What is like to volunteer in Kenya for IPI?
The first thing that struck me about the Community Centre run by International Peace Initiatives (IPI) in Meru, Kenya, is that it is a living model of what hope can bring to communities living in extremely difficult situations of ill health and poverty.
Set up by Dr. Karambu Ringera in 2002 to help HIV positive mothers regain strength and control over their lives or, if necessary, to provide care for their children if these mothers become unable to look after them, Dr. Ringera has turned the centre into a trusted hub of sustainable farming, eco-technologies, peacebuilding workshops, empowerment programmes, and skills training courses. The children’s home is still there, and the vibrant energy of 30 plus children running around fills the atmosphere with laughter and music. Even the grounds of the centre itself are testament to what can be achieved with determination and faith – once a wasteland that no one saw any use for, it is now filled with flowers, grass and trees.
Many different types of volunteers may want to come here. Perhaps those studying international development may want to support an ethical project which is truly grassroots-led, using highly participatory processes to ensure that the surrounding community is supported to find its own solutions to its problems. The results are striking, with hundreds of vulnerable women now using skills in tailoring, jewellery-making and catering in order to earn an income to support their families. Community-building initiatives are making changes on the ground as people join together in peace-building activities, challenging issues such as HIV/Aids, alcohol addiction amongst youths, ensuring peaceful campaigning at elections, or empowering women to access their socio-economic rights.
Those interested in eco-living and sustainability will see it modeled and demonstrated at IPI through the solar panels for electricity, the biogas system for cooking, the organic farm which feeds the staff and children, and the principles of IPI to waste nothing. In addition, a conference centre is being built to gather together those most active in sustainability from across the world. Dr. Ringera herself is a board member of the African branch of the Global Ecovillage Network.
As for what you could contribute, that depends on your talents and interests. Help is needed everywhere – A day could consist of helping on the farm, supporting skills training or empowerment workshops, teaching English to the children of IPI, or in the local primary schools, or to adults in the surrounding community. Or you could turn up, learn what’s going on and suggest your own ideas for your projects. IPI needs self-reliant, pro-active people to come out and join in their movement for grassroots sustainable community-building and peace-building. I found it a privilege to join in. I’m sure you will too.
To find out more, visit our Volunteer in Kenya page.
Sally Bogale, Fundraiser (Sally visited IPI in August, 2013)