The first sound I heard on Saturday morning was the muzzehin calling the faithful to prayer. It was 4:30 AM. In this village of mostly Catholic parishioners, South Horr is a typical village in northern Kenya, with a diversity of spiritual practices.
As light filtered through the cracks of my wooden windows, I heard the sounds of a village — chickens and goats and the gentle sound of soft voices waking to the day. A tropical bulbul, go-away birds and the honking of a hornbill joined the chorus. And then it came — the sound that has started almost every day that I have ever spent in Africa — the whisk, whisk of a palm-branch broom.
The BOMA Village Mentor training session started immediately after a breakfast of mandazi and chai. Today we would focus on the new micro-savings program that Sarah Ellis has developed. After a six-month pilot and subsequent evaluation in Loiyangalani and Korr, we would officially launch the program to the rest of the region. The pilot had demonstrated that a micro-savings plan that sets aside regular committed funds in a safe location can provide insurance against the regular shocks that are typical for people who live in poverty. It can also become a source of savings-led credit that will help the business group members grow their businesses. Sarah did a great job of presenting a rather complicated program. In practice, we knew it would be much easier once they started implementing the program, but I was glad that our BOMA training manuals had everything explicitly spelled out for the Village Mentors.
Mid-afternoon I went back to my hut to wait out the worst heat of the day. When I returned, the training session had finished. “Where is everybody?” I asked Omar.
“They are in town, Mama Rungu. This is a big town for many people — they are shopping and some are even getting a haircut.”
Kura collapsed in a chair next to me. “Mama Rungu, this is it! We are an army. An army of peace and hope. We are…the BOMA Army!”
Amen, Kura, amen.