REPORT OF PEACE CARAVAN 2007 NAIROBI TO MOMBASA VIA WEST POKOT
Youth, accounting for more than 60% of the population in Kenya and many other African countries, has an enormous role to play for the development of future society. Having been involved in the struggles for human rights, justice and peace in the country, youth were important to bring about change for multiparty democracy in Kenya in 2002. This segment forms the highest source of human resource. The situation that young people in Kenya face today is dire. Most of the ills that plague the country – unemployment, crime, the AIDS pandemic, domestic violence affect young people to an inordinate degree. In addition, they are used as the foot soldiers in politicians’ battles, and left in the lurch when the wars move on.
Since then – in spite of many declarations – young people have been the target group of only few policy decisions with even less implementation. Many youth initiatives have sprung up, organised by young people who take responsibility of their own future. However, they often lack experience, expertise, and even public support. Today many youth organisations realise that they have to create a higher level of awareness on their own concerns. It is they who have to bring their own issues back to the agendas of public decision-makers. Only then social peace will be able to be maintained on a medium and long-term basis.
Despite these gains the youth in Kenya faces a lot of challenges more than ever before due to the nature of their involvement and the support they receive. This compounded by the fact that more and more young people continue to be sidelined in their quest for participation. Parents’ support in some sectors has become inadequate and their minimal mentorship. Nevertheless with the ushering in of a new political dispensation, a lot of support was expected towards strengthening the youth sector. This can be observed by the formation of the Youth Ministry, introduction of the youth fund and freedom of expression.
Voluntary Youth Philanthropists, based in Nairobi, in collaboration with several youth organizations, both local and international, embarked on an extensive awareness (advocacy) initiative that incorporated the use of camel caravan from Nairobi, Kangemi slums across the country ending in Mombasa, a distance of about 1600 km. The use of camels was a sign of cultural means of transport, which was and is being used by ethnic groups in northern Kenya mostly arid and semi-arid areas. The youth looked at the positive cultures in their respective communities, which could be used for solidarity. A camel is also a cool animal, which could portray a sign of peace, which is believed that peace is in our mind. Majority of the people in Kenya have not seen the animal, which makes it fun for both the youth in the caravan and also an attraction to people both young and old which helped in mobilizing as many people as possible. However, it was educative to participants, meeting people and sharing information but at the same time very challenging. This is a annual project , with a pilot project which was in 2004, to educate other young people especially those in rural areas, marginalized and the vulnerable.
Encourage the youth to promote peace amongst their neighboring communities (urban and rural) through peace initiatives such as clubs, theatre, networks, forums in schools, religious institutions, and barazas,
We met different people in different areas especially those affected by tribal clashes, the issue of food security and bottom down leadership is the cause of conflict in some areas. This was clear in West Pokot when we had good times with people of Sigor. The issue was marketing of there harvests eg water melons, and accessing of the youth fund and bursary fund from the top office as they said. They said that bursary is only accessible to the rich and to “do you know anybody”
We worked with religious institutions, in and out of school youth, for peace to prevail from all institutions and groups. Peace clubs was important to school student and we planned to start in areas we do not yet have some of them.
It was clear that youth lack information and for those who have information they do not have the right information. This was when we talked about communication for social change. The mindset and attitude of the people especially in the rural areas and the marginalized brought out clearly that they rely on “hear say” this has affected the growth in the areas. However, many groups both for the youth and others came out to the open and shared in details there mind and the comments was “yes you have good ideas and we are open but we will never see you people again here and you know the information we have now is not enough we would like to learn more.”
Popularize the National Youth Policy, the existence of National Youth Council and encourage active participation in the achievement of the MDGs and Poverty Reduction efforts,
Peace and development should always be factored in especially in areas affected by clashes where they fight for water and food. The caravan participants sensitized the communities and the youth on food security and small micro entrepreneurship through joint community groups to start income generating activity. Team work and group formation was the key issue. It was discussed at length different ways of earning a living for example talent enhancement, organizing merry go round to raise little money to start a small business as a group, Since the youth have the energy to start farming through group labour and grow crops and look for markets of which through the networks and links created, they could be able to market the goods. The statement was, “start small but think big”. The group formation and teamwork was emphasized to create alliance and community ownership. It was also a way of encouraging the youth to work together share ideas and avoid being idle as idle minds is devils workshop.
We mentioned about the youth deployed at the district level who could be of great support to explain on the existence of the National Youth Policy and Council and that it is there right to choose their representative and not waiting to be given a representative.
