Blessings and Hypocrisies
As my graduate studies draw to a close, I have been reminded to count my blessings. I am on the verge of finishing a Master’s degree, and I do not owe a single cent in student loans. I am blessed beyond measure, so very privileged, and I am eternally grateful for the countless sacrifices my parents have made to get me here. In these tough financial times, I am reminded not take to take all this for granted.
Over the last few weeks, my heart has been heavy for others at home who have not been as lucky as me. I was recently talking to a friend who told me that one of the girls at a foundation run by her family in Kenya had just received a full scholarship to Yale. The girl’s family had been dirt poor, she was orphaned, and later adopted by this foundation. They funded her secondary school education and just recently wrote a letter to Yale pleading for them to consider this incredibly bright young girl. Yale accepted her and decided to pay for everything. These stories are few and far between, maybe there are more out there, but they remind me that opportunities such as these do not come easily. You cannot put a price on education, it is probably the best gift that young girl will ever receive and how lucky she is to have people who mentored her and made it possible for her to achieve what may have once seemed completely unachievable.
I also remembered a visit I made to Jamhuri Park last January, fresh after the post-election violence had broken out. There were hundreds of displaced people, and so many in the crowds were children. Everyone seemed to be coping, some injured, but most of them sitting around, passing time, talking and watching as other visitors and volunteers delivered food and other items. Little children and big children gathered in the stadium playing a couple of games. I stood there and could not help the sadness which overcame me knowing the tragic circumstances which brought these people here in the first place. Then I met these two children who just lit up my entire visit, chatting and smiling as though everything was okay. I never forgot their names — Tevin and Nora. That girl was so special.
These thoughts are some of the things that come to mind as I anticipate the next phase of my life and think hard about the work I see myself doing in Nairobi, both in the short and long-term. I realize a lot of this sounds very cliche, but I think seriously about what it is that I would like to do at home as someone who is interested in development and social change. In many ways, I am discouraged and at times frustrated by the lack of transparency and the self-centredness of many government and non-governmental organizations which attempt to improve the lives of the average Kenyan. I feel that there are so many redundant local and international NGOs which would probably be more effective if they were consolidated into fewer groups, so I am very reluctant to start up on more NGO. Of course, I am forced to think about the role of foreign aid in Kenya and some of the damaging implications of bureacratic institutions in developing nations. At the end of the day, I realize that I value my own integrity and I am not ready to sacrifice that. But as much as I would like to have a job that rewards me for the years I have spent developing my passions, one which will allow me to live comfortably while making real contributions, I wonder if this is even possible in Kenya.
Where do I work? What do I do? I find myself torn between selfish ambitions, good intentions and the choices at hand. Surely the Kenyan development sector does not need one more hypocrite. Or yet another person who “once had principles.”
I have never imagined myself as an educator, but it is something which has been coming to mind lately. I am still entertaining the idea, and realizing that education can take many forms. Wherever I end up this year, I hope I can find a silver lining around the seemingly dark clouds of career opportunities on our continent.