Monday, February 1, 2010

One day away from completing my orientation and I feel like things are picking up. Today I was honored to sit in on a meeting with a group of elders call Njurincheke. This is a group that is specific to the Wameru people of this region of Kenya. I believe there are similar groups throughout Kenya.

Basically, this group was formed in 1730 to maintain the integrity of the Meru community and culture. Always men who are over 18 years old, married and not believed to be a thief, a wizard, or a murderer they are wards for the vulnerable members of the society as well as for the environment and represent a supreme council of the Wameru people. The Njurincheke are not political and do not accept payment for the work they do. In other words, if they are not corrupt as they say they are not, their potential for holding Kenyans accountable is huge.

Unfortunately in recent years the work of the Njurincheke has diminished to being more of a representation of traditional views, as they do not have much to inspire change with in terms of capital. There is also a general break from tradition and values here that is seen even in the United States. Globalization and desires that are sparked by television and advertisement for people who may not even have the means to send their children to school or get appropriate medication has pushed youth out. When I was in Senegal there was a phenomenon they called ‘rural exodus’, where youth would go to the big city in hopes for a cosmopolitan life only to find the hardship of hustling and lack of familial support along with the temptations of the city. I imagine this occurs here as well.

The meeting today was to offer a partnership with the Njurincheke to conduct a feeding program for the most vulnerable families in the area. Orphans and HIV infected and affected people are the main focus, but there are also elderly who are left to care for their grand and great grandchildren because the parents have left. Despair or ambition are the two culprits, I am guessing for this occurrence. We hope with this feeding program, we can help the Njurincheke regain some legitimacy in the eyes of the community and that they can inspire hope on the farm rather than the big city.

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