Increase awareness and share existing efforts in combating HIV/AIDS, TB, Malaria, drugs and substance abuse,
It was resolved that the youth are the most affected by HIV/AIDS and the solution lies solely with them, thus we the youth to decide on what is our way forward for a healthy living. It was a coincidence that we held a joint event with Handicap International – Kitale who carried out free mobile VCT on site as we passed on the message of knowing your status and how to take care of one self. However, it brought the question if you must be HIV negative to be part of the Peace Caravan and the answer was NO. The statistics showed that the number of people tested that day was 80% of any other test they had ever carried out, This was a good demonstration since we had caravan participants who took the chance to know there status. We say that we lead by example.
There was malaria talk in most of the stop over having had a malaria advocacy person on board for the whole caravan. It was emphasized to our fellow youth that we take medicine for the right treatment and with a prescription. To engage in creative innovative activities to ensure that they are not idle for others to misuse them by providing drugs and substance abuse either for consumption or for trafficking. The idea of being somber and your brother’s keeper came out clear. There was discussions on children for the community and youth being responsible in the society by taking care of the girl child to reduce or stop the increased rate of rape and also sodomy. The women talked of the men not taking care of themselves and thus women ought to go for smart old men, thus sex becoming an issue in the family leading to incest and rape. It is our duty as women to take care of our men’s need and vice versa. At the same point the negligence of the boy child was brought out, that the society has neglected the boy child and that women are very much empowered not giving room to the men. The issue of illicit brew drinking and men hygiene is what is giving them threat. We agreed that youth to take care of each other brother sister relationship to maintain culture and social integration. This will significantly reduce health problems, reduce spread of HIIV/AIDS and have a happy society
Facilitate the creation of the Youth Community Peace Flag, a combined creative artwork of traditional objects and ideas that signify peace from the different cultures.
We had few cultural symbols which we agreed with the communities that we shall pick them later after the caravan. We enjoyed cultural foods from different communities who offered to accommodate and feed the participants due to there commendable work they were doing. It was agreed that with when we organize coordinators and group leaders’ workshop we shall come up with a common flag for the youth which will be the symbol of unity for the youth speaking with one voice.
Protect and conserve our natural environment through tree planting.
Healthy living is paramount to each and every human being, thus youth and children making up the highest population in Kenya, it was critical to plant trees to conserve our environment and as a symbol of peace as a process which takes time as the tree grows the peace for sustainable development is symbolized and as a mark that we passed through the areas and what we have planted will grow as the trees grow.
However, we planted about 5,000 trees which were below our target due to lack of money to buy the trees and transport for the same because we were working on negative budget. The youth are ready to take care of the environment and they have started tree nurseries of which the schools are ready to take care of the trees but we do not have the money to buy the trees which are readily available especially in Mukurweini 12,000 seedling are ready to be planted.
Show casing creative innovative and practical entrepreneurial ideas of products and services that use locally available resources using upgraded simple appropriate technologies.
Youth are creative and very innovative, they displayed there talents through songs, dances comedy, businesses, handcrafts to mention but a few. It was clear that to earn income youth need exposure for there talents business and marketing of products especially for youth in rural remote areas and the marginalized.
It was through sharing practical idea that the youth and the community at large started opening up there eyes to break the “normal” life they have been living. For example, a young man has parents who dropped out of school or stopped at class 7 or 8. His parents are carry out subsistence farming and when he dropped out of school in form two due to lack of school fees he joined his parents in the hand to month farming which is there routine. He is now married and his children are in school, he does not even encourage his children to work hard because they will still follow the routine. The youth gave practical example of group farming like growing kales through irrigation, where they have permanent river, for sale or “terere” amaranthas to have plenty from different farmers thus small scale but large scale since they can sell the product in whole sale. Not to wait for the rains only but they practice horticultural farming like in Kirinyaga where they have food security.
The 1,600 km Route:
Nairobi – Nakuru – Sotik – Kisii – Kisumu – Kakamega – Mumias – Bungoma – Kitale – Kapenguria – Chwele – Ortum – Sigor – Kitale – Eldoret – Nyeri – Kihate – Muchatha – Ngamwa – Muranga – Gatundu – Machakos – Salama – Emali – Kibwezi – Mtito Andei – Voi – Mombasa
Day 1: The Peace Caravan was launched in Kangemi, on 14th when the caravan started at 2 pm, the participants enjoyed the camel ride around Kangemi community with support vehicles. This was a way of mobilizing the people in the area and we assembled in Kangemi shopping cente where we have Voluntary Youth Philanthropists Office. The crowd was entertained by VYP youth groups through dances, theatrical performances and poems. There were children displaying their creative art talent. The issue of community policing was brought out, where by the community said they were not confident with what is happening in the area. The police brutality and harassment in different communities was discussed by th youth who said the police patrol arrests people as early as 8pm, the time when women are riting home from the market and they are not excluded in the “jaza” operation. The people advocated for a redefined commuity policing from the community perspective to make it effective.
