Orientated Towards Development

Today was our last day of orientation before we are picked up by our host families’ tomorrow morning. The week has gone by so fast; a blur of Kiswahili lessons, sustainable development talks, tons of food and general cultural adjustment. In between it all, I think our group has really bonded, more than I expected. We’re all very different but it’s made for some really great conversations on everything from politics, to religion (a hot topic of Matt’s), to drinking and public nudity.

Perhaps my favorite conversation was one that occurred earlier today. We went to Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya. As Joel, Walker and I were standing on the street, we were approached by a child who asked us for money. Now this is common in Kenya, sadly there are street kids everywhere. But this one was especially heartbreaking. His shirt and pants were tattered and his big eyes stood out in a face sunken in with hunger.

Our program directors have repeatedly told us to not give money to the street children as it often goes to feed their glue addiction. Yes, glue. They buy very strong glue and continuously sniff it, giving them a high that lets them forget things for a little while. We told the kid “Asante, hakuna pesa” (Sorry, no money) and moved farther away.

A silence sort of came over the three of us after the street kid left.

“That was really, really sad…” I trailed off, knowing that words couldn’t adequately describe the sense of sadness and frustration that we all felt. We’d come to Kenya knowing full well we were going to see people living in miserable conditions but knowing it and seeing it are two different things.

“I wonder what could be done to help them,” Joel asked.

We proceeded to brainstorm for the next 10 minutes, reviewing the reasons why the kids were on the streets, what previous attempts had been made to help them that we knew of and new ideas we had of things that could possibly work.

It’s really easy to give up, there are so many problems in the world and often it seems like there’s no solution. We didn’t find a solution, we didn’t actually do anything. But we didn’t just write off that street child as a problem that could never be fixed. I’m beginning to think that development has a lot to do with just opening people’s minds to their own possibilities