Monday, October 24, 2005

ICODEI - OKDV : More Than An Academic Exercise

Formed in 1993, Inter-Community Development Involvement (ICODEI) is a Kenyan non-governmental oganization (NGO) was intended to respond to needs of the community of Bungoma District of Western Kenya. At that time, the community's
immediate needs were seen to involve addressing poverty, illiteracy, health, the environment, farming, child care and gender issues.

Members of the local community established ICODEI as a non-profit organizatin purely for benevolent, charitable and humanitarian purposes.

The organization's Mission Statement says that its "purpose is to empower Kenyans living in the Western Province to overcome their medical, educational and financial problems and to recognize their inherent abundance of resources." To accomplish its goals and to improve the living conditions in the Western Province, ICODEI has five focus areas:

Micro-Enterprise Development for Women and Farmers

ICODEI has partnered particularly with two organizations:
The Episcopal Church of Africa, River Nzoia Diocese) and
Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers (OKDV) of Indiana University in the US.
But it is not funded by any organization or agency. All projects and programs have been implemented and funded by volunteer members.

Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers is an organization of Indiana University students that work in conjunction with ICODEI. The folks of OKDV say that they are not experts in the field of Third World development, hey have discovered that if they invest a sufficient amount of time and energy and work hand in hand with the people of Western Kenya, they can make improvements in health, literacy, the environment and the economy.

They state that "through research and subsequent action, we plan on learning more about development issues that face the communities in the Western Province."

Rather than work from the top down to address the issues of their concern, these students take a different approach and work with the common people in the rural areas who seldom see the benefits of development efforts. And at the same time OKDV tries to educate the people with whom they are working about sustainable development.

The Mission Statement of OKDV (Remember, it is a separate organization from ICODEI) states that they work:

To create a compassionate and dedicated research and fundraising group that assists the grass-roots Kenyan non-governmental organization, Inter-Community Development Involvement (ICODEI).

To have volunteers work hand in hand with the people of the Western Province of Kenya and implement sustainable development projects in a mutually beneficial exchange.

To not be bound by religion, politics, ethnicity or nationality.

And OKDV programs are:

AIDS Education Program
Library Program
Micro-enterprise Program for Women
Health Education Center and Clinic
Clean Water Program
Pre-School Program and
Teacher's Program

One of the areas in the health initiative for ICODEI and its partners has been to address the problem of HIV/AIDS through education and awareness.

OKDV volunteers worked in the Western Province during the summers of 1998 to 2001, surveying and witnessing "the ravaging effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic." They found that one of the "main causes of the high-rate of infection in the Western Province is the silence and stigma that surrounds HIV and AIDS." The also attribute the high level of ignorance still exists about the origin, transmission, and prevention of HIV/AIDS in certain areas of the country for the problem as well. One of the things they learned is that "some Kenyans in the Bungoma District believe mosquitoes can spread HIV, that condoms have holes in which the AIDS virus can pass, and people infected with HIV can rid themselves of the virus by passing the virus on to as many people as possible through repeated unprotected intercourse."

Since the summer of 1996, ICODEI, working its partners, has reached over 45,000 Kenyans with their HIV/AIDS awareness campaign. The OKDV/ICODEI team presented an extensive two to three hour HIV/AIDS program at schools, community centers, bars, night clubs, churches and women's groups. This included the presentation of HIV/AIDS awareness films to holding discussions on Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI) to passing out over 10,000 condoms where permitted and demonstrating proper condom use.

ICODEI's Building Libraries program was established because before 2001 there was not a single public library in the Western Province, Kenya even though the Province's population approximates 4 million people. However, there is a high literacy rate (78% in Kiswahili and 60% in English) there, and Kenyan citizens are eager to actively pursue knowledge and read the classics.

To date over 2,000 books have been shipped to Western Province with the assistance and donation s from the Indiana University Memorial Union Bookstore, the Undergraduate Library of Indiana University, and a middle school in Middletown, Maryland in the eastern US.

In August of 2001 construction of the first public library in Western Province was completed on donated land in Kabula, Kenya, which is where the OKDV/ICODEI Headquarters are located. Additional volumes are still being collected for the library and the organizations also seek to establish a computer lab to both allow the local citizens access to computer technology and offer computer tutorials to enhance the skills of those interested in employment opportunities connected with computer literacy.

By the way, if you would like to donate books to this library effort, you can learn how to do it by going to this link. Library .

The Micro Enterprise initiative was created in order to the fight poverty. And a key to this was the removal of obstacles women face in expanding their own businesses and farms, such as the inability to access credit, training, and technical assistance.

While women account for more than 60% of agricultural labor and contribute up to 80% of total food production, they receive less that 10% of credit provided to small farmers.

The World Bank states that microenterprise programs are a very effective way to reduce absolute poverty. And it is through micro-enterprise development that OKDV hopes to help women gain economic independence.

ICODEI and OKDV believe that once women gain this economic independence they will be able to fill a more active and assertive role in the society of Western Kenya.

Based upon the findings from an earlier survey, in early 2001 groups of women were organized into three consortia that registered with OKDV. These women totaled about 2000 in number and were instrumental in launching new community-based economic development projects. In response to the goals and suggestions of the women themselves, the focus of the work during that summer with women's groups was the establishment of three sewing centers to be run as small businesses and vocational schools.

Currently, the income from this initiative is being reinvested to purchase materials and to pay the teache. The goal is to eventually put these profits into a joint bank account, which will then be fund for micro-enterprise loans.

In addition to the programs previously mentioned ICODEI intends to establish a Health Center that was constructed in Kabula, Kenya in such a manner that it was used as a Health Education Center in the first phase and then as an operational Health Education Center and Health Clinic in the second phase. There is also a Clean Water Program, a Preschool Program and a Teachers Program. The Teachers Program involves Kenya as a host nation in the Overseas Student Teaching Project and the Overseas Practicum for experienced teachers. This was done through Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers and the Cultural Immersion Projects of the School of Education at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

Well, if you are a regular reader of the Blog, then you know that I have run over my promised length for the article. But there is still plenty more to say about ICODEI and OKDV. So, as always, I have to point you to their web sites.

You'll find ICODEI here.

And this link will take you to OKDV .

Take a look at what these guys are doing, because it is not just academic.

No comments: