I wanted to write about One Village at a Time today. I wanted to tell you about the amazing work we do, the lives we save, the people we empower, and I will. But not today.
Today the Angels Weep Again. Children were maimed and killed 2 blocks from my home yesterday. And last night when I knelt down to pray, I prayed for all the children who were frightened last night, who were cold and hungry, whose limbs had been torn from them, who needed a mother’s breast to cry on. I prayed for all their little voices and souls.
I could not wipe from my mind the first time I saw children killed by violence. It was in Kenya right after the last elections. Kenya erupted into violence and people were killing each other with machetes. My driver and I came across a slaughter which had just happened on the road to our village. There lying by the side of the road was a young child, the limbs hacked off, one of several people laying dead. I made Francis stop, though he was afraid because he was from the opposing tribe. I would not drive over those bodies and I would get out and pray.
I had tucked this memory in the very farthest part of my mind. One cannot make sense of the senseless. I am not saying that one life is more important than another, but when a young child’s life is taken, it seems as if part of the future of the world has been snuffed out. Slaughter, carnage, terror don’t belong in a child’s life. And children in Boston didn’t know what that might look or feel like.
Now they do.
So today, I’m asking you to join 5forFairness. I’m asking you to think about children all over the world. I’m asking you to hold your children tight, and whisper in their ears how much they are loved. And tomorrow I will tell you about One Village at a Time.
Susan B. Gross
Executive Director “One Village at a Time”
Today on Twitter there is an ongoing conversation about the possibility that philanthropy can be damaging or dangerous. To that I said yes. Too often I have seen charities which target a certain population but don’t empower them to ameliorate the problem themselves.
For example, back in the 80′s and 90′s we needed a lot of different types of charities to work with the growing problem of AIDS. Gay men really rallied and did an amazing job of setting up clinics, political action groups, housing, nursing, you name it and they helped build it with the help of the general population. Now AIDS has moved more into the women and children of color population, but I have sadly watched as the pre-existing places for gay men fight to stay funded.
They did their jobs and they did them well. But lots of people got salaries from those jobs, and there were lots of ED’s who don’t want to give up their salaries either. So they fight to stay relevant when they should help move the money to where the need is now salaries be damned.
I believe that if One Village Does its job right we will go out of business. And that’s my goal. If we empower enough people and help them spread what they learned to other villages, we shall have done our job and it will be time to pack up and go home.
We’re a Drinking Club with a Philanthropic Problem
Isn’t that a great phrase? Last week I spoke on a panel about Board Development and people were fascinated to hear that the oldest member of my Board is 37. How could a non-profit run with such young people at the helm? Wasn’t I uncomfortable with their youth? How could they bring in the big donors? And the answer lies in the title of this blog entry.
No “mature” board member would think up a title like that. No seasoned board member would come up with the idea of monthly get togethers at local hot spots where the young and hip hang out. Yet these young people are our future. And having fun, unstuffy, less expensive events spreads the word for One Village at a Time. We won’t make a ton of money with any one of these events, but we will by the time we’re through.
If we don’t involve the millenials (whose reputation has been besmirched with such shows as Girls) how do they grow up to have a Philanthropic Problem? And don’t we want them to have that problem?
And if you want to join us this month for our Event here’s the link. Hope to see you there: https://www.facebook.com/events/138903706273169/
BTW: That tag line was written by a 26 year old. Pretty Fabulous I think.
One of my favorite bloggers for the Nation, Peter Ondeng, wrote a pity blog about the upcoming elections. “ The way we are going, he says, “No one should rule out another orgy of bloodletting.” (link to article below) Wow! This is not a US paper using scare tactics, this is a Kenyan Paper.
While I fear that there will be some bad times during elections, a headline like this is all that Americans need to say (as someone asked me yesterday)”What’s wrong with their leaders?” To this I reply, Africa only threw off the tyranny of Colonialists at best 50 years ago. Where were we 50 years after the Brits left?
First we had the battle of 1812, but that didn’t compare to what happened on our shores 80 years later. As folks flock to see the film Lincoln, let us not forget what a real orgy of bloodletting looks like. They call it the Civil War.
I am not for Civil War, I am not for Election Violence, but I am for taking a less judgmental attitude towards Africa and Kenya in particular. And I wish that newspapers here and abroad didn’t emblazon a headline of “An orgy of bloodletting” sensationalizing the gruesome and ignoring the good.
The snow falls gently to the ground this morning. Around the world today we gather to remember World AIDS Day. We think of those lost in the fight, yes, but also we are hopeful for those infected and affected. New meds make their lives longer and better. But still they must take poison each day to stay alive. And I salute their courage and spirit.
But this is a story of the World AIDS Day Miracle. And indeed when the clock struck midnight last night, I knew it had happened. At first I was in awe, and then I felt overwhelmed. So many people believe in what we do in Kenya. And so many wanted to make a difference.
It started with a Global Giving Challenge for us to get 40 new donors to donate to our project to keep girls in Kenya in school. Most of the girls are AIDS orphans. It started a month ago, and despite my tweeting and putting up updates on Facebook it wasn’t going too well. Then a board member contacted me Thursday and said, we really should try and win this one. I had 48 hours to get it done.
