Aid?What Aid?

I once saw this photo of a Kenyan friend of mine on one of her friends walls. She was smiling, really happy. I love that picture of her. Right below it, was the first comment from a friend of her friends’.It read ‘Really nice to see a happy face from Africa’. Her friend and her friend’s friend live in Europe you see and after a minute, i really couldn’t fault his reaction. What was i supposed to expect from someone who’s been fed numerous photos of starving, helpless, war torn Africans, from my country and others? His shock was really just that – shock. We’ve sold ourselves and our continent as this troden people for so long and if you look closely, for a long time this has been done to raise donor funding for the various projects working to address a lot of social problems. I’m not saying that we do not have issues and matters in our developing world that we do need funding for, i’m saying is that the loudest voice we can send out?

With the current state of affairs, economically and socially, development aid isn’t as big a pool as it was a decade ago. More and more nations in the west are coming to terms with their own economic go slows, more of their citizens are in need of the same help they once sent out and its becoming clearer that there’s just not enough to go around. For some nations, economies are plateuing while needs continue to escalate. Given the choice, many would start with saving their own. Charity does, after all, begin at home. so where does that leave us? Us with this one over-sold image that has in essence crippled some of our ‘benefitting’ communities to extents of causing dependence on this ‘drug’ thats now going off the market; not so slowly either.

To aid by definition is to help, assist and in many ways donor funding from the west and other areas have done so. Still in many communities a price was paid and a dependence was cultured. Now with many funding institutions changing strategies, our own community developers are faced with the problem of a corrupt mindset with which to sell new ideas too. Corrupt because in communities that have been in receivership of donations, looking to social change through social business based platforms is quite unacceptable. Why work when you can get it for free? That’s the question they seem to keep asking.

Working with a community development based organisation has taught me that for every force of change, there is an equal reaction to counter. It has also taught me that though we have continually sold pictures of need and continually received grants in return, we still have the opportunity to now turn back and look within ourselves for solutions to our own issues. Its time for weaning, the golden taps won’t run for so much more. We ran outside for help for so long, we forgot to look inside. Now, it is time.

I do believe that we have the capacity within Africa to rebrand and rebirth. I have seen mindsets change and hands and hearts set to work. I have seen innovations by us, for us work. Indeed, many of what i see are small scale geysers but the force they pop with, turns turbines. 

The donor fund pool is shrinking and who knows, a time may be coming when we will be the ones to rally support for the hands that for so long, gave to us. Foreign aid in ways blinded us and now, we may not have it for much longer. Soon we’ll ask, ‘Aid? What aid?’

I am African, I am Kenyan and i will put my money where my mouth is. I will do what i can to build my community, my nation and my continent because its an uprising, and together, we’ll rebrand our nations and our continent – in whatever small capacity we can.  Its about time we send out our happy faces by making our development make us smile. Haba na haba, hujaza kibaba.

© Ang’asa Malowa

 

 

Only you Can Choose

I read an interesting article on child plastic surgery the other day. It talked about this mother whose daughter  took ballet classes and since she had to put her hair up in a bun, the other kids noticed her ears stuck out and made fun of her every day after. The little girl went back home every day crying and begging her mother to help her out (I don’t think she meant by surgery though) but the mum took her in to see a doctor and had her ears pinned back. That was the end of the bullying. I kept thinking child cosmetic surgery? End of bullying? Really? Till when, they realise she has something else they find weird?

When I said I found it interesting, I didn’t mean in a ‘whoa!!!cool!!!’ kind of way. It was more toward the ‘huh???!!!’.  I couldn’t help picture her years later crying about her boobs being to small and being taken off to shop for implants.

 

Fact : child cosmetic surgery (I didn’t even know this was happening till I read that) is on the rise. Is it because there are more children who don’t like something about how they look than there was when we were growing up? i think not.

 

I cannot say that this mother didn’t love her child, or that that little girl didn’t deserve to be picked on every day because I believe both to be true. She loves her child and she did not deserve to be picked on. However, I refuse to believe that teaching a child there’s a magic wand that can change fortunes which is what to turn to when there’s something to be worked out is the best possible sustainable approach.

 

Growing up, I was taller than the other kids my age. I thought I had an expansive (read huge) forehead and that my teeth were too big. I thought I was fat, not so much cool to hang out with as witty and get this – I thought my ears were too small. Where did I get most of this ‘valuable’ input you ask? From the other kids – mostly. Yeah, I thought a lot J  Did I cry about it when I got home? Yep. Did I ask God why he had to give me big teeth, a big forehead and all this body mass? YES!!! Did I tell my mom I laughed with my mouth closed or covered, because I had super sized teeth that didn’t look pretty, AVOIDED putting my hair up because I thought it made my forehead and cheeks pop out? Oh yes, I did…A LOT.

 

Did she hug me and book an appointment with a dentist to have my teeth resized and with a doctor to see what to do with my forehead? Hell no! And though I thought her unable to fully understand then, I thank God every day she didn’t feed my insecurities or my ‘flaws’. She talked them down instead, way down.

 

My mother didn’t get me help repackaging my body, she help me repackage my mind, how i looked and dealt with things. You might say that ours is a different culture or that surgical intervention wasn’t really something we’d spend money on but; I know my mum. Even given the chance, she’d have done the same thing. She talked up my strengths and talked down my weaknesses.  She taught me that there were many voices in this world all wanting to shape who I am and that only I could chose which ones did.

 

Was it tough to keep ignoring the comments and smirks? Yep. It actually picked up along the way when the voices multiplied and got stronger – teenage. When I lost a few pounds then gained them back. When I dashed home one day after sports in my games kit only to come back the next day and find my school dress hung out because no one thought it belonged to any one in class because it was just too big. It was tough but I learned how to deal with it. How to be myself, accept every part of who I was half the time and enjoy life. I learned how to deal because I had someone to teach me how. If she had taken that chance away from me, I’d have grown up knowing issues were meant to be shot down, not faced.

 

This is not just another ranting of a little girl that got her share of insecurities growing up. It’s a plea to the mothers that are and the mothers that will be : love your children. LOVE them fiercely. But don’t let that love turn them, or you, stupid. Don’t let that love be the force that shelters them so hard, it forgets to teach them because someday, they’ll be old enough to fly. And they’ll drop to their deaths when that time finds they know not how.

 

I will love my children, I will – despite my better judgment- want to shield them from a lot of things that I felt I wasn’t shielded from, feel I should keep them from. But in so doing, I just might smother them to death. So everyday I will make a conscious decision to love them as they come and to teach them that God loves them, I love them and they should love themselves too. I pray everyday that I will remember to tell them that there are many voices in this world, and only they can choose which ones will shape them. 

© Ang’asa Malowa