With America’s population now drawn from virtually every corner of the world, the United States must grapple with both the promise and risk of being a global society. Kenyan immigrants and non-immigrants to the United States are no exception. Arriving in large numbers in the early 1990′s, Kenyans needed a network capable of serving their needs. By 1995, the semblence of a unity organization had been formed, (initially the Kenya Cultural Association and changing names several times). The organization would become a valuable resource to community policy makers, local communities, governmental bodies, and human service agencies.
Through membership, coordinated activities and out-sourcing to religious facilities,
more than 5000 immigrants and non-immigrants alike are provided with essential adjustment services each year. Services vary from help with Kenya & US immigration technical assistance to resettlement advice, job placement, legal service referral, small business development & support to housing, health, youth & elderly support, and cultural activities. The community impact from these programs and their services had developed cohesivenss and camaraderie that ensures that most issues are well-handled. The KWA mode of operanda has been duplicated in most major regions giving rise to other similar organizations such as the Organization of Kenyans in Kansas City to United Kenyans in Chicago.
The History of the Association
The Kenya Welfare Association concept is born in Saint Louis, Missouri after the demise of a Kenyan, Thomas Ameda, in Topeka, Kansas. The then very small Kenyan community (10 Kenyans) is faced with a predicament they are totally unprepared for. They are only able to raise $500 towards costs. They vow not to be caught in the same position again. They manage to meet the present predicament, but only after major assistance ($7,000) from Kenyans in Dallas, Texas.
In the same year, the mother of one of our founder Members (Jemimah Ngatia) passes away in Kenya. Again the very need for an umbrella organization to form the basis for unity in such times is reiterated. Later in the year, the founder members meet at the home of Donald O. Kwasa in Ballwin, Missouri and formally pass a resolution that makes a community organization a reality. The resolution demands the formation of an organization that is non-religious, non-ethnic, non-discriminating and one that caters for the welfare of all Kenyans regardless of age, sex, gender or background. Though headquartered in Saint Louis, the association would become a model for other welfare organization nation-wide.
Association members continue to meet formally and informally and counsel each other on various issues. They also meet and assist each other in times of crisis. They also meet in more pleasant circumstances such as social events, get-togethers, and annual Christmas events at member homes and/or Churches.
There is a greater influx of Kenyans in the region. Members meet more often and deliberate on how to make the association stronger and efficient in lieu of the increased number of Kenyans. A committee is set up to investigate various operational modes. In the meantime, members continue to meet regularly, both formally and informally and continue to develop a stronger bond.
1996 – 1999
Huge increases due to immigration in the number of Kenyans in the region and the United States as a whole continues to bring Kenyans together. There are increased instances where a function would attract more than 300 Kenyans. They would congregate for distinct campaigns, including weddings, charities, social gatherings, crisis meetings, church functions and discussion groups. The most significant is the call for elections to create a better operational structure and access system.
New elections and the formation of a wider Board of Directors that assists the executive officers in running the association would be planned for 2000. In addition, a more sophisticated email communications system is born, thanks to the Internet.
Open elections are held in December of this year and a new team of committed and dedicated officers and board members are elected or nominated. The team reminds all Kenyans that “Umoja Ni Nguvu” and promises to follow through with a strong plan of action to take KWA to the highest level possible.
The KWA Board and Executive Committee follow through with their promises. They organize streamlined projects, maintain communication within the network, encourage unity and always have a representative at all meetings that involve Kenyans. They remind Kenyans that they are just that – Kenyans – not Kambas, Maasai, Kalenjin, Kikuyu or any other ethnic group. In this year, the communications system is refined and
proves very successful in keeping all members abreast of the goings-on within the community.
The membership continues to grow, but so do the challenges. The Board meets regularly. One of its main agenda items is how to enhance unity within the Kenyan community. Annual reports show that KWA continues to pull Kenyans together and marks a record year with successes in fund raising, settling Kenyans, immigration challenges, business and professional networking and social gatherings. KWA is able to reach out and touch more Kenyans in the Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Kansas State, Michigan, Indiana and Oklahoma States.
With this, the possibility of part-time employees in not far- fetched and discussions within the membership and the board continue. In addition, the boardbegins investigation of some type of insurance program (health, dental and life) that could be mad available to all members. A meeting is planned and United Insurance Company makes a presentation and offers members various health and life insurance options. Some members sign up.
KWA continues to grow and consolidates with its operations. This adds the very important aspect of cooperation with various social, health and human service and religious organizations within the region. The inauguration of an insurance program and more unified force against ignorance within the community is welcomed.
Members reiterate the need to move with Kenya-wide based programs that would educate all add value to membership.
A meeting is scheduled for July 27, 2003 to explain the new programs to the all Kenyans and to give an opportunity to all to put their ideas forward in a formal setting. Groups are encouraged to make presentations.In August 2003, KWA would celebrate its 10-year Anniversary since inception. This event would have been marked with major festivities that would include the annual soccer tournament (between Wazee hukumbuka and
Young Turks: Wazee won !), prayer session, and other activities. KWA would celebrate 10 years of leadership in unity-based programs that bring together Kenyans from all walks of life within the Kenyan community in the United States.
2004 – 2007
Members of the community increase to unprecedented heights. The association is backlooged in applications and hires temporary help. Out of the successes of the association, the church community also grew and many fellowships began. Church & fellowship groups include the
- Nendeni Presbyterian Church (Everman)
- Christ Covenant Church
- Immanuel Church
- United African Presbyerian Church (UAPC)
- International Christian Mission (ICMC – Brown Road)
- Trinity Kenya Christian Group Kenya Community Fellowship on Wismer.
In this period, we also see more successes in out community from real estate agents and financiers, car dealerships, retail operations and international business. In 2007, the community leaders look into and take the steps to create our own community bank – the Transnational Credit Union.
Elections to usher in the new set of Executive Officers and also to nominate the new Board of Directors, takes place for November 18, 2007 at the Embassy Suites, Bridgeton. To see pictures from this event, click here. A new team of young, energetic leaders are elected. They promise to take KWA