So the word went out. I tweeted and FB’d. I reached out to everyone I knew. I really thought it was a lost cause. But then Friday morning people started to really respond to my pleas. Donations came in and we were getting closer.
And now for the miracle. I went to High School almost 50 years ago. One of the alums put up a Facebook Page and we try and connect when we can. I haven’t seen my classmates in almost 50 years, but somehow they believed in me. Jill, who I must admit I don’t remember, kept donating. First she donated $270 for the first 27 girls. But she was concerned it didn’t cover enough girls. So then it was $190 and a frantic email to me, was it enough? Wow now she had covered 47 girls. And then I saw the names of several others of my friends from high school and the donations they made. I cried.
I truly never thought I was much in High School and surely never thought anyone believed in me. But there it was. People from all over the US were saying go and take care of these girls, and I will support you. And they thanked me for what I did and somehow by 12:30A.M a miracle happened. I knew that God has blessed this mission and that folks really believe and trust that what I do is worth it. And for me that is my miracle.
Politics, Cattle Rustling and the International Community
I have a friend in Kenya who is a barrister. He congratulated me the other day on our peaceful elections. I allowed as how it was luck, lots of hard work and the grace of God that we didn’t go long into days of indecision as we have in the past. I then posited that I hoped that Kenya’s Elections in March would be peaceful. He replies in all seriousness that it is the international community that is stirring up trouble among the tribes.
Is This the Cow That Launched a Revolution?
Ok folks, if one could scream over twitter, I would have. Really? Funny, but the violence in Kisumu was over the death of an MP and the Luo’s rioting. And then today I get this article from the Nation about the killing of 27 policemen in northern Kenya. They were killed as the result of “cattle rustling”.
Gosh Mr. Dillon, I didn’t know the Europeans were invested in stealing cattle as a means of making the natives restless. Americans have given up cattle rustling recently as we get ready for the fiscal cliff. I know there used to be Chinese Western’s but, seriously, are they really stealing the cattle as a means of making money-building roads and fixing the elections. Elsie the cow would be horrified. And Trust me that cow up there is probably what started the revolution in the first place. Foreign nationals creating tribal unrest is such bull#$% (if you get my drift).
I never cease to be amazed at how people can be so ready to blame things outside themselves as the cause of the trouble. No it’s tribal hatred that is causing the violence in Kenya.
Once you leave the confines of the city of Nairobi and you drive into the rift the world changes dramatically. Gone are the large ugly apartment buildings, the traffic and the large stores and markets. Soon you reach the Rift Valley, the richest land and most fertile growing in Kenya.
As we drive through it, I notice by the side of the road, men beating stones from rocks by hand. Donkeys laden with cane and women walking tall with huge jerry cans of water travel walk by the side of the road. One also sees tomatoes, potatoes and cabbages stacked in beautiful pyramids.
What you don’t see is the sale of 8th grade girls who have no place to go after they finish primary school. Last week was the International Day of the Girl and it’s chief focus was on stopping the sale of girls into sex trades. It seems (according to GEMS.org the largest national organization for child sex workers) that the average age for a girl being sold is 13.
But girls are not potatoes, or cabbages. They are children, and the more we talk about this growing problem the more chance a girl has to go to school, become empowered and change her country.
Can you imagine a business partnership based of faith, vision and love? That’s what we have with KMET. Today we went to Nambale to visit Nangeni our second school in this tranche of schools. They are a bit behind Nina in their PICD work, but that was lucky for me. I got to see another skit they used to help villagers take ownership of their community.
It was a simple skit really. They asked for volunteers to represent different people in a community. There were: a banker and his wife, a retired civil servant, a shop keeper farmer, a widow and 2 children, a day laborer, a woman who dropped out of school after 3rd grade, a teacher, a minister with 6 kids. What on earth were they going to do with this? And then Rosemary, the magician, got started.
The volunteers lined up and Rosemary asked questions. If they could answer yes to a question they could take 1 step forward.
How many of you can have 3 meals a day? The banker, wife and retired civil servant.
How many can count on 2 meals a day? The banker wife, civil servant, farmer., shopkeeper.
How many can count on 1 meal a day? Banker, wife, civil servant, farmer,teacher, minister.
On it went, how many could afford to go to a doctor? Same 3 as first question
How many could afford school fees for their children?
Those in the audience began to laugh and offer suggestions, but pretty soon it became evident that only a very few people could afford the basics of life.There were some in the community who could make no steps. And from there the question turned to the community of how could they make a step? How could they catch up to the banker, the retired civil servant and the shop keeper? What could they do? It was amazing to see how the PICD team turned a passive audience waiting for answers into a vibrant group of men and women talking excitedly about a future.
Monica and I sat back with a feeling of joy and optimism. We could see so clearly now the way forward. There will be no more feeding programs put in place. They are not sustainable. But what we will do is work with communities using PICD to help them identify their strengths and gaps. Then when they have decided what projects they want to work on, we can offer seed money.
