Solomon’s Choice

When people think of labels like ‘Third World’ or ‘Developing Country’ there’s this automatic picture we get in our mind of streets lined with beggars.

I can only speak on what I’ve seen here in Kenya – there aren’t that many beggars. Pete tells me that he was shocked when he went to Ethiopia and saw so many people begging on the streets. We see some regulars at their normal spot. A mother with a child, a legless man, an elderly bearded man and a bunch of kids (on the weekend). They’re all situated by shopping malls where traffic slows down or there’s an intersection. During the holidays there’s a whole stack of primary school boys who have a ‘pimp’ telling them how to get more money.

We’ve made it a general rule not to give out money to kids begging on the street. It’s a hard one because you know that these kids are from families that live on $2 a day. They wouldn’t be doing it if they didn’t have to. Most people here will find a way to make money, usually by selling some goods, clothing or services.

The reason we generally don’t give out money is that we don’t want to encourage the practice. There’s a huge assumption that because you’re a foreigner you have lots of money. It’s true, foreigners generally do have more money than a local. However, if you look at whose driving the BMW’s, Mercedes and Prados, many of them are driven by Kenyans.

Last Sunday our stance was challenged. Liz had stayed to hang with her mates at an after church event so Pete and I snuck out to a great Chinese restaurant by our house. The food there is ridiculously cheap and tastes fantastic. Sundays are the only time you can drive around the city and not get stuck in a traffic jam.

This is not the boy I saw begging

This is not the boy I saw begging

As we’re driving into the restaurant I notice a boy aged around 4 dressed in rags and looking like he hadn’t bathed in days. He was by himself which is unusual because they normally work in groups. He wasn’t actively begging, running up to cars and tapping on the window. He was simply standing as close as possible to the road with a vacant look in his eyes.

He was four.

Two hours later we drove out of the restaurant and he was still there, in the same spot.

As we refueled the car I just kept staring at this boy. Here, we had just spent hours eating, having a Coke and planning out the next few months. This boy had no future, he didn’t even have today. I had to make a choice – stick with the plan or give this kid a chance.

As we drove past I told Pete to slow down, wound down the window and handed the boy fifty shillings (around 50 cents). I said to him “Go buy yourself some food”. He probably hadn’t started school so didn’t know what I was saying but I’m sure he got the gist.

The reason I only gave him that amount is that he was by himself and if I gave him more someone would’ve snatched it out of his hand. If I had something like some fruit in the car I would’ve given him that. At least then there would be food in his stomach.

This is why I hate poverty. It makes people do things they normally wouldn’t. It stops them from having a life where they can go to school, find employment and have a future.

All I did was help for one minute. Imagine how many more we can help long term.

Would I do it again? Maybe. I’m not planning on making a habit out it but I am planning on helping a whole bunch more who can help themselves.

Want to help me achieve that?

http://makingadifference.gofundraise.com.au/page/TheGirlsProject

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Our Partners Are Important

It’s coming up to 3 years of us living in Nairobi, Kenya. It’s been an interesting time, never dull or boring that’s for sure.

This time last week I was in Dubai escorting a teenager on their way to Australia. I remember thinking ‘Maybe it’s time to go home because it’s so convenient’. There’s hot water out of the tap, the electricity works all of the time, it’s clean and you can even walk about at night on the street. Although it was all a false world, it was pretty good for 2 days.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

Me with Sam on his very first flight of his life.

The truth is, life here is not always easy and you’ve got to have big shoulders to handle some of the challenges. Security is always an issue – gangs, terrorists, pickpockets. You’ve got to consider more than 40 tribes in the country, all with their own way of doing things. There’s the learning of Swahili, trying to cope with the traffic and not being able to buy all of the things you need very easily.

This is the cost that those who work in developing countries pay. However there are many benefits to it as well.

You meet amazing people who are similar but different to you. You get to see sights and in our case, wildlife that is particular to this part of the world. You get to experience a type of life that others only ever dream of.

elephant faceon

We try and see what we do as a privilege.

That privilege is only possible because of the partners we have. There’s 75 year old George who is nearly blind and is on the pension, who gives us $30 a month from his small income. There’s also a couple who give from the rent on their property. Someone gives us $5 a month as they are a single parent. It’s always very humbling.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

March 2014 with George who always takes us to KFC when we visit.

Without partners we can’t be here. Without people’s sacrifice, we’re stuffed.

