Mary Walker: Kenyans know all about fundraising

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Mary Walker

If you go

What: Garden Luncheon Fundraiser for the girls of Tasaru

When: 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 5, at 677 Meadowbrook Circle

Cost: $20 suggested donation includes a buffet Kenyan lunch, music, an informational slide show and a Maasai craft market

Contact: For information or to RSVP e-mail gardenluncheon@gm..., mewalker99@yahoo.com or call 879-3810. RSVP by Wednesday.

Editor’s note: Clark resident Mary Walker volunteers at the Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya, and is currently back in Routt County. The center was built in 2002 and provides a safehouse for Maasai girls who have escaped or been rescued from female genital mutilation and forced childhood marriage. Walker’s updates appear periodically in the Steamboat Today.

At schools, churches, and homes throughout Kenya, one often will come across a “harambee,” or fundraiser. These events are meant to raise money for people to put on a wedding for a family member, build a library at a school, fund a church-run AIDS orphanage, finance a member of parliament’s election campaign, or help a family with unexpected medical bills. Not so very different from fundraisers here, right?

What is totally different about harambees is that there is little in the way of “return for your donation” — sure, lots of food, even Coca-Colas, but no free T-shirts, water bottles or raffle drawings for a long list of items donated by businesses. In a country such as Kenya, people give what they can, whether it is 100 shillings (about $1.50) or 1,000 shillings, because they know that surely one day they will need to ask their friends and neighbors to help them out. And harambees are a great way to get together to share the news.

I went to one harambee near Narok to assist a woman who had been injured in a car accident and needed surgery. Basically, we sat and ate all the nyama choma (roasted meat, a favorite particularly of the Maasai) we wanted along with a warm Coca-Cola.

Here in Steamboat, for the past three years, friends have organized garage sales to raise money for the girls at Tasaru Girls Rescue Centre in Narok, Kenya. They have all been wildly successful, raising money that goes farther than most people can imagine to buy textbooks, medicines and medical care, and food for the girls.

I tried to explain the concept of these garage sales to one of the girls from Tasaru on the phone the other day. It fell flat. Most important, no one in Kenya, and particularly a Maasai girl from deep in the bush, can relate to the idea of having “too much stuff” or being able to sell your “too much stuff” off to generate some capital. I saw a wonderful exhibit at the Chicago airport a couple of years ago where photographers went all across the world and photographed different families with all of their “stuff.” In North Africa, a family sat on top of its mud hut with four clay cooking pots.

The piles of clothes, furniture and knickknacks at a typical American garage sale do look remarkably like the ubiquitous African markets of second-hand clothes (mostly from China) and cheap electronics (definitely from China). The difference is that Africans are trying to make a living selling these things that they (or whoever is bankrolling them) have bought in bulk off the ships that come into Mombasa. We Americans are just trying to clear out our stuff.

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