After 26 hours of flights and airports from Austin, TX to Nairobi, Kenya, we reached our first destination. Our group of Texans were meeting up with the Canadian half of our team in Nairobi airport and then sought out our driver. Once you pass through the airport doors there is a mob of taxi drivers and shuttle drivers competing for your attention. After some flight delays and confusion we all finally teamed up, found our driver and drove to our destination for the night through the seedy Nairobi night.
shuttle ride to sleep for the night: Nairobi
The next morning we woke up to a great breakfast of eggs, fresh fruit and great Kenyan coffee. I wasn’t sure what to expect from local attitudes, but everyone was incredibly friendly. I began talking with our driver and learned a few Swahili words during our drive into the Rift Valley to Maai Mahiu. During our descent down into the Valley we quickly went from lush and green everywhere to dusty, dry and dirty.As we entered Maai Mahiu we noticed how many trucks were passing through and how dirty it was. Maai Mahiu is basically a neglected truck stop for safari goers and trucking shipments to other places. In the center of the small dusty town of 30,000 people, sat our CTC International building like a beacon of hope. It was painted, clean and had the only patch of grass in town growing in front of it. A pretty big contrast to the rest of the town.
More trash and burning trash
We passed through town to an old transit hotel that seemed to be the only place in town doing well enough to add some updates to it’s infrastructure. We checked in to Mt. Longonot hotel, unpacked our things and had a really tasty lunch of beans, rice, Chapati, chicken and other great mixes. After lunch we began our walking tour through town with Martha as our guide. Martha was incredible through our entire stay. She is currently interning at CTC and a succeeding local Kenyan. As we began our walk there were no shortage of kids that came from behind rock piles, from behind bushes and opened doors and windows that would loudly say “How are YOU!!??” in their high pitched voices. It seemed to be the only English many of them knew and they ALL used it often. You could be 3 blocks away and here a faint.. “How are YOU!??”. Martha first took us to the local yard where CTC started a farming community to begin bringing vegetation and farming back to town using more modern and sustainable techniques.
drip irrigation using captured rain water.
Our tour progressed next over to the CTC offices where real change was taking place in this unsustainable dusty old town. First we met all the great staff and were led into meet the Malaika Moms currently working on sewing using donated sewing machines to create and earn incomes:
Malaika Moms sewing room earning sustainable income.
The moms were incredibly bright and cheerful as they worked. Sometimes they sang songs and would often stay and work on their own time because there was hope in what they are doing. The next room was the rehabilitation room for disabled kids. These kids come from all over the area and there would just be no way they could have a decent life much less get basic rehab care for what ails them. More often than not these kids could recover well with modern medicine that we all have every day, but they did not.. not until CTC came to the area. Many doctors and nurses volunteer annually and come out with CTC to do work where they make more difference in two weeks than these kids have seen their whole lives.
The next classroom were the Shooting Stars, which is an advanced learning class for some local kids:
After meeting the rest of the CTC staff and gained a broader overview of the CTC mission in Kenya, we took to the streets. After speaking with a few locals and asking questions about the town we grew to understand why there was so much trash in the streets and why there was so little environmental concern among the locals. Kenyan government actually had waste management budgeted for Maai Mahiu for many years, but the town has never seen one garbage truck, landfill or much less even a trash can in the town.. Except for the one outside the CTC office. The government officials seem to have had ‘other plans’ for the money in that budget. If you were to take a shovel and dig into the ground anywhere in town, you would hit plastic bags and bottles up to two feet down in the dirt:
typical street between houses
We happened to be walking the town during a ‘market day’ where everyone was in the town center selling and trading what they had. The staple foods we saw most of were potatoes and corn. Corn seemed to grow everywhere but was very subject to weather, elements and animals as there were no fences anywhere. As we walked through the market 3 of us got separated from the main group and it seemed as if we were gazelles that strayed from the pack and left to the lions. There was one guy yelling at us as if taunting us while everyone else seemed to laugh and poke fun at the Westerners (Mizungu) who lost their local leader. We caught back up with them and began our walk back to Mt. Longonot hotel where we sat around talking about our ‘Highs and Lows’ of the day before we got a slow cold shower and some sleep.
Market trading area
potatoes and corn for sale and trade
Why do all kids in the world see me as a playground?
The walk to the edge of town: Mt. Longonot Hotel