Monday, 23 February 2009

Interesting Point of View

KCIS has recently posted a blog, asking for donations to get a project off the ground, and it brought an interesting comment from a Kenyan, apparently in the town where we are based, Kisii.

"I could give you a donation, but I'm opposed to this kind of aid, because it encourages dependency and entreches the aid industry. Poor people don't exist in Africa so Westerners can get an opportunity to "help" them and feel good about themselves."
I could not agree more that poor people in Africa are not just "feel good" toys for Westerners, and it made me think long and hard about what I am doing, and why.

  1. KCIS is run mainly by Kenyans, I am the only non-Kenyan in the organisation.
  2. Second, I was asked to join the organisation. The other directors, both Gusii, asked me to join their efforts to help them to offer shelter to the children in their care. They were my friends before I started to work with KCIS.
  3. My main role is to raise awareness of KCIS in the developed world, and to try to raise funds for the organisation.
  4. As a mechanical engineer, I have designed systems that can be built for little money, that will improve the lives of the poorest families, those who have lost the bread-winner and are literally scraping a living. These people do not have the time to worry about building a safe water system. They are too busy surviving.

OK, that's what I do. So the next question is why?

Do I do it so that I get plaudits from people, either in Kenya or here at home? Definitely not.

Do I do it so that the kids at our home treat me like a demi-God? Again, no. I like the kids and they like me. Why? Because I am friendly towards them, and probably there is the curiosity factor. My skin is the colour of a plucked chicken, theirs is dark. My hair, what little i have left, it straight and soft to the touch, theirs is black, curly and course. So, especailly to the little ones, I am odd.

So, why do I do it, why do I work for a Kenyan organisation?

I like the people. I like the country. I like the climate. In other circumstances, I would be living in Kenya. But that's another story.

It also gives an outlet for my low-tech approach to engineering. If people can benefit from my possible solutions to their problems, why shouldn't they?

I am not offended by the comment in the KCIS post. It did make me wonder, but now, in my own mind, I plead "Not Guilty".

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