VYP Director with Jenny (participant) sharing caravan concept
The VYP Director introduced the caravan concept asking the youth to take responsibility and to be involved in coming up with there own solutions of issues affecting them other than waiting for the solutions to be given to them. She did it on top of a camel with clear emphasis that change is a process and it does not come overnight it takes time. It was also a time to ask them to utilize the available resources at there own local level to development oneself and the community at large, to form groups to ensure teamwork and sharing of ideas as two hands are better than one. Our guest of honour lawyer by profession addressed the crowd on the basic rights and community policing for a peaceful co habitation. Having been late to start off the caravan due to the delay of the truck, we were not able to plant trees in Kangemi. We spent the night in the area and started off to Nakuru the following day.
Kangemi Market where caravan started
We left Nairobi kangemi for Nakuru at the crack of dawn with a pick up which carried our equipments in order to meet the truck in Nakuru. At noon we were at the ACK conference centre when the truck arrived and we started off the activities. We worked with the coordinator of ACK and he supported us with generator and youths from the centre. He was our contact person in Nakuru. We had a road show in Nakuru, group discussions, dancing, group identification & formation and tree planting session. The caravan left Nakuru after being flagged off by the head of ACK Nakuru at 6pm and proceeded to Kisii through Sotik.
Day 3: We arrived at Lutheran Guest House at around 11pm where we meet Ken who hosted us in the centre. Just before getting in the gate was knocked down and we had to repair it before living the area the following morning. It being a market day, it was well timely since we had the largest crowd. We started the day in the market place at 10am, community participation was very encouraging and we hard performances until 2 pm. However, before we left the area the issue T-shirt was a problem as the crowd was too large and we had only few to give out after a talent show. As we had planned to buy sugarcanes since they grow in the area and have lunch it was not possible since the crowd kept following us and thus we left to the next stop for lunch and groups discussion. It also started raining as we pulled out of the area, a sign of blessings. We coincidently met with Safariom promotions in the area and had a brief chat. Safariom were part of our sponsors, we had been dressed by them in there t-shirts with the caravan theme but it took us time to inform the audience that we are not part of the promotion and that they had donated the t-shirts to us. It was not only in the area but in all the stop overs where others came to buy safaricom lines and even complain that they were asked to send some money through the phone since they had worn a certain promotion so that they can benefit. However, we had group discussions in the area and later left for Kisumu City.
Day 4: We arrived in Kisumu City at 8pm, Local capacity for peace international and Do No Harm welcomed us. We proceeded to Otonglo where we were being hosted by LCPI and parked the truck at the Otonglo Prison with agreement with the officers on duty. This was a clear sign that even the administration were happy with youth being the change they want to see. After a warm welcome and very delicious meal from one of the community elder, it was very encouraging and motivating for the participants to continue with the caravan despite the difficulties on the way. It was there we had a normal meal after 4 days on the road.
In the morning the sun shone brightly, we started the day with a style, we hired a generator from one of the Churches in the area to start performance in Otonglo at 11am since we had to go to Kisumu City to check on mails and contact friends to send us money for food. The generator did not pick but we met David one of our colleague working in the prisons, who organised the generator and we started the activities at Otonglo. Issue of HIV AIDS is a talking talk as we continued we saw a police car from the prisons carrying corpse of one of the victim. Even the songs and group discussions in the area brought out how HIV/AIDS has spread in the area. At the prison modeling, creativity and training are carried out in the women prison despite of the situations around them. David and Carol joined the caravan and translated the caravan issues to the mother tongue to make it clear and later had a road show in Kisumu City where we were offered Jomo Kenyatta grounds to carry out our performances. It was clear that the community was open for information sharing as information is power. We started performance at 4pm and went on until 8pm. We met different groups and musicians who are willing to volunteer for an open youth educative entertainment day and a fundraising event for the youth to start income generating activities. However, youth from Junior Parliament representative had been sent to ask if we have been sent by NARC Kenya, of which we had to explain to the audience that we are non partisan and that our agenda was youth peace and development at local level. After performances, we were set to leave but the truck caused damage to some blocks in the ground and that delayed the caravan as we waited for the manager and the constructor to come and cost the damage which we were bailed out by one of our friends in Kisumu who paid for it.. We spent another night in Kisumu in the same place (elder) and left the following day.