Some of our partners give just once or twice. HD Projects is one such partner.

hdprojects1

Pete worked for HD Projects in Sydney for around 7 years, starting out as a labourer and eventually as a project manager. If you asked him he would say that it was the best companies he’s ever worked for. He has a lot of respect for the owners Richard and Clyde. The only reason he left was because he was tired and his role was pretty stressful. One thing about Pete is that he is committed to his work and gives it 150% of his effort.

HD Projects are one of our corporate sponsors. This happened way before we even came to Kenya, they just didn’t know it.

HD helped finance into Pete’s ute which he used for travelling all over Sydney for jobs. They then bought is back from us when we left in 2012. This helped provide for moving some household goods over with us.

In 2013 they provided the funds for a vehicle for us to use in our work here in Kenya. You can’t just buy a small hatchback here, you need a 4 wheel drive and a car that you can easily get parts for. In the end we found an X-Trail and are super happy with it.

Now in 2015, HD Projects have funded our car costs for a year. It’s such a relief as most things are really expensive here and our budget for living costs is quite small. One tyre is $330 and we needed 4 of them. Pete is absolutely ecstatic that we are much safer on the road and that we can actually have funds to repair his bike and the car.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Pete changing a flat tyre in the middle of an animal wildlife park.

Whether it’s a retiree, a business, a church or a total stranger, all of our partners make what we do possible.

Today we want to say asante sana (thank you very much) to those who sacrifice and partner with us. It doesn’t go unnoticed and every day we are aware of the people in the bigger family of the ‘Wild Creanberries’.

Size doesn’t Matter

We seem to be caught up in a world of numbers (how big your church, outreach, youth group), money (how much you are on) strength (how many pushups you can do) and belongings (how many properties you own). Sometimes I get a bit over it. When did numbers and money become the ultimate goal of life?

Sure, I love having money to do the things we want to do, who doesn’t? I love travelling (been to 18 countries, and not just airports), I love speaking to the thousands and I love doing crazy things like white water rafting on The Nile.

my 2 loves

Bushwalking in Kenya

But one thing I’ve learned over the years is that there will always be someone smarter, richer, more fit and better at some things than myself – and that’s okay. I’ve completed an MBA but want to do another Masters Degree some time soon but does that make me more than someone who has just done their undergrad? Does it make me lesser of a person because I choose not to do a PhD?

I think it’s time we put quantity aside and look at quality of something.

We are on assignment in Kenya (that’s East Africa if you didn’t know) for who knows how long. There’s no shortage of NGO’s, community help groups, churches or ‘mega outreaches’. If you go into the slums you can see endless schools in tin shacks, lunchtime church meetings and welfare organisations operating. I dread to think how much aid and development money has gone into organisations and I ask myself ‘What impact is it making?’

Now while this might sound a tad negative, actually it’s a good thing. We constantly look at what we’re involved in and are more than happy to see lives changed forever.

liz sorting maize

Liz showing the trainees how to use the bean sorter

Kids are going to school where before they had no way in. Others are no longer living on the street and stealing, they are being educated and are now in jobs. Some who were sponsored are now volunteering, giving back to their community. We’re working with an organisation that doesn’t have the thousands on the books but their history is quite incredible – schools, sponsorship programs, agricultural training, leadership programs are just a bit of what they’ve done. That’s because they are into developing young people and not just giving a handout.

teacher 2

Teaching computers on a donated laptop

The key is not how many have come through the door of your work, but what lifetime change are you bringing?

For us personally, the person who gives us $5 a month to keep us here is as much as of a hero as someone who gives 10 times more. Every person who gives does so sacrificially. We have those in their seventies who give from their small pension. There are those who are students who have an after school job and give to us, while others give from their house rentals. It’s not about the amount but the impact it’s made.

Some generous person gave us $500 as a one off gift and from some of that we were able to give some teenage boys their first ever Christmas party. That meant small presents, a buffet lunch, party hats, streamers – the works. They got involved in making the meal and decorating the room and it was a special time for all of us – especially our family. Rather than being a day where we miss our youngest daughter (even more than normal), we were out with a bunch of kids who had no place to call home. But this was only possible because someone sacrificed A LOT.

present opening

Present opening

So please don’t look down on what you do or give – it does make a difference – if not to you to the person you are helping out.

It’s not the size it’s the heart motivation that the action is done in

Want to find out how you can help in our work – check it out HERE.