Stupid Poverty – Put on Your Flexibility Pants and Leave Your Watch at Home

(A guest blog post from our friend Kurt Kandler of The 410 Bridge)

[...this is the fifth in a series of blogs that might just change the way you think about poverty and engaging the poor.]

Kwambekenya was one of the first communities The 410 Bridge partnered with in central Kenya. How the community got its name is rooted in its founding a few decades ago.

The people of Kwambekenya lived in the forest just outside the Aberdare National Park. Their community is literally at the end of a road that enters the Aberdare mountains. For years their primary livelihood was to harvest the timber from the forest. The Kenyan government, in an effort to save the national forest, mandated that the people of Kwambekenya leave the forest and establish their community elsewhere. The people of Kwambekenya were essentially evicted.

Thankfully, a large plot of land just outside the forest was owned by the Mbekenya who was willing to sell their land in small ¼ - ½ acre plots. Thus, Kwambekenya was founded.

The community gets its name from “Kwa” meaning “to / belonging to” and “mbekenya” representing the original owner of the land.

Ten years ago, when we were invited to visit Kwambekenya, we learned that the leadership was strong as were the people. Their shared struggle of being evicted and establishing a brand new community created a strong sense of community. We also learned their greatest challenge was the 10 km distance to the nearest hospital.

If community members were ill or if women experienced complications in pregnancy, it was virtually impossible to get to the hospital in time. Often the sick would be transported on bicycle or wheelbarrow across bumpy roads. The local 410 Bridge leadership council decided to build a health clinic in their community and asked if we would help. Which meant they needed land. They assessed the community’s level of participation in the project and decided they would raise 10-20% of the cost of the property after the next harvest.

The bad guy in this story is not the usual suspect — water — but frost. An early frost wiped out their crop and the community was unable to raise their 10-20% commitment to the project. At a Leadership Council meeting, I (Kurt) leaned over to Andrew, the 410 Bridge Kenya Country Director, and said, “Can’t we just cover the difference and move on…?” I was tired of waiting. My impatience was fueled by an even more impatient donor who wanted to get on with the plan. Yesterday. But Andrew said, “No. If you do that, you’ll undermine the effort, and you’ll slow down the process of ownership. We’ll never recover and the relationship will never be the same.”

Most Westerners bring their idea of pace and time with them to the mission field. Major donors to projects want metrics delivered on time. They want results now. Land for Kwambekenya’s clinic eventually became a reality and so did the clinic, but not on the donor’s schedule. In this case, the most compelling determinant of pace was the crop rotation. That’s what dictated the community’s ability to live up to their commitment, not some Western project plan.

The 2017 Stupid Poverty Challenge is designed to mobilize youth to impact the lives of poor communities, especially in hurricane-ravaged Haiti. The Stupid Poverty Challenge campaign begins January 1, 2017 and culminates with a “Stupid Bowl Party” on February 5. We’d love your church or school to get onboard.

Register and/or get more information at

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