Day 5: We left Kisumu and headed to Kakamega, enjoying the beauty of the large scale sugarcane growing area and had a chance to enjoy the juice. It was a long journey but soon we were in Bungoma and had a show at the bus stop and the heroes will always be remembered as an artist entertained the crowd with the late Kijana Wamalwa’s song and asked them to unite to continue the work he had stated. A youth leader, it was clear the food security and civic education is what is lacking in the area for sustainable development. We had live media coverage from heart beat fm courtesy of Kumanutsu reaching a wide range of people. Youth fund a question coming every now and then who is it for??? We explained and informed them that there are youth officers at the Division level whom they should meet for more information and advice. It is clear that there is much more to be done to educate the youth on how to access the fund and that it is for all the youth both in rural and marginalized and urban youth. After performing in the area, there was a delay because the truck driver was not feeling well and we had to go to hospital where we received good assistance from the AMREF staff and left after 45minutes. We headed for Kitale and Kapenguria, and stopped at Chwele to talk with the Mt. Elgon Victims no performance since it was getting dark. We left for West Pokot spent a night at World Vision.
Day 6: We spent a night at World Vision guest house courtesy of World Vision Kenya. We went to the shopping centre the following day and had a good performance in partnership with Handicap International Kitale who were carrying out free VCT mobile clinic and even some of our participants had a chance to know there status. It was a clear sign that youth can work together if we have a voice. A woman raised a question of her grandchildren education which she does not have school fees and told them about the bursary fund and to my surprise it was said that it does not trickle down to the common person or at the grassroots only managed at the top. The youth in the area came up with the idea of farming where they said they have the labour but raised the issue of marketing of the product. We agreed that they start farming and involve others to market the products. The youth in the area said they have decided to start farming to break the cycle since cattle rustling and food insecurity is what brings clashes in the area.. We left for Ortum at around noon, church elders and some youth had group discussion and participants visited one of the water falls and left.
We started off to Tot but after few kilometers deep down in the forest we found that the road bridge had been swept away. We tried to look for a way through even to work with the community (Pokot) to help us make a road but it was impossible. As the driver tried to turn the truck it got stack and it took us 4 hours to remove it from the place. However, the Pokot kept us company and when some were helping to remove the truck, we had a baraza with the youth to discuss our reason for being there. As much as camels were not a centre of attraction to the Pokots the truck was, as they said they had never seen such a vehicle in the area before. They came to see the trailer and we used this time for group discussion. We discussed their culture development, security … it was an open discussion. At first we feared that they will attack us as we know they fight but they explained to us what happens and why they fight with Turkana and others. However, give credit where it is due, West Pokot is totally a different Kenya with very beautiful landscape, very hospitable people and security for each other. I will give an example where by women walk freely day and night without fear of rape or harassment a question I had raised and at around 8 pm a middle aged woman passed the area without fear. I left the group and followed her to confirm if she is not fearing to walk alone, she said “ we only fear animals but not human being because our community takes care of each other”. That was very encouraging. In the caravan participant we were only two young women and we feared that they might take advantage of that but we sat with them until the last minute when we had bound and wished we could stay a bit longer. They invited us for a workshop in August when the schools will be closed for a 3 days training and exposure. We left the area at 9pm and we drove back to Kitale at 2.30am, where we had super and spent the night in the truck.
Day 7: We had breakfast in Kitale and started early for Eldoret since we could not manage to go to Tot, Kolowa and Chemoringot. We had not planed an event in Eldoret, thus after arriving we went to look for the best sight and had a road show in the area upto the site where we stopped for the performance. It was a bit difficult to have crowd in the area since there wasn’t any organizer on the ground despite the music. The crowd turned up at around one o’clock when the students came for lunch and joined the participants. However, the crowd started building slowly and we managed to pass the message across and got contacts on the ground and they requested notice earlier next time and have more time in the area. We delayed living Eldoret due to lack of fuel for the truck; we were waiting for one of the caravan committee member to send some money for fuel and food. We left Eldoret at around 5pm heading to Nyeri since we could not manage to have any other performance at Maringat because it was late. The truck driver after living Nakuru on our way to Nyahururu, somewhere down the hill decided to stop the truck for a nap. Some proposed that we go behind the truck to give him room to sleep but he did not like it and said we do not take care of him and he started the journey. We arrived in Nyeri at 3am and the place we had organised to sleep was not far from town he did not want to go further so we slept at the petrol station 3 kilometrees away from our destination and we slept in the truck again. It was hard for us but we still had the spirit to continue.
