Helping Hands

There is plenty of positivity in the world. I turned on my twitter to a flood of inspiration from various people doing everything they can for their communities. Despite what people see on the news and in alternative media, there are better voices of what our world is really like. Instead of a murderous money hungry atmosphere, I met the voices of champions in various corners of Africa. And it is a direction Kenyans should also start heading in.

I met Eva Tolage, a seventeen year old Tanzanian activist and ONE Organization member who showed that great courage can come even from the most unexpected of places. According to the story, she was part of a large community of girls forced to go on a two hour journey to fetch unclean water. The time took much from their education and added nothing to their health and safety. Determined to change things, she wrote a letter to Barrack Obama when he was president of America in 2015 that called leaders to keep the promises they make to their communities. After that it was like magic. He responded. He even mentioned the letter at the global summit where the Sustainable Development Goals were agreed. I had to watch that video! Because of her courage, she was able to start a petition, gain the support of the community, gain the support of great organizations like ONE and Restless Development and meet with Tanzania’s Prime Minister. They got their water and we got inspired. Her words are, I’ve learned that the voice of young people like me is important and should be heard. With friends, my community and supporters, we have proved that our power really can change things, that if we stand together leaders will listen.

Eva Obama graphic
Photocredit: Restless Development

With a smile on my face I scrolled lower and not so far away I met Noah Chipeta. Can dedication to service be of more importance than location and livelihood? Most of us can’t stand to lose amenities like electricity, water and television. But Noah is a volunteer doctor who started out treating people under a tree. Noah is, according to UNICEF, a health surveillance assistant who went the extra mile. He arrived at a new posting in Chanthunthu, situated in Malawi’s Kasungu District, nearly a decade ago. He arrived, in 2009, to an isolated place that seemed cut off from the entire world.  The nearest health centre was about 17 km away, dirt roads were in bad shape, two large rivers secluded them and that forced them to use rugged mountain paths to get around. His presence was much needed and came with the launch of the Integrated Community Case Management (ICCM) approach initiated in Malawi. With support from UNICEF, Noah received training and the children started getting their treatment nearby. It must have been a long road and yet he decided to stay far longer than intended. Most workers would have given a couple of years and moved on to another, hopefully better, place. Instead Noah watched the community grow and become much better. He said, “I am now part of this community. The village chiefs and the people appreciate my work and I don’t see any reason to move to another place.”

© UNICEF Malawi/2017/Hubbard, Noah

This new story stopped me suddenly. To imagine that others across the world are giving their lives for the sake of others is almost unthinkable compared to the latest news on television. In Kenya the corruption saga, expected strikes and threat of violence is the only image we see of ourselves. And yet there are so many cases in Kenya that would benefit from Evas and Noahs. There are so many letters yet to be written and petitions to be signed for protection of the youth, the communities, health care and all that. I was slightly disappointed in our country.

Returning back to my browsing, someone else lifted my spirits. Her name is Martha Jamsi. She opened my eyes to the possibility of resilience in the face of pain. According to World Vision, she currently works in Kenya as a food distributor in the refugee community of Kakuma, Northern Kenya. And her journey to get there would beat the latest blockbuster movie or bestselling book for its portrayal of true human character. You must read it in her words as told by World Vision’s Mark Nonkes to get the power behind the story. I will just sum it by saying that she came from child marriage, lost hope of education, devastating violence and separation to find a way to benefit the community. It touched my heart. She ended her story by saying, When I got a job at World Vision, my life became better than before. I would like to continue with this job to help my community.” It shows how powerful helping hands can be if they unite together from far places.

Photocredit: WorldVision

Today has just become a great day. It only took five minutes and stories from all over Africa have inspired me. I closed the computer and pushed away from the table with only one last thought. What about Kenya? We need the young to start forging ahead and helping one another. Life can take us in different directions but our mindset should always be towards helping others and changing lives. These three stories proved that the very young can get recognition from presidents. The gifted can give themselves happily for the sake of small communities. And those of us who may appear to have lost can become great givers.

And I am surrounded by such people. Not just in the cyber but a whole country worth. As Kenyans there are so many ways we can help others and for that, we need to be at the front of helping hands.

Eva Tolage, centre, with PM Kassim Majaliwa; local MP William Lukuvi; January Makamba, MP and minister for Union Affairs and Environment; classmates; teacher Dennis Myovela. (Photo credit: Restless Development)

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