Communities Given the Chance to Fly

A group of women opened a clinic in Kenya this year. The clinic belongs solely to those women, and the clinic serves approximately 20,000 Kenyans entirely under their direction.

After one of the women died of cholera, funeral services were provided for the family by an organization called Give Us Wings, which had worked with the women for a number of years to get the clinic off the ground. After speaking with the widower, the organization helped with funeral costs and paid for the coffin. If the family had paid for the coffin themselves, it would have depleted nearly all of their resources.

Because her mother was deceased, the daughter of the family would now have to spend hours each day collecting water, causing her grades in school to fall. Without education, she could not hope for a better future. Give Us Wings hired help for the family so that the children could stay in school and focus on their studies, relieving them of the burden of domestic duties.

“Crisis compounds and compounds and compounds,” says Mary Steiner, the director of Give Us Wings. “Becoming part of the fabric of people’s lives is what makes this program successful. We need to be involved directly and stay with people long-term, otherwise we would never know the daily problems they face.” Give Us Wings, an organization founded that Mary Steiner in 1998, aids Kenyans and Ugandans to become self-sufficient in various facets of their lives.

After a recent trip to Africa, Steiner says, her commitment to the model of Give Us Wings was renewed. In this model, the people of the African villages lead initiatives with Give Us Wings’ the commitment of support for upwards of 10 years. “They know the best way forward,” says Steiner. “There is not one path that will suit all villages. After witnessing so many half-finished projects, we found the best way to aid them is by giving them a trusting relationship and a sort of infrastructure.”

Without earning the trust of the people, the organization would not have been able to help the family of the woman who died of cholera. Paying attention to minute details of people’s lives allowed volunteers to follow the chain of effect to see that because the mother died, the daughter would have a difficult time completing her schooling and would likely fall into the grips of poverty.

Overturning a cyclically oppressive structure is no easy task, but Give Us Wings is taking steps to ensure that the people of the village are given an opportunity to use skills they already possess and develop new ones to improve their economic condition.

Fishermen who were no longer able to fish for lack of fish in the lakes and rivers became organic farmers through one year of training. A schoolhouse was opened for women, age 19 to 20 years old, who dropped out of primary school due to domestic obligations and were now too old to attend primary school. Eight women will take their secondary exams this year, a major accomplishment for the school. One graduate of the school has even started university this year, an unrealistic option for her several years ago.

The process of assisting communities begins with volunteers on the ground asking families what they need most. Some may say training, some education, some medical supplies, but all need their own strengths recognized, says Steiner.

Give Us Wings

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