28 March 2009

Unitarian Universalists Invade

Well maybe just one.  Sue, Michael and I had lunch with the Program manager for Rights in Humanitarian Crises for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC).  Sue got a message from home from her parents that Martha, the program manager's name, would be passing through Kakamega this weekend before heading on to Uganda.  Sue got in contact with her and she invited all of us to meet her for lunch in Kakamega.  Sue was excited to hang out with a fellow UU and Michael and I saw yet another opportunity to learn more about a different church.  We have set a goal to learn as much as possible about all the local religious groups in the area, and today was a perfect opportunity.  Also, free lunch is impossible to pass up.

We met at a nice hotel a little out of the center of town and sat down because we arrived early.  There was a white woman sitting on the other side of the terrace, but Sue did not want to bother Martha being that we were early.  We had something to drink and joked about the possibility of the lady in the distance being Martha.  At nearly one, Sue stepped away to call.  She hid behind the corner where we could not see her, but hear.  Our suspicions were confirmed when the ladies cell phone began to ring, she answered, and then the two had a conversation that we were able to hear from both sides.  It was surreal to hear Sue speak and Martha respond across the terrace.  Laughter was a natural reaction.  As I was bent over in hysterics, Michael turned around and waved to confirm that we were in fact the people she was to meet with.

A few quick introductions followed and we were joined by a priest from Kakamega named Pastor Paul (I think but my memory is not too good these days).  They told us about the work that the UU's were supporting that was being done by Pastor Paul.  He is finding people who were displaced due to last years violence and, with the aid of UUSC, is providing help to get them back on their feet.  As it turns out, there is a significant population of Kenyans in Kakamega lost everything last year and have had no way to start over.  This area is severely lacking in NGO's and aid work.  For a country that has a glut of agencies, this region is skipped over.  The region between Kisumu and Eldoret is all but forgotten, especially right here in the middle of the two cities.  We of course enjoyed a great meal.  Rosemary chicken and onion rings, the best meal I have had in Kenya.  No question about it.  That place will be where I will go to eat in Kakamega from now on. 

We learned about all the work that Martha does across the world in areas that were affected by the tsunami, civil war, political unrest and genocide.  The UU's have a group in Darfur right now and have been able to avoid problems by using local foreigners.  In other words, the person in Darfur is Kenyan.  I have not had a chance to look at all of the UUSC work, but the programs that Martha runs are ideologically what I believe to be the best direction for development, locally run and organized.