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Lasting impressions of an inspiring trip to Kenya

26 Jul 2011

Outside the community project with some of the Mangu residentsThis June, I spent a day with my son and his wife, amidst a team dedicated to empowering older people in a poor area of Kenya. I was visiting a project as part of my job working for Age UK, HelpAge International's sister organisation.  

That was inspiring in itself; however it was meeting the older people who were leading their local community, which was the really moving and humbling experience of our visit to Mangu, Kenya.

The projects we visited are funded by The Big Lottery (UK) through HelpAge International and HelpAge Kenya and are carried out through local organisations.

Lasting impressions

The first project provides funding for work for older people with orphans and vulnerable children. The second supports older people, orphans and vulnerable children affected by HIV and AIDS. We were lucky enough to meet the planners, the shapers and the receivers of both projects. This gave us a sense of both why they had been put in place and how successful they were.

There are so many positive things to say but here I focus on the areas that left a lasting impression.

Firstly, the project's ambition was to put local people at the heart of the decision-making and give them the power and financial means to change the lives of the more underprivileged in their communities.

The management committees we met (made up of older people from each local community) had been allocated a budget, which they can loan to other older people. The committees were empowered through micro-financing training and the people who received the loans now have the means to help their families who have been affected by HIV and AIDS.

Empowering and energising older people

In essence the strength of these programmes is their ability to empower and energise older people to be part of the solution to their problems.  We saw how such a simple idea as using a loan to buy a cow could make such a difference financially and emotionally, especially in households where grandma is supporting her own mother and three orphaned children under five.

It was obvious as an outsider that the team running the programmes were full of enthusiasm and competency. I have nothing but admiration for the way in which their desire to help alleviate both emotional trauma and economic hardship for older people was unstinting.

Older people as decision-makers and problem solvers

The same was true for those local older people who made up the committees. Again, they showed they had collective wisdom in abundance with great foresight and understanding of how help provided by one's peers can really affect change within communities.

As well as the financial support, the programmes promote and support community involvement and build older people's self-esteem. Most importantly they ensure people are at the centre of solving problems and decision-making in their own communities.

Finally, I was impressed by how much joy and pleasure the programmes gave the older people who were part of the programmes. We couldn't fail to be humbled by those we met and the richness of the welcome we received.

I am grateful to have seen at first hand such inspiring and hopefully long lasting programmes at work through which local people are at the heart of changing their own lives and communities.

Read more about the work we do in Kenya and HIV and AIDS

Your comments

John King'ori

Thank you for your visit to kenya and you blog is very inspiring, i personaly work with a project funded by Helpage UK via helpage kenya. the project is located in the north eastern part of kenya (WAJIR); Next time you visit kenya welcome to Day care centre for grannies and see what we are doing to empower the aged here to be self reliance through estalishing small busines for them that earn them income and get their basic needs and those of the orphaned grandchildren they live with. Thankk you and be blessed.

Terry Obath

As Chairman of HelpAge Kenya, I am so happy to read about your impressions on the Kenya BIG Lottery project. We may be a very small outfit but through working with others and through enthusiasm and dedication, we are able to deliver to both donor and beneficiary. It is very gratifying when someone actually points out the worth of our work. It does not happen often. Thank you for giving us an incentive to carry on with this work.


Hey, good to find someone who aegres with me. GMTA.


It's ipmreative that more people make this exact point.

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Roger Howarth
Country: U.K

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These blogs are personal reflections and do not necessarily reflect the views of HelpAge International.