This is not the Africa I expected. I am ashamed of the assumptions I came here with. I was expecting to find a continent, a country, languishing with its hand held out for help. The people here need some assistance – there’s no doubt about that. But, to paraphrase the song, “Africans are doing it for themselves.”
There are enormous challenges, to be sure. Overwhelming challenges. But Kenya today is bursting with talent. From the office towers of Nairobi to a cramped office in Machacos town to a circle of AIDS widows in an isolated village, I’ve met stunningly smart, professional and capable people. (I would love to poach some of them!)
To a person, the people I’ve met this last week are lucid about the issues facing Africa in general, and Kenya in particular. And, they’ve got a fair idea what they need to meet their challenges – if they can just find a place to get their foot on the ladder.
To hear a group of AIDS widows in a village 5 hours from Nairobi use words like capacity building, empowerment, sustainability and ownership to describe what they are doing in their community opens my eyes to what is possible here.
Tomorrow I hope to be able to tell you more about what women in the poorest villages imaginable are doing to help support the orphans left behind by AIDS. And how little healthcare information there is in their language to help them.
The sense of noblesse oblige that many Europeans come to Africa with, is almost as much of a problem as the corrupt and political leaders that destroy our lives and our countries.
I have seen that the sense of “This is not the Africa I expected. I am ashamed of the prejudices I came here with.” runs very deep in people even after they make these statements. Your sense of superiority is no different from the rich man who looks down on a poor man anywhere in the world.
Do you actually have the integrity to see yourself as our equals? One who shares a common purpose.
When that happens, I think your “aid” will have weight, merit and value to our lives.