Day 8: In Nyeri we were at youth and children empowerment centre where we slept for a while and got ready for the next event but we had tire puncture which had to be taken care of before starting the day. We met Dr. Karanja who was ones Nyeri town mayor who talked to us and commended the youth for taking the front role to address there own issues. He directed the truck to the police post where we parked it during our time in Nyeri.
In the Centre which takes care of street children and orphans we addressed the children who were very friendly and open to share there experience through group discussion. Creativity and innovative ideas are dominating within the former street children. It was clear that we should enhance talents to career for income generating activities. It is not only education that can help one be self reliant in life. We forged partnership with the project Manager whom we shall be working with on eco village for large scale farming to ensure food security.
We left same day to Kihate where we joined the Minister for information and Communication during a fundraising to build a secondary school for the poor in Mukurwe ini. Hon. Minister Mutahi Kagwe officially launched the caravan and he promised to support the idea since it is for the youth in the country. However, the coordinator of the National Peace Caravan is from His Constituency and one of the aim of the caravan is to encourage the youth to use the available resources at the grassroots level working with those in authority in order to develop our community. We requested him to talk to the government to start government tailored volunteerism policy so that those who want to volunteer to empower others could also benefit. The caravan participants spent the night in one of the villager who provided food and accommodation, this was a clear indication that Peace Caravan was a worth course both to the youth and the community
Day 9: The caravan left for Muchatha in Mukurwe ini which was a market day and we had performances and group discussions. It is in the area where hand to mouth farming practices is done throughout the year. Meaning when the rains are not enough they will have to be given food by the government. The youth in the area discussed about the utilization of the natural resources available in the area since it is considered under developed despite the resources (Indigenous trees with cultural significance, water falls, birds only found in the area, caves, unique hill – where one can see all the mukurweini area and beyond from the top with good camping landscape) to start social sensitive tourism to promote the area.
We left later to Ngamwa where we held another performance, it was getting late and one of the business man in the centre offered free wiring for electricity and we used the community support to share the information. HIV/AIDS is too much in the area, high rates of crime, early pregnancy, abortion and student teachers affairs are at large. It pains to learn that the same school we went through, which produced the National best two student during the start of 8-4-4 can not even breed a provincial student. When I talked to one of my former teachers he said, “If one wants to gain experience you go to that school and I will come back there when I will be almost retiring to rest.” The question is who has failed? The teachers in the school take there children to school 10 kilometres away and renting a house for there wives so that the children can get better education , so what are they doing in the same schools if it is not performance oriented? This are just but some of the comments and experiences through the caravan. Abortion is at large in the area being carried out by parents of the young women who gets pregnant as early as at the age of 14 years.
One of the old woman who hosted us for two nights in the area shared her experience to us with her grand children who later get children and drop out of school thus no one to break the poverty cycle. The area is very poor and below is a photo of our host and her grandchildren. It is really a sympathizing situation not only in this area but in most of the rural areas. Other grandparents have there grandchildren orphaned by HIV/AIDS and for sure it is an epidemic in the area as the statistics shows both in hospital and from the area administration whom we had a chance to have a round table discussion. When will these women have time for themselves with 3-8 grand children waiting to be feed at the end of the day?
Day 10: It was a bright day and we took breakfast at one of the shopping centre where we mingled with the people in the community and the same “chapatti” which costs 20 shillings was sold to us at 10 shillings for sure we could not eat more than one due to the size. We headed to Muranga and upto to Gatundu where we had the climax of the caravan, the area was very well arranged and they fundraised for the event in the areas of Kiambu. It was in the areas where we met with the physically challenged women who are empowered and advocating for their rights. One of them gave a speech and called on youth and women to join hands and talk with one voice in order to have the change we want to see. She taught the youth the slogan“ nothing for us without us” and this was a wake up call for the youth to be at the centre of decision making and getting involved in leadership. The issues of accountability was like a statement throughout the caravan and in Gatundu where we had a representative from the youth ministry, youth asked questions on the issue of youth fund and who is benefiting. It was explained but it seemed that it was not clear and we requested the youth in the area to visit the office and learn more. As they promised to release funding for those who have qualified, we ask the youth to go and inquire how they were selected. The issue of rape through theatrical performances was brought out, corruption through comedies poem and music for talent discovery with educative message were performed. We left Gatundu at 7pm heading to Nairobi
Day 11: It was a public holiday and we took a day off in Nairobi. It was a chance for the coordinator to request for well-wishers to donate towards the caravan to enable it continues its journey to Mombasa since we did not have fuel and food.
Day 12: A press conference was organised at Fiesta restaurant Chester house and invited Wanyoike as a case study to encourage the youth whatever one is going through it only takes determination to move a step further and achieve your goal. However, the media turn out was very poor and some said we have ministerial function and since it is a political year they compete for who will report fast but not with the youth initiative like the caravan. Some asked who is behind it, who is the key person and since the caravan is a youth and youth lead initiative it was not possible to get the wide coverage.
