Recently, Port Macquarie resident Marilyn Chambers requested expressions of interest for a plumber to assist a local community project in Kenya. Warren Bell was selected for the position and his wife, photographer Renee Bell accompanied him on this endeavour.
Tell us a bit about Kenya. Where in Kenya was the village, and what did the job entail?
Warren: The project was based in Odede, which is on Lake Victoria with a population of 10,000 people in the sublocation. The precinct of Odede covered an area of 52 square kilometres. It is inhabited by the ‘Luo’, one of the 42 ethnic tribes of Kenya. The tribe was originally predominantly fishermen, but due to Lake Victoria being contaminated and over-fished, they had to rely on other means. As a result, they now farm their land for basic family consumption, with the growing of maize, peas, beans, millet and a bit of cassava. The harvests are usually meagre because of primitive farming methods and a short rainy season. There is no power or running water in the village.
Marilyn Chambers, in conjunction with World Youth International (WYI), is helping the village become self-sufficient. WYI is in the process of building a Child Rescue Centre, Multi Educational and Child Care Facility, Medical Centre and a Community Centre. The Child Rescue Centre is basically for the protection, education and health of children at risk. The Child Rescue Centre is currently under construction and is expected to be completed by July 2011. I was there to do the plumbing in the Child Rescue Centre and to educate the locals in basic plumbing procedures.
If there was no power, how did you manage to get the job done?
Warren: Luckily, we managed to get hold of a generator to use for the grinder. Once we were up and running with the grinder, we had a lot of the local men turning up to have a look! It must have been quite surreal to see someone cutting a wall when everything in Odede is done by hand.
Did you take your own tools with you?
Warren: ‘Reece Plumbing Port Macquarie’ kindly donated all the hand tools, which was so generous and appreciated. I had tentatively approached them on a Friday, and they had the tools ready for me by the Monday! ‘Trademark Port Macquarie’ also kindly donated the grinder and hand drill. Port Macquarie local residents Michael Prott, Rebecca and Darren Arthur and Julie Webhar also kindly donated money for some extra tools needed. These tools were then left at Odede for continuing use by the villagers.
It sounds like a big project. How long until it is completed?
Warren: At the moment, it is a seven-year plan; however, this of course depends on donations and work from volunteers. Marilyn is doing an amazing job and created the ‘Mums and Bubs Market’ in Port Macquarie to help finance the project. But there is so much more that can be done. On return to Australia, we have received a lot of generous offers to send items over to Odede, but realistically, the goods won’t make it past the docks.
Instead of sending goods, monetary donations are more viable. Being a first-hand witness to the project, I can assure people the funds are 100% utilised for this project in Odede. This is unlike other charitable funds, where administration costs are a percentage of the donation.
Will you be going back in the future?
Warren: We would love to go back. I feel like we made some good friends there, and it was definitely sad to leave. We have two small children that we left at home, but we would love to go back with them in a few years’ time. We now have a bond with the people of Odede, so we will be back!
Renee, it must have been an amazing place to take photographs. What do you plan to do with the photographs?
Renee: It was incredible. The villagers are so poor in terms of material wealth, but they were some of the happiest people I have ever met. We made good friends in such a short space of time.
There were so many amazing photography opportunities, and I’m really happy with how they turned out. I will be using my photographs to help promote the great work that is happening in Odede. I will also be selling limited prints to help raise money for the village.
What can we all be doing to help the project in Odede?
Renee: Support the Mums and Bubs Market, read Marilyn’s blog http://mumsandbubsmarket.com, volunteer your time and if you can, donate financially. Marilyn is really doing some amazing work over there, and the continuing support would be very much appreciated. Like Warren said earlier, the donations are utilised 100%, which is great to see.
Thanks Warren and Renee.