Biko did not do us any favours with that Jadudi story. And before you introduce your fist to my jugular, let me explain. First, by ‘us’ I mean ‘bloggers’ who have managed to fool many people that their lives are so interesting that every breathing soul must follow religiously. So many people come here to read stories – some of which are true, most of which are pulled straight from the ass.
Secondly, Biko raised the bar too high for us. Now people think that if it happened for Jadudi, then it can happen to them too. Who knows? So they’ve been calling to ask for favours I am not sure I can deliver. I have had three people email me to help them crowdsource for money.
There is this WhatsApp group for bloggers that was formed late last year called Creatives Lounge. I am an admin. So when I got these requests, I asked if other people in the Lounge had also been called by their friends (and sometimes strangers) asking for help.
The answer was yes.
Dorothy Moige Nyariki was an undergraduate student from Moi University studying Linguistics and Media Communication. A few weeks ago, on her way to school from a night out with friends, Dorothy was involved in a fatal car accident. She stayed in a coma at Mediheal Hospital in Eldoret for 2 weeks before giving up her ghost, leaving behind 2 million shillings for her poor family to settle. Her body is still at the morgue, and it will remain there until that money is paid. She was 22 years old. Too young to be spoken about in past tense.
Baby Jacob was born with a congenital heart condition that has made his growth slow. This October, he is supposed to go to India for a heart surgery. It must pain a mother to see her little man on a hospital instead of a playground. Being only a year old, Jacob is getting ready to fight a war that even his own mother cannot prepare him for. She has no choice but to ask us to join her son’s regiment.
Fiona Mercy Jepleting’ is not sick. Hers is a different story. In 2010 she began a journey, armed with passion and a burning dream to go make a highway where few have trodden before. She participated at an educational fare in Kisumu, and of the 100 attendees, she was chosen alongside two others for slots to pursue higher learning at Universities in the United Kingdom.
Cliché, right? A bright girl gets called up to a fancy foreign institution with a fancy name like Hertfordshire. “Good for her.” “We have heard that tale many times before.” “We wish her well”. blahbitty blah..
That would be easy to say, except there is nothing cliché about joining the Aerospace Engineering program at the University of Hertfordshire .There is nothing pedestrian about graduating with outstanding First Class Honors, in a Bachelors of Science degree in Aerospace Engineering. It is, in fact, rocket science.
Do you now see my point? We do not have enough Fionas to go around.
All this notwithstanding, when Fiona received her invitation from the University of Hertfordshire to go on and take up her Masters program at the institution, her first response was to decline. She understood that her ageing parents, who have seen her through her undergraduate program to the tune of Kshs 5 million, had exhausted all avenues to support her education. They had sold off the little they had and reached out to all that could help.
However, when Fiona returned home after her graduation, a promise was made. Nandi County Deputy Governor gave his word that they would support Fiona through her Masters program. She enrolled on a down payment donated by a local NGO and began class in January 2015. Unfortunately, when approached to honor this promise, the deputy governor denied and reneged. What that means is that Fiona Jepleting’ is Kshs 3 million (in debt and arrears) and two semesters away from graduation.
Yet there is no more land left for her parents to sell.
***These people are in need of money. They do not need it to pay their rent or go buy a cold beer at Sierra, Brew Bistro or Sirville Lounge. They need it because they are dying. They need it because they are already dead and they need to cross over to the other side in peace. They need it because they need to go to school. They need it because they desire a future; one which is slipping through their fingers like beach sand.
They just want to live, man.
The sad thing about all this is that they are not supposed to be begging people for money because they already paid for these services in the form of taxes. When the Auditor General said that only 1% of the 1.5 trillion shillings we generate as revenue for the serikali can be accounted for, I did not even make sense of the numbers . It was not until I took time with a calculator to do this arithmetic, did I realize just how many zeros I had to punch in. And the greater shock was in realizing that those zeros represent money. OUR money, guys!
When you are a blogger and someone you were with in campus calls you to ask for assistance in finding money for her friend who is stranded and in need, what do you do? What do you do when she says she wants you to pull a Biko and help her raise millions of shillings from strangers who only visit your blog for stories? You do not even know these people. You do not know whether Salsa988 is their real name. You have no idea whether or not she has already given all she had to another charity and there is honestly nothing left to give. You do not know if Salsa988 will read that story and go like “Ah! Huyu Magunga ni biashara sasa ndio anafanya.”
