My time in Burkina Faso, with the indigenous people has taught me that our differences are what make us so similar and connected. We share the same views, same aspirations and the same sensations. But our external actions are what may confuse us to think us as apart, different and dissimilar.
What we all are and love holds no boundaries between where and who we would like to be. Circumstances and fate brought about by our choices and in their case, lack of (the proper) knowledge has forged a flexibly iron path of both parties. Leading each party to first melt this iron path and mould again one that brings them more progress and sustainable change. But in their case I am left with the question of “what can they use to melt this iron path?”” Who will/is willing to teach them correctly and boldly to go about it this way with these tools-in their setting?”” When will they finally let go and become better than what they are and image to be?”And, “how do they think they should arrive there as oppose to what we outsiders looking in think?”
These are questions I have limited answers to but still think it at least answers half of the questions in a deeper more humbling way; which is the passionate service of a volunteer. Someone willing to come low to their level, dine as they do and starve with them if need be. A volunteer who will understand that the differences he or she shares with the village are only similarities waiting to be explored and not isolated. A volunteer will take those forsaken moments into a learning period and push harder to the end of service because he or she knows when it gets that tough it means he or she is doing something life changing and not necessarily wrong. A person who will carry them, especially when they want to fall willingly out of fear for change. And finally a person, a volunteer who will remember that his or her presence will forever make a significant change in a least one life- and that is all that matters: changing one a time-however long it will take.
I have come to believe that this volunteer, this Peace Corps volunteer is one who can embark on such a journey but only with true rekindling passion and a purpose in their heart.
The Chinese Can’t Solve Africa’s Issues
One day my co-worker and I were taking the 5-hour trek to Mwanza Tanzania. We passed by a long stretch of roads being paved; the usual infrastructure projects popping up across the back roads of Africa. What was hysterical to see were the Chinese men along the route, decked out in floppy hats, gloves, and long sleeved shirts, burning up in the heat, screaming orders to their Tanzanian workers through a loud speaker. I laughed because they looked damn ridiculous, but my coworker nodded his head in approval saying, “The Chinese are doing good work! They will lead Tanzania into a good future. No more need for white people!” Now, what is sadder about this? The fact that he defines innovation and development solely based upon infrastructure projects, or the fact that this thinking will leave one to believe that groups like the Chinese are leading innovation on our continent? For me, a [self-proclaimed] gender and development professional, innovation is not always linked to infrastructure projects or grandiose architectural displays of “Westernization.” Innovation is far beyond Middle Easterners and Asians controlling our cities’ landscapes with their version of architecture and what is good and “creative.” For me innovation must be young Africans using our insight to solve crucial social problems; issues like poor health services, debilitating political corruption, or lackluster institutions of higher learning, must be attacked in our generation.
Innovation can be taking a social problem within the context of our respective countries and looking for sustainable solutions. Therefore innovation can be realizing that there are no medical evacuation mechanisms in all of West Africa, and that people die everyday in this region because they cannot reach proper medical facilities in time. Innovation is what 25-year-old Dr. Ola Orekunrin displayed when she started Flying Doctors Nigeria. After her 11 year old sister fell ill in Nigeria and her family realized that the nearest air ambulance facility was located in South Africa, Dr. Orekunrin worked and fought to break down bureaucratic doors and naysayers to develop West Africa’s first and only air ambulance service. She has shone light on the fact that quality emergency care services are few and far between on our continent and we can be the ones to address that discrepancy. Innovation can also be finding ways to tackle corruption and lack of transparency in our countries. Take Ory Okolloh, a Kenyan-born Harvard educated lawyer, who created the blog Mzalendo. It is a website which provides an unprecedented look at the work of Kenya’s parliament, attempting to make accessible to the public information on the voting patterns and governmental activity of their parliamentary leaders. This is information that was previously unavailable to Kenyan citizens but is now online and accessible to citizens. Now, is this the answer for Kenya or other countries? Maybe not, but it’s getting people talking, it’s spotlighting the fact that we actually may not know what our “elected” officials are up to, and it’s making officials accountable for funds raised and used, and activities approved.
(Source: ezibota, via prepaidafrica)
It is when you are on the ground like I am, doing the work from the grass roots that you realize that you need to push prayer a little to the side and replace that space with tangible work. Actions at this point become essential just as prayer and one absolutely cannot go without the other. After all the bible talks about helping each other and not just pray about their problems and ours. We have been given the mind and wisdom to solve the problems so why still cry about it in prayer hoping for a miracle-you are he miracle so put yourself to work!
There comes a time when we wake up from our fantasies, our prolonged daydreaming. Where we fall harder into our reality and unfortunate facts of our lives. Where the truth is not coloured in black and white or grey but is just one colour: solid with no shades.
Such moments remind me of how far i have to go to correct the unfortunate ideas I was born into and constantly reminded of -with or without my permission. And since i cant change the situation, i must change my attitude toward it. Adapting every single minute, reformulating every hour and recreating each second. What do I owe myself in this world that sees my skin first and every other thing second and almost insignificant is the question I ask. No place is home so i keep moving from country to continent, and in each place there is never enough acceptance.
Aside from the air we breath freely and fight over how and who gives it, what else is there to always hope and pray we have?for without it we cannot express our deepest feelings to one another, or say the things no one else can say better than us. And even with this gift of breath we repeatedly fail to regard the slightest priceless moments. Will we wait till our breath has been or nearly been taken away before we realise this or will we live now like its our alter most last? And say the things than need saying? Stand up for those who just cannot and act upon the things that causes progressive change? There is nothing like “later” or “tomorrow” only what if…and that can either be a rewarding what if or it’s opposite.