I saw a lot of grit last week. Most of it was in my eyes as the desert winds whipped up a mix of sharp sand in my face. I saw an awful lot of resilience too. Heartbreaking resilience and heartening resilience. Children who walked hundreds of miles to reach refuge. Alone, without adults, past lions, not really sure if Kakuma really existed.
I also saw wonderful resilience and resourcefulness. Children determined to be children in spite of everything, and making toys out of whatever they could find.
I met resilient adults, giving up time and energy to help others. I was stupidly naive going in – I expected to see well meaning white westerners assisting needy, traumatised Africans. I cringe as I write it. What I saw was Africa helping Africa. No dependency culture but instead a culture of communal responsibility and growth. In all that seeming chaos, there was a commitment to human dignity, to integrity, to making the most of every single, limited resource. What happens there is a triumph of hope and determination. Grit. There is, apparently, a saying in Africa that if you travel alone, you travel faster, but together we travel further. What a great way of summing up the achievements at Kakuma.
An experience like that can’t leave you unchanged. I came home to a parcel which I couldn’t bear to open – toiletries costing more than £50 – things I barely need. We take so much for granted. So much is wasted. But we can’t suddenly collapse into hessian sack cloths and stop moisturising! Think of the wrinkles. We can, however give time and thought and a little, just a little of what we have. We won’t miss the cost of a bottle of wine or a cup of coffee, but believe me, please believe me, every penny of that would make a difference to these determined, resilient children and the adults working around the clock to care for them. 80% of the refugees in Kakuma are children. Many, many of them orphaned, having witnessed the slaughter of their parents. The best hope they have is education. And so, I’m not going to apologise for asking again (and again), to please donate. You would be amazed at how far they make a little money go.