Long before I came to Nairobi, I used to live in Mombasa and had a friend whose “What’s up dog?” greeting used to make me mad. “It’s better to be born as a dog abroad than it is to be born in Africa,” he would explain, adding, “If you were a chiwawa abroad, you wouldn’t be so needy!”
“The better I get to know men, the more I find myself loving dogs.”
— Charles de Gaulle (former President of the French Republic)
It’s better to be born as a dog abroad
When I was growing up, young men kept dying by their hundreds as the HIV Aids scourged swept across Luo Nyanza. As young men, our role was to dig graves; deep into the night. Our reward was a huge heap of ugali and steaming plate of chicken that was washed down with drops of chang’aa.
While the girl-child was easier to deal with, boys went through the motions of life dead alive. We were dead men walking. All that was left, what the village was waiting for, was our physical death. Every school holiday we would watch as our uncles, aunts and cousins who lived in the city whisked the girl-child to the city where they got employed as house helps.
We didn’t grow up knowing orphans were supposed to have dreams and goals for the future. Neither did we know there was such a thing as role models and people to look up to. Every evening, while going to Pong Jokamaganga at Kambare Market, we would pass huddled groups of men who were playing ajua and drinking busaa. That is all we knew.
Our village had (and still has) hundreds of learned clansmen who only need to put in a good word and voila, a world of opportunities beckons. Yet, they all, collectively watched (and still watch) as lives of young people waste away. We didn’t know that birthdays were supposed to be celebrated. In fact, we all had the same birthday.
Every one in the village knew they had turned a year older on January 1st of every year. Christmas signaled the end of one year while January 1st meant a new beginning. All this time, I knew that dogs slept outside and ate the scraps we threw at them. This is how I lived my life until I went to Mombasa.
Pillars of Hope Children’s Centre
My friends “what’s up dog?” greeting were revived last Saturday. It wasn’t the first time I was visiting Pillars of Hope. However, hearing the same challenges I heard during my first visit took me way back to when I was growing up as an orphan. The only difference is that the children at the centre have access to the internet where they can learn about Miley Cyrus and perhaps, get to ponder about the real meaning and implication of… it’s better to be born as a dog abroad than it is to be born in Africa.
In the end, we engaged the children in helping them understand why they are in the right place. Our attempt to explain the meaning of ‘pillars’ and ‘hope’ didn’t magically change their dire situation. As Christmas approaches and the new year beckons, I know these wonderful children long to be somewhere else – where no one worries about water, food, shelter and electricity.
The good news is: the Pillars of Hope Children’s Centre has running water and electricity. However, the bills are in arrears! It is something that can be fixed, very easily. That is, if only 99% of the 2,061 friends I have on Facebook would heed my call for help. Of course, most of them won’t notice a thing while Miley Cyrus may continue mourning the passing of Floyd.
Finally, here are three things you can do to bring Christmas cheer to the children at Pillars of Hope:-
- offer to pay their water and electricity bill for one month
- visit and spend time with the children at the centre
- help us organize a Christmas party
Let me know what you can help with. Thanks in advance