Serving hope in drought-stricken Turkana

As Turkana suffers from the on-going effects of a devastating drought, our content development manager Shona visits a nursery providing hope amidst the crisis.

Shona Shea
Shona Shea
Content Development Manager

Back to all stories | Posted on 17 Apr 2017 in Blog

For families in Turkana in northern Kenya, the ongoing drought means life is a constant fight for survival. Its impact can be felt all around; there is thirst and hunger, livestock are decimated, livelihoods are destroyed and disease is prevalent. With the next rainy season predicted to fail, the situation seems likely to deteriorate. 

Having visited Karubangorok Early Childhood Development centre (ECD) in Turkana, the help Mary’s Meals can offer in a desperate situation like this is very clear to me. The meals not only provide a powerful incentive to come to school, but are a vital lifeline for vulnerable children in need of nourishment.

The first thing I notice on my visit to the ECD is the tidy school yard, marked out by a wooden fence. There are little children appearing from every direction, dressed in neat, green school uniforms; some arrive with parents, and others make the journey on their own, but all look happy to have arrived at the classroom. 

Made of branches and a thatched roof, the classroom is a simple structure but what lies within is what really counts. Here, a large group of children gather to listen intently to their teacher as he introduces the lessons for the day. 

The enthusiasm for school is palpable here. The children may be too young to fully understand what life might be like without these meals or the importance of an education, and what this might mean for their future. Yet they sit together, listening attentively to their teacher and clearly relishing the opportunity. 

As they get on with their lessons, I meet a local farmer who is growing crops in a school garden designed to help supplement the feeding programme. Turkana is an arid desert land where rivers run dry and crops and livestock struggle to survive. A third consecutive year of scarce rainfall makes any sort of farming nearly impossible, but with training and support from our partner Caritas Lodwar, the farmer is rightly proud of the melon, kale and maize he has already grown. This provides him with a steady income and the children with a mix of fruit and vegetables which they’d rarely receive elsewhere. 
Then I meet the cooks, three strong women who prepare nutritious meals for the children every school day. They laugh as I ask to take a photograph and then promptly shoo me out of the way when the porridge is ready to be carried to the classroom. 

There is something special about this centre. The teacher is committed and kind, the children are enthused and playful, and there are signs of real progress and promise for the future with the garden, and support from the community. 

It’s a sign of what can happen when opportunity and hope come together, even as the challenges they face seem enormous. In this remote part of Kenya – where there is no electricity, little water and it’s more common to see a camel than a car – Mary’s Meals is bringing both, served up in the shape of a cup of porridge or a plate of maize and beans.