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Letter from the US: How Kenyans in the Diaspora are frustrated in efforts to help at home

diaspora kenyaI’m one of those who strongly believe that Africa’s memory and relationship with its Diaspora is a very complex and troubled one.

I believe, as one African scholar said recently, that the relationship between Africa and her people spread around the world is a symbiotic mixture of ignorance, stereotype, sentimentality, alienation, admiration and distortions.

It has become a tradition that during summer, many Kenyans living abroad engage in charitable activities aimed at improving the living situations of some less fortunate people in our society.

Around this time, almost every Kenyan- based church in the US organise elaborate fundraising activities and meetings to raise money to take along as they go on ‘Missions’ in the traditional Christian ‘love’ of spreading the Word while feeding the hungry.

But a trend is catching up where some Kenyan groups are opting to take their missions to other countries other than Kenya. Reasons? The kind of frustrations one is put through by the Government officials, partners and anybody else along the food chain is extremely discouraging.

After bribing a host of Government officers at the port of Mombasa to process your charitable donations, you are expected to pay hefty duties and taxes to the Government. It is very sad but true. Members of these churches are usually very passionate about their responsibilities. They would spend endless hours on Sundays in meetings working out plans and strategies to raise as much money as possible to go towards their projects. I know first-hand the impact that some of these efforts can have or are having on the lives many underprivileged Kenyans.

An institution like Happy Life Children’s Home in Githurai comes to mind. As everyone now knows, the abandonment of young babies in Kenya has reached a crisis level.  Hospitals throughout the country are facing the problem of mothers giving birth and then discreetly walking out of wards leaving their babies with no plans of returning.

Tales are told of babies abandoned in plastic bags dumped in dustbins or left in a roadside ditch. These babies often die from hypothermia, dehydration, or illnesses related to malnutrition.  Even when they are found and rescued, there are simply not enough facilities available to properly care for them.

Some of the abandoned children have been rescued by Happy Life Children’s Home, an orphanage in the slums of Githurai supported by the Kenyan community in Delaware who are members of the New Life Worship Center.

With the little funds they raise every year from members and friends of Kenyan in Delaware, this institution is able to offer a safe, caring environment where children are fed, clothed, provided with education, medical care and families to adopt them.

This is just one of the many institutions and projects that Kenyans living abroad support as part of giving back to the community that gave them an opportunity to prosper

It is, therefore, disheartening to note that instead of the Government and other well-meaning Kenyans back at home supporting and encouraging their efforts, they are making it almost impossible for Kenyans living abroad to do good.

I was recently in a meeting where the fundraising committee members were so frustrated that their contact persons at home with whom they were organising a medical camp were not only demanding sitting allowances but also money for pens, teas and daily wages.

The situation was so bad that the committee resolved that instead of taking the mission to Kenya, they would rather go to Rwanda and Haiti.

The general feeling among most people in the Diaspora is that people at home don’t appreciate their efforts as far as giving is concerned. They say that their folks at home assume that the Diaspora is endowed with a lot of resources for distribution. It is these kinds of cross- purpose dynamics that have defined the relationship between the Diaspora and the people back at home.

-The Standard

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