Jikazi is one of the many projects Will's organization, Global Connections (GC), supports. The Jikazi story begins over two years ago with the post-election violence, which began in December 2007. Due to tribal differences, corrupt government officials, and a botched voting system, Kenyans began fighting against Kenyans when President Kibaki and his opponent, Raila Odinga, disputed the outcome of the election. Kibaki, the reigning president, said he won, while Odinga, from the minority Luo tribe, claimed his win. Since Kibaki and Odinga hail from different tribes, violence errupted between the tribes of Kenya led by the government officials themselves. Luo against Kikuku. Luhya against Kalenjin. Bullets, pangas (machetes), and stones became the weapons of choice aimed at anyone who was from a different tribe. Many Kenyans were displaced when their homes were burned. Other Kenyans lay dead in the streets. Still others were burned alive in churches, like something out of an American Revolution movie. And foreigners hid in their homes or left the country. Two months of fighting resulted in hundreds of thousands of Kenyans being displaced, with nowhere to live. Humanitarian aid organizations set up camps to house the IDP's (Internally Displaced Peoples) with the intent that the Kenyan government would help families reestablish themselves. As with most things in Kenya, that never happened. However, IDP's throughout Kenya worked to thrive. A small group of 150 people used the small funds the government gave them to purchase land together and try to rebuild, creating their own village in the Rift Valley. They called themselves Jikazi.
Global Connections later befriended the people of Jikazi, helped raise funds for them through microfinance loans, and put in hours of labor to help build homes and set up a water source. Through the relationships established with GC, Jikazi is a thriving village. As villagers find their lost family members or invite new-found friends to Jikazi, the village is growing. A water well is currently being built to provide drinking water. Those that lost everything have found a new home.
Last week I had the opportunity to go with our volunteer team to visit Jikazi. Our intent was to hear people's stories and help build two new homes.
We built homes of sticks and mud alongside people who had experienced horrible tragedy. One girl I nailed sticks with was 17 years old, holding her one year old son. Lydia had been raped and became pregnant while in a displacement camp. Mama Miriam sat next to me at lunch and told me she thought some of our girls looked like boys since they were dressed like boys. We laughed together. I have many impressions about my visit to Jikazi, but overall I am in awe at how people can rise above extreme sadness and be happy again, laughing about how bad they are at hammering nails or making jokes about women's fashion. And it humbles me. It makes me thankful and challenges me to do more with the good things I've been given.