The reasonable man adapts himself to the world: the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man. [Shaw]
I have a number of friends, colleagues, contacts, and acquaintances who often act unreasonably – that is to say, they create progress. Change. A difference. And all in their own ways.
Some of them are skeptical of any project that sends money overseas; some of them have development expertise that raises red flags about any well-intentioned but poorly-planned project that pops up on their radar; and some of them have such a soft spot for happy stories that they will throw their body, time, and bank account behind any project that presents them with a photo of a beautiful child. Many are somewhere in between these three groups, and I write this in my own attempt to appeal across the masses.
This fall, One Home Many Hopes will lauch Breaking Ground 2010. Last year, Breaking Ground 2009 raised over $135,000 in one month to build a proper, larger house for the girls of Mudzini Kwetu (the orphanage supported by OHMH). The goal in 2010: to raise $200k to fund the first phase of building a school both for the girls we house in Kikambala, Kenya and others in the surrounding area. In line with OHMH’s mission and vision, driven by a local man (and orphanage founder) Anthony Mulongu, the school will be the next step towards sustainability for us, and will provide an education to empower young Kenyans to be agents of change in their own communities. As Anthony has said:
“Giving an education to 700 young lives [the target size of the school] means we will have a better community and country in the future. It means that children who were born of poor parents and who would have carried forward the poverty line to future generations would now be able to live better lives than that of their predecessors. It also means that Mudzini Kwetu can be able to make a difference beyond its current resources; that is, if we presently have 35 girls because our infrastructure and means stretch that far, a school will be able to reach even those children whom we cannot accommodate at the premises. We can make a difference in their lives through an education. It means that Mudzini Kwetu will be multiplying itself, in that now more educated people who understand the needs of the poor (having themselves come from difficult backgrounds) will be more than eager to change other lives.”
Every child educated at the school will not necessarily move on to higher education, and some will choose routes that do not actively seek to create social change. But each would benefit from an education beyond what they are currently allowed, and an education is a powerful tool.
I myself have a certain skepticism about well-intentioned grassroots projects, but feel strongly and passionately about supporting OHMH with my time, energy, and funds. Why? Because it’s a home founded by and staffed by Kenyans, in response to the needs of their own community, which embraces the home wholeheartedly. It has an eye for sustainability, and believes in the power of raising even a small group of young women who can be leaders in their own communities in the future.
Anthony, the staff, and the girls of OHMH remind me why locals in developing countries can be more effective than many of us who fly in, even with specialized expertise, to help. Having a local who heads the project creates opportunities, and often paves the way to success. For example, a village elder approached Anthony, upon hearing a rumor about the possibility of building a school, to help negotiate a lower rate on the land on our behalf, and supported the project outright. Having a Kenyan director, fully committed to the mission which he helped create, ensures all that we do (mainly through raising funds) keeps our constituents (the girls) in mind. And of course, having personally lived at the home, I feel obligated (in a good way) to continue my support of the girls who stole my heart.
You have the ability to help build a school in Kenya without leaving the beltway (if you’re in DC), or leaving the comfort of your hometown – though I know travel always makes me happy. If you’re interested in learning more about the project and OHMH, please feel free to attend one of our Breaking Ground kickoff events, happening in DC, NYC, Boston, San Francisco, and Philadelphia in September. Also feel free to contact me personally with any questions or comments you might have.
[Follow up posts on education in Kenya, how we’re going to staff/maintain/expand the school, why building a private school is important to Anthony, and some of his reflections having grown up in the country will be forthcoming.]