By Jackie Jennings-Bates
On our travels, we have been most impressed by the people we meet helping in their local communities.
Obviously, the most effective form of any development is a sustainable approach. On our first trip to Kenya, which I described in an earlier column, we were hosted by Daniel. His early educational years had been at the school we were visiting and where we were installing a well.
There was not even a building there then, but now it was quite a substantial boarding school and we saw evidence of a high standard of learning.
We drove by a preschool and stopped to hear beautiful singing of the ABC song. Daniel had gone on to take his undergraduate studies in Nairobi and a Master’s degree in Canterbury in England.
This is an impressive achievement and the determination to make that happen must have been very strong. Even more impressive perhaps is the willingness to return home to bring back his acquired skills and knowledge to help this impoverished region.
He must have been offered lucrative and appealing offers in the big cities he had encountered. Yet, who could be better suited to benefit his homeland.
As brief visitors we were so grateful to be hosted by this delightful gentleman. He could translate many of the
50 tribal languages and dialects.
In terms of navigating, he knew exactly which rock marked a turn off the road in the middle of nowhere. He arranged our remote camp and provided all the supplies. Without him we would have been helpless really.
More important though, he has the cultural sensitivity to know what needs to be done and how to get it done to benefit the community. We saw examples of abandoned wells built in the wrong place by distant city politicians, motivated by self interest.
We saw disused wells provided by foreign development agencies that used unsustainable technology such as diesel motors in a region where diesel supply is not at all reliable.
We also knew that once Daniel had helped decide which was the “right well, for the right people at the right time” he could negotiate with the local elders, who respected him, to help organize and participate in the construction process and establish a commitment from the community to administer and maintain the infrastructure once installed.
I think having the opportunity to meet and work with people like Daniel has been one of the greatest gifts of the work we have done.
If only you could all meet him some of the stereotypes of Africa might be torn down.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.