How Nuru Kenya has transformed Migori County, my hometown
These days, I enjoy working side-by-side with Nuru Kenya Country Director Pauline Wambeti, leading a staff team 250 strong. Since 2008, we’ve enabled over 78,000 people in Kuria West (Migori County) to take their very first steps on the road out of extreme poverty; and what a difference our work has made. However, I remember the old days in Kuria West. There weren’t many smiles on the faces of the mothers and fathers of the land. But today I smile. The village is different. There is a light of hope that was not visible before.
This is my story from my childhood. Children growing up in Kuria West today do not believe my story because it doesn’t seem possible. The darkness that I saw in my life is no longer here. And that is good.
I grew up in a family of nine. My parents were peasant farmers who grew maize, potatoes, cassava and sorghum. They had five acres of land. When things were going well, they would rent land from neighbors to plant more crops to support our hungry family. But even with our family’s plot and additional land, my parents could not farm enough food to provide us with a daily meal.
Even as children, we had to work hard during planting, weeding and harvesting times. Schooling was of secondary importance, not because our parents didn’t value education, but simply because they could not afford school fees and the loss of labor. Fewer kids helping farm meant less food on the table for all of us.
Our harvest never produced enough to last until the next farming season. My parents could not afford to buy good seed or fertilizer. They used the same maize seed and (what I now know to be) the same outdated farming methods every year. Almost every family in the district lived like ours.
There were not many healthcare services available, and those that did exist, were far too expensive for the families of Kuria West. Children dying under the age of five was the norm. Diseases like kwashiorkor (malnutrition), diarrhea, malaria and other preventable diseases caused havoc among the families. Pregnant mothers could not afford prenatal care and the majority of them delivered in their homes through the help of traditional midwives. I saw my older brother’s baby die during birth due to a complication that I now know could have easily been prevented with basic medical services.
Secondary education was only for the few whose families could afford school fees. Most teenagers dropped out of school after Standard 8 exams, got married, and started the whole cycle of poverty over again.
My parents discussed with the school headmaster the option of supplying maize to pay for my secondary education. Many families attempted to pay for their children’s education this way, but the practice usually lasted only one season until the maize ran out. Still my parents cared for me, and worked to harvest enough maize to pay for my first year of secondary school.
My opportunity to receive a full secondary education was a miracle; it came from an accident.
While walking to class during my second week at school, I was hit by a car. The accident left my leg fractured, and I was hospitalized for three months at the Migori Ombo Mission Hospital, the only missionary hospital in the area. The owner of the car was a senior government official who committed to paying not only for my medical treatment, but for my secondary education as well. He transferred me to a boarding school to complete my education. I vowed to make the most of this gift, this miracle, to change the conditions that my family, and every other family faced.
Eventually I earned my Higher Diploma in Business Administration and a BS in Commerce with a specialization in Accounting. I became a Certified Public Accountant (CPA K) and Certified Public secretary (CPS K). I had the opportunity to work as a Management Reporting Accountant for Union Logistics (UTI International) and a Senior Project Accountant for Aggreko International Projects in the Republic of Angola.
In 2010, I returned home for a short vacation. This was when I first heard of Nuru Kenya. My friends, family and the community at large were talking about this new organization that for the past two years had been transforming lives. The families involved with Nuru were using the word “hunger” in the past tense. I wanted to know more about this organization. I went to the website, and the first thing I saw was a message from Chairman Philip Mohochi, the man who partnered with Jake Harriman to establish Nuru Kenya. It captured the mission and vision of the organization, “Ending extreme poverty one community at a time…and empowered community where households make informed choices.” The words informed choices hit me hard.
I began checking the Nuru website on a daily basis trying to learn as much as possible about the organization. I wanted to be a part of the noble mission. One day I saw that Nuru was advertising for the position of Finance and Administration Manager, and I told myself this was the opportunity for me to join Jake, Chairman, and the Nuru team to fight extreme poverty together. I applied, went through the various interviews, and made it in!
My friends thought I was mad for leaving my high paying job in Angola to come back home to work for an NGO. But Nuru resonated with my intrinsic desire to be part of the fight to deliver my community out of extreme poverty and to empower the people to make informed choices.
For generations, my community had believed poverty was the order of the day and that nothing could change it. But Nuru has changed all that. My childhood suffering and tears ended with me. Families are harvesting more than they need, selling the surplus and saving money for the future. Children are accessing quality education—including universities. Communicable diseases are part of the past. Hope is not a far away dream; it is alive in Kuria West, and soon, will be in all of Kenya.
Thank you Nuru for giving me the opportunity to serve my community and be part of the greatest transformation I have ever seen. Thank you for letting me hold the light to guide this generation out of poverty. As we say in Kiswahili to celebrate: NURU HOYEE! Nuru has brought the light!
About Francis Kizito
Nuru Kenya Deputy Country Director—In April 2013, Francis vacated his role with a multinational company in Angola and returned to his hometown to join Nuru Kenya as the Finance and Administration Director. He currently serves as Deputy Country Director. Francis is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA K) and Certified Public Secretary (CPS K).Read More Stories of Hope