I marveled at the simplicity and power of the way Debra, Rosemary and Beatrice (the PICD team) led the people. Their love for their work, their belief in what they do and their modesty in taking any credit for it is remarkable. Monica leads her team well, and I, I believe in them. And I know that changing the program and learning and revamping is a good thing.
What makes this so special is that we morph together. We agree together, no one feels bad or ashamed that the first things didn’t work. We just move on and see what does, and that my friends is a very special partnership. We are blessed for the journey.
Today dawned sunny and cool. I actually slept pretty well and got up at the crack of 8A. You know Mother does not like rising before 9, but there it is. Francis was a bit late and well, it’s Africa and it’s Francis.
The day quickly became uncomfortably hot, so I went to turn on the air conditioning and it was like little hamsters blowing kisses. Now last time I was here, the air conditioning didn’t work and Francis had to get Freon because it was not working and well, it’s not working. Seems he has a van he uses most of the time, and this is for old ladies like me. I warned him that I couldn’t make 10 days in Siaya heat, nor would Monica without air conditioning. He promised to get it fixed when we got to Naivasha.
Francis didn’t think I should stay in Naivasha and felt Nakuru would be better. But as usual no one at a hotel answers the phone and I had booked it here in Naivasha so there it is.
Inside the Tent
Driving up to the Naivasha Country Club was something out of the 1920’s Hemingway theme. Lots of wood, no electricity (it did get fixed later) a resident wildebeest in the garden and lucky me, they upgraded me to my very own tent. Now these are gorgeous affairs, as you can see from the photos, but they are indeed tents. And that means they are canvas, and the singing birds can be heard all night. And then there’s the problem of it being unseasonably cold here. So they offered me hot water bottles for my bed.
Bathroom in said tent
I was hoping for more wild animals, but I have to get up very early for that and that’s not going to happen. But I will go on a hippo ride and Francis will take me to Nakuru, which abounds with monkeys and zebras (though you can stop by the side of the road and see them) and my favorite, the giraffes.
Returning, returning, what does it mean? I have been made so aware of the dangers of going back to Kenya and I must say I’m suspecting that every possible obstacle God can throw at me. It started this morning with a flutter of emails from Delta updating me on how late the plane would be. And I was still seeing clients. I still had a date with the chiropractor.
3PM, great, I have a bone spur in my good ankle. How funny is that! I can hardly walk on it, but I’m going. I hear you Universe, I hear you giggling. And now it’s off to the airport with bags weighing 125 lbs. I’m careful, I’m not taking those puppies down the stairs, so I heave them out the door where they fly into the street. Rescued and lined up by the curb I confidently go to the corner to hail a cab. It’s 5P, it should be lousy with cabs. Yeah, no. And now I’m starting to sweat; I break down and call a cab and then the universe shifts.
The only empty cab I have seen in 20 minutes hoves into sight. And the moment the cab driver opens his mouth and says “Just go to get in”, I hear the familiar accent of a Kenyan and we are off to the airport. He comes from the North near Turkana which is the most dangerous part of Kenya, and I am glad I’m going in the opposite direction. Once we reach the airport and I bid him goodbye in Swahili, another African Delta guy can’t wait to help me with my bags. And trust me, I know they are over the limit. Get to the desk and guess what? No, another Kenyan is at the desk and when he asks what I am carrying and I tell him, he winks and checks the bags through.
So I’m still in Boston, but I’m feeling more optimistic that I will get to Nairobi without serious travails. Wait, I listened and no thunder crashed so I’m boarding folks.
I love the Amsterdam airport. People are friendly, it is immaculate, and I can find everything I need. Of course right now, I am so weighted down with stuff for Kenya that I cannot purchase anything major, but trust me on the way back I’ll be flying light. Wifi is a bit spotty, but if that’s the worst I can say so far, I’m feelin lucky.
I have now been traveling for 12 hours, add 3 hours for layover, add 8 hours to Nairobi then 3 hours to my hotel for the night and another 12 to Kisumu and you get the gist of the amount of travel to get there. Ah yes, returning, I am returning.
The plane from Amsterdam had a whole different crowd that I have seen before. There were, of course, the Kenyans returning home. But what was noticeably absent were the Safari goers. Usually there are a couple of patches of excited folks who are going on Safari, and are anxious to tell me all about what they will see, and ask me questions. Not a one on the plane. I did meet some military folks who were going to the Embassy. They were pretty vocal about how dangerous Kenya is for a billet. One Air Force guy was going to the embassy to see his wife who is stationed there and is most anxious for her to come home.
Thankfully the plane is not full so I can find a couple of seats together and sleep a bit and then…we land.
Francis is waiting, glad to see me, but there is an undertone of uneasiness. We talk in the car about the teacher strike and the terrorists. He admits that his business is down, and that the terrorists are a problem. He is not as enthusiastic about Kenya as he has always been before and as we travel I shall learn more.
Morning has dawned cool and fresh. The hotel I stayed in last night was quite nice and we shall be leaving for Naivasha in a couple of hours.
Spoke to Monica today who was glad to hear my voice. I told her I knew the schools were closed and she said not to worry that we would visit anyway. I’m not sure that will be a fruitful mission, but it is a truth not fully revealed.