The Ileho Community Centre for Social Services
Oscar Siema Mmbali, Director
Protecting and Caring for Women, Children and Youth in Western Kenya
Oscar Siema Mmbali is a Kenyan youth pastor who lives in the Kakamega region of western Kenya, not far from the Uganda border.
I met Oscar in 2004. He quietly challenged any preconceived notions I had about "Africans".
Part of the reason for my trip to Africa was that I needed information; an African's view of the AIDS epidemic for a project I was working on. The group I was with traveled all night by bus on the difficult roads; by the time we arrived in Kakamega I had an overnight deadline to fax my material back to the U.S.
I met Oscar and he was the first person who was willing to help. I handed him my personal travel journal and asked him to put some of his thoughts in it. I told him I would appreciate any contribution he could make.
"You'll never see your journal again" one woman in the group said to me. "You'll get it back, but it will be on "Africa time" said another. "Whatever you are expecting, don't get your hopes up." And so on.
The next morning Oscar returned my journal. He had eloquently written the equivalent of six typewritten pages about the epidemic. He wrote about the African traditions that inadvertently support the spread of AIDS. He shared his own personal story about living in his community; living every day with the devastating consequences of AIDS, which in Africa has taken the lives of a large portion of an entire generation.
He calls AIDS in Africa a "psychological terrorist of the human species".
Read his very compelling work here (pdf).
Since our meeting in 2004, he has opened the Ileho Community Centre for Social Services, the first pastoral counseling service addressing the needs of victims of domestic violence, and offering grief counseling and social support services targeted to women. They address the needs of the community however they can, from repairing homes to offering a compassionate listening ear to youth struggling with substance abuse. I have continued to support his innovative efforts, and I hope that you will consider getting to know Oscar and his volunteers. You can contact Director Oscar Siema Mmbali directly or you can contact me. If you are thinking of supporting the ICCSS, here is the wish list (pdf) with Oscar's current needs for simple supplies along with contact information; we invite you to make a direct connection and mail a small package. You'll probably get an email if you enclose your address.
Think about letting go of any preconceived notions you might have and begin a relationship that has the potential to change many lives, truly, not the least of which will be your own. - Cynthia