I cried when you passed away. I still cry today. Although I love you dearly, I couldn’t make you stay. A golden heart stopped beating, hard working hands at rest. God broke my heart to prove to me he only takes the best. Farah M. Adam , even in my joy I am always thinking about you , and wishing you were here to share this.
Art for Afya is an ingenious event created by the Afya Kenya Foundation and is held every last weekend of the month. This is not only a platform for artists to perform but proceeds of this amazing night go towards activities planned for by The Afya Kenya Foundation.
Garissa. Where do I begin this tale of love at first sight between a forgotten people and myself? This story began a few weeks back when the Afya Kenya Foundation and Safara Trust came together with the firm resolve to break into previously unchartered territory for both organizations. Nasri and Cornelius, the Founders of the Safara Trust, and I, share a lot of beliefs; a firm belief in people, and people’s ability to determine the course of history, and the value of meaningful human interaction, plus the need for every person to live a life of dignity. And most importantly, a belief that for too long had we operated in our comfort zones. It was time to step outside of the box. It was time to get uncomfortable.
We left Nairobi on Friday afternoon weaving our way past the busy Thika Road traffic. Its splendor a testament to our beloved President’s resolve to leave a legacy that will resound in the annals of Kenyan history. This got me thinking about many things at once. First and foremost, it got me thinking about this word ‘Legacy’ and what it means. What will people say when you are gone? Have we done anything in life that will echo in eternity? In addition to this, it got me thinking of the value of time and how we spend it during this fleeting episode we call life. By the time we got to the beautiful Nomad hotel in Garissa town, I had plenty of questions. By the time we departed one day later, all were answered.
I have had the opportunity in the course of my work with the Foundation to meet a lot of people and see a lot of things. I have had the privilege of seeing astounding human development. I have had the good fortune to see progress. I have seen this in my home province Nyanza especially in the areas of health, infrastructure and economic advancement. And I sang the praises of our Government for this to all and sundry. Especially considering that for a long time, all this was nothing more than a pipe dream!
But on further soul searching, I realize that I must agree with Dante that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence is betrayal. The truth of these words is beyond doubt. Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily take to opposing Government policy especially when it suits us. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within our own bosom.
On this basis, the painful truth must be told. The Government has failed the people of North Eastern Kenya. Indeed, the Government has failed us all. For injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Kenya, since our inception as a nation, has always attempted a grand experiment in compromise- a continued effort in striving to live by the time proven adage that every man cannot have his way in all things. Without this mutual disposition, we are disjointed individuals but not a society. Sadly, that is the case today. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. We are more disjointed today than we ever were. Not in a violently morbid sense as was the case in 2007-2008, but in an even more significant human sense.
We, the privileged decision makers in Kenyan society, have grabbed everything at the table leaving not even a morsel for North Eastern. Why else can I count the women (out of the over 400 I interacted with) who can read and write on one hand!? Fourteen year olds married off. Twenty year olds with a brood of five children and no economic activity to feed them. Geriatrics bed-ridden for months with no hope in sight for deliverance. A single two-roomed dispensary serving a radius of 80 kilometers! Epileptics more common than educated women. Traditional birth attendants reigning in a kingdom of ignorance and poverty. And of course, famine! Some may argue culture. But remember, several African communities shared a lot of these cultural aspects and yet are not in the same dire situation. The statistics are available (Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2008-2009) but I was told to write an article on my human experience. Well, my trip put a forlorn human face to the statistics, bar graphs and pie charts. I shed a tear.
The trip to Garissa for me was similar to that of the biblical Paul, formerly known as Saul, to Damascus. I had an epiphany in the tundra of Charidende & Nanigi and my eyes were opened. I began to realize just how small I am in the grand scheme of things. I began to see just how big the challenges facing North Eastern are. And, as Paul did, I realized that I must stop the persecution of God’s children. I must stop this persecution of systematic neglect. The giant triplets of ignorance, disease and conflict continue to ravage our people as we prioritize super highways in our cities is not just. A national budget that spends more on the military than on the basic needs of the far flung communities cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.
