Why Kenya

I always get amazed on what draws people to come to Kenya to work or volunteer. Everyone has a story and I try and get them to tell me.

Some come to escape from their former life. Others to get themselves up the ladder of success in business. Some found that this was the only way to get to see this part of the world.

And then there’s me.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

Food is an important medium for connecting.

When I was in Standard 4, at about 10 years of age, we did a study – The Manyatta of Kenya.

I’m 46 years old. In ‘my day’ very few people travelled internationally. I remember one friend whose entire family went to Disneyland and they brought back a huge (and I mean huge) Winnie the Pooh. Another friend went to The Netherlands. But that was about it. I remember the same year that a plane full of tourists from New Zealand flew to Antarctica and them all perishing on a mountain there.

And then there was me.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

The War Cemetery is one of the tidiest places in Nairobi.

We didn’t own a car until we inherited money from a grandparent passing. I remember travelling out of town once or twice.

Over my teens I had grown up reading adventures of people who had travelled through China, Africa, South America and India. But I’d never been there.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

At the top of Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.

The first time I travelled internationally was when Pete went to college in Australia for 3 months, so we packed up and headed for the Sunshine Coast. Our girls were 8 weeks and a year old, I was 22.

A couple of years later we went to India for a few weeks, left the babies behind and had a blast. We would’ve been happy to move there but things didn’t pan out that way.

As the years went by we hosted plenty of international development workers or missionaries, many who worked in Africa. We threw (not literally) our girls out of their beds for our visitors. The girls thought it was cool, they didn’t know any different. I home schooled them for 6 years and integrated a lot of history, country information and cultural teaching.

You can't come to Africa and be in a hurry.

You can’t come to Africa and be in a hurry.

Then life took a turn.

We moved to Sydney, Australia where we’d never been before. Set up a new life, and it was great. That was 2002.

In 2007 I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya to graduate my students. I emailed a Kiwi friend of ours who we hadn’t seen for a few years and met up with them. It was great seeing their work with streetboys. I returned home for only a few weeks and then had to go to Ghana for a seminar. Ghana was so different to Kenya. East and West are like chalk and cheese.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

Pete being walked down Mt Kilimanjaro with a broken leg.

In 2009 Pete and I decided that we wanted our girls to have a bigger world view. We wanted to show them that not all of the world was white, English speaking and middle class. So, we took them to Africa, specifically Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania. Our youngest daughter DID NOT want to go. She had just finished her last year at high school and decided she ‘wanted to work’ we told her she had the rest of her life to work, and she was coming.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

Pete was flown to Nairobi to receive top class medical care.

For a year we saved, sacrificed and made budget. A couple of other young people came with us some of the way. It was a cheap trip – buses, backpackers and motorbikes. We had a blast (most of the time). After 8 weeks we returned home tired but changed.

titanic

Han & Jules on Lake Victoria

In 2010 Pete and I went to Hawaii to drop Hannah off at school. It was there that we decided to move out Sydney, we were bored. The answer was either Hawaii or Kenya. I LOVE Hawaii, love, love, love it. But we thought ‘what the heck, what have we got to lose by going to Kenya?’

In 2011, Pete, Liz and I returned to Africa with the specific thought of ‘Could we really live here and what could we do?’ This time for another 2 months but it was to Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania (Climb Mount Kilimanjaro). Pete broke his leg on the mountain, so he stayed back in Nairobi and Liz and I went throughout Uganda checking in on our projects. The change in plans gave us a longer time to see if Kenya would be our new home or not. We’d travelled through lots of countries but there was something pulling us back to Kenya.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi is bustling with small businesses.

Nairobi was the most modern city we visited. We had people we knew there. It could give us easy access to other countries. We liked it. We liked it enough that we moved in 2012.

While there is lots of wildlife which is absolutely the coolest, it’s the amazing people that you get to meet. Those who struggle from day to day but keep a positive attitude. Those who are starting out in business and doing well. Expats who come here for some sort of experience.

The scenery is amazing.

The scenery is amazing.

