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”There was definitely a lot of change”, says Louise Felldin, who returned to Nikumbuke and Lunga Lunga in March after three years.
She was overwhelmed by all the reunions and also by going through all the projects with Bendettah.
”Everything is kept in perfect order and the operations have grown substantially”, she summarizes. “When I worked in Lunga Lunga the education center and clinic covered three villages. Today, Nikumbuke offers education and health services to seven villages – around 650 women and girls”
In the spring of 2012 Louise went to Lunga Lunga as a mentor and stayed there for over three months. It was an experience that influenced her whole life.
”Especially getting to know all the women and how they tackle life and care for each other”, she says.
She was helping out teaching in the different villages, and her favorite subject was business.
”Emelie, one of my former students, now has a flourishing business in the center of Lunga Lunga Market. Three years ago she sold potatoes and tomatoes of a cardboard on the dirt, now she had a very nice kibanda with a rooftop and a variety of greens and fruits. That change really made me happy” Louise says.
She also experienced how women, who three years ago were too shy to tell their names, now introduced themselves freely in English and talked about themselves as business women, not house wives.
”I was also impressed by all the different businesses in the village, like producing and selling soap, bags, necklaces or moringa powder. The women had also formed several cooperatives like one chicken farm and a moringa plantation”.
During her visit Louise also sat down with Bendettah and went through her books and reviewed all her projects.
”She had total control. Not a cent was missing. And she is in charge of handling a lot of money through the different projects”.
Louise also learned that Nikumbuke and Bendettah now have cooperation with the Kenyan Ministry of Education.
”Bendettah is invited to their meetings and courses in Mombasa and they have also sent out people to examine the English classes at C-level at Nikumbuke – and they did really well”.
The ministry has now promised Bendettah books and education plans.
”According to the ministry, business and agriculture are important subjects next to math and literacy, of course”.
But there are still challenges. The biggest one is how to get a steady income to the center and make it self-sufficient. Due to the terror attacks in Northern Kenya, these past couple of years, some people hesitate to go to Kenya. Although the southeast part of Kenya is not involved in the conflict with Somalia, Bendettah fears there will be less mentors coming.
”The University of Wisconsin has been cooperating with Nikumbuke for many years with great achievements, but their financing has come to an end meaning that this year they could only send a smaller group. The American dentist, who has been treating the women for free every year, had to stay at home. This is of course a big set-back for the members of Nikumbuke”, Louise says and continues:
”The biggest challenge is to come up with a plan as to how Nikumbuke can be more self-sufficient and not so dependent on mentors coming. The center itself has no bigger income today than the mentors and donations. That is something to work with”.
But in spite of these dark clouds Louise says she had some unforgettable ten days in Lunga Lunga.
”I had the best time. And when I left to go home I thought – what we are doing is totally right. This is for real!”
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