Acknowledging IOM Humanitarian Worker Winnie Machaki

By Joseph Kabiru

Winnie Machaki is a humble, robust and a vivacious humanitarian worker who gives it all. Her infectious cheer can disarm you. Her problem-solving abilities are unmatched. 

“I do not consider myself a hero. I am a people's servant. The ‘heroes’ are actually the affected populations we work with, who have to endure so much suffering, trauma and vulnerability. Yet when we visit them, they still can afford to smile,” says Winnie.

Winnie played a unique role during the shelter construction project in Moyale, in the Eastern Province of Kenya, along the Kenya-Ethiopia border. This was part of assistance provided to internally displaced persons who were returning home. Winnie found many families hopeless and living in dilapidated, makeshift shelters. People didn’t have basic necessities like utensils and farming tools, and children weren’t going to school.  Winnie was part of the team that constructed over 100 shelters in just two weeks. “The joy it brought to the people was so fulfilling. As the families moved into their new homes, I knew I played a crucial part in transforming someone’s life.”

"During the peace dialogues in different locations of Moyale, people came out to give their views of what happened during the violence. Some had lost their loved ones such as husbands, wives, children, brothers or entire families. Instead of harbouring hate and vengeance, they instead forgave and reconciled with their tormentors.  It was such a humbling experience and I realized there is no  affliction too big that it can’t be forgiven." Winnie considers this her most inspiring experience.

In the course of her work, discouragements can come in the form of roads that become impassable due to heavy rains. "In one instance, one of our trucks carrying non-food items for distribution got stuck in the mud. It took us a whole day to move again. During emergency response activities, losing a day can cost a life."

“Our work is strenuous, challenging yet when we accomplish and see the end results we are fulfilled.”