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Eldoret, Kenya, needs our help

Chase SalmenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Friends of peace,At the start of a new year in America, and with the Iowa caucuses just wrapping up, it is easy to get swept up in the excitement of peaceful democratic change. At the start of 2008 in Kenya, however, a nation has been swept up in the horrific aftermath of a presidential election that has proved far from peaceful. As we look forward here at home, the promise of democracy is slipping away into violence on the other side of our world. Two weeks ago, I was in Kenya for the second time, visiting the HIV/AIDS program that I worked for last summer. I traveled across a peaceful country from Nairobi, to Eldoret to Kisumu. If you check your international headlines this morning, you will see that these three cities are suddenly violent, scary places. Last week, incumbent President Mwai Kibaki, a member of the Kikuyu tribe, was sworn in for a second term amidst international outcry over serious and documented election irregularities. The country exploded. Supporters of the opposition party took to the streets in angry mobs, attacking members of the Kikuyu tribe nationwide. For the past few days, I’ve been talking to terrified friends and colleagues in the city of Eldoret who are currently seeking refuge in homes, churches, police stations and hospitals. They are telling me stories of brutal mob killings, beheadings, roadblocks, identity card checks and the burning of a church where dozens of women and children died seeking refuge. This is nothing like the warm Eldoret that I called home last summer. In June, I trained for a marathon with two young Kikuyu runners in Eldoret, Silas and Jacob. The day before our big race, Silas’ mother cooked us a huge meal at their home on the outskirts of town. I spoke with Silas last night and he told me that two days ago his home was torched by a chanting mob. Silas and his younger brothers fled into the nearby cornfields and watched their neighbors being killed by machete. The director of my HIV/AIDS program wrote an e-mail last night, saying that the Eldoret hospital has been overrun with wounded and dying and they are running out of supplies. When I look to the start of our election season here in America I feel at once very grateful, but I am saddened by the silence among our own politicians on the campaign trail. With stories like this, it is certainly easy to write off more violence in Africa as inevitable and out of our hands. The sharp memory of Rwanda and the world’s failure in that tragedy should scream out as a reminder that our assistance is needed now. I am crushed that the vibrant community in Kenya that embraced me for six months last year is tearing itself apart. With hope, I am turning to my own community here in Glenwood to raise awareness and more specifically, relief funds. I have opened an account at Alpine Bank to receive donations for a relief fund that has been established by our program, through the Indiana University-Kenya Partnership for immediate use in Eldoret. They need cash for food, medical supplies, refugee transport, and for the reconstruction that will soon take place. Checks of any amount can be made out to the “Eldoret Relief Fund,” and mailed or dropped off at Alpine Bank, 2200 Grand Ave., Glenwood Springs, CO 81601. If you have questions about donations please contact me (chas.salmen@gmail.com).Last summer, I knew an Eldoret full of friends from various tribes, actively working together to find solutions to real poverty challenges. I know that place still exists. I truly believe that we can help this community find its feet once again. Thank you in advance for your support; it is desperately needed.Chas Salmen is a Glenwood Springs High School graduate currently attending Oxford University in England as a Rhodes Scholar.


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