Our Land Manager Charles Church recently visited Kenya with Homes for Scotland to carry out a build project for Habitat for Humanity - read his story below.
"I’ve just returned from nearly ten days in Kenya, five of which were spent helping build a new home for a family in the small community of Homa Bay. I was in Kenya as part of Homes for Scotland’s Habitat for Humanity campaign, alongside a team of dedicated volunteers who went out there to help change the lives of one family, forever.
In Homa Bay 82% of houses have mud/wood or mud/cement walls, with an additional 6% living in houses constructed from corrugated iron sheet walls. Our build over the five days offered a deserving family a house built with bricks; a rarity in this community.
Mactaggart & Mickel have been a member of Homes for Scotland for a number of years. It was welcome news when I found out that I would be joining this trip, and taking a break from my role as Land Manager.
Having never been to Africa before, I tried to conjure up images of what I thought our ten days in Kenya would look like before I left Scotland.
I couldn’t help but be drawn to images we are so used to seeing – poverty and people in dire need of help, scattered houses alongside endless short grass plains under a scorching sun and not much rain. On arrival into Homa Bay after two sightseeing days in the captivating capital city of Nairobi, this scene I had envisaged in my thoughts before the trip was right there in front of my eyes. What I didn’t expect was the many smiling faces, the beaming smiles of people who were in dire need of our help but welcomed us like long lost family.
We were treated like family for the duration of our stay. The purpose of our trip was really quite simple: build a new home. However, we left with a greater appreciation of our home life, our family and how far human kindness can go.
We travelled 400 miles to Homa Bay from Nairobi, where we met the family we were supporting. An 84-year-old grandmother-of-three, Mama Saline, who had lost all six of her sons to AIDS, was an immediate example of the devastation the people of this small village face.
Our arrival was greeted with song, dance and lots of hujambos (Swahili for hello) as people came out to see us and tried to work out who we were and what we were doing!
Mama Saline was grateful to receive the comfort of a new home for her grandchildren. The housing situation here has left Mama Seline’s family vulnerable to security issues, bad weather conditions and increased health problems caused by damp.
Mama Saline and her family had been praying for a long time for someone, anyone, to come and help them. And when we arrived, they felt that their prayers had been answered - a humbling experience for us all. We also found out later in the week that the village had been praying for rain and for three of the five days we were working, it rained, so not only had we bought helping hands from across Scotland, we had also brought the weather.
The conditions this poor family and many locals had to face was hard for us to understand, fighting not only the elements but also the lack of security a home brings – something we all take for granted.
We had transformed their lives and the house brought so much happiness to the family. The home has a modest number of rooms but, importantly, private wash rooms, something which would mean and offer so much to this caring grandmother and her three grandchildren.
Facing such conditions might impact any hope of a bright future for many of the community but after speaking to the young children and learning of their desire to become a doctor or a news broadcaster – even with no televisions for them to watch - it was so inspiring to see such determination and how much joy they had in their lives.
The children watched us work; it was something they didn’t get to see every day. Some of them and all the locals joined in helping us with the build. Throughout the day they would ask questions about our family and the youngsters all loved having their pictures taken.
They just wanted to be a part of it and the joy it brought to everyone, including all of us there helping this fantastic community, was clear to see. That’s what I’ve brought home with me - joy. This wonderful experience has inspired me in so many ways and I can’t wait to do it all again."
Donations to this worthy cause can still me made at: https://giving.habitatforhumanity.org.uk/cf/Kenya-Homes-for-Scotland-2019