Nairobi is made up mainly of Kenyans but there are representatives from pretty much every nationality on earth.

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And so are the people.

Kenya is never dull and boring. There’s always something to do and people to meet. There is a lot of history here (which I love). It’s diverse and interesting. You’re always learning something new. We’re close to our water projects and the communities we work with.

We could’ve gone anywhere in the world and it we would’ve been fine but we chose Kenya.

Actually, I think Kenya chose us.

This Is No Holiday

We’ve been on the road for a month now and the biggest thing people say to us is ‘How’s your holiday going?’

This is no holiday, trust me.

Sure, we’re away from home for 8 weeks, so yes, it counts as an extended period of time. The recreation side of things is another thing all together.

The reason we came to New Zealand - the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The reason we came to New Zealand – the wedding of Hannah and Luke.

The great thing is to catch up with many of the partners in our work, family and friends. We hadn’t planned to come away this year but our youngest daughter is about to be married, so we were coming.

If you’re spending $6,000 on flights, you certainly wouldn’t come for a couple of weeks.

Each weekend, we are in Auckland with our daughter and during the week we are visiting around the country. December is the worst time of year to fundraise so booking in group meetings is not just going to happen.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt - Pete lived with them before we got married.

Ross & Beryl Shadbolt – Pete lived with them before we got married.

Weekends are full of shopping for clothes for the wedding, decorations for the wedding, going through the ceremony ideas for the wedding. Now we are getting closer it’s shopping for the household stuff and moving furniture into the apartment.

Since we are living off people’s donations, we have very little that we can financially contribute. However, we can offer practical help and advice.

As soon as Monday comes around we jump into the little Toyata we’ve been generously lent by the in-laws. Thankfully, we’ve been lent a fuel card for the month, so our petrol has been covered.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

Pohutakawa trees. NZ is the only place you can see them.

In some places we have back to back meetings, up to three a day. On Thursday we’ve squashed in 4. Today was the only day we haven’t had meetups with people or travelled.

No wonder we are tired, really tired.

Sleep when/where you can.

Sleep when/where you can.

What most people don’t realise is that this is part of work. Sure, we get to sleep in later but each day you’re telling people about what is happening in your part of the world. There’s still blogs to write, websites to update, fundraising campaigns to get going, emails to answer.

This is what they call ‘furlough’.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we've known for 20 years.

Liz with Don McDonell, someone who we’ve known for 20 years.

It’s not a holiday it’s a necessary part of keeping in touch with donors and putting a face to where their money goes. It reminds them that you are more than someone on a social networking site. You are human and you are grateful for their sacrifice.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

Pete getting to see his ailing father.

It’s quite hard to let them know of the ever growing financial needs and the shrinking budget. You don’t want to seem ungrateful and that you need more. But that is the reality. The cost of living in East Africa is skyrocketing, while the income diminishes. Donors move to other countries, some just stop, others forget.

You also have to buy clothes and tools for the next 2 years. Pretty much everything is twice the price in Kenya so you have to outlay for what you will need. There are some things you just can’t get back home. For example, I bought a wooden clock for teaching time to kids – it cost a whopping $5. I’ve also got counters for using with a bingo game and Pete has picked up some chainsaw files. No point in having a chainsaw if you can’t sharpen it!

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

Speaking at the Tokoroa Elim Church about our work.

On the flip side though, catching up with people we haven’t seen, some for 15 years, is fantastic. We’ve eaten way too much food, stayed up too late too often and had time to hear what others have been up to.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

Kevin & Jan Ahern shouting us out to a BIG breakfast.

So although it’s not a holiday – it’s still been lots of fun.

Dispelling the Myths

There are lots of things that people ‘know’ about Africa but it’s actually what think they know. Stuff we’ve read online or more likely, what we’ve heard from others, their opinions or third hand knowledge.

Today I’m going to tell it like it really is so you can see a different side to what life here. Just remember, Africa has 54 countries, that’s a quarter of the number of countries in the entire world. Here’s 6 myths people hold about Africa.

Africa is huge.

Africa is huge.

