Catherine Boucher

Catherine Boucher (right) with members of Faith Foundation housing co-op, Kenya

On July 2, 2012 we traveled two hours northwest of Nairobi to Nakuru. Along the way we came across many zebras. We descended into the lush and picturesque Great Rift Valley, shaped by volcanic activity. The distinct and iconic landscape is in stark contrast to the bustling metropolis of Nairobi!

We arrived in Nakuru, the fourth largest city in Kenya, around 10 a.m. We met with 40 members of NACHU supporters. Some of the members have already acquired housing, while others are in the process of building up their capital to be able to get a loan.

Mary Mathenge (left) CEO, NACHU with Jo Ferris-Davies of ONPHA and Rooftops Canada Board of Directors in Nairobi Kenya

Mary Methenge, NACHU’s CEO led the session. She asked each co-op member to identify themselves and the presidents to speak about the successes and struggles of their individual co-ops. We also introduced ourselves to the group.

NACHU is trying to address the housing needs of youth, so they have encouraged formation of youth co-ops. The youth co-op group spoke about saving enough for their first loans. One of the groups is raising rabbits for sale and another has a motorcycle taxi business. The youth co-op members stress the importance of an affirmative action program so that they can move faster. The youth are as impatient here as everywhere in the world!

Later we visited a co-op member at her home where she has managed to erect about twenty small rooms on her plot, using mud and improved brick. She rents the rooms out to families. This  pays the mortgage on her house, which also has a small shop that she rents. The arrangement provides her with both income and housing. Our tour ended about 4 km out of town, where NACHU has secured a plot of land (4.5 acres). Two co-ops will be starting to build there in a couple of weeks.

The determination of the co-op members to change their world little by little is so impressive! Following the post-election violence in 2007, homes here were destroyed, among the other tragedies. Some co-op members fled the area and cannot come back, abandoning their homes and their dreams. Several co-op members decided to relocate from other areas to escape violence and are trying to re-build. NACHU is helping in the formation of a women’s co-op to address some of this fallout.

NACHU’s challenges are in many ways similar to our own: finding affordable land that is not too far away, securing finances, dealing with interest rate fluctuations (from 8% to 23% in Kenya this year), handling political interference and dealing with the lack of government programs. We went looking for change and we found similarities between our cultures.

This was an excellent day. We are honoured to be doing this work!

By: Catherine Boucher, CHRA representative and member of Rooftops Canada Board of Directors

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