Sunday, October 7, 2012

Experiencing “Internally Displaced People”

Me and Paul
“Can you come back tomorrow?” Paul was asking me.  He was one of the elders in the Maai Mahie IDP camp that I had just spent the last couple of hours with. (Note: Real names are not used here).

“I can’t come tomorrow, but I will come again soon,” I promised, feeling a range of emotions that I am still unpacking today.

It was Outreach Day for RVA and I had naively boarded a bus with 42 other students and a few adults to travel down the mountain to visit the IDP camp.  I was no longer as naïve.

IDP is a term that I had heard in the States before, but it rolled off of me because I had no real understanding of it.  It stands for “Internally Displaced People.”  In December of 2007 there was a presidential election here in Kenya and the results were hotly contested.  In the aftermath of the election there was violence, some of which went down ethnic lines.  Over 1,000 people died and half a million were driven from their homes.  That is how a group of several thousand came to the valley floor below RVA.

IDP Camp is in the distance in the center of the photo.
Every day as I emerge from my second period class, I walk down a walkway to go to third period and this is what I see.  I see the lushness of the school with manicured flowers and the sculpture of a giraffe eating from a tree surrounding the view of the bleak metal roofs from the IDP camp in the valley below.   It is a powerful sight that helps me keep life in perspective and drives would be complaints from my mind.

The RVA bus pulled into the camp and parked in a large barren field.  Even before the bus doors opened, kids were streaming out of the camp towards the bus.  When we got off of the bus, James – a national who was with our group and who works at RVA with CrazyMom – came up to me and said, “See over there?  That is where we have church.”  James and a friend come down to the camp each Sunday, have a church service, and then feed about 200 children.

The Church
I looked, but could not see the church building.  “Where?” I asked.

“Over there, under that tree,” he replied.

We divided the RVA students up into three groups and my group had James, Elder Paul, and 8 other RVA students.  We walked through the camp and past the homes built by Habitat for Humanity.  At the far end of the camp, Paul pointed to where we were going.  About a quarter of a mile away across the plain was another settlement.  These were people who did not have homes, but rather they stuck sticks in the ground and the covered them with plastic and cardboard.  We got to visit several homes, spend a little time together, and pray with the people there. 

When we were done visiting, we headed back towards the main camp.  As we were walking along, I asked James about the elections that are to take place later this year in Kenya and whether or not there might be trouble again.
Looking back at the camp with "tents."

“I don’t think so,” answered James.  “The memory of the trouble from the last election is still too fresh in people’s minds.  Everybody lost and people don’t want to see that again.”

Paul was not as confident.  “It is all the same people.  The same people are running for office and they have just gone from wearing their hats forward to wearing their hats backward.”

For the sake of the people of Kenya, we are praying for a peaceful election.

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