Life is tough in Kenya at the best of times. The average wage out here is less than $100 a month with a huge percentage of people living on a lot less than that. What raises the average is a small percentage of extra-ordinarily wealthy people who live in palatial houses and drive cars most people in Ireland would be unable to afford.
The average person lives on a day to day basis. They only think about where the money for the next meal is going to come from. People are prepared to go to incredible lengths to keep going. A typical taxi driver for example who does not own their vehicle works anything up to 20 hours a day – more that half of this time is spent raising the money they need to pay the owner of the vehicle before they start earning money for themselves. This is done on a daily basis. If anything happens to the vehicle when its in his custody he is responsible for the bill. They can be fired at any stage even if they meet their rental commitments.
And this is the average person. Living a life like this makes it impossible to plan anything for the future. This is just existing. It brings home the point that poverty leaves you with no choices. That is the crux of the problem.
Now imagine if you had a disability out here and you are born into poverty. Quite literally, your only option is to beg and if that does not work you simply die on the streets.
Sometimes I wonder if looking after our most vulnerable is just a luxury of wealth. That is why it is essential we practice giving unconditionally so that giving becomes as instinctual to us as staying alive.
In 1972, a young 18 year old Kenyan boxer called Dick ‘Tiger’ Murunga won a bronze medal in the welter weight division at the Munich Olympics. It was an extraordinary achievement at the time and he instantly became a Kenyan national hero.
A number of years later he developed a debilitating shin injury (due apparently to over training and poor nutrition) which confined him to a wheelchair. Over the last number of years the ‘Tiger’ has been championing the cause for people with disabilities in Africa. He has tirelessly traveled the globe raising awareness and funds for this cause. He even managed to get an audience with Barack Obama when he was still a senator!
I met him this week to look at the possibility of Camara and his charity doing some work together.
One of the projects he is working on is the establishment of an accessible campus just outside Mombasa where people from all over the world with disabilities can visit. The idea is to raise national awareness around the needs of people with disabilities along with providing an outreach center and funding for local people with disabilities.
Part of this campus will include an accessible computer training center. Dick would like Camara to provide the computers for the center.
I think the partnership has fantastic potential. Here is a local hero, politically unaligned, championing the cause of one of the most marginalised communities in Kenya (and Africa generally) and he has recognised the potent role technology can play to help this cause.
As the Camara operations on the ground in Africa stabilise I have no doubt that more and more connections like this will happen. The audacity of hope….what a wonderful phrase;)