I therefore call upon you for a greater fellowship amongst Kenyans. A fellowship pegged on humanity. A revolution of values. We need to develop an overriding loyalty to mankind as a whole. A loyalty that lifts our concern beyond tribe, race, class and origin. A concept often dismissed as weak and cowardly. I oppose our Government’s policies because I love Kenya. I speak out against these disparities not in anger but in anxiety and with sorrow in my heart but above all with a passionate desire to see our country stand as a moral example to the world. I speak out because I am disappointed with Kenya. There can be no great disappointment where there is no great love.
Martin Luther King Jr said: “My Bible tells me that Good Friday comes before Easter. Before the crown we wear, the cross we must bear. We must bear it for truth. We must bear it for justice.” And thus, I have not lost faith because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. We can overcome!
When I got a request to do a football donation trip to Garissa, I didn’t know what to expect. Garissa is a town I’d never visited before and the only thing I knew about it was that it could get pretty hot out there. So once again the “We Got Balls’ initiative decided to rally support from friends and family to fund the purchase of football kits.
Donations were made and the kit was bought and then eventually we set out for Garissa. Past Mwingi at Ukasi is a border sort of police post which basically announces, “You’re now leaving Kenya,” well that’s the feel I got because such barriers you only see them at border points. This highway might I add must be the safest on earth by virtue of the number of police road blocks. Anyway I digress.
About 5hours later we were received by Mr. Mohamed, (who insists on being called Moha) is a gentleman who has given himself to serve the people in disadvantaged areas of Garissa and when I say disadvantaged I am putting it lightly. One thing you must do in Garissa is drink lots of water because the heat is crazy if you are not used to it. But that’s just the point, there is no water. Most if not all water points were dry to the point of women sitting on the road stopping any passing car to ask if they have water. Mr. Mohamed or “Abo” as he is referred to by close ones, tells me that it’s the norm, people covers distances of over 20km in search of water everyday. Then I go back to why I’m here and question myself is it a question of wrong priorities? Maybe the “We Got Balls” initiative should have brought something else not football kit. I question if the kids can even play under these conditions.
We get to the first school, Charidende Primary School, and the reception is warmer that the temperatures outside. I am not much on speeches so I’m glad I don’t have to give any and the kit is distributed. The kids wear them proudly and I click away on my camera, too overwhelmed at the joy on their faces from something I consider “small” but clearly it means a lot to them. We do the same in the next school, Bilbil primary School and each time I say to myself, we might not be able to give them everything they need, but “We Got Balls” can give what we’ve got; balls. And so we give the balls we have to an institution that actually humbles me, Young Muslim Association Children’s home. An institution with a very rich history and a very humbling one at that that is home to over 800kids who depend on good will if they are to complete basic education. It always impresses me what happens the moment you throw a ball in the middle of kids.
The smiles inspired by the reception on new football kits
Young Muslims Football Team
Now there is talk of starting a local league in Garissa, just from one visit. Makes me wonder how much more they can do if offered the opportunity. Garissa is a good town, I didn’t hear any bombs explode or bullets miss my ear, maybe it was just a good day for us, or maybe the fear for this place is overrated, I think the latter. One person can’t change the world, but two people can. On behalf of the “We Got Balls” initiative I would like to thank Safara Trust for the invite to Garissa, it was more than just a trip to share our love for sports but it was a humbling experience that we wouldn’t hesitate to have again.
Unforgettable. I encourage you all to check out Safara Trust on face book and on www.safaratrust.org for more information on what they are doing. Great work and we at “We Got Balls” wish you all the best in your upcoming medical camp on the 20th of august 2011. Support Safara Trust if you can, they are doing their bit and you don’t know how much even a little good luck message can do.
Of course my deepest gratitude goes to my friends and family for the support. The “We Got Balls” initiative wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for you. You might love the last minute rush, but the fact that you actually “rush” is enough for me. I wish we could all have gone together but there’s next time right?
Don’t tire. God bless your big hearts and let’s go give them what we got balls.
