Kwaheri (Goodbye) Kenya

Thursday, May 03, 2012

After an amazing three months my time in Kenya must now come to an end. Over this time I have learnt so much about Kenya and its people, often challenged by what I have experienced, but waking up every morning with a smile on my face about the lessons that the new day in this place may bring . The opportunity to 'live' in a developing country like Kenya and experience a way of life and culture that is both so different and similar to Australia has been something I have relished. I have been able to see Kenya through the eyes of a local and feel I have obtained a greater understanding of the problems and injustices that beset the Kenyan people but also be inspired by a more hopeful future that so many Kenyans see.

I have been able to witness the work of those who tirelessly seek to better the lives of those often without hope, living in destitution and poverty. I have seen how the work and generosity of people back in Australia enables teachers in Kenya to translate their vision, enthusiasm and passion onto the lives of their students and give hope that the next generation of Kenyan will greater opportunities than themselves. I have befriended the many students, not much younger than I, who walk in the dark to school each morning and toil endlessly throughout the day, to take full advantage of their extraordinary opportunities (by Kenyan standards) and hope that one day this hard work and persistence, in the face of so many obstacles, may translate into a stable future for their families. 

I have also witnessed first-hand the signficant impact of the Zimele supported, Young Single Mothers Group in Kibera. The project which involves the women in Kibera using their beading skills to create jewellery which is then sent to Australia and sold through the Zimele Foundation. The proceeds of these sales are then used to fund the wages for women and the other expenses for the project. I have talked with these women hearing their stories and the impact of this project on their lives. All their stories are linked by common threads of abandonment and exploitation but also empowerment and hope facilitated by this project, providing a constant income and sense of self worth that allows these women and their children to face the barriers so cruelly obscuring their pursuit of a more stable and prosperous future.

The most valuable lesson of my time here was one that was continually reinforced throughout my time here. We, as members of a more fortunate world, have resources, generousity and even guilt that can be mobilised in abundance to financially support the plight of our African brothers and sisters. Despite this, the greatest gift that we can give to our sibilings in this global family is a sense of solidarity, that we are walking with our friends, who share our common goal of providing a better world for our children. Providing the people of Africa, both on individual and collective levels, with the knowledge that they have friends in Australia, who geniunely care about their issues has the power to give the spark and strength that our friends need to tackle the many ineqaulities that they face in their lives and who only them themselves hold the power to overcome. This is one of the wonderful gifts that the Zimele Foundation has been able to give to the communities which it supports. So many people talk of their friends back in Australia, those they have met and those they haven't met, who they know care about them, whose support, sometimes financial but far more powerfully, emotionally, gives them the strength and determination to battle against their daily adversities. In our busy lives we may often find it easier to write a cheque than to write a letter or send a photo, however the impact of our money in pockets of our sibilings can only be fully unlocked if it is accompanied by our true love and support in their hearts.

It is with a heavy heart that I leave Kenya, a place which I love so much but am heartened by the knowledge so many others will hopefully experience what I have and that I to will return in the near future to see my new friends once again.