Born and raised in Kenya, she goes back every once in awhile.
It’s an obligation Alice Koech believes she needs to do. She’s happy to do it despite knowing it’s never easy. The associate and youth pastor at First United Methodist Church in Hays, Koech returned in early June from one of those trips after spending two weeks in a village she was raised in — Tengecha. She went as a member of the United Methodist Committee On Relief, a nonprofit organization that works on projects dealing with disaster response and other issues.
As part of the organization, Koech was joined by a group of three from the United Methodist Church in Schreve, Ohio, to evaluate the water troubles the village goes through.
“In 2009, we started talking more seriously about the project we are now doing,” Koech said of the organization’s initial plans.
Located in the high mountain altitudes of Narok County in the southern part of the country, issues with having and maintaining water is nothing new to Tengecha. It’s a matter villages across Kenya deal with every day. This trip turned out to be one in which the group from UMCOR worked to find ways to pump water into the village after the pipes from a well had broken, leaving the village without an immediate source.
“The main purpose of us going there was to really find out what happened. What needs to happen and what’s ahead,” Koech said. “(And) whether we continue, how we were going to do that. How we were going to accomplish that.”
What they found was Living Water International, an organization UMCOR had given money to lay pipes from a well drilled, had subcontracted the job to another group. The job was not done well, and the pipes broke at some point.
What that left Tengecha with is village members walking to Mara River, which is approximately 3 miles away to bring back water. Back and forth members go using donkeys or carrying the water. By doing so, there is the problem of waterborne diseases that come from the river, such as amebic dysentery, cholera and typhoid.
Helping to find ways to get water into the village, Koech said there was a village approximately 3 miles away with a Catholic school and a working well. The school agreed to allow Tengecha to use the water as well. It was now a matter of constructing a pipeline. The UMCOR group helped build it and put in water stations and kiosks along the way.
“For us … going is to share God’s love with people,” said Koech, who came to the United States in 1998 to attend Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. “Christianity has been there for a while, but there’s still so many that don’t know about God’s love or feel God’s love. So that’s one of the ways we can do that.”
Alice’s husband, Ezekiel Koech, is the pastor of Trinity United Methodist Church in Russell. The couple has three children, ages 19, 14 and 10. The family has lived in Russell for a year after spending five years in western Nebraska.
The notion of moving back to Kenya is one the Koechs think about as Ezekiel is also from there.
They are happy in Kansas for now, though, and plan to stay for a while.