Abundance and Chickens

Journalist Ruthann Richter and I met Joseph and William one morning in their two-room home in Naivasha, Kenya. Their rented house for which they paid $15/month was simple, unpainted wood. The floor was dirt and the furnishings included chairs, a bed separated from the rest of the house by a torn sheet, a kerosene burner and shelves that contained pots, plastic utensils and a flowered teakettle.

Joseph boiling milk tea

We wanted to meet them because we knew they were both HIV+ and had to handle the stigma that comes with this illness. They had little money as Joseph lost his job when he was diagnosed, and now struggles to pay rent and feed himself and William. On slim days they have “black tea” (tea without milk) and a cup of maize and beans for lunch. Other days the meals include ugali – a stiff maize-flour polenta – greens, bananas, and sometimes a little meat or fish. The point is that their living conditions are harsh and their protein intake inadequate to maintain health even though they are on antiretroviral medication.

But Joseph has a radiant smile and said, “I am enjoying my life and I thank God for giving me this chance.” And we loved the tenderness he offered his spunky, but very ill young son William.

William plays with his new toy car

Ruthann and I wanted to help, but didn’t want to give money without a plan. Joseph said that he thought he could earn an adequate living by raising chickens to sell to members of his church. The parish social worker said she would enroll him in classes to learn about the business.

It does not take all that much money to train set up someone in the chicken business in Kenya. We returned from our trip, sold our souvenirs to friends for holiday gifts, and through the Thomas Merton Center, wired the funds to Joseph’s social worker.

Joseph\'s chicks

Friends who visited them recently said he was doing well. He has 210 chicks, water dispensers, feeders and a charcoal burner to keep them warm. When they are 8 weeks old they will be sold, providing the capital to purchase more chicks as well as money to support his family. Here is a photo we received of the first batch of chickens.

3 Responses to “Abundance and Chickens”

  1. megc Says:

    Wow, look at all those cute little chix! So cute. Good to see you blogging, Karen. Really enjoyed this post.

  2. Judy Murphy Says:

    Karen, When I was in Kenya in July I visited Joseph and his family. I had visited them the previous summer when he had just started. I was amazed at how well he is doing. He has remarried and they are living in the orininal chicken house. It is clean and nicely furnished. His wife went to find Joseph and when we saw him we saw a happy man. He took us to the place where he is raising the chickens and there were about twelve chickens ready to be sold. Business is pretty good. William was in school so we did not get to greet him. A great success story. This is what thes people need. You should be proud. Your book is beautiful. Judy Murphy

  3. Judy Murphy Says:

    Karen, I saw Joseph and his wife this summer and the project is a huge success. You should be proud. Judy Murphy

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