SAMBURU, Kenya — The women danced and sang, thanking God for the food that kept their families alive for a while longer.
The food, delivered by Charlie Daniels, a Southern Baptist missionary in southern Kenya, literally kept these women and their families from starving to death.
The Samburu people live in the highland forests of Kenya, at almost 7,800 feet above sea level. An ongoing drought and post-election violence in 2008 gravely disrupted the area’s food supply, contributing to the starvation of people and animals.
“Needy, hurting people came to me, asking for help, and I knew I had the means to help them. So how could I not help?” Daniels said. “How could I refuse them?”
Daniels consulted with Mark Hatfield, who with his wife Susan directs work in Sub-Saharan Africa for Baptist Global Response, an international relief and development organization. Together they designed a relief project to feed 4,800 people for a month at a cost of only $5.11 per person.
Using $24,540 provided by the Southern Baptist World Hunger Fund, Daniels bought maize, dried red beans and cooking fat from local vendors who also transported the food for distribution. The Daniels’ supplier went all the way to Uganda to find the food the Daniels wanted to provide. The supplier also reduced transportation costs so they could buy more food.
Four Baptist pastors among the Samburu handled the logistics of distribution, identifying vulnerable people in their communities to receive the food — those with tuberculosis, AIDS, orphans, women with nursing babies, the sick and elderly. In the 12.5-mile radius of the distribution area, food was distributed regardless of ethnic or religious background: Turkana, Muslims, Samburu and Kikuyu — all were helped.
Leserewa, a 67-year-old Samburu man, said Charlie brought the food when his people were in need — when he had nothing in his stomach.
“The food helped us very much,” Leserewa said. “If we had not gotten the food that day, we would have died.”
Daniels said the people who were helped were more desperate this time than three years ago when he had done a similar project. He witnessed the hopelessness and despair of people who had gone without food for a very long time.
“The people who got the food survived for another month,” Daniels said. “There is still no rain, there are still food shortages and prices are still high. I could do this every month for the foreseeable future.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE — James is an international correspondent for Baptist Global Response.)