Barely a year ago, the residents of this sparsely populated settlement close to Bura town used a semi-permament mud structure that was falling apart as a mosque (they predominantly profess to the Islamic faith). This pitifully dilapidated edifice summed up the living standards in the area that by any measure would be considered deplorable. Safara Trust with the help of well-wishers set out to remedy this situation by building a permanent mosque out of stone which was completed and officially opened last July on the 29th.
The old and the new mosques in Matagala
This June we made the long trip along the dusty clearance that passes for a road in this parts to check on the mosque and find out in which ways in we could lend a helping hand. In my honest opinion before going there the environment, specifically trees or lack thereof, would be their chief concern seeing that the area falls in ASALs (Arid and Semi-Arid Lands). The trees we passed along the ‘road’ should have been a clue to the contrary.
Upon discussion with the locals, most of whom seemed to literally emerging from nowhere after hearing the car, we quickly found out a more dire situation present in the area; the despicable healthcare facilities barely accessible to them. They spoke of the 25km they must cover on foot to get to the nearest clinic which is hardly stocked with medical supplies or staffed with medical personnel. The have a alternative clinic that is a mere 4km away. However, one must cross the expansive River Tana to get to it which in itself is a treacherous journey, especially if one is taking her ill children whom them must carry across.
This situation is mirrored all over North Eastern Province because the delivery of healthcare to nomads in Kenya has serious shortcomings. Only only 42% of there entire population currently has access to any health services at all. Matagala has very poor health indicators with the immunisation coverage falling far below the national average. The lack of maternal health services is associated with higher pregnancy related morbidity and mortality rates; very few pregnant women are attended to by skilled health workers during delivery.
Needless to say, our priorities were quickly realigned and new focus was born; one that could go a long way in improving the lives of this small community in this remote place known as Matagala.
Two months ago , we begun to ask friends through facebook, twitter and random phone calls to donate clothes and things they did not need around the house for those less fortunate. The response was so positive that this past week, we realised we would no longer have room to store it all.
The need for these things was not hundreds of Kilometers away but within Nairobi itself. Through a friend of Safara Trust Mr Olunga Otieno we managed to identify 5 families in need and within Kayole, in the Nairobi Area.
We met in the middle of town , our little band of three, to again try in our own way save the world. The drive took us out of the traffic filled streets to the outskirts of the city.
The houses became smaller and our only access to the families was through a narrow street that served as a local market.Maneuvering through the stalls , careful not to touch anyone or drive over anything was a fete in itself. We were met with the curious faces of the lovely children who live in this three storied flat in Kayole. The narrow entrance way was nothing like the big hearts that we were about to meet that afternoon.
They were all single mothers with an average of 3 children, living in a one-roomed house. With all of us inside there was no room to sit, but still they welcomed us with such warmth that touched us a great deal. In spite of their obvious struggle, they lived in a state of joyful acceptance , living to make sure their children went through school. Inspiring is an understatement.
In total we managed to donate 12 bags of flour, a bag of diapers , some baby clothes, and a host of other clothes that we had managed to receive. We touched the lives of 20 people. With the little we have.
As we left to waves from little hands and large smiles, we could not help but think this is what it means to have everybit count.
This is a typical classroom in Bilbil Primary School in Bura, a school exemplifying the educational situation in most of North Eastern Province as well as parts of Coastal Province in Kenya. There is a failure in the education system in these areas with poor performances in national examinations becoming synonymous with schools from the region.
Three problem areas in the education system in the area have been identified and can be summarised into three categories; lack of books, lack of classrooms and lack of any reason for going to school. This is further empathised by startling statistics of over 80% women and 60% of men living in North Eastern province having no education at all.
According to the 1999 census, around 14% of children in Kenya over the age of five had never attended school. However, in Coastal Province this number was almost 24%, while in North Eastern Province it was much higher at 59%. Children in these regions face serious educational barriers, and girls have even lower enrolment rates than the average. In North Eastern Province, only 32% of total enrolment is made up of girls.
