Step into the Gap: Out of Kitui…….working with climate challenges

Jon showing off his new hair style courtesy of the people of Kyatune

25th Jan Blog


Kenya is a land full of contrasts. After arriving in the developed, fairly industrialised Nairobi, we were quite surprised at the rugged, more rural Kitui.

Even the smells are different. In Kitui the air is more tropical, heavy and muggy and temperatures exceed 30° in the middle of the day.

Our first two days in Kitui have been incredibly busy, encouraging and challenging. We have visited CAFOD programmes in eight communities concerning sustainable livelihoods and disaster risk reduction.

World Gifts goats in the Vote community

Driving out of Kitui town into the wilderness is an adventure in itself. The roads aren’t what you would call roads in England. More like dusty, dirt tracks which we share with cattle and goats passing by. Thankfully we have our very own Jeremy Clarkson, the superb Francis to guide us through the terrain. Francis has a penchant for Dolly Parton and we have spent many an hour listening to the same songs over and over on his CD so much so that we know all the words.

drought river, donkeys

We have been warmly welcomed by all the communities we have visited so far. I believe this is the true heart of Africa – the people who are so generous, loving and joyous at seeing the mzungu (white people)! When we meet people and shake hands it’s not a traditional British polite hand shake. It’s a greeting full of feeling – a proper slap of the hands together – “Jambo! Karibu!” (Hello and welcome!)

being welcomed by Kyatune village in Ikanga

The underlining problem throughout the communities is drought. Samuel, a village elder in the Makalongo community said his area of land had not received heavy rain since 1997. This is Climate Change lifted off the page – it is affecting so many people’s lives here and now.

Anna from the Makalongo community collecting water from the Itumbule dam

We visited a CAFOD supported project in Kyatune village, about an hour’s drive on the very bumpy road from Kitui town where we are staying. There the community has a greenhouse where tomatoes are grown using a drip water irrigation system – simple, sustainable development that is changing lives.

lady pruning a tomato plant in the greenhouse in Kyatune

The ongoing work at Mandongoi farm was very inspiring. Using water drawn from a well the community are growing onions, chilli, tomatoes, mangoes and sukumawiki (cabbage to you and me). The crops are planted in small trenches to trap water and 85 people work on the five acre plantation.

on the Ngomoni farm - women working - Lucia and Anna

Benedict Momo, who owns the farm, says: “Our dream is to see it as productive as possible. Before the land was bare, eroded and there was no grass. We hope at the end of this year we see a difference. It is not proper for us to wait for a donor for food. The workers are nice and are happy with what they are doing. They love to work because they know what they will get.”

Ngamione (Let's go and see) - from far left - David (guide), Beatrice, Musembi front row (secretary of committee), Jane (chair lady of committee), Jane's baby Susan cradled by Rachel, Mary and friends

We have been overwhelmed at the problems drought is causing and the severity of the situation. But we have equally been encouraged with the programmes that are supporting communities to adapt and make best use of available resources.

Kwahairy for now and asantee sana for all your prayers and support.



Rachel and Jon left for Kenya in January, accompanied by Rosa Trelfa, CAFOD Lancaster Diocesan Manager, for the overseas part of their Step into the Gap year with CAFOD. Over the course of the next four weeks, they will be visiting various CAFOD programmes and if you’d like to keep track of their progress, you can follow it all here.

21 thoughts on “Step into the Gap: Out of Kitui…….working with climate challenges

  1. Jambo, its nice to see so many happy smiling faces and what they have achieved in difficult conditions. Very humbling! Good stories, keep up the blogs. Have a safe journey back to Karen.

  2. wow – 8 communities in 2 days, you have been very busy! Hope you’re all well. Thinking of you and looking foward to hearing all your stories about this very soon Lou x

  3. ‘Jamba and karibu’ – I really love their language. Good luck and send our regards to all those lovely people out there, tell them they’re in our prayers. Michelle and children. St Bernadette’s RC Primary school.

  4. Thank you for your comments! We’re having a brilliant time, and have been so inspired by people’s karibu (welcome) and smiles! We’ve finished the first leg of our journey now, on we go to Isiolo! Rachel 🙂 x

  5. Thanks for all your messages, it’s great that you are following us. Please keep reading the blog, we will update you as often as possible. We have already experienced so much and we’re very excited about the rest of our trip. Sorry to make you jealous but it’s sunshine and blue sky everyday here!

