Sunday, August 21, 2011

Kenyans for Kenya: Recapturing the Spirit of Harambee!

The initiative “Kenyans for Kenya” is an effort by ordinary Kenyans and business corporations to aid Kenyans suffering from hunger and malnutrition in Turkana and North Eastern parts of the country.  It is based on a simple concept: “For as little as Ksh 10 you can save a hungry child from death. Together, we can save many lives. Take action today.” It urges Kenyans to - Pick up your phone and send your donation to M-PESA PayBill 111111 or KCB account No. 1133333338.

Already, the initiative has received over Ksh 650 million in cash, kind and pledges. The target,which originally was Ksh 500 million was extended to Ksh 1 billion. The initiative has been hailed as the most successful Kenyan humanitarian movement by Kenyans for helping fellow Kenyans in need. And, indeed it is. Since independence Kenyans have never shown so much generosity. Nevertheless, the spirit of giving and being my brother’s keeper is not new to Kenyans. The free “Harambee Spirit” emerged immediately after independence and was based on the same simple concept of communities joining hands to solve their local individual and common problems: such as providing a shelter for a needy neighbor, education for needy neighbor’s child, to providing education and health to communities through Harambee schools and Harambee dispensaries and health care centres. The spirit extended to other aspects of daily lives of the people through Harambee projects addressing different problems such as food, water, roads, land purchases and infrastructure.

From its inception, Harambee was free and voluntary. Such was the beauty of the Harambee Spirit before it was high jacked and made compulsory by the political class in the 80s and 90s. The political class, which was now competing against each other, measured ones generosity by how much you coughed out during Harambee fund raising rallies. This completely alienated common Kenyans from the Harambee as they felt intimidated by the volumes of cash contributed by the politicians.  To involve the public, the administrative authorities – chiefs, district officers (Dos), district commissioners (DCs), provincial officers (PCs), heads of departments and even Permanent Secretaries – compulsorily collected money from government employees and members of public who sort services from these officers. The free and voluntary spirit of Harambee was hence dangerously violated.

In my opinion, the novelty of the initiative “Kenyans for Kenya” is the recapturing of the Free and Voluntary Spirit of Harambee and restoring it back to its owners – the public. The technological solution of Mpesa is Godsend as it has enabled Kenyans to contribute freely and voluntarily the amount they have and wish to give. Indigenous corporations such as Safaricom, KCB, Kenya Airways, Equity bank, media houses, etc and humanitarian organizations such as Red Cross need our support as they are true partners for our social and economic development. I don’t mean by this to discriminate against foreign corporations that too play an important role in our social and economic development but I am only re-emphasizing the saying that “charity begins at home”. By taking charge of our affairs, foreigners can only join us to help us achieve our goals at our own terms and they will not set the agenda for us.

Together we can change the face of Kenya from one of poverty to one of prosperity. Take Action Now and donate to  M-PESA PayBill 111111 or KCB account No. 1133333338.

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