 1. Mud Huts

Not everyone lives in a mud hut. In Kenya, 32% of people live in cities, Uganda 15%, Algeria 72%. Most of those people live in apartment blocks. In Nairobi where we live there are guards and sometimes guard dogs at the gated entrance of the property. While there are some houses, these tend to be in certain suburbs. Many homes tend to have house help. On the day we moved into our apartment, the caretaker offered his daughter as our househelp, all for $120 per month. We said no thanks.

hut  apartment

 2. Security

We have people staying in our home all of the time. They might be students coming to do research for their studies or perhaps taking a break from working in remote places around Africa. I love having people over. If I had a bigger house I would probably have a whole bunch of teenagers living with us who really need a place they can call ‘home’.

The number one question I get asked is ‘Is it safe there?’ Safety is all-relative. It’s not safe for me as a white person to walk around the streets at night, but it is during the day. We work with young people who live in the Kibera Slum. They are amazing and give me hope for our country. However, I am unwise to walk through Kibera by myself. Therefore, I go with people who live there.

Unfortunately, you can never take security for granted. We live in a relatively safe area but I still lock the car doors when I get in. We are always aware of things like our bags, phones and wallets. When we go to a slum, I take off my jewellery and leave anything I value, at home. If you wear it, you have to be prepared to lose it.

Kenya has been rocked by a number of security issues. In the last two years we’ve been involved in a rock throwing/riot situation while working, bus blow-ups (we don’t catch them if at all possible), attacks at the Coast and of course, the Westgate attack a year ago. It sounds bad but it doesn’t affect you too much unless you are involved. Even when we were running the kids program and we all had to huddle inside because the hall was being pelted with rocks, we didn’t feel afraid. We were just concerned how the little kids were going to get home safely.

The thing about acts of terrorism though is that you don’t know when and where it’s going to happen. You have to be alert and use the brain you’ve been given.

We are thankful that over the past two years we haven’t been carjacked or anything on our persons stolen. We’ve heard of it happening to lots of others but not us. May it so continue.

riot3. Money

There is money to be made in Africa. Get it out of your mind that the streets are lined with people begging with a bowl saying ‘please sir can I have some more’. Yes, there are beggars and homeless people (just like the rest of the world) and yes, a lot of people live in poverty. But – there are also people with money.

The top African countries with millionaires include South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya, Angola, Tanzania and even Algeria. Throughout the continent there are more than 130,100 millionaires. There are 27 billionaires.

I’ve been travelling to East Africa for 7 years. In that time there’s been an obvious sign that there is a developing bigger middle class – the number of locals at the coffee shop at the shopping mall and those shopping there. There’s also been a huge increase of cars on the roads. I am forever seeing Mercedes on the road!

Ashish Thakkar - Africa's youngest billionaire

Ashish Thakkar – Africa’s youngest billionaire

4. Modern Facilities

There is a huge difference between life in the city and that in the village. We have running water, electricity (most of the time), more footpaths and lots of shopping malls. In the village there might be one small shop to buy something from or, you jump on a bus to go to the nearest town. It’s basically opposite to a city. You have to buy water in a jerry can, you probably don’t have electricity.

In Nairobi, we have a number of slums that don’t have running water or sanitation facilities. We also have a large portion of locals who have never even stepped into a slum. On the other end of the spectrum, you have young people from well off families that don’t even speak Swahili (official language) because they go to private international schools.

We are quite spoilt in Nairobi, we can pretty much buy any food that we want. It’s not always available but when it is, it’s great. There are lots and lots of places to eat out and plenty to do. Nairobi is not a place you can get bored in. We’ve friends in Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia who, when they visit are ecstatic at what food and items we regularly buy. My husband Pete went to Ethiopia last week and half of his bag was full of sugar, meat and chocolate for an associate, because they couldn’t even get things like sausages.

On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda

On the outskirts of Kigali, Rwanda

5. Technology

East Africa has ridiculously cheap Internet. In Australia I was spending $100 just on my phone plan and then about that much more on a telephone/TV/internet package. $45 gives us unlimited wireless internet, TV package and a landline phone (which we never use). I use $5 for phone/SMS and another $5 for internet on my phone. And that’s on a busy month.

