Neways, Maccas and Corruption

I’ve spent the last 6 weeks travelling through New Zealand and Australia talking with both younger and older people about Africa and the work we do there. It’s been quite a transition in getting used to the convenience of life here and trying not to speak in Swahili and then the biggest shock of how expensive food is.

There’s a few things that we don’t get in Kenya where we are based.

Neways. These are a great range of products that have ingredients that don’t harm us. You’d be surprised what chemicals are in our hair, skin and household products. When we lived in Australia we converted as much as possible to Neways products and really saw the difference. 18 months later we still have some shaving gel left, but everything else has been used up. It’s a real bummer that we can’t get Neways in Kenya but that’s not all we can’t get.

neways McDonalds. Yep, while there’s KFC there is no sight of Maccas. Kenyans love chicken and chips, but there are also some burger bars around the place. KFC is extremely expensive and because I’m a coeliac, can’t eat it anyway. KFC is so popular that sometimes you have to wait 30 minutes for your order.

maccas There’s a big difference on why both Neways and Maccas aren’t in Kenya and it’s very simple – corruption. For any international company to get established in a country across East Africa, there would have to be a lot (and I mean a lot) of ‘incentive dollars’ or ‘lunch money’ handed over. I’m not saying KFC or any other business is corrupt, but I do know for a fact that both Neways and McDonalds could if they wanted to, buy their way into East Africa.

Corruption has strangled the advancement of developing countries. In 1963 Kenya and Singapore were both on the same economic level. I know that there are several reasons why Kenya is in it’s current economic state but everyone knows that corruption has eaten away at the quality of life there. It goes through every level in our communities and it is a horrible thing. It is common practise to be pulled up by police for lunch money, or be given a different price because we are white. While we will do pretty much anything to not be thrown into a Kenyan jail there is always the fight to do what is right.

The pastoral team at our church have made a stand not to give in to corruption even if they have to go to jail. Now, if we can get the other 43 million in our country to do the same maybe we might just be able to turn things around.

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So, what do you do actually do for a job?

Here we (Shaz and Liz) are in the last week of a month speaking tour in New Zealand (NZ) before we head to Aussie to do the same. We’ve been in schools, unis, Rotary Clubs and had lots and lots of coffee catchups with people.

In this month alone we’ve slept in 12 different beds.

Besides the question of corruption the other question I mainly get asked is “So, what do you actually do for a job?” So here’s what we actually do, although every day is different.

 

Sharon

I try to be in the office by 8.45am but it depends on traffic. Sometimes it takes 5 minutes, other days 30. Basically in the mornings I volunteer with an organisation called Afri-Lift which works with children and youth for very poor backgrounds. On Mondays I’m in meetings until 2pm, Tuesdays I write grants for fundraising, Wednesday’s prepare for a 6 hour teaching day, Thursday teach, Friday do marketing.

 

The afternoons/evenings are taken up with work for BeyondWater (the Aussie charity we started in 2007), writing LOTS of emails, blogging, social network updates, looking at projects and every now and then taking Pete out for a coffee. I work till about 9pm most nights with my other spouse – the laptop.

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Some of the great kids we get to work with.

Three out of four weekends we also have programs on. One Saturday we train youth leaders, another we have a tuition program in the Kibera Slum and the third Sunday of the month we assist with the Riziki Childrens Program. That leaves us one extra Sunday to meet up with some young couples we are mentoring.

 

In addition we host lots of international visitors, sometimes go to the Kibera Slum with food packages or randomly do things like have the odd day off.

 

Pete

My days are certainly never dull and boring. Like Sharon, on Mondays we have a staff meeting for a couple of hours but every day/week is different. Sometimes you’ll find me tiling a kitchen, fixing a tractor, buying a truckload full of seeds to transporting tomatoes. You will also see me working with teenage boys training them on the ‘how tos’ of farming. This might mean pulling apart something that doesn’t work and showing them how to fix it. A lot tends to break down and it’s giving the locals the skills so next time they can fix it themselves. When I say things are varied, it’s a slight understatement. One morning I might be trying to find a market for the produce that the trainees grow and then that afternoon helping to install a water tank.

pete

Pete showing one of the boys how to use machinery.

I try and spend 2 – 3 days out at the farm which is about an hours drive. But I also need to be in town to work out all the other stuff. I’m not confined to an office or computer but every couple of days you can’t get away from paperwork. I work with a small team of people who have different roles but one thing I’ve learnt is that you can never over communicate.

Here in Kenya things are complicated and take much longer than say in Australia. You can’t go to one hardware store and get everything you want. Just because they say something is definitely in stock doesn’t mean it’s actually there.

This year I’m trying to take a couple of afternoons off a week. So far I’ve failed miserably.

Every couple of months we get personally involved with our water projects. That might mean driving a few hours to meet up with the community to make sure they’re on track.

That in a nutshell is our life, but it’s much more interesting in reality than in print. We meet amazing people, every day is a challenge and there is lots of work yet to be done.

 

Why not join us by:

  1. Giving (ask me how)
  2. Joining us (long or short tem)
  3. Find out more (shoot me an email – thewildcreanberries@gmail.com)