I’m very grateful for the past two weeks. I had the opportunity to visit several local NGO partners in Kenya. I’m grateful for all the visits and warm welcomes, for a lot of new and deep insights. For seeing that under the umbrella of the Making More Health Initiative we proceed with our System Changer Network Kenya to spread holistically a lot of knowledge. Together. Connecting to farmers and their families, to slum communities in Nairobi and Eldoret, to fisher men and women at Lake Victoria, to selfhelp- groups, to people with albinism and elderly… all living close or even below the poverty line.
It is great to see how the communities start to grow in terms of skills, infrastructure and income, to see how they start to manage better their homes and life. It is good to see more hygiene, more income generation, more health, more pride and more hope!
However, during the visits there were also many situations of misery, of indignity: seeing children in dirt and perforated clothes with one meal per day only, children who cannot go to school as parents cannot pay school fees, a grandma who can’t walk any more caring as the only person for three little children who would need so much more care, many people with HIV infections, but also people with broken arms and legs that have not been cured in the right way, missing glasses, bad dental care, people who need to prostitute to get some fish, people without beds, clean cooking places, toilets…
We in our modern world try to get the maximum, the best, the highest. They would be grateful to get the minimum to tackle the basic needs.
In our “advanced” world we can learn even a lot from them. E.g when it comes to sharing, welcoming cultures, enjoying the moment. And maybe happiness.
Every time I come back from the “other site of the world”, I feel grounded again and appreciate many small things. Things being that “normal“ that we often do not recognize and appreciate it any more. We have no hunger. Education, water, transport means, shelter and basic health treatments are accessible to all. It is not about having a bed or not, it is about having the best, the “right” one. We ask which colors our bedsheets should have. We have so many plates, even for specific festivities. Each family member has more than one towel, color wise well combined to the rest of the room – while millions of people have not even one pair of shoes that fits well. Isn’t that crazy?
There are a lot of challenges in our “world of wealth”, too. No doubt.
However, one thing is sure: we, the wealthy ones, have choices in life.
The people I have met and talked to, often have not.
We need to understand much better what is really feasible and sustainable from their end.
I wish sometimes we would listen more to them, invest in learning by doing together with them – instead of building high level strategies and setting goals from outside. How many of us defining the goals and impact strategies have really experienced deeply such different surroundings? Who knows about the local and cultural differences, interferences and dependencies, even from village to village?
Where is no hope, there is no change
But back to the takeaways of the travel: Some of our community members have explainedthat “hope is back”. That’s a very important, a crucial step. A different mindset is a precondition for change – followed ideally by concrete interest by the people to learn, adapt and grow and by concrete activities that make a difference. Where is no hope, there is no change. Where is hope, many – even incredible – things can happen:
Many of our communities living at the poverty line have started to learn and – even more important – to “own” new skills, to engage with their family members and neighbors, to share what they have learned, and are proud to share the skills even among the communities in the several locations in our system changer network.
That’s a good sign that there is some impact. And one site for sure that kind of impact that we – in the West – like to capture exactly in numbers and reports. But besides these countable facts there is happening much more: the mindset shift starting in a few people and affecting them entire communities while causing new energy inside the people. And the multiplying effect of those positive energies and connected positive learning effects while spreading in our network structures from location to location. From community to community. In systemic ways. It’s not just an impact because of countable activities, of training sessions, of participants, of an infrastructure or educational unit that happen. It’s not just a qualitative difference in one particular way on how people in need live or stay. It’s an entire movement of change – connected across people, communities and locations and tackling many basic topics and needs.