    Jon x

  6. It’s brilliant to have your support and encouragement. We have very limited access to the internet, so are making the most of it when we get the connection.

    Just had the most interesting and energising briefing with our partners, at the Catholic Diocese of Kitui. Anthony, the Development Officer, said “With CAFOD it is not just a donor-recipient relationship, it is a partnership where we hold hands together.”

    I’m in awe of our partners who deliver the work on the ground. Makes me proud to be Catholic and working for CAFOD. Love this job!! And can see the real difference the devlopment work is doing.

    Hope everything’s okay with you all (especially at home). Wish you could all come out here to see the amazing work CAFOD’s doing!

    Rosa xxx

    • Hello Rosa,
      I saw your blog on facebook and it sounds as if you are doing great work. You used to work with my wife Enga in Blackpool.
      Good bless

  7. Inspiring diary of photos and stories from Kenya …thank you. Our school CAFOD group are following your trip with great interest…sending you our prayers and best wishes.
    Barbara – School Chaplain and the CAFOD team at Cardinal Allen, Fleetwood

  8. Hi guys,
    fantastic informative blog which we’re checking each day. We’re missing you here and having to put up with Mr. Gibson moaning about extra work (joking!). Shannon keeps asking about you. Keep well. God bless, Simon

    • Hello,

      Thanks for keeping up to date with the blog, I’m glad you can find out about it. We’ve gathered so many inspiring stories already, and are now staying in Nairobi to visit some urban programmes.
      Hope Mr. Gibson is coping 🙂 Through our long journeys I’ve discovered Jon has a hidden talent of being excellent at I-spy!

      Love to everyone,

    • Hi St Mary’s!

      We are having a brilliant time and we have soo much to tell you!
      Sunshine and blue skies all day everyday, I hope the weather bucks up for when we come back!
      We miss you all at the chaplaincy and hope things are going well and that Mr Gibson is making plenty of brews!

      Love and prayers,
      Jon x

  9. Thanks for the wealth of news you sent. Most heartening of all was the welcome you are receiving and the warmth and generosity of the people you are making friends with. may it continue to be a visit that inspires you to inspire us when you return and share the experience more. God bless, Philomena SHCJ

  10. To Jon (Rachel and Rosa too!)

    Delighted to read about your exploits and to see such interesting photos. I’m particularly taken by the goats (but probably not as keen as Jon’s mother, Mary!). My mum bought a goat for me from Cafod a few years ago and even though you know that it is a great purchase for a great charity it is so nice to see how much the goats mean to the people of Kenya.

    I’m loving the haircut Jon and hoping that your gift will return to England safely with your fab red flipflops. Can’t help noticing that Rachel’s flipflops are very similar – was it a BOGOF?!!

    Bye for now from Blackpool and take care. Fabulous work and very inspirational.

    Love Julie (Owen, Tom and Bess the pooch!) xx

  11. dear all in Kenya,
    thanks for sharing your photos and experiences with us here in very cold West Cumbria. keeping you in our thoughts and prayers at St Benedict’s school chaplaincy office! God bless you and keep you safe. Dn dave

  12. I don’t know which I’m enjoying most – reading the blogs or reading people’s responses to them. Your experiences are already touching so many people and making a difference. I’m so proud to be working with you and supporting the programme. Keep up the fantastic work and make sure you remember EVERYTHING so you can tell me all about it when you come home. Missing you all and keeping you in my

    • Helen, great to see your comment. Thank you.

      So proud of J & R. They’re doing a fantastic job when they meet the communities with their questions and pictures. And the way they demonstrate a real respect reflects the dignity of the people we meet. Rachel enjoys taking photos as it gives her the licence to chat to people. They’re working well as a team too. They’re strong ambassadors for CAFOD!

      Our partners are interested in the idea of ‘young leadership’ too. And the locals are keen to engage young people but are unsure how to start. Maybe you could set up a ‘Step into the Gap’ here…..

      One of the religious we met asked if Rachel was my daughter. I could happily adopt her (and Jon!). Another lady we met, Rufo, (in the Widows’ group we met in Merti – will write about this soon) said she would be my second mother. My family’s expanding daily. It’s good.

      Be assured that all’s well. We’re in good health and ready for next week when we go to see some urban programmes. I expect they’ll be very different to what we’ve seen these last 2 weeks.

      Rosa x

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