Nestled amongst a vast expanse of land dotted with cows, sharp shrubs and small, ramshackle huts rural Kenyans call home, is a place called Segera Mission in Laikipia County.
Housing a community garden, clinic and school, Segera Mission was visited by a team of medical doctors and support staff Nov. 7 as part of a medical trip to Kenya with Lacombe-based organization A Better World (ABW).
ABW co-founder Eric Rajah said while this specific medical mission aims to provide services and training to those in rural Kenya, ABW has also been working to develop Segera Mission into a sustainable resource for a community that doesn’t have much else.
“We were looking for a place where we could do agriculture, schooling and water and in a safe, remote place,” Rajah explained. “I like this model because it serves the community. There is a main centre, and there is outreach to meet the needs of the people.”
Serge Musasilwa, director of Segera Mission, said 90 per cent of the 17,000 odd residents now occupying land in Laikipia County were once IDPs (internally displaced persons) unable to find jobs or receive assistance from the government.
Still living in extreme conditions with very little to live off of, Musasilwa added that without what has become Segera Mission, clean water and medical care cannot be found without travelling close to 30 km.
“The population is extremely poor here,” Musasilwa said. “The only medical care they have is ours, and we are the only source of clean water in this area.”
On top of providing medical services and water to the occupants of Laikipia County, Musasilwa said Segera Mission has been working in conjunction with ABW to develop an agricultural project to be sustained and utilized by the community.
“We want to fight malnutrition by promoting agriculture and teaching the community how to develop things like domestic gardens,” he explained. “This type of agricultural system helps families and children improve their nutrition and well-being.”
But Musasilwa said one of Segera Mission’s greatest achievements so far is the school. Starting out as only one nursery class in the early 2000s, Segera Mission now has five grades, and is one of the only schools in the area with a higher ratio of female to male students.
“Traditionally people are not interested in sending girls to school,” he explained. “But to prevent girls from getting married at 11 years old, the only thing that can help us do that is to give them education. We want to show girls can play just as big a role in the community as the boys do.”
Musasilwa added the school has also made it possible for rural children to attend school without having to travel unaccompanied for exhaustingly long distances through wild terrain.
“Some of the children who are only nine or 10 years old were walking 12 km to school,” he said. “And they are walking through a very wild environment with dangerous animals. The next closest school to here there is 120 kids in one class. Can you imagine how that is?”
Julius Mutura, currently the Grade 5 teacher at Segera Mission, said while he is grateful for the spacious classrooms he now teaches his students in, before organizations like ABW came in to work with the community, things were much different.
He said one small classroom would serve as three, and was partitioned by curtains. Even though the students always seemed eager to learn, he said such a chaotic environment was not conducive to learning.
“This room here was divided with curtains,” Mutura said. “So one teacher would be singing, one would be doing the ABCs, and then in the next room is the clinic where a mother is screaming giving birth while we’re trying to teach on this side.”
But with the new classrooms, other teachers like Dominic Merihi said he has seen a monumental improvement in the education of his students.
“I think this school is different from many other schools in the country even,” Merihi said. “Even children in the baby class are speaking English. That is strange in this area. And the other thing is the children love learning, they don’t need to be forced by teachers like in other schools.”
With donations from ABW, Segera Mission is now in the midst of building two more classrooms so the school can start running a Grade 6 class next year.
By: Anna Brooks