People have different reasons to travel. I have mine too. But traveling through Africa always has been special and rewarding. Yes, Africa is a developing country with its share of issues. Yes, it is not as safe as Dubai or Singapore. Yes, transport is not often reliable. Yes, I have issues with food. Yes, I have my share of trouble with thieves and thugs – but Africa has never disappointed me.
I have traveled through the African continent on several occasions – but there is a special connect with the place. How can I not love the deep-throated laughter of the locals? The uagli-beans? Their casual attitude to any crisis? The matatus with 20 people and their livestock, the dust – the streets at night that smell of danger? I loved Africa and everything it offered. Well I have also seen a side to Africa that could happen to anyone in any part of the world.
Africa (in this post I’m referring to Kenya) has a high number of HIV patients many of them little children orphaned at an early age. Special needs children, people below poverty line with no access to drinking water either, people living in slums. True. I cannot change their lives forever, but what I have realized is that if it was possible to change the live of one person for one day of the year, it was an effort well worth it. So this time, I decided to do something – my trip was not just about going on game drives and experiencing the better side of Africa. It was to give back something to the country that always welcomed me with open arms.
As a developing country, Africa (my reference is Kenya in this post) has its shares of troubles and unfortunate people. And as I had no check-in baggage whatsoever, I thought it would be a good idea to take with me whatever I could up to 40kgs! Friends, colleagues chipped in with money, medicines, milk powders, soaps, paste, soup, bandages, stationery, school bags…and by the end of it, I had more things than I could possibly take!
Plus, there was still the money! Yes, people were quick to donate. And thank god for such people. I even had enough money to buy food for a lot of people. A local contact in Nairobi helped identify orphanages and special needs centre and also families way below the poverty line.
It is not always easy to get to places outside of the city limits, but there is a satisfaction of knowing that you have given it your best. Often I didnt have to travel far either – like for example when I was heading towards Masai Mara, we had several road surprises – and everytime the matatu stopped – local children would appear from nowhere, try to come up to me, a “muzungu,” just smile and try to speak. These are times when I have wished I had just more than snacks and bananas and a small backpack of clothes to give away. Made me want to give a lot more. They had nothing yet they always smiled.
Two of the places that I visited included the Kandara Children’s Home and Don Orione Centre for Special Needs and there is nothing half as satisfying as seeing the thankful smile of those who find even your small gesture helpful. And yes, I have realized that sometimes even a bandage is a luxury for people living here – mainly because there aren’t any pharmacies nearby or transport to reach one – and more importantly, no money to buy it either. Yes, what we take for granted are often luxury for some.
I suppose, a lot of traveler’s do what I did or some may not – but that is another story. I believe in doing my bit – in whatever ways I could. I have been blessed with great friends who believe in my cause.
Maybe it is not always possible for people to spend time with the unfortunate – maybe you dont think you have the resources – maybe. But maybe NOT. If you can afford to fly to Africa for a holiday and spend thousands of dollars to see the wildlife, then surely it was possible to spare a few shillings that could make a difference in someone’s life?
Yes. That is definitely possible.
How you could help too
If you are on a trip to Africa (or any developing country), you are likely NOT to use up all you baggage allowances. Use that space to take something that might be useful to the needy.
If you are worried about who to donate stuff to, well, you will find someone who needs it – stop along the way somewhere – kids will come up to you.
If you think pics of impoverished kids will look great in your album, think again. Those kids are not to brighten up your album. Give them something in return. Even a piece of clothing or a packet of Panadol is of great help.
Come on, people – if you are holidaying in Africa, it is because you have the money to and are more fortunate than a thousand others living in the slums or under trees. Open up.
It is very rewarding.