We later went to pick the trees at AAR Gigiri had lunch and left for Machakos where we spent the night. In one of the local hotel where we had our super, we met a young man and engaged him why he is working in Machakos and he is from Murang’a, Kariuki was very friendly and explained that “if this is where am able to make a living to me it doesn’t matter where I am” This is an indication that we the youth do not look at tribal issues what matters is where you are comfortable and integrate easily. The youth do not know about tribal differences it is being brought to us by the politician for there own political gain. It is a divide and rule spirit which the youth well informed are ready to break it.
Day 13: We woke up in Machakos took breakfast and with the coordinator on the ground, started to organize for the day event. Whoever, it was not to be because of the Municipal council in Machakos wanted us to pay for there permit despite of the permit from the police. The permit was costing about ksh 2,025 of which we did not have as we were operating on negative budget and the bureaucracy was so involving. With the fatigue we had, it was not possible for us to start the process which was time consuming knowing the task ahead. Despite the groups organised for performance we had to take the painful decision of living to the next destination. We headed to Salama where we performed and Emali where we received hero’s welcome and we were given electricity for free, since the generator we had had developed some problems, which was the community contribution. We had performances and group discussions. It is in this area we discussed on HIV/AIDS which rings bell in the area due to the truck drivers and tourists who pass through the areas. We had a chance to talk to some of the truck drivers and asked them if they have there own group where they meet to discussion issues affecting them of which they mentioned that it is in a process of being formed and they will look for those who will manage it.
It was very contradicting because the food in the area was very expensive contrary to the accommodation which is extremely cheap. Does this have something to do with the high rate of immorality in the area? We enjoyed our sleep under mosquito net, clear sign that those are areas of mosquito and malaria campaign was timely and there is need for sensitization. Youth fund was also an issue where some of the youth groups applied and they had not received any communication. They wanted to know the criteria used to select the best group, of which we referred them to the area SDO and the youth representative in the division for more information.
Day 14: We woke up in Mtito Andei and had group discussions with some youth in the area at the office of the President chief’s office, Chief and the Assistant Chief who were present, promised to be involved in the mobilization of the youth in the area for possible future trainings. We then left for Voi at around 10am., arrived at 12noon. We had a problem with the parking of the truck. It was then we went to the Coast bus booking office and talked to the person in charge, we shared the idea and he allowed the truck to be parked outside there office. The show started at 2pm with the Baraka FM presenter and participant who had arrived. We started the show and no sooner that later when the Voi city council arrived demanding for the license to have the meeting, it is with special thanks to the gentleman at the coast bus booking office who told them that it was him who gave us the permission since it was there parking which they pay. The performances were extra ordinary with a street boy singing the best rap song talking about HIV/AIDS and I quote “HIV/AIDS is real let those who have ears hear” it was and is the best rap we ever heard during the caravan. The talent and creativity was well displayed and look forward to enhancing the same to youths for a living. Dancing was also taking the floor and for sure we need clubs to utilize the talents. We started off to Mombasa at 5pm.
Peace and peace alone is what will join us in this world, we peacefully arrived in Mombasa at around 8pm parked the truck and the drivers were happy to meet there fellow truck drivers. We left them and went to Mishomoroni where we were hosted by a youth after enjoying the cultural meal in the city. Mombasa is crowded at night with lots of movement, one would wonder if the day begins at 7pm in the evening. However, with the company of our youth host we left for mishomoroni at around 10pm. We had participant discussion on the end of caravan performance and arrangement for departure. We had a chance to watch News and then retired to bed at ones leisure.
Day 15: We work up at 6.30 since we had few things to accomplish before starting the event. We had planned that Mombasa mayor was to welcome us to Mombasa and end the caravan, but it was never to be since he lost the court case and stepped down. Thus there was a lot to be done, to clear some uncertainties and unexpected. After getting ready, some of the participants did not take the day seriously probably because it was the last day, so those who were ready left at 9.30am after long waiting for some who had not had there breakfast yet and asked them to meet at Tononoka grounds where we were scheduled to perform. However, as the time trickled by the participants had not arrived at 12.30pm and we decided to start the road show as we proceded to Pirates Public Beach. The caravan started but at the city we were caught by the City Council and we had to part with some cash to be allowed to continue with our event of which we did not want to disappoint the audience waiting at the pirates. We had been accompanied by Baraka FM media presenter and our guide to the area since some of us; it was our first time in Mombassa.
