Rachuonyo story of transformation
This is the story of Rachuonyo community. A journey that Possibilities Africa (PA) begun in October 2020 with 35 pastors from 21 denominations. Having heard about PA from Bishop Joseph of Ahero, one of our first recruits over 6 years ago they were interested in what they learnt about PA and pursued a relationship that led to what we share today – a budding story of transformation.
They began to understand that this practice, though helpful, contributes to the attitude they are working towards changing among themselves and their people. This was the turning point and the onset of true transformation taking root
A community situational analysis revealed that the community upholds traditional practices including appeasing of the dead practiced by 70% of the population, transitional rights mainly removal of the front lower teeth 50% of the adults, polygamous marriages and widow inheritance which accounts for 75% of the of the adult population. While this is not unique to Rachuonyo, but common in many communities in Kenya and across the globe, the practice here has contributed greatly to the spread of HIV/AIDS, incest and immoral values. This lifestyle means that many children are orphaned or living with HIV/AIDS.
Further, widow inheritance has a negative effect on the dignity of women and children who undergo these rituals in submission to culture. In addition, inheritance does not necessarily mean the presence of a husband or father in family life. Further findings reveal that, fathers are less committed to their families leading to child drunkenness, drug abuse, and immorality, in this community. With three-quarters of the population being under 30 years old, has an effect on education; the challenges to education include early pregnancies, forced marriages, and poor academic performance.
The community is economically rated poor according to the 2019 Population data with 72.4% of families living below US$1.25 per day. The rate of unemployment and joblessness is quite high, with most people involved in fishing, fish mongering and agriculture, with limited opportunities in commercial ventures and public service. Majority of the people are involved in small scale farming often for subsistence. Those who do cash crop farming sell maize, bananas, potatoes, vegetables, beans and groundnuts.
Overall, human dignity has been reduced greatly within the custom as it perpetuates male dominance and female subordination. In spite of this mothers are the main bread winners in most families.
Evidently, there is a deep need for transformation in this community and it is possible, with God!
The PA journey with Rachuonyo pastor leaders
A number of people believe that the continent is doomed to perpetual poverty and economic slavery. On the contrary Possibilities Africa, views Africa as a continent which has immense potential to transform the lives of its people socio-economically, culturally and spiritually. It is on this premise that Possibilities Africa took on a transformation journey with the pastors of Rachuonyo community – a journey that begun in October 2020.
The group has gone through the initial 4 steps of group formation which results to the completion of the first stage out of the four stages journey in the PA program. In this first stage, they have undergone 1) information sharing about the PA vision, 2) undertaken a community needs assessment analysis to create a baseline, 3) received a community needs assessment feedback and needs prioritization, and 4) attended the first major training – M1. They recently undertook their second major training, ushering them into the second stage of the holistic transformation journey.
Step 1 engagement: Marketing PA holistic vision to the pastors
Step 2 training: Enable each pastor appreciate PA ministry Vision and understand the CIFA model process and the expectation from each party on the holistic journey in their community.
Step 3 training: Guide the group to identify the pressing needs in their community and resolve what contribution they will make towards addressing them for the betterment of the community.
1st major training: Support members get organized into a CIFA group that is positioned to pursue holistic transformation in the community.
2nd major training: Establish a structure of accountability to support the ownership of transformation by the community.
From the needs assessment survey, and insights from the trainings the pastor leaders have undertaken, they prioritized ministry to the widows and youth in their community. A few months after their commitment to the journey the group began implementing small steps towards making transformation happen. Some of the things they started doing immediately are:
- Meeting to study God’s word and pray for their growth and the community’s spiritual transformation.
- Began praying and taking steps to help the widows in the community. They started by building simple houses for elderly widows in the community who had been abandoned by their families after their husbands died. They also recently started a farming project for 31 widows to help them become more self-reliant.
- They organized evangelistic campaigns with a particular focus on the youth who drop out of school and start working as fishermen and brewing local alcohol which is largely unhygienic and a breeding ground for immorality in this community. Due to extreme poverty, some of the youth are involved in immorality to get fish as an income for their families. Others are into drug abuse and alcoholism as a coping mechanism to the hopelessness they experience.
- Engaged a local government office to collaborate with them on activities for improving the lives of the most vulnerable members of the community.
An account of transformation in Rachuonyo
Invisible women; invisible problems
Quite a befitting headline, and unfortunately so as carried by the UN Women in celebrating the International Widows Day. As it is in Rachuonyo and surrounding communities, widow inheritance is deep rooted within the culture. The question begs, what happens to widows who refuse to be inherited?