Still amidst such odds stacked highly against them, at least one of the students here keeps the faith and dares to dream. A simple dream, one that most of us may take for granted but that means the world to him. A dream that can become a reality if you and I can chip in and make a difference in a little way we can by offering any form of assistance at our disposal. Let’s show these young ones we have heart.
'I wish to go to high school on the year of 2013'.
A simple yet powerful phrase scribbled on the blackboard in both lower and upper case letters speaks volumes tagging on one’s heartstrings. Just above it in neat teacher’s handwriting is a description and list of advantages of limestone that was part of a Geography lesson.
The statement, however, overshadows everything else and is punctuated by the dire situation one can see around the classroom. The floor is chipped and uneven, empty spaces in place of windows and 7 desks meant for 14 students but are now forced to accommodate 35. When you look outside, you notice that this room is in fact the pride of the school, the best maintained one in the midst of collapsing edifices that make up this school.
This school found literally in the middle of nowhere with the closest settlement four kilometres away; a distance the students must cover to and fro daily on foot. Yet what speaks loudest in this room is this statement at the bottom of the blackboard.
“You have inspired many and Farah’s memory lives on.
I am glad to be part of this process.
Change the world one person at a time.”—Lavender Wanjiru, a lady with alot of heart, last year, volunteered at a fair with a huge banner “in memory of Farah”
The reason we set up the trust is basically to remind ourselves of Farah and what he believed and the kind of person that he was, everyone who knew him, he was their best friend and every girl probably thought she was the one, he just had that spirit that made everyone around him feel utterly special at any one time.
After he passed and we felt the love that everyone brought into our home and into our lives at that time as and they were cooking for us meals and taking care of us and we realized we didn’t want it to stop with us. And it didn’t have to. And that how we ended up starting to do things, little things and it had a kind of snowball effect and it changed our perceptions and lives completely because we were now always thinking about how we helping, how are we making a difference, what will make a difference and how will we make it possible with the little we have.
Through that schools have gotten classrooms, children have been fed, a mosque has been built, a boy has gone through primary school he is now in secondary school. And that’s just with the little we have.We have been blessed to do these things and to be able to impact the lives of other people and hopefully if you feel that helping in whatever way shape, form or manner that you have been helping then this is definately all about you and this is just about being a good human being and helping everyone around you.
In a few days, 21 to be exact, Captain Farah Mohamed Adam will have been dead for two years. I want to use the words that I should, at peace or at rest, but death is not pleasant so I will skip the pleasantries.
After a death, we are reminded of our mortality. Promises are whispered of things that shall be done, sins to be forgiven and life left to live. Death is sometimes the best thing that could happen, if only it left those it takes away alive.
I hope that I don’t come across as being unfeeling, because I am quite literally the most feeling person I know. However, there is nothing considerate about death, with its unannounced ways and forced distancing from the ones you love. Learning to live life with a void, which aches constantly, never far from your thoughts or your heart.
A year ago, I stood in the shadow of a mosque in a place that no one knows, Matagala, Tana River District and heard the adhan (call to prayer) from inside for the very first time. I looked at its clean white walls, its green minarets, and children watering the trees planted next to the mosque. Even death can breath new life. This was all done for him. You can but only imagine the enormity of having to think of what to do after that.
Most of this year, I have been busy with life, trying to do bits of charity here and there, until I realised that this month was fast approaching and I had nothing. After two years, I was sure that his smile would have faded from memory for many, his funny stories and contagious laugh and If I didn’t do something, something BIG, this would be it. They would forget and then he would truly be dead.
That hasn’t been the case for my parents and myself; his spirit and essence are never hard to recall because these drive us forward each day. Sitting one day with them I realised the three of us, had set off into three directions, saving the world, one person at a time. Mama, making sure we remembered to pray, with her home open to everyone and advice given on life. Abo (father in Somali) paying school fees for orphan children, building classrooms in places no one ever heard of and me, trying to remind his friends and family to continue to do good in his memory.
In the last year we have been able to do amazing things, in the smallest ways, now we want to involve everyone else, to do small things in a big way, and ensure that a horrible end was the start of a beautiful beginning. And maybe, just maybe, we can experience the pleasantries of death.