My friend Peter from the UK sent me an e-mail a couple of weeks ago, telling me he would be away from his computer for a couple of weeks, because he was going to Kenya. I asked him what he was doing in Kenya. This was his reply:
I am accompanying friends … in their mission to assist a local minister … with his 6 churches, school and 100 orphans (most of these through AIDS). Some time ago, [my friend] was contacted by a parishioner whose son … has spent a lot of time organising the delivery of much-needed items for the large congregations. As this is the year of “Make Poverty History”, [my friend] has been given time off (he is a United Reformed Church minister) to visit Kenya and see how his parishioners can assist. As he knows that I am interested in construction (before retirement I was a construction site manager), I may be able to help with the rather primitive buildings used for school, orphanage and church. I can also help with some teaching. Janice is scheduled to advise the womenfolk on the causes of HIV/AIDS. Maybe we will also do some singing as Janice and I are part of a S.A.T.B. quartet and she is a pianist. We will be taking several children’s text books, Bibles, writing equipment as allowed excess baggage and later, after we return, will be organising the shipment of large items via BA Freight. We will be in Nairobi for 2 weeks and hopefully will be able to see something of the Great Rift Valley, the National Parks and archaeological sites.
Now, here is the question his e-mail raised in my mind — and I want you to think about it, too:
What have I done today to help somebody else?
Granted, the answer is probably not going to be, “Flew to Nairobi to build schools and churches and teach the local citizens about AIDS prevention.” But what have you done? If your answer is “nothing,” write a check and stick it in an envelope to send that nonprofit group that’s been flooding your mailbox with requests for donations, or go click the “feed the hungry” button on The Hunger Site, or grab a quarter and go feed a stranger’s parking meter while you’re thinking about where you can find an hour or two in your schedule to do some volunteer work.
Peter arrived in Nairobi on the 15th. Here are his impressions, sent Friday:
We arrived in Nairobi last Sunday and are staying in the Anglican Church Guest House. Quite comfortable and the food is good. Our mission is to help the Reverend … with his churches, orphans and school. They are situated in the most appalling slums that you can imagine. But all that we have met are so happy and undemanding. We have been very moved by their resilience. Today we are going to see the 120 pupils in what serves as a school ( actually a tin shack) and listen to their lessons. When we saw the children last Monday they sang welcoming songs to us – it was very moving. We will have time to see something of the other Kenya and in fact did go to the giraffe park last evening.
Now, here’s another assignment I have for you today: Stop and think up three reasons to be thankful.
If you can’t think of anything, here’s some more inspiration, courtesy of the update Peter sent me this morning:
We had a pretty busy day yesterday and despite being in the school “building” (I say building advisedly!), for over 4 hours while all the Rev. Philip’s various pastors and parishioners came to see us and partake in their form of services, time did not drag. We were able to entertain them with a few songs/hymns and their 2 choirs were extraordinarily good, despite only having some pretty basic drums to accompany them. Later that evening we went into the Anglican Cathedral of All Saints to attend Evensong (such a change after all the dancing and singing in the slum areas) and later yet we went for some nice cool beers in a nearby hotel.
I found the railway museum fascinating. Kenya owes much to the railroad built by the Colonial British between 1896 and 1902 from Mombasa to Lake Victoria via what became Nairobi. It was a very difficult route and used mainly imported Indian labour, many of whom died in the process. In its heyday it must have been a wonderful way to travel, but now, as with so much of the country, it is in a general state of decay. You only have to see the roads and slums to know how little is being done at government level to help maintain this land. And yet generally the people are so friendly and happy.
I saw the slum school’s headmaster yesterday and the 10 new desks that I commisioned will be ready tomorrow. I’ll be seeing them on Friday when I give the children a talk on the Principles of Flight and present them with a new drum. If I can arrange it I will be going to a very ancient place this week where the earliest known remains of Human life have been found, dating back 19 million years. In this area are thousands of stone axes and other tools dating from about 50,000 BC. It appears to be a “factory” site for the manufacture of stone implements.
As a mark of our visit a tree is to be planted on Wednesday.
By the way, this is not the first time Peter has traveled far from home to do something positive. A few years ago, he and a friend flew their Fiat Panda to the United States and drove it down Route 66 as part of a fundraiser/awareness-raising project for charity.
If his efforts inspire you, please post a comment here and tell me what you did. Maybe it will give someone else an idea.