11 October 2009

Something to look forward to

Power was out for something like 30 hours and came back this afternoon.  It will be nice to have consistent power again.  Add running water and fast/unlimited internet to that list as well.  It is not the end of the world when the power goes out, there is always plenty of reading to be done.  As of today I have been here for 280 days and only 59 remain.  The short distance to December continues to rush closer.  Halloween is just a few weeks away and then November brings the real decline.

The proximity of the end has caused me to be more reflective of the year as a whole.  Before now I have thought in more immediate terms, but that has shifted.  It began with our meeting on Wednesday.  Angela spoke of how people here will automatically assume that white means money.  Because of that, people are less willing to help the St. Julie Centre and its clients.

Thinking that the white nuns and volunteers will provide the money to cover all needs, the community has given less support due to this perception.  It is not at all true, our budget is as tight as any other non-for-profit in the world, but the general idea remains. 

Her comments made me think more upon the idea that my presence here can have an immensely negative affect on the people whom I am meant to ‘serve.’  I do not like that word, ‘serve,’ so I do not use it often.  It is a word that I think speaks to a wrong relationship idea, but becomes further trivialized when considering that it may not be accomplished at all.

Not only have I taken a job that could possibly exist for a Kenyan, my presence alone has driven away local support for the SJC.  All blame does not rest upon me and I do not mean to take it onto myself.  Although, I cannot help but feel that I may have caused more harm than good in this respect.

It speaks to the greater issue when considering foreign aid and support.  There is an idea held that those who come in any sort of aid capacity are able to provide financial backing.  There is no thought or regard for a persons job or age.  Here, white people bring money and spend it in various capacities throughout the country.  They are the ones who help with health services, schooling and so on.  Other races and nations help, but the European presence is the strongest by far.

It explains why I am constantly asked to support things such as upper education fees and simple food needs.  To be more specific, I have been asked to help people pay for the following (if I list everything it will take too long but this will give the general idea): bread, shoes, malaria drugs, soda, University fees/tuition, travel expenses, support for a musical career, support to be a cook, candy, sponsorship of a women’s soccer team, sponsorship of a choir and pain killers.

People have provided these services before and still do it.  That is the only way I can explain being asked constantly to give out money.  Some likely comes from private pockets while most comes in the form of aid.  This leaves me with something I have considered before, what is the role of aid in the third world?  Should it continue its present course?

The second question is easiest to answer.  No.  The first is a bit more involved.  In sort, I think that aid should be a service to provide the basic needs which people are denied due to poverty.  What would make more sense is for it to come via the country itself or at least appear to.  Loans can be given to help develop a country in need with a lower interest rate and full transparency asked in return.  Governments must remain responsive to the needs of the state and good governance must be encouraged.

The current structure does nothing to push nations towards improved governance.  In my hack unsupported opinion, I think NGO’s to be a main part of the problem.  When they take on the tasks that the government is unable to accomplishing due to lack of funds, war, or corruption, the will of the people is never really met.  Really, their will is not actualized because it is quelled by the minimum of needs provided by NGO’s.

At this point, I feel that I may be doing more harm than good here.  I will continue to do my best, but right now it is hard to see how I have been able to do more good than bad.  I did not set out thinking that I was saving anyone or anything, but I at least hoped not to make a negative impact.  It is possible that I may not have even accomplished that.