Smart money

Im in an internet cafe in Nairobi (one KES per minute). In most (but not all) browsers you should be able to hold the mouse over the Swahili words (they should be green and italic) and the English translation will pop-up, don’t click, it doesn’t do anything. Try it heer: nzuri sana!.

I’m in Nairobe this weekend. Went out on friday night to a pub with music and people doing some sort of dance in a confined space. Also had a wonderful indian meal with a friend who lives in the city and her boyfriend and some other waifs and strays. That was very nice.

Saturday was the VSO committee meeting; a get together of volunteers from, in this case, the Eastern region, to talk about the process of being a volunteer, and generally to meet up, gossip and provide a support network. It was great to meet up, once again, with three of the volunteers i arrived with three weeks ago. Some of them, however, are having a rough time. I have learned to count my blessings.

Not that I have ever thought I was having it tough. I know I’m lucky to be in Tala with Sr. P. and the gang there. Some of the others are working for a very corrupt church-based organisation (CBO). Their employers expect them to finance their mobile phones and other luxury goods. (These are bishops Im talking about). And I have seen how even our own VSO office in Narirobi suffers from corner cutting and job-protection tactics. Nevertheless there are opportunities to do some good here, working with the community. One of the serving volunteers here — a great fellow whom i like very much — pointed out that it is very much the responsibility of us, the volunteers, to see how we can make a contribution and re-negotiate our contracts with our employers if and when necessary. ITs not easy.

This is how VSO makes a difference. I remember being told, on my pre-departure training, that when people (for example, our employers) ask us for additional money, we can say “I am your resource”. VSO spend a lot of money to get us here. And there are even grants in GBP to helpe us get reestablished when we return. So how does this cash help in disadvantaged countries? Because i am here. Its my responsibility to make a difference. It has the potential to be better than just sending money (as so many aid agencies do — they are motivated by politics to show that wealthy countries are helpnig poor ones, they care that so much money has been spent, but they do not do field accounting to helkp prevent fraud) but sending people. The people are the gift, not the money. The money pays what is necessary to get us here. We are the gift. And we have the possibility to see how we can make a difference. We have to act accordingly.

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