Over the years, PA-MOJA has struggled with an existential dilemma that challenges many NGOs with interests and partners in Africa and frequently remains unresolved: Charity vs. partnership. At what point does one become the other and how do we prevent ourselves from making the easy mistake of focusing on the needs rather than the people?
Early this year, 3 Kenyan boys were flown to B.C for a cultural exchange tour designed to give them an opportunity to see the Canadian side of PA-MOJA up close. Conversely, our Canadian sponsors witnessed the results of their years of hard work embodied in the intelligence, poise and confidence that working with PA-MOJA had embodied in James Victor and George. Boys who, despite only having negligible computer and research skills a few years ago were creating and publishing their own research on Butterfly Effect.
For the 4 months the boys were in Canada, they attended regular school at the Langley Fine Arts School and soaked in the Canadian culture in terms of sports, cuisine, First Nations history and many others. Indeed, thanks to their doting homestay families, they crammed in to the limited time more activities than many Canadian teens ever get to do. Naturally, there were challenges here and there and the diversity of their cultures made for a few interesting errors on both sides.
Nevertheless, they had such a profound impact on everyone they met and their message that Kenyans needed opportunities more than they need charity slowly became a refrain in various functions. They made presentations to the Langley and Coquitlam school district administrators and teachers both of which are involved in Butterfly Effect.
When they returned home to Kenya, they accompanied the team of Canadian volunteers in their school visits and helped in running the summer activities. They gave talks in Kenyan schools about their Canadian experiences and inspired thousands of Kenyan students. Now more Kenyans than ever before feel like a part of PA-MOJA after seeing their own taking and active part in the exchange actives from both sides.
Everyone was impressed by their ideas and intelligence and before they had boarded their homeward bound flights, plans were being made to repeat the experiment before the year was out and bring more Kenyan students in November of the same year.
Of the Butterfly Effect students from Thome and Tigithi, we could only take 2 from each school and this was no easy task given that all of them are very dedicated to the program. However we finally selected:
Allan Mucheru from Thome boys, who is also in the running to be school president. He is one of the first boys recruited from Thome and he will be based at Dr Charles Best secondary. He hopes to be a doctor when he graduates college and his Butterfly Effect project is about evolution.
The other student from Thome Secondary is Stephen Muchiri. Who aspires to teach college literature some day and he will be based in LFAS where he will be studying Photography as his major for the two months. His Butterfly Effect project is a feminist critique of ‘The River and The Source’ a book by Margret Ogola, one of the most influential writers in East Africa.
Moses Warungi from Tigithi is interested in studying the duplicity of society in our treatment of disabled people by claiming to put their interests at heart while design and build structures that enforce their alienation. He will be going to LFAS and his major will be theatre arts.
Finally there is Denis Chege, from Tigithi. He is doing a project on global poverty on Butterfly Effect and he hopes to study computer science in university. He is going to Charles Best with Allan.
This will be their first time to leave the country fly in an airplane. It will be the first time for them to experience being a minority ethnic group, see snow, go to school without uniform, celebrate Halloween and act as PA-MOJA ambassadors abroad.
They are all furnished with iPads, which they will use to record their experiences and blog about them just like the three boys who had been in Canada before them. Their coming is an sign that PA-MOJA works, for good and for all involved. They have inspired everyone who has met them by their ability to do so much with so little and we believe the chance in Canada will set the path for more frequent and meaningful exchanges.
Read their blog posts from here:
All our Kenyan exchange activities are done in collaboration with the Ol Pejeta Conservany in Nanyuki and ultimately promote wildlife conservation.