will find something that encircles the principles of sustainability and of not encroaching on existing businesses. However being a nomadic tribe, it's not easy for this new group to have regular meetings as they live so far from each other and there is also a principle that we don't help individuals. Every project must be community based and every individual must 'put in the hours to see results' So the new group is still working out what they can do to provide for their families and we will see how we can keep it fair and make it sustainable. One thing I am sure of is that we will soon be on the road to a good solution.
Timothy pre empted my next question...the recently purchased cows. With confidence and in clear English he announces 'no cows have yet been died. All are there.' Wonderful news. As its the end of the dry season, this is even miraculous.
Timothy goes on to report that the building of the antenatal clinic combined with a small laboratory is almost finished. They started to build this because they feel that It is essential that people have diagnostic tests before they go to the pharmacist. I, personally, have seen people being given intravenous penicillin for sciatica and pregnant women being offered foetal-destroying antibiotic drugs for an upset tummy that would sort itself out in a few days. Hopefully by offering simple laboratory tests, we can end this lethal practice. One room now has windows which will protect the already purchased microscope from dust. I am going to send some money from the 'sponsor a safer delivery kit donations' to fit windows in the antenatal room. It means we will have somewhere clean and safe to store the kits and women will be encouraged to attend clinics. Rebecca will no longer have to run the clinic in her home which will give Timothy and the boys a bit of space.
So my next question to Timothy is about the rain water harvesting project. Timothy has sent me a detailed spreadsheet of costings. Inflation has taken a bite but we have a strong pound so get more shillings than last year. I suggest that the dry season must be coming to an end. 'Yes', he affirms. 'It is raining in town'. That is good to hear. I feel that we must get on with buying the guttering and tanks and so on. I hate to think of missing even a drop. I will send nearly £2000 in addition to what I have already given. It is so worth it.
Those wonderful people and especially their infants and frail elderly who are on the road to self destruction from drinking filthy water, will be able to turn off that road when they see the metaphorical signpost saying 'this way to clean drinking water; No entry to cholera, typhoid, bilharzia and other diarrhoeal disease that can be a killer in the under twos and the elderly'. There is now a choice. They can choose life. Rebecca tells me that those already collecting rain water from the existing tanks, bless me on every visit and are grateful for their better health. Villagers have said to me without prompting that in the last three years they are healthier with less diarrhoeal illness. This means spending less money on treatment, having more productive rather than sick days and therefore more money coming in to feed the household.
So it only remains for me to say a huge thank you to everyone who has come on the journey with us and contributed so generously to the road to health and well being. We are not nearly there yet but we have passed a significant milestone.