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Far Away Up Close

Kenya

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In programme three, former minister Liz O'Donnell visits Kenya. Assessing how the country is coping in the aftermath of serious conflict, Liz documents how Irish taxes have been playing a key role in the resolution of this emergency.

THE COUNTRY

How did this relatively stable society descend into chaos ? As long-standing social, cultural and political grievances re-emerged, Kenya suddenly became synonymous once again with images of violence, brutality, political uncertainty and poor leadership.

The town of Londiani is absolutely devastated. As Liz walks through the streets, the evidence of recent destruction is everywhere. All local businesses are closed, buildings have been burnt to the ground. People have lost their homes and have been sent away from land that is legally theirs, and now displacement camps are meeting basic accommodation and food requirments.

Says Liz O'Donnell: "Development can sometimes seems like a vicious circle. A country that had been a beacon of promise for East Africa is now in trouble. I visited Kenya as the Irish Aid programme prepared its response, while NGO's co-ordinated the arrival of their emergency staff."

THE PEOPLE BEHIND THE AID

The Priests

Irish priests have been to the fore in supporting vulnerable people in Londiani. Speaking to Liz O'Donnell, these men talk in humble terms about how they luckily escaped threats to their lives and set up an informal camp in the compound of their parish church. People became too terrified to sleep inside the church after news of the horrific church fire in Eldoret reached them.

The missionaries have traditionally played a hugely influential role in delivering education in the developing world. The Kiltegan Fathers have faced huge challenges since December but their story offers an insight into how members of the Irish religious orders abroad are still putting the needs of others ahead of their own. 

Betty

During Liz's visit to Gatoto primary in one of the poorest slums of Nairobi, Liz meets Betty, the local headmistress who is leading her school through a very tense period. Dedicated to educating children, Betty offers them a chance to learn regardless of their ethnic background or social status. Innovative tribal classes have been introduced to the curriculum, desoigned to demonstrate the role and influence that education can have on minimising difference.

Francis

Although different areas in Kenya have experienced grave difficulties the voice of young, optimistic and forward looking Kenyans still remains strong. In the Mo Amin media school in downtown Nairobi, Francis, a talented media student, reminds us how education can be the essential ingredient in brining people out of poverty. Born to a single mother in one of the Nairobi slums, Francis has had to fight to get the future he now wants for himself. Says Liz: "Francis' achievements have been accomplished independently. He is keen to stress how young Africans do not want to be depicted as the mere recipients of charity. Education offers a real chance to empower people to move outside the label of recipient and to make choices and be independent for themselves."

 

Liz O'Donnell