Aoife's Kenya Diary
Twice a year a group of volunteers from Ireland go out to Kenya to support the community and our team working in Londiani. Every experience is unique and the stories from our volunteers really bring to life the work we do and the impact your donations have. Here is Aoife's diary.
Building smokeless stoves
So where do I begin ….. Week one had finished and it has been an amazing start to the Friends of Londiani experience. Any nerves that I had on the journey over were immediately eliminated once we arrived in Kenya and saw the incredible scenery. The trip from Nairobi to Londiani was met with breath-taking views and as we approached the compound we had an unbelievable welcome and instantly felt at home. Many women, both from local and afar, had come to greet us and even entertained us with their singing and dancing followed by a traditional Kenyan cup of chai (the first of many!).
Our first task involved installing smokeless stoves so we were trained on the GPS devices to keep track of the various places in which the stoves were to be built. This was followed by an introduction to surveys (pre and post); these are used to provide us with the information as to whether there have been reductions in the use of wood and improvements in health since stoves were fitted. The installation of smokeless stoves have made a huge impact on the lives of people and have proven to help reduce respiratory illnesses, eye problems, burns etc. Moreover they allow more time for girls to attend to their education as well as more economic activity as it is usually women and girls who collect the firewood and they now have less of a distance to travel to get firewood. The surveys revealed that women could spend many hours collecting the wood - usually done on a weekly basis - generating a new found respect for their perseverance and work ethic. The first time we saw a traditional 3-stone stove was certainly a shock to the system, the room was covered in smoke which made my eyes tear up within seconds and I found it difficult to catch my breath. It was hard to believe that these families were exposed to these dangerous conditions on a continuous basis, with a window being the only source of ventilation and sometimes no ventilation at all.
Simple but very effective
There is simplicity with the structure of the stoves – they’re built with clay bricks, clay and water act as cement and a tin chimney – and yet the results are so efficient with the smoke being reduced by 50% and less firewood required. When the stoves are completed and the smoke is seen coming out of the chimney it is a truly remarkable feeling knowing that this will make a significant impact on these people’s lives - safer and healthier homes have been created. One place in particular we went to called Kaharua – a slum area in Londiani - which is subject to challenging living conditions particularly in the rainy seasons. Regardless of this the community remained hardworking and supportive of each other. On a cultural aspect, the Kenyan community are very friendly, everyone treats each other like friends even if they’re complete strangers – and us ‘Mzungas’ (foreign women) were treated no differently. It soon became apparent that handshaking is a big part of their mannerisms reinforcing a feeling of togetherness.
There is a real sense of community here and a willingness to help each other, an uplifting environment to be in.
Pictured: The stove before (left) and a smokeless stove built using clay (right)