By Phill Prendeville 

Still smilingStill smiling

In Kenya today, life is tough – tougher than I remember it from other trips… everything seems somehow more desperate… but still the people smile.

Economic crisis and hardship has hit worldwide, many in New Zealand and around the world have watched their security and dreams collapse before them. As I sit in a dwelling in a Nairobi slum waiting for the torrential down pour to pass I can’t help but wonder what dreams my humble hosts have and how the world wide recession is affecting them. Funny thing about having nothing is you have nothing to lose.

I wonder if the tables were turned, and it was these Africans whom were the wealthy ones being asked to help the poor starving people of New Zealand how they would respond. As this family offer me the only seat in the house and prepare a cup of tea and try to find some food to serve, my hunch is they would do whatever they could. Even people who have nothing will offer you half. It is a hospitality and warmth to strangers that seems a thing of the past back home.

All this family wants is to give their children an education, to give them a chance at a better life than they themselves have received, to have some food to put on the table and some kind of roof over their heads. Perhaps they are the lucky ones not having to worry about losing the bach or the boat.

The recession, although tragic and painful for many, will give people in developed western countries an opportunity to think deeper about others whom have never known good times, never had abundance, and never had savings, investments, a mortgage or the luxury of credit card debt.

Perhaps people who are already sponsors will not give up on the kids here as they tighten their belts and rationalise their budgets, perhaps more than ever they will empathise with those facing absolute poverty. I wonder how far people will go for another they have not met. I wonder how easy it is to forget. Unfortunately I know the answer, since January this year hundreds of New Zealanders have returned their sponsored child to sender.

Living in povertyLiving in poverty

Everything is relative. Even though I know kids here are dying needlessly from curable diseases everyday, I still get annoyed having to queue or wait in traffic and I still worry about where the next dollar is coming from. I understand that at times, we have only the capacity to deal with what is right in front of us. I understand that some people really cannot afford to help a child somewhere on the other side of the world. I just hope that they know what huge effect that decision makes to a household like the one I presently sit in… I hope that the child that they have forfeited is not for the price of two bottles of wine or a 50 gram packet of tobacco.

The western world is facing hardship but right now in Kenya there are more than 3 million people including half a million children facing starvation due to drought.

Farmers can no longer grow their own food and have no money to buy it. The water holes are drying up and the animals are dying.

The Kenyan government has responded to the crisis by distributing maize to the worst affected areas but, it is simply not enough, the maize can’t be fed to the very young and has little nutritious value.

They won't give upThey won't give up

In rural areas like Emali, children are dropping out of school because they have to spend their days looking for water. Relatives and neighbours do their best to look after each other, especially the children. But with no food or water, the children here are literally starving to death whilst their parents or grandparents watch helplessly, unable to save them.

The human spirit is strong. These are good people living in hard times. They are doing their best against what seem insurmountable odds, they won’t give up but if anyone desperately needs help… they do and they need it now.

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