Resilient Communities: Story of Hellen Akuom
She doesn’t remember her age, she says when she looks in the horizon, she may have lost count, but the sun has set at least 40 times. So she told me to add 10 more years to that.
This story is about Hellen Akuom who has witnessed 40 sunsets and/ sunrises plus 10.
She is a native of Kapua Village in Turkana. Hellen is a mother of eight and grandma to two.
She gladly tells us to refer to her as grandma Akuom.
Hellen used to make mats, baskets and carpets. Sometimes walk to Lodwar town to sell them. The fact that she used to walk is almost unbelievable. She notices the puzzled look on my face and clarifies that she used to sometimes sleep at friends Manyattas’ (traditional houses) if she didn’t make it to Lodwar on time.
Lodwar is roughly a 4-hour walk from Kapua village.
That however did not last for long, because she never used to make enough money to get her children through school or to feed them. She learnt through a community meeting about the Community Managed Disaster Risk Reduction (CMDRR)
CMDRR is a process whereby a community systematically manages its disaster risk reduction measures towards becoming a safer and resilient community. Oxfam, through financial support from EU humanitarian aid has been working closely with communities through the Community Disaster Management Committees (CDMC). The committees enable members of a community or society to obtain the benefits that they desire through their collective participation in the identification planning implementation and evaluation of disaster risk reduction measures.
Hellen is widowed, that leaves her as the head of the household. A task, she has taken up in stride. She has through the help of the KES 30,000 (240 Euros) loan received from the CDMC, been able to start a business. She has also been able to educate her children.
“ I received money from the committee as a loan. I used part of the money to take my children to school and open up my business, which is now the community shop. “
The CDMC members undergo training and are then expected to transfer the knowledge and understanding to the community at large. They were trained in good business practices that they have been able to pass along to other community members.
She has also taken up digging of what she calls special stone. This stone is raw material for gypsum. She is able to sell this to business people who come from all over the country.
“ The money I make from gypsum and some from the shop allows me to repay the money loaned to me by the CMDC.” – She says.
As we are walking to the gypsum sight, she narrates a story of how one of her daughters had to be home for a year due to lack of school fees, that same year she became a grandma - twice.
She Sighs! We laugh….
She goes on to say she is glad that her daughter is now in school so she can focus on the grandchildren.
She is grateful to the formation of the CDMC and the much needed assistance they have provided, without which she is sure all three of her daughters would have been married off by now.
Written by: Wanjiru Kimuya - Eyeris Communications