NAKURU, Kenya, Jul 14 – Twenty five families of the killer dam tragedy in Solai now have a permanent houses thanks to Compassion International, a Christian based non governmental organisation that focuses on children.
The 25 new three roomed houses with a kitchen extension sit on a three-acre piece of land in Solai area. This came as a welcome relief to the families who are slowly trying to rebuild their lives a year after the devastating tragedy that left at least 51 people dead.
Each family got a 50 by 100 plot, with adequate space to practice subsistence farming.
The more than 130 residents, who lived at Energy, an informal settlement that was totally swept off by the high-speed water, will each get a title deed as proof of ownership of the land in the next few months, according to Partnership Facilitator Sarah Mwangi.
“There was a lot of resource mobilization and the locals were heavily involved. There are people who did not have a place to live and now they have a place to call home,” she added
There was an aura of excitement as the families received keys to their new houses.
84-year-old Peninah Njeri, says this will be her first time to sleep throughout the night as she has been having severe headache since the 2018 tragedy.
“When I held my keys, I felt at peace. When my house was flattened by the gushing water, I lost hope. I ran away, securing nothing, when I was told the dam had burst but it is my son who broke the news that my house had been completely flattened.
From then on, it has been a constant struggle even to raise cash for the monthly rent. I did not want to bother anyone begging for rent,” said the mother of 12.
Mary Wanjeri pointed out homes gave them a chance to have a fresh start.
“The trauma that came with the tragedy was worsened by the fact that we lived near where the tragedy took place. A new place, in a totally new environment is the right atmosphere for healing. Getting a new house is a permanent mark that will never be erased.” she added.
Kuur Ekiryot, a single father of two, praised the initiative, saying that his children had a hard time settling in after the tragedy.
“It is really hard to sustain two kids and pay for the monthly rent. Providing basic needs has been a great challenge but now the new house will ease my rent burden,” he added.
Senior assistant chief Peter Chege Mwangi was optimistic that most of the victims will now heal psychologically as they will have peace of mind.
Chege said that the temporary shelters they lived in forced most of them to rush to the hills every time it rained for fear that their houses will be swept away.
“The security that comes with the new house is also the reassurance that they are far away from the dams. Also, the change in environment will do them good as being around the accident scene evokes fresh memories,” he added.
In her speech, Mwangi, they targeted the families in the Informal settlement Energy which was entirely swept.
“The initial path was that of counselling, providing basic needs of food and medication. We felt we needed to bring in a lasting solution and the church supported them in purchasing land and constructing for them the facilities,” she added.
Mwangi said the families were not included in the government compensation plan as it was only settling people who had already bought land.