We meet the other participants in the beach and joined to start off the performances. It was unique in Mombasa that women are more open than men, an indication which came out when we called out for youth to come on stage to compete for the t-shirt through dancing, ladies were the first on stage and rely even judging who gets the award was very difficult. Children (young girls) were not left out too when they were given a chance. We were curious if they are taught how to dance but the answer was, “that is what we do at night”. However, rap music with messages were sang by youth in the area. Also groups came up to register and others were formed and we had great performances from an organized youth beach group who we shall be working together. We encouraged talent enhancement as that is what came out clear in Mombasa as a source of income generating activity.
All the activities during the caravan as it snaked through the town / communities included:
Road Shows – The caravan included use of camels that were closely followed by a support car in Kangemi since the truck had not arrived. This kind of show attracted a large number of people that closely followed the caravan from point to another. In other areas we used the truck which was a complete stage with a public address and entertainers to go round the shopping centers and towns talking on issues revolving the caravan.
Music/ Concert/ theatrical performances/ talent show/ poems/ – Organised youth groups entertained people as well as sensitizing them on issues relating to HIV/AIDS, malaria, rape, boy child, drug and substance abuse insecurity, corruption and poverty reduction. All this with a warning to youth against risking their lives through promiscuous sexual behavior. These shows were done at the venue of meeting. This helped some of them to stir up their potential and expose their talents. It was fun seeing children break dance, jig jog and do all forms of dancing, while adult youths competed amongst one another. It was fun as various took to the podium to dance.
Talent development was encouraged. The winner under each category was given a T-shirt. All this was done on voluntary basis, a clear sign youth can speak with one voice with the necessary information which is power. This was to encourage community solutions where they know and understand there own situation and they come up with there own solution. Thus with the knowledge and information they are able to work towards realizing there own objectives. It was also to encourage ownership of ideas; this made it easy to have an entry point of information communication. The rural and marginalized communities face very difficult challenges, where by one talks of a computer and they do not even know how the electricity light looks like just an example thus despite the extreme poverty situation in the area they still have there own solutions. It is through the solutions that we encouraged them to come up with ideas which could make people self reliant through ones hard work.
Speeches – The gatherings along the road and at strategic point of town they were addressed by officials of VYP (Voluntary Youth Philanthropist) and other co-ordinators from different parts of the country. The youth were encouraged to be the change they want to see by seeking for information and utilizing it and to live in harmony with one another for a peaceful co-existence. The youth were challenged to come up with as many youth groups as they can to share ideas on development and talent enhancement. In areas affected by conflict introduction of sports which is a unifying factor for the youth was encouraged. The idea of initiating Kenya Youth Community was also raised where the participants expressed the need for a united Kenya Youth Community. Various issues were also highlighted including anti-narcotics and drugs campaign, HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD’s), campaigns for positive behavior change and issues relating to empowerment of girl child and boy child –challenges thereof and rape. Increased cases of rape raised fear among many youths –it was revealed.
The coordinator encouraged youth to take charge at all developing projects in the community and request for accountability of government funded projects in there respective areas. She cautioned the youths against drugs and alcoholic substance. She also explained the danger posed by girl-child empowerment. She campaigned for gender equality and equity. She encouraged the youths to form groups that pertinent issues affecting them and apply for the funding in the youth development fund. The local leaders addressed the gathering; they included councilor, area sub-chief, church leaders, youth group leaders and other administration / community leaders who were available on site.
Tree-planting –With the effect of the global warming which is threatening the climate change in the world, the caravan moved along planting trees in areas visited as a mark that we passed the area and as they implement the change, they know that change is a process and takes time and needs to be taken care off as they take care of the seedlings and watch it grow, at the same time for environmental conservation.
Other Activities –Several other activities were carried out as the caravan proceeded from place to another. These included entertainment by various women groups and deejays. Carrying out research on different economic activities in different areas, like cash crop growing, fishery, what is average in every homestead ie the number of cattle, goats, chicken, source of income, means of cooking, religious institution, vocational trainings, number of schools in the areas, means of communication … to have an idea of the economic and social development.
The co-ordinators of the peace camel caravan met with various leaders and prospective leaders of youth groups who expressed the need for more days to carry out trainings on youth leadership, entrepreneurship and civic education, changing of attitude, perceptions and mind set of the people. Another peace caravan where the formation of a Kenyan Youth Community can be actualized. They also felt that the publicity of the caravan was sufficient and therefore there was need for action for development in future.
Youth and Government to work together by having a government spearheaded volunteerism policy to encourage more people to respect volunteers and promote youth empowerment.
