Other worlds: which ones are you in?

A damp autumn Saturday, horse chestnuts, improbably glossy, peep from spiny cases and the leaves on a thousand beech trees dress the verges in bronze, gold, russet and green. The house smells of apples, big, sour Bramleys, carefully wrapped, soon to become plump pies and crumbles  – our winter staples.

Cut to the lobby of a corporate building. Glass, marble and leather dominate whilst extravagant bowls of flowers soften the hard lines; efficiency with a heart. This is my home away from home, my other world.  It’s ten minutes from the beech trees and the apples, and it’s a million miles away.

Here, data centres jostle with discounted cash flows, project deadlines, media releases and HR issues, for brain space that was never big enough, even when life was simpler.

“Enough already”, I hear you cry. “Get to the point!”  I’m coming, I promise, but indulge me just once more.  Look carefully and you will see me sitting at a table with a dozen others.  We’re tired, it’s about  eleven pm and we’ve been talking since eight.  Welcome to our church council. Voices are strained – not raised – but people are quietly determined to be heard.

We’re talking about the Christian missions we want to support – all of them doing fantastic work, and desperate for financial backing, but our money is tight and the needs are limitless. Giraffe is just one of them. As ever, we need a miracle!

So let me join up the dots. On Wednesday my house was full, not only of apples, but also of dark wooden elephants and gazelles; belts made from cowrie shells; exquisite soapstone boxes and dishes; and jangly beadcraft earrings. On Thursday it was all spread out, adorning the marble lobby at work, bringing colour and style to the formal surroundings.

My wonderful team stood behind loaded tables and sold flat out as colleagues bought and bought and bought. Some called to say, “I can’t be there, but pick out some things for me”.  Others just dug deep and walked away touched by the moment.

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But what I find really fascinating is that during this week, my home, my work and my church were all solidly connected by a group of children from a slum, who know nothing of apple crumble and church councils. They’re not part of the connected world – no social media,  (actually no electricity and no running water) and yet, for a brief moment they were at the centre of all these different worlds.

And no doubt it happens to us too.  In a lawyer’s office, at a family gathering far away, or perhaps in a blog.  We will almost certainly never know which distant worlds we’re connecting at any point in time, and we may not even know those places exist.  But perhaps, because of some crazy set of circumstances, someone in a Nairobi slum is wondering about you right now.

It makes you think doesn’t it?

Thanks for reading

Ian

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.