What I really like is that you can buy a scratchie card and put credit on your phone for as little as 50 cents. MPesa is a very cool monetary system established by Safaricom. Let’s say I need $5, anyone can send me that through the phone and I get it in an instant. I can then go and withdraw it or use it to buy goods or pay a bill. I often send Pete airtime on his phone via mine. I remember when Pete broke his leg when we were in Tanzania, on Mt Kilimanjaro and I called back to our friends in Nairobi to tell them and also, could they send me some credit on my phone – and they did. Got to love this system.

mpesa

In 9 days we fly out to Australia and New Zealand for our daughters’ wedding and we all know that we will have a heart attack on how expensive our phones will cost us. One phone package in New Zealand will cost me 4 months of what we would spend here.

6. It’s Hot

As I write this blog I’m sitting in jeans, wearing a jumper and have my ugg boots on. Okay, it’s not that cold but wearing uggies is comfortable around the house. Google tells me it’s 19 degrees and will hit 24 later. Very rarely does Nairobi get to 30 degrees.

Sahara Desert

Sahara Desert

You don’t have to travel far and there’s a huge temperature difference. In Garissa (4 hours away) it’s often 35 degrees. The Lake Turkana area often gets to 50 degrees. So yes, it does get hot here but not like what people think. During the middle of the year the temperature drops to around 13 in the morning, rainy seasons are in June/July and November/December. Things have been much drier this year and the rains in June just didn’t come. I’m seeing signs of the coming rains so it actually makes me happy. Outside of the city it’s dry and brown, here’s hoping it greens up fast.

tempDon’t believe everything you hear on the news about Africa. It’s a place of adventure, challenges and amazing people. You should come on over!

boy

I Want To Help The Poor

Last week we had a friend from Australia come and visit for a few days before she moved on to look at other projects in Kenya.

She said something on the first day that I’ve heard many a time over the years “We’d better get busy, I’m here to help the poor.”

While I knew what she meant, it got me thinking about how we think about what we think helping others actually is.

In the West we have the mentality to put a band aid on something and walk away. Or, we write a cheque because it’s the easiest way for us to ‘deal with it’.

Not that there’s anything wrong with handing out money but is it really the answer?

Most weeks I get the privilege of going to the Kibera Slum. The reason I say privilege, is because as a white person by myself, it would be unwise and it wouldn’t be safe for me, but with one of our friends, I am fine. It’s not that they don’t like white people, but they’re over white people coming in buses, taking photos and leaving. They’re over white people telling them what to do.

They just want to get on with their lives and make the best of what’s been dealt to them.

I look at the slum of nearly a million people and how much money has been poured into that place over the years and wonder what impact it has made. And yet I see glimmers of hope.

 

How can we make a real impact on people:

1. Learn about the people you want to help

Do you remember their name or just their need? How can we tell people we care if we don’t know who we’re talking about? Our motto should always be ‘People matter most’. Leave the programs up to those living on the ground long term.

Ask people “What is your dream for your children?” They will be more than willing to tell you. For most it will be that they want their children to go to school and have a better life than what they did.

girlchild2. Learn their story

Everyone has a story but not everyone has a voice. Our job is to give them a platform to be heard.

When I lived in Sydney, Australia I was studying for my MBA and needed to go into the city to buy a $120 textbook for a subject. I was walking through an area called Martin Place at lunchtime and threw $5 into a bowl by a homeless lady who was sitting on the footpath. I went on my merry way and then this thought came to me ‘what a fat lot of difference that made’. I knew what I had to do. I went and bought my book, dropped into a friends million dollar jewellery store for a chat and went back to Martin Place. In my mind I was kind of hoping the lady was still there and then I didn’t. But when I saw her, I was relieved that she was.