Because come to think of it…
Everyday we walk through Nairobi and pass by beggars on the streets. Most of them are cons but some of them are legitimately in need. But since they do not have enough stacks, or a Twitter handle, they write down their ailments on sheets of manila paper and then sit on pavements under the fury of the sun, hoping someone will see their open wounds and drop a coin. Most of the time they are treated as problems before they are treated as people; that is why when Obama was flew in for a sleepover, they were kicked out of their home. The Beast is not just a car. It is also the ugly unit of people who push the buttons in this country.
There are also those women who, at 9.00pm, are still walking around with wrapped babies on their backs, through traffic, knocking on windows for people to help them feed their children. I am told that some of them are not even those kids’ mothers. It is a business. They come from the wattles and hamlets of Kawangware, Kibera, Mathare etc where both God and government passed them over like Jewish holidays while handing out their graces. They have nothing but time to spend. Even dreams are illegal in the ghetto. So what do they do? Nairobi living is hard. When hunger bites, these women ‘borrow’ other women’s kids and come with them to town, hoping that when you see the poor little kid, you will be reminded of your humanity and give them a little change.
I hate to quote Kenyan politicians, but enyewe this Nairobi is not for anyone’s mother.
Nobody likes to beg. Not even those mamas from Kawangware. Nonetheless, at some point, we all do.
We all take M-Shwari loans. We all borrowed money from HELB to go to school. We have all held or attended harambees because our sisters or brothers were going majuu for further studies. We all have been down in the trenches in the middle of the month and had to send that “Chief, vipi, si you okolea me with 3000 bob. I will refund you when the month turns” text. And we make sure to refer to that person as Chief or Boss or Mkubwa because when you need money from someone you know has money, you have to play on his vanity. People like to give when they are made to feel special.
***Requests to highlight Baby Jacob and Fiona Jepleting’s predicament came at a time when I was also in need of money. Being a young writer in this town is like walking with no shoes in a world full of invisible thorns. I have been pricked a lot. When I got the call from Fiona’s friend, I was raging mad at just how disrespectful some editors can be – like the one from a leading newspaper who asked me last month to write for his magazine, only to be paid half the agreed amount…two weeks late. With no apologies. At the same time, some other friend asked me to do some social media work for his sprouting company and he is has been dodging my calls. Friends and family make the worst clients, especially for artists. Marketing agencies also take years to pay for work done.
I was in a mess. I was having my own problems with money. And here was someone else asking me to help her raise money. And I said yes, only to change my mind immediately after because I was in no frame of mind to write anything. My mind was filled with questions of how and where I would get rent. I was hungry and frustrated. Lakini there is no way anyone can understand if I was to tell them “Sorry, I cannot help your friend go back to school because I am not in the right mind to bang out a heart wrenching story that will go viral.”
I am writing this today because things have cooled off on my end. I am also writing this because I have not sent any contributions to any of those people I mentioned because I am dead broke. This article is a form of catharsis – I hope that somebody will read it and help these people in a way that I am unable to.
I know this crowdsourcing idea is like treating brain tumor with Panadol. The headache will go away for a while but the disease will stay. The truth is, the people who are in charge of health care should simply do their jobs. They need to create capacity here in Kenya so that patients need not incur too much expenses in going to India for treatment. But, hey, here we are. With nothing else other than ourselves. Many of these people do not have the time to wait for the government to come full circle. Like Edward Obiero and Ezra Momanyi who, despite our efforts to make them stay, still went back to the soil.
There is someone watching his kid faint all the time because his heart will not beat as it should. There is a cancer patient lying on a bed with tubes running from his nose, hanging on to the hope that someone will read this and care. There is girl who needs kidney transplant done in India (my dad died because his kidneys failed and it guts me every time I hear of similar cases. It reminds me of him in a way I would rather forget). There is someone who needs to go to school so that she can come back and play her role in turning the cogs of this nation. It may all seem far-fetched and inconsequential to the rest of us but we ought to realize that this is an issue that points to a failure in this nation. When it comes to countries, the difference between the developed and the developing is a Fiona Jepleting’.
None of these people wanted to end up like this. It is just that life is such a killjoy when it happens. So send them a shilling or a message or both. Follow their hashtags. Retweet their prayers. Do something. Anything. Nobody will blame you for not doing enough. But whatever you do, at least give them hope.
I know I will.
P.S. Jadudi went into surgery today. He is dancing with the knife this very instant. See you soon, buddy.