Hello from Kisumu, Kenya!
Since I haven’t been blogging, due to lack of internet, this is going to be a long one, but I promise worth reading! First, I just want to update on my last three weeks, then stare a story or two about some experiences I have had so far.
I am half way through my travels in Kenya ending my two weeks in Rapogi this past Saturday. I spent my first five days in the town of Mbita, with the last two weeks spent in Rapogi. Now I am in Kisumu, the third largest city in Kenya (after Nairobi and Mombasa). I will end the rest of this week (Tuesday-Friday) in Kitale, then spend my final two weeks in Marsabit.
The time here has been amazing and I am learning so much. Nora, CAC senior staff member, and lead of the programs in Kenya, has been both an amazing coach on the field as well as personally a great mentor for me in my first trip to a developing country. I have learned even more in the field of sport for development through our programs in the last three weeks and I have had a chance to see and be a part of the amazing work that CAC is doing.
The title of this blog is equality and it is a concept that I have been running circles around in my head the last three weeks. Merriam-Webster defines equality as the quality or state of being equal. We all know what equality is by definition, but has anyone ever seen it?
I see children at schools almost every day and they always come running to the “Mzungu”(white person). They see us (Nora and I) in the streets and come running to see us, yelling “mzungu, mzungu! How are you?” Even the teachers and adults are eager to greet us both in the schools and on the streets.
It’s only because we are white. The children come running to see us, and the people of the town come to greet us because we are white, but there is no difference between us and them, we are not us and them, we are we and we are one. Sure, I grew up in a different place and the opportunities I have had because of where I was born have been amazing, but I haven’t done anything more to have deserved the upbringing I have had more then anyone else. I was born with a multitude of opportunities just by virtue of my place of birth. Not to discredit my parents and my family, because they themselves have worked incredible hard to provide some of these opportunities, but the opportunities that they have provided are harnessed and supported by the country I live in, the place I was born. I never had to worry about having a meal on the table for me growing up, and I was never told that I couldn’t play sports only because I was a girl. I was lucky, I was born in a place where my opportunities are endless.
Sure, I also have a different skin color. I ask the children at the school, “are we different?”. They answer with an overwhelming yes, “you are white and we are black” they say.
But are we really different?
I respond to them in asking, “do you have ten fingers, ten toes?” while I hold up my hands to theirs. “We both have two legs, two arms, a brain, a heart…right?” They giggle and respond yes to all of the above. So I ask them again, “are we different?” and the response changes to no. No, we aren’t different, only the color of our skin is different. As I pull back my thick bracelet on my right hand to expose my contrasting bronze and pale tan lines, I say to them “and look! Even on my own skin I have two different colors!” The children erupt in laughter, and I smile, I have proved my point. We are not different, we are all the same, “we all bleed red”.
We are all the same and should be treated as so, but are we? Are we all treated the same? No, we aren’t, as much as I wish we were, the answer is no. It saddens me, but it’s the truth. All over the world people are treated differently because of skin color, gender, and a multitude of other reasons.
On my third day in Kenya, we spent some time visiting a local family in Mbita. This family has six children, all whom are suffering from both mental and physical disabilities. Never in my life have I ever seen or even heard of just a tragedy. These children cannot walk, they cannot play like other children, and because of their condition and the lack of resources available, they cannot even go to school. It was extremely upsetting and eye opening. Although it was only my third day in Kenya at the time, and I had seen some things that put me in culture shock, this was most shocking of all. Their father is their primary care giver, while their mother works to earn a little money by selling clothes in the day time. Their father told us that many people (even relatives) have come and taken pictures and promised they would get donations for them; but they had lied, they had exploited the tragedies that this family and these young children had faced for their own profit, disgusting. It was an incredibly sad experience, but also amazing as I could see the simple happy smiles on these children’s faces. As I sat on the floor with them and held their hands, they looked happy, but their community, their country and the world has not done enough for them. It’s just not fair, I think, and I remember back to when my parents would say “life isn’t fair”, but my life has been fair, I have been too fortunate. I realize the notion of equality that we had been talking about with the coaches the past few days is so true. I am a different skin color, I have a different language, while I am able bodied they are not, and while I have grown up incredibly fortunate they have had many struggles, but we are equals; we should be equals, but the world does not allow us to be , and that is the biggest injustice of them all. We, as human beings, have to do better for ourselves. We have to do better for each other.
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” – Martin Luther King Jr.
There are so many things in this world that cause these inequalities, but one thing that can bring anyone together regardless of race, ethnicity, language, or religion is sport. Sport can bring people together regardless of any differences that they have, it is one of the most powerful things in the world. It is amazing to have the chance to work for an international NGO (CAC) that also shares the same passion for sport and the power that it has to change the world.
To learn more about the organization I am volunteering for, Coaches Across Continents (CAC) visit their website at http://www.coachesacrosscontinents.org
Until next time (I have internet!)..