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A Volunteer's Agenda27th August 2011
Yes it may seem a strange topic but lots has been happeing over here in Kenya both project wise and personal and it seems that I have the urge to write it down. I started writing it in my diary but it seemed that I had to share it with you all out there, for my sake mainly.
You see when you come to a Third World Country like Africa / Kenya as a volunteer you come with an agenda...........while you may not be sure as to what areas you are going to be involved in but none the less you come with an agenda. Mine was to 'help people' less fortunate than myself and learn from them what it is like to have lived a life of poverty and corruption and only pray that there was something that I could give them in return. So I came alone and lived in a village with families all around me. I soon discovered what it was like for them to live such a basic life, to never have fresh water, no electricity, limited food and clothing and generally be restricted within such a small area. I also learnt very quickly what it was like to be a white person living in a village surrounded by poverty and the 'good feeling' soon became evident as it was so easy for me to make people happy with no more than buying 1kg of sugar, a loaf of bread and so on..............this is where the problem began. It is such a good feeling to be able to make people happy but at the same time my emotions were mixed as I saw how dangerous this was not only for them, as these are just hand outs, but for me. Living in the world that we live in limits you to experiencing these feelings of giving, the feelings of making people happy with the simple things in life so we long to have these feelings but I had to keep focused on what my job was and how I was going to empower these people to regain HOPE in their lives and not to depend on charity from the white man that came to stay..............So that is where I had to check on my 'Agenda". Why am I here? What is it I can do? How do I do this and not loose focus on the real issue here. Since my time here I have experienced so much, things that I have never experienced in my long life. Some things I feel sad to have experienced but none the less happy that they have been a big part of my learning and allowing me to be tested. You see the feeling of 'HELPING PEOPLE' can be dangerous, it can make us 'SELF FOCUSED' and loose site of how we can be effective in this world. It can cause our ego to grow way beyond reality and then it controls us to the point of pleasing only ourselves. It also causes us to express our power over people and this in turn only makes the people we are suppose to be supporting feel even less supported........reality strikes, well hopefully, and we change our ways. This is where I use the word "AGENDA'.
I am constantly challenged on a daily basis where I have to check my Agenda. By this I mean when I feel myself going to suggest that something should be done in a certain way, I stop and realise that I must allow them to make the decisions.............I am realising each day that the only way they will learn is by experience...........I sometimes feel like a mother of many as all I want to do is protect them from making mistakes, well that's my feeling (as a mother that is) but realise they have to make the mistakes to learn............working with Alex makes this a little easier as he certainly doesn't hesitate to stop me when he sees me stepping over the line.........RESPECT is another word that comes to mind. You see when we are as educated as we are, well by that I mean 'White" and you live with people who live in poverty we somehow have the notion that they can't think for themselves..............well I should only speak for myself, when they don't see things like I do, when they don't process things like I do, when they don't think like I do I can sometimes get frustrated with them...........this is when I feel most ashamed as it's not about me teaching them anything as they already know, it's not about showing them anything, as they have already seen it, it's not about the processes as they already have them, it is all about 'RESPECTING' them for being themselves. 'RESPECTING' them as human beings that have wonderful minds and know how to do things. This is where I re check my Agenda.............Why am I here?
As a Volunteer it is almost like becoming a parent. There are no books to prepare you.......there is literature that attempts to tell you about the change in life style, just like becoming a parent, there are stories from people that talk about their experiences, just like becoming a parent, there's advice as to how to handle yourself when put in situations, just like becoming a parent, they even ask you why do you want to have this experience, just like being a parent and the reality is we are heading for the 'UNKNOWN' and no difference to becoming a parent we can make BIG MISTAKES. Mistakes that can effect not only our lives but the lives of the people we are surrounded by.
What this shows is that we are all individuals, individuals that should be respected for whom ever we are and what ever lives we live........as a white person we should never feel that we know it all and the way we do things is the only way. We must remind ourselves 'Why are we here? How can we be effective in supporting these people to regain hope so as to live healthier and longer lives? Don't give them something and call it 'yours'. Don't remind them where they got it from! Don't tell them you will support them and then walk away! Don't make promises you can't keep. Give them your knowledge but don't expect them not to have their own ideas! Allow them the freedom to decide. Show them they have choices but allow them to make the decision! Give them support but make sure they contribute in some way! If you give it for nothing that is charity. Answer their questions but make sure you listen to them as well! That's where we really learn. Encourage them to change where necessary but respect their decision not to! That's independence.
So from all of that you can see I have been soul searching..........life in Kenya is hard, even as a white person, (mazoongoo). There are some people that are finding it hard to grasp the concept of 'NO HANDOUTS'. There are some people who will go to any lengths to even try to get rid of me so they can go back to the old way of charity, living off white peole...................there are some people that I am working with that don't want me here and this is the main reason for me to keep checking my Agenda. I am here for the good of these people as a community. I am here for the whole community and will not be run out by the few who feel threatened by me. These are issues that cause me to remain focused on what it is I and Alex are doing and not to get caught up in the politics of the village..............mind you it is so hard to ignore stories that you know in your heart are not true. All you want to do is challenge these people but I have tried that and all they do is blatantly lie to your face..............but I keep reminding myself that they are only a hand full of people that I can handle by just separating myslef from them knowing that the real people that matter know exactly who I am and what it is I stand for and that I am here living and working with them to better their lives and in reality better mine. These personal challenges have been huge for me but I know with the support of the community and Alex I can get through them and come out the other side a better person.
All I have to do is look at the babies and they remind me why I am here.................I am here for their future.............I am here to give them experiences so that they can realise there are other ways to live, by choice, I am here to work at bringing clean water to their lives so that they don't die from preventative diseases, I am here to live with them as one.....................I am here to learn from them, love them and be loved by them!
Cheers and thanks for listening
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