I sat down with her and asked her story. There was a food cart across the street so I asked her if she wanted a Coke and chips, to which her answer was “No, just a bottle of water and a sandwich is fine.” I ended up buying as much as possible and sat back on the ground with her for a few more minutes. As a Jesus follower I asked if I could pray with her, which she allowed. Then I told her I had to go and catch a ferry to Manly. I walked away hoping that I gave her hope.

The gist of it is that I gave her a chance to tell about herself and I just had to listen – that was all.

home3. Link up with people working on the ground

When you come to a place like Africa all you will see are the things that need fixing – the roads, the electricity, the living conditions, the poverty. Plenty of people have walked in with pockets full of cash and gone home penniless. They give out money here and there. People’s stories will pull on your heart strings and you couldn’t imagine YOUR children living in some of these conditions. You’ll be shocked and want to give, give, give.

Can I suggest something. Give to organisations (never individuals) who have a good track record and can prove where the money goes. There is no harm in asking for copies of the receipts. Accountability is a good thing.

This week we gave a person we trust a small amount of money for some clothes for a young man. Even then, I asked if they could take a photo on their phone and to send it to me. It’s not because we don’t trust them, it’s because I want to use it to raise more money for more kids. Because we knew each other, we’d built this relationship, it wasn’t offensive.

Remember – the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

chocolate_pudding_s

4. Don’t make promises

When you see a great need it’s easy to get swept away in emotion, especially if there are young children involved. Too many people have come to Africa and said that when they return home they will do something to help. The truth is, when you get back home you hit the ground running and get caught up in every day life.

If you raise funds, that’s great. If you raise awareness that raises funds, even better.

poverty-in-africa5. Be rather than do

We tend to think that if we get in there and ‘fix it’ we’ve done our job. Sure, we can do it but what have we left the person with? Have we left them with a sense of value, belonging and that they are our equals? Or, do people just see dollar signs when they see us?

Play a game of soccer with the kids, have tea with the mamas, sit with people in their home, show them photos of your kids, be a friend.

basketball-children-africa

We always welcome visitors with open arms, but please, come to learn, then you will get everything out of your trip that is available. If you come to do, do, do, you’ll end up judging, frustrated and wonder what difference you’ve made.

Leave your chequebook at home. Then when you get back, you can give to one project that really touched your heart. Crumbs given out here and there don’t really impact much, but a larger one off donation can be utilised really well.

Honour Thy Father

Yesterday it was Father’s Day in lots of countries, including Kenya. Our youngest daughter lives in New Zealand and it doesn’t happen there until September.

So in honour of all dads (and single mums) I’m writing this blog, but especially in honour of Pete’s dad – Alvin Crean.

Dad is in hospital and we are all unsure of how much longer he’ll be with us. At 83 his heart is just holding on. It’s been a tough week for all of the family, we all knew it was going to happen but it doesn’t make it any easier.

It’s hit Pete really hard being so far away from everyone. The last time he saw his dad it was exactly 2 years ago. It was to say goodbye before we moved to Kenya. Pete knew it would be the last time he saw his dad, so it was extra special. Yesterday we did get to make him a video and then speak to him which was really good.

There’s some quite famous Creans across the world. One of them was Thomas Crean, an explorer that went to Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton. In fact this year there was a huge festival in his name held in Wellington, New Zealand. It looks like they originated from Ireland and made their way across the world.

The family crest

The family crest

There’s even a ‘Creans Road’ named after Pete’s grandad in Waihi.

roadIn 1960 Pete’s dad married his mum (Alma). She already had 4 children from her previous husband who had passed away. That’s a huge thing to take on 4 kids that aren’t your own. Then, Pete and his sister were taken in when their birth parents abandoned them. Pete and Dawn were just a toddler and a baby.

It takes a lot of courage to take on 6 children with none of them being biologically yours. It wasn’t always a peaceful household and Pete has lots of colourful stories about his upbringing.

Pete liked living where they did because their house was on the fenceline of the school. In fact, it was only a few years ago that his parents moved out of there to a more rural setting.

The Crean house in Tokoroa

The Crean house in Tokoroa

Our girls loved visiting their grandparents little lifestyle block. There were pigs, dogs, chickens and lots of parrots. Pete’s dad loves birds. Even now at 83 he keeps birds in the back yard. One of our regrets is that he didn’t get to come to Africa and see the amazing wildlife here. He would’ve really liked that.