The answer to this question is simple – they are disinherited. Disinherited by the deceased family and this means that they have no access to their matrimonial home, or any possessions connected to that. The widow and her children are rendered, hungry, homeless and hopeless!
Soon after the training, the pastors took on a feeding program for the widows. This continued for a while, but the pastors quickly realized that this was only a part solution to the real needs, as they remained incapacitated to take care of their personal and family needs.
They began to understand that this practice, though helpful, contributes to the attitude they are working towards changing among themselves and their people. This was the turning point and the onset of true transformation taking root.
Making Rhoda Visible
Rhoda Odedo happens to be a widow who attends Pastor Yoya’s church – the champion leader of the Rachuonyo group. Dorcas, 76 years old, blind, her house – a makeshift shelter adjacent to a family graveyard in the village. The reason for this is that she had no strength and financial ability to build a new home.
Connected to the training sessions they undertook with PA the group of pastor leaders were deeply moved with compassion and an urgency to respond to this need with a holistic outlook. The difference in their approach was that it was not filled with pity, but rather a sense of responsibility as leaders to improve livelihoods in their community.
Without any time wasted, they mobilized resources to purchase building materials and embarked on this life-changing initiative, making Rhoda visible. They built a new house for Rhoda, developed a support system around her from within the church and continue regular check-ups and prayer. They are practicing true religion, as one of the pastors noted, “The training has changed our minds!”
Making Rhoda visible has meant making as many vulnerable people within reach, visible and re-integrating them into church and community life. This is what the pastor leaders in Rachuonyo initiated in response to the training. They have gone ahead to support two young widows, with children who have experienced neglect and isolation form their community and extended family, just like Rhoda. Today, 3 widows have been rehabilitated and continue to receive emotional and social support. Their children are now in nursery schools and eating nutritious meals.
The small steps have led to somewhat bigger steps in developing a full-blown project to support widows in the community. The pastor leaders see this as one of the broken walls to be rebuilt in the journey of championing a transformation in their community.
Sustaining the transformation steps
In order for pastor leaders to adequately address the challenges in their community and correctly apply holistic programs to respond to the needs therein, they have immersed themselves as leaders becoming aware of the people in their churches and community at a deeper level. To enable them gain insights into the type of problems and the kind of solutions that are best suited, the recruitment process at possibilities Africa includes a needs analysis exercise that is conducted with the pastors. They are presented with an opportunity to priorities the needs in the community. The needs analysis research is immediately followed by a validation meeting to confirm the findings and help them visualize the magnitude of different concerns existing in the community.
As a result of this step in the training process, the priorities to be addressed in this community as selected by the pastor leaders are:
- Widow’s empowerment.
- Tree planting to address the challenge of flood and erosion.
- Coming up with ways of addressing economic challenges
- To conduct evangelism of drunkards around their churches and home.
They will know you by your fruits
Pastors in their area are more aware of the areas to focus their efforts on developing solutions and since such solutions are well targeted to pressing needs, other community members are taking note, and this is generating interest around the holistic transformation ministry work.
“Before the training we only used to pray and engage our church members but now! our eyes and vision has expanded we see the community now.”
With the impact spreading wide, surrounding communities have noticed the value of pastoral leadership and are seeking intervention that is holistic and bears fruit. The widow’s empowerment program commenced in March 2021, comprises a farming project for 25 women among whom 20 are widows.
The aim of this is to make them self-reliant and have their dignity restored. Through farming, the women are engaged in meaningful activities, that rebuild their social interaction and create a sense of hope to their once hopeless situations
With some support from PA, the pastor leaders managed to hire a tractor and operator to ease the clearing process in preparation for the farming land for widows.
We look forward to a first harvest that will be a symbol of transformed thinking among the pastor leaders in the program; and a transforming community whose needs are being addressed holistically.
The next steps
The farming project having taken off well, plans are in place to build up on capital for poultry farming among the widows to increase their income for upkeep and meeting family obligations, such as school fees for their school going children. The approximate amount to establish a poultry project per household is KES 5,000/-.
Supporting 10 more widows in re-constructing their houses, will cost approximately KES 15,000/- per house using locally available materials. While many more have requested the pastor leaders for support, they are managing the project and process carefully to ensure a sustainable approach and avoid a handout mentality.
“The impact of the gospel is not in the preaching. It is more in the action through applying God’s word to impact the community” Pastor Peter.
For with God, all things are possible!