Maindi, who comes from the Rendille community (one of the indigenous tribes in Kenya) with a vibrant and strong culture, can now regularly attend school thanks to the Compassion assisted project.
Maindi wakes up amidst coughing and burning eyes as smoke fills the little hut her family shares. She sits up on the mattress placed on the floor in a corner of the room, her eyes slowly becoming accustomed to the bright rays of sunlight streaking into the hut. Outside, the warm golden rays of the sun gradually appearing over the horizon reveal a little manyatta (village) called Nebei (which means peace in the local language), located in Korr, 500 kilometers northeast of Nairobi. Koreiya, Maindi’s mother, has been up for a while and is seated by the fireplace. “We have to be up very early in order to prepare for the day,” she says as she places a pot filled with water on the fire. “My husband went to milk the camels so that he can make it to the market in time since today is also our weekly market day.”
Eight-year-old Maindi is a grade 1 student at Tirim Primary school. She is also a sponsored child at the Compassion center at KE0247 African Inland Church (A.I.C) Korr since 2015. Saturdays are important because Maindi has to complete her chores early in order to make it to the center on time. Koreiya and her husband Ntitiya have five children. “Sitayo, my eldest daughter, is 13; she helps with the small animals. Maindi is the fourth born and the only one of my children who attends school because the project greatly assists with her school fees and supplies,” says Koreiya.
Pastor Mathew Erot, the patron at KE0247, is no stranger to the living conditions in Korr, having been born and raised here. “In the Rendille community, the majority of inhabitants are still deeply rooted in culture and tradition. Education is not valued since children are considered as readily available labor to help the family look after their goats and sheep, which are the only source of livelihood. Boys and girls as young as 2 years old stay out in the bush for prolonged periods of time tending to the animals. A huge task bestowed on children,” says Mathew.
The livestock provides three staple foods to the Rendille—meat, milk and blood. Koreiya is a stay-at-home mum who ensures that her family is well taken care of. She cooks, cleans and tends to the family’s smaller animals. Her husband Ntitiya is a pastoralist and spends many days away from home, especially during dry season when he is with the camels in search of pasture. The camel is a prized possession amongst the Rendille. It is a man’s responsibility to look after it. The camel adapts to the arid conditions of the territory and is therefore considered very valuable.*
Times are often difficult especially for the herders, but the rains have recently returned. The dust is gone, flattened by the pounding drops. Slowly, the changes are becoming noticeable with small shoots starting to push their way up through the earth bringing with them hope of better times ahead.
“Drought is very common and during those times many days are spent hungry, fearful and not knowing where the next meal is coming from or where they might be living on a particular day. The northeastern region has become the poster child for drought relief in the recent past,” says Pastor Mathew.
Agriculture is virtually impossible and, therefore, Koreiya and her husband have to purchase food stuff like maize, rice and vegetables from the stores, which can be very expensive. The harsh climate has borne its brunt on the family in the past.
“We named our daughter Maindi, which means maize (or corn), since she was born during a time of abundance, just after the community had faced the worst famine ever, in which we lost almost all our animals and a few lives,” recalls Koreiya.
It’s these climatic conditions that make the Rendille nomads, never staying long in the same place. They are constantly on the move in search of water sources and pasturing grounds for their animals.
Manyattas move up to a minimum of three times a year. The manyattas are composed of a group of semi-spherical huts made of branches and covered with leather or canvas. The establishment of centers like the child development center and availability of water from government dug wells means manyattas tend to be more stable now and when necessarily, only the men and the animals migrate. Women are charged with the duty of taking the houses apart and putting them back in the new location. Koreiya is a hardworking woman and at every opportunity takes time to pass on her skills to Maindi and her eldest daughter Sitayo. “According to the Rendille, without women there is no light – which means that a woman has to have the necessary skills to take care of her family,” says Koreiya. Maindi is now dressed in a blue flowered dress—a birthday gift from her sponsor— and adorned with a brightly colored traditional necklace made of beads. She excitedly hops to the goat pen and begins to separate the kids from their mothers in preparation for milking, a daily routine that she has become accustomed to. Maindi’s tiny fingers squeeze the goat’s udder, releasing a stream of milk into her cupped hand, the sweet scent of warm milk mingling with the earthy smell of goats and fresh dung. She raises her hand towards her mouth with streaks of milk running through her fingers and down her arm. Koreiya laughs out loud. “She is a very cheeky one. That is her favorite part about milking the goats. But I am glad that she helps around here even with the little things. We are also happy that she is in the project because she can attend school unlike her siblings and hopefully help her family in future,” says Koreiya. The Rendille community practices early marriages which are coupled with various other ceremonies that infringe upon the rights of children.
Koreiya was married off very young and never went to school. She is determined to make sure that none of her daughters, especially Maindi, have to go through the challenges she faced. “Young girls are ‘booked’ at a very early age by older men. They marry as young as ten or twelve years. The Rendille women’s shift from maidenhood to matrimony is manifested by the agonizing rite of female genital mutilation (FGM), which happens in private on the very morning of her wedding. The church is on the forefront of fighting these retrogressive cultural practices but it is a very difficult task since they are done in darkness,” laments Pastor Mathew.
But for the 255 children like Maindi who are fortunate to have been registered in the Compassion center, the church makes sure they are able to get a proper education, be allowed to be children and learn the word of God. Additionally, the girls are educated about the dangers of FGM. “Our partnership with Compassion is really God sent. If it means that children can have the opportunity for a better life, then the church is willing to do all it can to give them a brighter future,” says Pastor Mathew, with optimism in his voice.