One thing I really respect about Pete is that he honours his dad. He doesn’t agree with everything he did or said but the fact that he took in so many and provided for them and calls them ‘all of his kids’ says a lot. On our wedding day, 26 years ago, Pete made sure during the speeches that his parents were given the due respect and thanks. Although it’s a blended family I’ve never heard anyone say ‘step brother’, ‘step sister’ or his dad say ‘they’re not MY kids’.

December 1987

December 1987

Some handy things Pete’s dad has taught him (purposely or not):

  • Work hard/play hard
  • Provide for your family even if you have to get 2 or 3 jobs
  • Always be hospitable (be ready with that cup of tea)
  • Every kid is special, they are not an accident
  • Treat animals well
  • It’s okay to argue with your spouse but work it out cause you still have to live with them
Pete and his sisters at the bar

Pete and his sisters at the bar

Whether you’ve had a good relationship with your dad or a real crappy one, take whatever lessons you can and use them in your own family. We choose the environment we have within our family, we don’t have to repeat how we were brought up if we want it to be different.

family

Pete with Mum and Dad

The word ‘Crean’ means ‘heart’. I would say that my husband has learned through his life experiences to have a heart for people. He is compassionate and kind, especially to those who are downtrodden and rejected by society. He chooses to honour his parents through his lifestyle.Dad’s heart might not have much longer to keep beating but he can be assured that the hearts, thoughts and prayers of his family will be with him now and always.

 

 

 

The Biggest Sacrifice Of All

There are many ancient religions where children were sacrificed on behalf of their parents. These include the Incas, Moabites, Phoenicians and Islamists.

Usually it was to appease a god, please them or in the hope of better crops.

Even today child sacrifice continues around the globe. ‘There are many indicators that politicians and politically connected wealthy businessmen are involved in sacrificing children which has become a commercial enterprise.’ (Wikipedia)

What made me think of this gruesome event was when our daughter stomped off to her bedroom last night yelling ‘that’s it, I’m packing my bags and getting the next flight home!”

While it may not mean a lot to the average person to us it was a huge thing. Because we had decided to move to Kenya our youngest moved out of home and then moved country to New Zealand where she hadn’t lived for 11 years. Our oldest (Liz) came with us.

Literally she had no choice. Liz is a special needs young adult and cannot live by herself. She is a high functioning Aspergers. Most people don’t even know because she is so friendly, has the best smile, cooks wonderfully and is adventurous. Liz has no worries about jumping on a plane to travel from Kenya to Australia, as long as she has her paperwork printed out and in order. If you ask her how her day was, her answer will always be ‘good’.

So for her to say what she did really hit hard.

People think it’s ‘so wonderful’ what we are doing (working in Africa) but there is a flip side to it that most don’t even think of.

Our kids sacrifice for us to be here.

There are days when you wonder if that sacrifice is really worth it. They have to give up friends, family, jobs and the convenience of the only life they’ve known. There is a huge difference between visiting somewhere and living there.

For Liz she has totally lost her friendship and support network and doesn’t have the ability to rebuild that. There are no great social services for those with a disability here. Getting to a church event during the week is a 90 minute drive each way – and that’s on a good day. Art classes are exorbitantly expensive. Volunteer positions for her are just about zero. Then, there’s the fact that she has to fly back to Australia every 3 months to keep her disability pension.

As parents we really do feel we have sacrificed our kids for this mission.

It happens around the globe time and time again. It’s an extra thing when you have a child with a disability because their future doesn’t look quite as bright as it did before.

We now have to make a decision to whether she stays here or has to return to New Zealand and see her only every few years. Right now the thought of that is too much to bear.

girls

So when you hear of people working in developing countries take a moment to think about how it impacts their family both for the good and bad. There are those working for a large NGO that cater for their housing, transport and kids schooling, then there are small development workers like us who scrape by on their friends donations. Either way, at some stage they either have to return to their home country for their children’s education or they have to say goodbye to them, unsure of when/if they will see them again.

