It is inevitable that Kura and I would eventually become increasingly removed from the day-to-day work that happens on the ground in our region in Northern Kenya. BOMA now has a new field officer, Meshack, who works closely with our Mentors and businesses, and Kura is now assuming more responsibility in our Nanyuki office as our Program Director. With more than 1,100 businesses established and 32 employees in two countries (90% in Kenya), our efforts now include keeping the overall enterprise functioning so that it continues to efficiently deliver our poverty graduation program. We have accountants and auditors and payrolls and reports. And like most nonprofits, there are few large repeat sources of funding. So every year you restart the clock, looking for funds that will support the heart of what we do – help some of the poorest women on the planet to start small businesses, so they can feed, educate and care for their children.
Kura and I had planned this trip a few months ago. No matter how many written reports you see, no matter how many meetings we have, I have to talk to the women myself to see how their lives have changed. Every person has a story to tell and I want to hear theirs. I want to dig deeper and spend more time understanding what an economically empowered woman from Northern Kenya looks like. I want to invest most of my time listening – still the greatest investment that we made when we started our work. Now, it is the women in our program who are teaching us and we still have much to learn.
It won’t be all work – during our journey we will have time to revel in the beauty of this raw, rugged land – from a swim in the jade sea to falling asleep to the whoops of the hyenas to taking that long-awaited sponge bath by the light of the moon after a long hot day of dust and mud and travel.
There will be challenges, too. The story of Northern Kenya is usually about drought, but for the past few months the rains have been generous. The dust and sand that we are accustomed to has now become wet cement and lorry-swallowing potholes. I expect that part of our destiny will include getting stuck, changing tires and digging out vehicles over their axles in mud.
It all reminds us that no matter what we do, no matter how hard we work, we can never control it all. There is a great moment in the movie Out of Africa when Karen Blixen is trying to create a dam for her farm. Farah Aden, the head of her household, keeps trying to tell her that she must not try and stop the flow of water. “This water belongs in Mombasa…” he tells her.
At the end of the movie, as she deals with another round of crises that includes a deluge of rain, the dam breaks and she finally tells the workers, “Let it go, let it go. This water belongs in Mombasa.” And so maybe this trip is when we also let it go just a bit.Let life take its course, while we sit back and let the women of Northern Kenya tell us how the story goes.