Youth as a challenge to engage in volunteerism for community development and experiences. To lobby and demand for accountability on all the government funded projects eg Community Development Fund, Bursary … to ensure that is is well utilized since they are in a better position to monitor the use of funds in there respective areas.
Youth request to the private sectors to encourage the employees to get involved in there own community through mentorship to the communities’ projects. The Corporate Social Responsibility to be funding innovative youth and women projects at the grassroots levels giving them a chance to prove themselves through mesh mentors and volunteers from the companies.
Youth organization and agencies to enhance youth skills, talents and empowerment through trainings for sustainable development of the society at large.
Monitoring and Evaluation
The project’s success was being monitored on a continuous basis. After the performances in every stop over, we could request 3 people from the audience to comment on event. The issues raised during the project execution were noted. This helped the project management to know the extent of success of the project. The questions asked by the participants also provided a guideline in project evaluation. We received invitations by religious leaders eg from Presbyterian Church of East Africa to go and talk to the youth during youth seminar, head of schools to give motivational talks to students in schools and women groups requested to be trained on business management. The contacts of more than a thousand youth groups who registered to be members of VYP was a clear sign that caravan was a success and even the follow up phone calls, SMS and even letters. A follow-up will be done in all the areas where the caravan passed through workshop.
Lack of funds:The project would have been such a great success were it fully sponsored. There was scarcity of finances and the projects had to be executed entirely on a voluntary basis. However, there was need for funds to meet some financial obligations, of which we had delays in some areas due to lack of fuel for the truck. We were able to have food for one meal and a breakfast only in most of the days. In some areas we were not able to arrive at the next destination for accommodation. Most of the times we slept in the truck with few sleeping bags and tents, thus it was like sleeping out in the cold. One could wonder why we continued but the turn out and reception in different areas gave us the motivation and the zeal. Most of the expenses were not covered by the coordinator of the PEACE CARAVAN as she got most of the things on credit, thus she is in a process of organizing for a fundraising event to cover the debts and follow up projects which should not be the case, for a community empowerment project and especially for youth.
Co-operation from local leaders: It was quite unfortunate that we did not get full support of some of the local leaders as we had anticipated. Support from local leaders was especially very important in ensuring success of this project. We started experiencing bureaucracy problem especially with the city council from Machakos where we did not even perform because we did not have the City Council permit and the protocol involved was so demanding. This made it impossible for us to have any performance despite pre-arrangement. However, even political interest among the youth was a hidden obstacle from the council with many youth going for political positions in the area.
Media coverage Extensive media coverage during the caravan was a challenge even where they were available they did not air the coverage. We have no idea what was the reason, and wondered why the development issue like youth initiative could not get the coverage and a political rally does, despite majority of journalists being young people.
Organizing Committee Some of the youth in the organizing committee pulled out after we failed to raise the targeted funds to run the caravan. This was a clear sign that youth fear to take challenges which is the only way to succeed. Putting blames to one another when working as a team is normally not a solution to a problem. The way to go is through communication which helps one understand a mistake or a misunderstanding; this was a real problem with some of the committee members.
The PEACE CARAVAN being a tool for social change will continue encouraging the youth to communicate and share information for positive change, to understand situation and identify there own influence for positive development. It is through the knowledge of the situation that youth will be able to addressing there social economic and political issues freely thus advocating for social justice. Since we know ourselves and our own challenges, it is through self determination, tolerance and participation that we shall be able to be empowered socially economically and politically in a very positive manner.
Linking of youth groups and creating alliance is also very essential since different groups have different ideas and all requires youth to share experiences on how one group was able to tackle an issue and so forth. Through the groups networked and involved it was clear that youth lack information. We plan to counter this through youth leadership training, group networking and alliance, open forums to mention a few.
The PEACE CARAVAN will be an annual event which will be an evaluation and monitoring tool for the groups formed on the ground especially in the rural remote and marginalized areas. After the trainings and group formation with income generating activities and especially those who incorporate Voluntary Youth Philanthropists objectives. Also the groups formed during the caravan will be part of the organizing committee during the caravan organizations to follow to ensure ownership.
To counter the challenges we plan to contact donors as early as possible and have a roundtable meeting with donors in order to involve them during the planning process. We shall also be having the caravan in September since it is a world day of peace falls in the month to ensure it is appropriate time to campaign for youth as agents of change through peace and development
The caravan organizing committee will be drawn from Voluntary Youth Philanthropist with volunteers from VYP member groups at the grassroots.
Skillshare International, Peacenet Kenya, KeNAAM, Safaricom Ltd, AAR Beckmann Foundation, Baraka FM, World Vision and individual well wishers.