Skype and social networks never replace a real relationship, but it sure beats the old days before they were invented.

Our kids have been blessed to be involved in humanitarian work in several countries, seen many places in the world that others only read about and have had an impact in changing communities. I believe it has changed them and made them better and bigger minded people. I don’t regret investing in them to travel, it has been worth every dollar spent.

“Children are the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future” John F Kennedy

 

Why I Hate Glee

Millions worldwide are glued to their TV screens each week that Glee is on. When it first came out I thought it was a fantastic show, until the morals started sliding and anything and everything was permissible.

glee

Everyone is entitled to their opinions so I thought as a different type of blog I would express my thoughts and some of the things we can actually learn from the show.

Why I hate Glee:

1. Addiction to it by millions is an understatement

Enough said on that one. Anything young people plan their life around, they have to move their schedule for, or you can’t skype them during that time, is annoying.

 

2. It’s so unreal

Think about it, these guys never go to the toilet, look way too old to be in school, have to do jobs at home or have to do the dishes. It’s escapism to the max! Mostly though, that’s why we like to be entertained, to take us to a totally different place from our every day lives. It would be interesting to see the ratings for National Geographic compared to Glee. I wonder if Sir David Attenborough watches Glee after spending years out in the freezing cold with the penguins?

 

3. The kids rule the parents

There doesn’t seem to be any sort of boundaries put in place or repercussions for when the kids play up. It gives the kids watching the show the impression that’s how life should be. People actually believe that what they see at the movies and on TV is real. Just ask my students.

 

4. Teachers have no self control

Either they are complete Nazi’s like Sue Sylvester or a total walkover like Will Schuester or the flaky Emma Pillsbury. There doesn’t seem to be any balance in between. They’re busy dealing with manipulation, affairs or break ups. If the teaches have no self control how do they expect the kids to. What happened to teachers specialising in education to ensure a good future for our kids?

 

5. Kids have no self control

I know the show is about the kids and not their parents or lack of them, but my goodness, if every single child in the world acted like these kids, I might as well give up my job. It’s true, the average age for a young person to have their first sexual encounter is 17 (for many, much younger) and we all know how hormonal driven young people are but do we really need to relive it on the screen? With all the sexually driven advertising, pre-schoolers being sexualised and full on sex scenes in movies, do we need to hear about it all again? Why can’t we be talking about commitment, sticking in there when times are tough, give and take, relationships and strong marriages?

 

6. The writers wanted to have something for both adults and kids to watch

You must be kidding? Sure, as a parent I really want my kids watching a teenager losing his/her virginity and a whole show dedicated to it (NOT). The show is so well packaged and marketed we have to ask ourselves – what values as a family do we hold? Does what we’re watching support those values?

 

Lessons Learned

  • Parents, keep an eye on what your kids are watching
  • Talk to your kids about their choices in life, in a Biblical perspective
  • Your kids might not tell you, but they feel safe when you put in boundaries and keep them
  • Limit their TV time (when was the last time you read with them?)
  • If you’re an educator, you need to carry yourselves responsibly because young people are looking up to you

 

Why I like Glee

  1. They sound great when they sing

The actors do really well at fitting in their lines, choreography and songs that go into the show. The sound good, they look good. That is it.

Lessons Learned

  • We should learn to sing more, enjoy life more and hug our kids more

Each episode costs 3 million dollars to produce with 22 episodes per season. I leave it up to you to decide if this is the best investment of that amount of money.

The Curse of Poverty

At the moment I’m reading two books. One is for prepping to go to Kenya, the other one is just for pleasure.
‘When Helping Hurts’ (Steve Corbett) is about how not to do missions. It’s aimed at the American Church, as if they’re the only ones doing something. It’s taken me about half way through the book before I didn’t want to throw it away.

If you’ve seen The Blindside then you should read ‘I beat the Odds’ (Michael Oher). The Blindside is on my top 10 movies to watch but the book gets inside the life of Michael which isn’t portrayed in the movie.

