A letter from Amani ya Juu in Nairobi

kinnon —  January 3, 2008 — 3 Comments

Some of you have seen the video on YouTube that Imbi and I produced with our Daystar Students for Amani back in 2002. I just recieved this update from Becky Chinchen, Amani’s founder and director.

UPDATE: Amani has PayPal set up on their blog – which helps those of us to support their work who don’t live in the U.S. You can also view this brilliant photo essay from The Walrus Magazine on the situation in Nairobi. The Kibera slum, where many of Imbi’s and my students live, is shown dramatically during the violence.

January 3, 2008

Dear friends of Amani –

Greetings from Amani in the New Year. We never dreamed we would meet the new year with violence in Kenya over the disputed elections. Kenya has always been a haven of peace for refugees for many years. Never did we imagine that Kenyans would become refugees in their own country. Hundreds have been killed, 75,000 people have been displaced, millions of dollars worth of property has been destroyed – all because of tribal differences.

We are on the brink of a civil war. The images seen on TV are frighteningly similar to Rwanda and Liberia. Kenyans are carrying machetes, wielding clubs with nails and burning people inside churches as they carry out their ethnic cleansing rampage.

Some of you have asked about the Amani women and we thank you for your concern. Many of the areas around the city where the women and their families live have erupted into violence. A number of the women are afraid to venture out of their homes for fear of being caught up in the mayhem.

Ruth*, who works at the Amani Café, was robbed at gunpoint when she left her home to look for food. The thugs told her to give them all her money or they would shoot her. The husband of Simprosa, who is the sales clerk in the Amani Boutique, tried to go to the local market to buy food but was accosted on the way. Thieves threatened to beat him if he did not part with his watch and money. A sister of Mary Karanja, Amani’s finance administrator, had to move from her house in the middle of the night. She had received word that gangs were going door to door killing people of her ethnic community. We have not heard from Mama Alice, an Amani cook, who lives in Kibera (a slum area on the outskirts of Nairobi where heavy loss of life and property has occurred) and are very concerned about her well being.

Fuel and food, if available, has skyrocketed in price. A head of cabbage, for example, has jumped from 25 cents to $1.25. The women can not afford to buy food at these exorbitant prices so many have gone for days already without food in the house. We need to get food to them urgently not knowing how long this crisis will drag on.

We have put a food distribution plan together and are collecting food from the productive farms north of the city, where it is affordable and available, and transporting it to the Amani center in Nairobi. Today, with $100, we were able to buy enough food to feed 10 families for two days. If you would like to help in this distribution program you can send a gift to:

Amani Foundation

P.O. Box 28133

Chattanooga, TN 37424

*please write “food distribution” on the memo line of your check.

Or donate on-line

The whole purpose of Amani is for the women to learn how to work and live together in harmony and become promoters of peace in their communities. During this darkest hour of Kenya’s history may the women shine as lights of God’s peace.

In the power of God’s peace,

Becky Chinchen

Director, Amani ya Juu

*UPDATE: Imbi has just made me aware that Ruth, who Becky writes about above, is actually someone we know well. The kids, Imbi and I spent a lot of time together with Ruth in 2002. She is a wonderful woman who is the primary breadwinner in her family. (She is married and has a daughter.)

Please also check out this post on the situation in Kenya from one of my favourite bloggers, Milton Brasher-Cunningham @ Don’t Eat Alone. Milton lived in Nairobi as a kid.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

3 responses to A letter from Amani ya Juu in Nairobi

  1. Thanks for the link, Bill … I’ve gone and donated. Finally, something concrete we can do to help. Thank you.

  2. Thanks, Sonja. Wish I could do it online as well. But the site only supports purchases and donations from the U.S. of A. I’m in email conversation with Becky Chinchen about this.

    I’m surprised by the apparent lack of concern on the part of much of the blogosphere about what’s happening in Kenya. This post really put it in perspective for me. I don’t want to guilt folk out. I think with this firehose of information that we drink from called the Interweb (by House, at least) it’s much too easy to ignore the important in the midst of the everyday “noise.” I’m realizing I need to increase the “signal to noise” ratio of what I attempt to ingest from the gazillions of ones and zeros that illuminate the pixels on my screen.

  3. Well … I e-mailed the link out to a bunch of people and asked that they at least e-mail it on. Since I never do that sort of thing, perhaps the people I sent it to will notice.

    I agree with you … it’s hard to filter the noise. For some reason though, this has hit me really hard and I’ve been hyper-focusing on it. Not really reading a lot about it, just praying and thinking about it alot. I have no direct connection … except for a classmate when I was in college a hundred years ago and lost contact with … But Kenya has been stable, the cornerstone of the continent for so long. This is very, very bad.


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