Getting wet

I’m so sorry, in my last post I didn’t introduce myself, and I’d like to assure you I’m a real person!  (I love it when Twitter says, “we have to check you’re really human”.)

My name is Ian, married to Marcena, father to Jamie, Peter and Sarah.  When I’m not working, churching or family-ing, I’m focused on being a director of the Giraffe Project, a charity providing education and support to kids in Nairobi’s mega-slums,

I’m thrilled and honoured to be part of Giraffe now, but I was just an onlooker for a long time. Getting on board was a strange experience – almost a non-experience – and I’ve been wondering about what made me do it and why so many others do exactly the same.

I was a bystander as our inspirational friends, Richard and Denise Baines, turned their idea into reality and nurtured their tiny, fragile project.  I watched through the early years, applauding the unexpected triumphs and holding my breath through the inevitable mistakes, gradually being drawn closer and closer, happy to be nearby but never wanting more.

At some point, I must have attracted someone’s attention because I was challenged to come out of the shadows, join a trip and see the work for myself. And so I went with my family, fell in love with the country, the kids and their teachers, and came back more informed and impressed, but no more engaged. I had found no personal tipping point.  Admiration in spadefuls, and thankful that good people cared enough to get involved, but I was happy just buying cakes from the Giraffe stall and jangly beadcraft earrings for Sarah.

Involvement, when it did come, was as gradual as it was total.  There was no revelation, no great event, just a time when I found myself thinking more about Giraffe, then helping more, until one day I found myself acquiring a Giraffe Project hoodie, marking me incontrovertibly as one of them.  And as I crossed the border from spectator to participant, I began to understand what we all learn; I was going to get far more from my charity than I could ever give to it.

It means this to me: I’ve been able to share something extraordinary with my family.  We’ve put our faith into action, become part of a community, met remarkable people, heard stories that are so far out there they make the blood pound in my ears each time I listen to them, and we’ve embarked on a journey that we could never have started except in this special vehicle, the Giraffe Project.

And that, for what it’s worth, is it.  How I took the plunge.

And now I find myself imagining you reading this and I wonder what your story is.  How did you get involved in whatever you do?  Did you stand shivering on the top step like me for a long time, leap from the high-board full of poise and confidence, or did someone simply push you in? I’d love to know.

Thanks for reading


Despite everything

So here we go!  

Writing this blog, feeling a bit unsure, reminds me of our early days in Nairobi’s mega slums –  innocents abroad.

We’re an educational charity, and, in those faltering first moments, we rather reasonably assumed that we would be most use providing educational resources to local schools. Well, that did come, but not until some time later – after we realised that kids who haven’t eaten for days, or who had slept on a road needed much before they could begin to learn.

I remember being surprised at the strata of poverty in the slums.  You never see the poorest – they’ve already given up, trapped in an awful existence – shattered by abuse, disease or the thousand poisons of the deep slums.

Another lesson, then.  You can’t fix the world, but it doesn’t matter.  Whatever you can manage is enough.  And despite everything, we have managed to build a school in a slum, sponsor 700 children and embark on a really exciting venture that I’ll tell you about soon.

I want to share some fantastic stories that will make you sing with hope. I really want you to meet some of the friends we’ve met on our journey –  the ones who keep us sane when things get out of control and we question everything.

So that’s what this blog is for – telling the stories of youngsters walking tall, inspiring us and, hopefully, inspiring you.