The thing about both of these books is that they look into poverty and how we think we should ‘fix it’. I’m not going to discuss that as much as what the curse of poverty does.
While we all go through times of not generating enough money, abstract poverty is way more than that.

Here’s some of my thoughts on it, and I look forward to your comments.

1. Poverty gives you no options.

Probably one of the few options it does give you is which child will go to school. Beyond that there isn’t much else to tell. Even though you know that fruit is better for your children, you can’t afford it so you buy something full of sugar. Coke is cheaper than water in Kenya. The quality of what you can buy is low, which actually means you spend more on replacing them. You are forced to work two jobs, leave your children unattended, and can’t ensure they’re actually going to school or doing their homework. If there is one meal a day, regardless of how hungry you are, there will be no more food.

2. Poverty does not allow you to create a future.

When you are stuck in the cycle of poverty, you cannot foresee a future because all you are worried about is surviving today. The thought of going to university or some form of training that will increase your chances of earning more are not even thought of. Your next meal or the next rent payment is all that can consume you.

3. Poverty is a cycle that goes around and around.

Just when you think you might get a break, something else happens to steal away an opportunity. When you’re in this cycle there is no option for saving for a rainy day, the present consumes all resources. For those whose income is derived from agriculture all it takes is for the rains not to come or be delayed for months. This may go on for years. A sick child may take all the money you have, and because in places like East Africa you must pay all before they are discharged, you have to borrow the money from other family members.

4. Poverty steals your dreams.

While you may want to follow a certain profession, the reality is you will never get there. Not an if, but or maybe, just a never. That’s because the education system culls students who don’t make the grade, or your parents have to pay a bribe to the teach to let you through. Even if you get qualified there aren’t enough positions. There are many taxi drivers across Africa who are qualified engineers. Unemployment rate in such countries is often 50% or more.

5. Poverty is a curse.

There is nothing good to come from poverty, there’s no upside to it. It keeps children from attending school, is a cause of death for unborn babies, creates an environment that encourages corruption and makes people desperate enough to do things that are morally wrong. There are desperate parents who watch their family members die off because they don’t have a way to get to the hospital nor the money for medication.

I am so looking forward to getting my hands into training young people to help them get themselves out of poverty. As Michael Oher states in his book, the odds even though they may be stacked against you, can be beaten.

The Journey

Some people are shocked that we’re moving to Kenya, but for most they’re not surprised. It all started back (for me anyway) when I was in Standard 4 in New Zealand, when I was about 10 and we did a study on the Manyatta (settlement) of Kenya. It just stuck with me forever, along with a love for hippos (weird I know), which happens to be Africa’s most dangerous animal.

We always hosted at our house missionaries who were working in developing countries, and yes we even managed to get to India once but we never had the budget to travel extensively to other countries, for about another 14 years. Instead, we had kids, did youth work and looked after others who were doing what we wanted to do in far away countries.

It wasn’t until 2007 that I had the opportunity to travel to Kenya and Ghana over a couple of months for work. I always wanted to go to Ghana, in the West, because that’s where my childhood penpal, Hector Ofuri, was. Out of the two countries, I loved Kenya way more (sorry Ghana but you’re not my thing).  It’s also the year we started BeyondWater, to build water projects in East Africa.

In 2009 we took our first team to East Africa, did the same again in 2011 and in 2012 will take another team to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

Africa was always been a dream, something I’d hoped for but was always in the distance. For the past 4 years we have sacrificed everything to take people there. That meant no new car, dental work, going to the movies, buying clothes or CD’s. I have the same couch we bought 10 years ago and the girls have never had a new bed since we’ve lived here (2002). Is the sacrifice worth it? Yep, but it’s getting harder as the needs at home get bigger. The kids have journeyed with us, we’ve all had to sacrifice, a lot.

So from small town Tokoroa to Christchurch then Sydney. Now it’s mere months before we head off to Nairobi. Yes, we do need your support and encouragement. Check out the ‘Donate Page’ and partner with us to change the lives of hundreds of young people forever.