How a weirdo sees the world…
You often hear people say that some experiences changed their lives and the way they viewed the world. I never understood what they meant, until I travelled to Kenya.
I travelled with a group of people, who were involved in the same college charity that I was, ‘The Kenya Project’. It is a student founded charity that supports the Madungu Primary School in Kenya. With money from our fundraisers we enable the children to have a meal every day, we pay for additional teachers and learning and playing material, financed a library, sewing machines and tools, so that they can learn a real trait and promote any step they take towards self-sufficiency.
When we arrived in Kenya, our rucksacks were filled with books, stationaries,
sport kits and as many other things we could fit in our bags. All presents for the pupils who had eagerly awaited our visit for nearly two years.
The drive through the countryside made me feel like being inside a documentary, like those I had watched on TV so many times. The dusty, but beautify countryside with zebras and wildebeests leisurely grazing right next to the rode, like cows and sheep do in Europe. The sand was red, the air dry and warm; it felt so surreal, like being in dream, a different world.
Of course I knew that Kenya was poor, that many people had no real home and were starving. However, that didn’t prepare me for the wooden and metal shelters and boxes that made of the majority of the housing we saw. People and dust everywhere. On the outscirts of the ‘villages’- if you can call them that- people sat on the sides of the roads, displaying their vegetables to passersby. The poverty was heartbreaking.
We stayed in the house of a rich Kenyan family. Rich to Kenyan standards; he possessed four adjoining houses with running water and electricity. You would probably call it rundown and dirty, but it was the Crème de la Crème for Kenyan for the village we stayed in.
Due to our support, the Madungu Primary School was one of the best in the neighbourhood. Every morning we would walk the 20 minutes to the school and on the last 100 meters would be surrounded by laughing and shouting children. Laughing, they did a lot of that. They laughed every time they saw us, they laughed when they played with each other, they laughed when we taught in their classes. They laughed and laughed. They were happy. Poor, but happy.
We taught them everything from English to Mathematics (especially the orlder students seem to prefere science to anything else), from photography (we brought a few disposable camaras) to first aide. We helped them dig the foundations for the new libraray, which in the future will hold all the books our group has brought over. We painted their classrooms. And of course, we played with them. Let me give you an advice here: Never, I repeat NEVER try to outrun a Kenyan, even if he is only 8 years old! They are fast! Unbelievably so!
Although we are the ones who brought books, tools, stationary and all those other things, although they are dependant on us to send them money so they can reach their goal of self-sufficiency, it is them who give the most. In the single week we have been there, they’ve taught me more than I could’ve ever taught them. They taught that pursuing your dreams and enjoying the simple things in life are more important than money or possessions. Some children as young as 5 years old walk 2 hours to school every day, because they want to learn, they want to better and achieve more than their parents (if they even have any). We in the West, in our bubble of wealth and technology, take education and a roof over our head for granted. They sleep under shelters and can be lucky to get one meal a day. But they are happy, we are not. You know how many sad people I have encountered in Kenya? None. Back home, I can’t even cross the street without seeing somebody depressed. Why is that? Has our consumerism consumed us? Sometimes having less means having more.