*Dr. Karambu is the Director of the International Peace Initiatives, the organization that kindly hosted YCL during our time at the Meru County. Below is her testimonial about the Community Workshop organized by the #YCL2018immersion participants.
21 August 2018
Today I had an amazing invitation to co-facilitate a Community Meeting in Meru. I wish to share a little bit about this meeting because it underlines the spirit of IPI's approach to development: I was asked by Endeleza, a Brazil based organisation working in Kenya to facilitate a Community meeting to see how they can bridge the gap created by the community's disengaged attitude towards what Endeleza wants to see happen at the school they support. In the past, the Brazilian entity worked with the community from a traditional approach where they informed the community they would pay for everything that needed to be done for the school. The parents 'went home and slept' after that - well, there is this organisation willing to pay for every development initiative they undertake with the school and so the parents folded their hands and became observers. As time went on, and funds started depleting, Endeleza started needing the parents to contribute here and there. The parents never availed themselves - so Endeleza started feeling frustrated!
I often say that "the tragedy of a people is not knowing who they are!" When people do not know who they are, they have no purpose and direction. Whichever way the wind blows, they move with it, without thinking for themselves. The dependency mindset that Kenyans have embedded in any development (local or otherwise) kills ideas before they see the light of day. It is this dependency mind set that IPI's approach to development works to 'disrupt.'
Today's community meeting was about getting the community to wake up and take ownership of their school and what they want to see happen there. Their school is theirs, not Endeleza's. The children are theirs, not Endeleza's. So the question I set out with was: "How do you wish to help yourselves as a community? Endeleza's approach was "we are here to help you help yourselves," and I said: "No one can help you. Not even Endeleza. You have to choose to help yourself. How do you want to help yourselves?" The conversation was thus based on what the parents wanted to do for their school. They prioritised things they wanted to do immediately, and those that were long term. The parents identified priority initiatives and ways they would raise funds to build those projects and actions they wish to undertake to make these projects succeed. More importantly, they hardly mentioned Endeleza, except for two areas where they said they would ask for their support.
The other aspect of this conversation was 'ownership' - the parents had no sense of ownership of what was going on in the school because they said Endeleza had said parents should not be asked to pay for anything anymore. Today, the parents agreed to take charge of their school by being initiators of and participants in their own transformation and that of their school. They are happy to work with Endeleza as a partner; but they will be more engaged moving forward. They said they wanted to come visit my programs to learn more. Of course I am happy to share with them my approach to self-sufficiency, resilience and regeneration. I am also looking forward to learning from them.
Given the opportunity, I believe people are largely willing to take charge of their lives. Today's meeting is a testimony to the power of a people on the journey to 'finding who they are!' THANK YOU Endeleza for your BIG, BIG heart! The people of Mugae value your partnership with them! THANK YOU for the opportunity to serve you today!