The Musungu (white man) returns
I have been volunteering for The Nasio Trust in rural western Kenya. This is my last posting here as I return to England.
“Maybe it is fatigue or the thought of returning home. Either way I find myself bouncing along unmade roads on my way to the airport with a lump in my throat and tears running down my face.
In the early morning light I spot a group of women having a gossip at the water well surrounded by yellow 10 gallon drums for the days water to be transported home. A kid chewing on a stick of sugar cane, fallen from the sugar cane truck which thunders by. He smiles and waves as we pass. A man energetically attacks the long grass with a machete: his contribution to civic pride. Another day starts.
In the seven weeks here I have seen and experienced some extraordinary things. Adults and children struggling with withered limbs, the result of Polio: something that we last saw in the UK generations ago and which is entirely avoidable. Kids and families blighted by Jiggers a terrible infection of the foot and hand. Families with literally no food and their only belongings being the clothes they stand in. And the children: orphaned by the blight of HIV Aids and fending for themselves. It’s a tough world.
The economic reality is stark. GDP per capita in Kenya is barely 3% of that we enjoy in the U.K. Put another way the cost of that cup of coffee in Costas represents 2 or more days work to put food on the table for a family in Musanda. The forces of globalisation will only stretch the gap further. The natural reaction is to feel pity.
Yes conditions are tough but there is something more. A spirit of humanity that is humbling.
But spend some time here and the perspective alters. Yes conditions are tough but there is something more. A spirit of humanity that is humbling. Christian values to the fore: non judgemental, not a scintilla of envy or anger but a sincere acceptance of life as it is. And the hope that God or whoever will make it right in the end.
As I gather my bags to depart the team I have been working with gather to say goodbye. I am presented with a wild African print shirt that I never quite got round to buying. And other gifts too. Along with the thanks, a prayer is said for me. Quite beautiful and sublime.
I arrived with lofty ambitions of ‘giving something back’ As I depart I realise I was entirely wrong. I have learned much about myself and the fortitude of human spirit and well, humanity. The exchange seems entirely unfair now.
As I arrive at the airport. I am in the queue with other Europeans. I suddenly realise that these are the first white faces I have seen in seven weeks.
If you have never done voluntary work, then maybe try it. You may well be surprised at what you learn.
Thank you team Nasio Trust”