Development Crossing

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and Sustainability

Direct Action: The East African Drought

 Realized Worth would like to thank Faith Bachlow for the following guest post. For all the talk we do about the value of volunteering, we thought it was time to provide our readers with a direct route to take action. Here's a significant way to address the desperation that is rampant right now in East Africa due to the multi-year drought.

 

What do long weekends, long-term development strategies, bobby pins and drought have in common?

 

Normally nothing, but this Labour Day weekend they had a lot more in common than I would have ever thought.

 

Fridays at Free The Children's head office, I must admit, are my favourite time to be there. By 5pm it’s quiet, I’m at my most creative (not to mention productive), and I can still feel the energy in the rooms. I just love it. I even get to play the very best of the 50's and 60's on internet radio and sing my heart out!

 

This Friday was different.

 

After my final e-mail was sent, computer shut down and all of my things ready to go, I was just about to head home for the long weekend. Then I made one last stop before the trek home: the bathroom.

 

I entered the bathroom, closed the door behind me and went to lock the door when something terrible happened—the doorknob fell loose into my hand. I'm not sure if anyone else has had this moment, you know the one, where your life flashes before your eyes. Well, right there, in the bathroom, I had that moment.

 

It’s Friday at 6pm, it’s Labour Day weekend, and there I was, locked in a bathroom with no one to rescue me until Tuesday morning. I was in quite the pickle.

 

There I sat; no clock to watch the time pass and no food to eat.  Nothing to do but think. Then, a positive thought came to mind: at least I have water! 

 

 

Free The Children

 

Working at Free The Children I get to read stories about individuals with so much strength and tenacity, individuals that inspire me to do more. It has made me realize how important it is to be grateful for the little things like having enough food to eat, clothes to wear, a roof over my head, family, joy, hope—and running water.

 

I remember the story of Achan Ngwaigigoch, a young woman living in the Dadaab Refugee Camp in Kenya. Recently interviewed by Justus Mwendwa, one of our Program Mangers in Kenya, she tells her story:

 

I came to Kenya in January 2004, but let me take you back a bit. In December 2003, there was a genocide targeting our community. We had to leave in order to save our lives. The militia came to our home, killed my husband and hit me with a machete. When I fell down, they wounded me all over my body [showing Justus several scars on her legs and face].

When the war broke out, what was important at that point was where we could find peace. Since we had heard about Kenya, we started running towards the Ethiopia- Kenya border. I called my sister who lives abroad. I used some money she sent to pay bus fare from Addis Ababa to Moyale after walking for 5 days. At the Moyale border, we couldn’t cross from the main border since we didn’t have the right travel documents so we paid people to take us through the bush routes. I was in a lot of pain because of the wounds I had suffered back home and my back was aching a lot. With the people we had run together, we boarded a truck to Nairobi. Immediately we went to the UNHCR offices there. On February 18, 2004, the UNHCR sent us here.

Life at this camp is not easy at all.  A few weeks ago, my brother was attacked and stabbed nine times. Nobody knows the cause for that. He was badly beaten and he is just lying in bed, yet he has a family. [Achan got so emotional they had to pause the interview.] 

I have also been attacked in the past by people who came to my home and started throwing stones at my house in the middle of the night. As our girls go to the market, they have to cover their hair, yet that isn’t our culture. Many have been attacked here. Another problem is that when you go to the shops there are differences in prices for the majority and the minority tribes here. We have also had cases where we can’t go to look for firewood because we fear for our security. Security is bad here.

 

By now you must all be wondering, how does this story end? And, in light of stories like Achan’s, who am I to complain about my measly bathroom situation?

 

The Drought Relief Efforts

 

Free The Children helps communities with real problems. The Adopt a Village communities in the Narok District are facing significant stress due to drought, and are amongst the 23 percent of Kenyans living in absolute poverty. They rely on agriculture both for their primary source of income and to feed their families. This year, both crops have failed, leaving them with almost nothing for their tables and little income to buy food in the market. To compound the problem, the prices of maize and beans in the marketplace has quadrupled so that every shilling buys only 25% as much as it would normally.

 

In response to this situation, Free The Children is administering a feeding program for 6,000 kids attending Free The Children schools, as well as 3,500 pregnant women and new mothers. We are also working in partnership with the UNHCR to arrange for food and medical shipments to Somali refugees in Dadaab. As always, our initiatives will be paired with our continued focus on sustainable and long-term development so that communities are less vulnerable to these challenges in the future.

 

Free The Children has a 12-year history of working in East Africa and is seeking your support for both short-term emergency food relief and long-term agricultural development programs that will enable communities to cope with this crisis while building towards a more sustainable future.

 

To learn more about Free the children’s East African drought relief efforts and to make a donation visit http://www.freethechildren.com/donate/kenya/ , call 416-925-5894 ext 148, or e-mail projects@freethechildren.com.

 

2 Hours and 5 Bobby Pins Later...

 

But wait!  You’re probably wondering how I got out of the bathroom (assuming I’m not still there now). If I have learned anything from my two years at Free The Children, it’s that us FTCers are tenacious workers who know how to get the job done. My Baba (Russian for grandmother), a woman who lived through WW2, once taught me as a child how to pick a lock with nothing but a bobby pin. Two hours and five bobby pins later, I was free!

 

If you’ve learned anything through reading my experience, it should be these two things:  ONE: always carry your cell phone to the bathroom.  TWO: we need to do more to help those living in East Africa, where everyone should have access to clean water and everyone should have hope. Be a friend of East Africa!

 

ABOUT FAITH  

 

Faith first became involved with Free The Children as a volunteer during We Day in 2009 and was inspired by the organization ever since. With a passion for humanitarian rights, she is also a Level 2 disaster relief worker with the Disaster Management Program at the Red Cross (which means that when there's trouble, she'll know what to do!) Follow her on Twitter @FaithBachlow.

 

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