Wednesday, November 22, 2006

What do I do with the poverty around me? (Nov 11)

I am overwhelmed with the poverty of my home here. Every day people ask me for money. Several times a week, people tell me that they are hungry. Sometimes they ask me or tell me because I’m white and they think I have money. But some people are just telling me because they’re desperate. My response has just become to say no, I don’t have anything. I think because I don’t know what to do. And I feel funny just pulling out my wallet and giving them money on the street because they happen to ask me. I don’t know how to tell if people really need help or not and I, as an individual, can’t really do anything to help them. Even if I gave them money, they would still be hungry tomorrow. But at the same time, the Bible tells me to share my food with the hungry. How do I share my food with the hungry when everyone around me is hungry? How do I decide who to help and who to leave? Sometimes when people are drunk or are obviously telling me they’re hungry because I’m white and they figure, let me give it a shot, I ask them what do you want me to do? I don’t have any money. But sometimes people are telling me because they’re desperate. For some people, even if I had money, I wouldn’t give them just because they’re a random person on the street who asks me for help. I have so many friends and neighbors who don’t come begging to me, but I know their needs. If I had money I would help them first. There are others who come to me with their needs because I am their friend and they know that I love them.

There’s the friend whose sister was helping him to go a school to study to be a mechanic, but then she got sick and died suddenly, so he has a balance of 20,000 shillings ($280) and keeps being sent home for fees. Even if he finishes the exam this year, he wouldn’t be able to get his certificate because he has outstanding fees. I gave him the 2000 that I had, and he’s still being sent home every few weeks. There’s still no money at home. Then there’s the maid who works for the family I live with. I think she makes about 1500 shillings a month ($20), maybe less. She has 6 kids, the oldest of whom is in high school, not at the better one where he was accepted, just the local one that caters for poor farmers’ kids. He was sent home for school fees and doesn’t have the books he needs to do well. He wants to go to the university and be a pilot. I gave him the 2000 shillings that I had. He still has some of his balance left, he doesn’t have the books or calculator and I don’t know what he will do next year. His mom works very hard, but she’s not well educated and doesn’t have a good job. Then there’s the sister of one of the girls we (you) have supported. She is in her third year of high school. She’s still wearing the uniform from the first year. She just asked me to help with the uniform, let alone the school fees. Her family loves me very much. They gave my parents a chicken when we visited. I haven’t given her anything because I don’t have anything left. There is the neighbor boy who comes to play with me and wants to come to America with me. He is a good kid, but he lives with his grandma who is someone’s second wife and doesn’t have any money. He came to me with his torn tennis shoes. My parents bought him a pair of shoes, which is like a miracle to his family. But he still needs so much more.

I don’t know what to do. Friends like these I want to help. Everybody else wants me to help too. Everyone else wants me to find someone else in America who can support them. Everyone wants me to fid them money. At times it is just overwhelming. But at least I can say I can’t do it. Imagine how someone from the village feels when they finally get a job (after looking for 5 years minimum) that doesn’t pay very well at all, but because they have a job, everybody and their brother expects support because a relative has a job. It is their obligation. But it is an obligation that will kill them. People come to our house nearly everyday begging for salt or tea or whatever. My host mom gives them, even though she and her family are just barely surviving and are so far in debt it’s almost unbelievable, because she can’t say no. They look like they’re well off so they feel like they have to act like it, going farther and farther into debt to maintain a lifestyle they can’t afford.

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