Laura Purves, Humanitarian team trainee, writes:
An English(wo)man, a Kenyan, and two Eritreans are sat in the back of a landcruiser. No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke…but instead the start of a unique field visit for one of CAFOD’s humanitarian partners. In January 2012, our Eritrean partner arrived in Kenya to conduct an exposure visit and see, first hand, some of the humanitarian programmes in the Horn and East Africa region.
The unlikely party visited the Catholic Diocese of Kitui which is situated about three hours east of Nairobi, in what is termed as Kenya’s semi-arid lands region. The region was badly affected by last year’s drought, and was the one of the target areas for our emergency response. We spent three jam packed days in the area and were lucky enough to visit several of the Diocese’s recent and ongoing programmes, ranging from water dams to livestock restocking and agricultural trainings.
As we arrived on the scene we were greeted by a crowd of people, who were benefiting from our programmes in the area. The scene was electric – blues, oranges and purple all merging together as we were treated to some traditional chanting, singing and dancing. Our Eritrean visitors were immediately drawn into the fray and taught a few of the local moves, proving once and for all that rhythm is the same in every language.
Once the celebrations had petered out, we were able to speak to some of the community members and acquire an insight into the daily lives of people living in and around Kitui, before moving onto the next site on our itinerary. Over the next few hours, we were invited into people’s homes to meet their newly acquired goats and were even able to broaden our minds by briefly joining a post-harvest management training session.
At each project site, our friends from Eritrea were able to discuss the technical aspects of activities with relevant Diocesan programme staff – picking up hints and tips for future programme planning. The interaction between the two partners was truly inspirational. They live over 1,000 miles apart, facing different contexts and officially don’t even speak the same language, and yet there was a huge willingness to learn from each other, continue a working relationship and build upon the gains made by this visit. As I watched them standing together discussing programme issues, I was both struck by their solidarity and proud of our role in bringing them together.
I hope that soon we will have another nationality in the landcruiser. Perhaps, next time, a South Sudanese partner? A Tanzanian? An Ethiopian? Or even someone from somewhere further afield. The possibilities and benefits of such exposure visits are endless.