Giving & Recieving Kenyan Style

Posted February 10, 2009 from Kenya
dsc05451.JPG (1/1)

I got a message today from an Editor that the US Embassy in Nairobi were looking for me regarding a story I did in their newspaper.

The piece was about an extraordinary girl called Maureen who helped the bedridden in Kibera access food and supplies in the height of the post election violence.

I was most curious and got in touch with them as soon as I could.

It turns out they want to invite her for a women’s event in May and just needed her phone number. I found it a little perplexing they didn’t just check the public directory and find the organization she was working for and track her down in one sure step. Go figure…

Anyway there were many such heroic stories. Many Kenyans needed to hear these positive accounts to raise hope that perhaps we still had some decency left in us even in the midst of that needless violence.

So a group of writers and photographers decided to document these great accounts, delve into the lives of ordinary people with extraordinary hearts. We took time off work, volunteered our time, money and enthusiasm to spread the good word of Kenyan heroes. As we spewed out hundreds of proposals to the Kenyan Corporate world, it became increasingly obvious that the culture of Philanthropy is not nurtured much in Kenya and a great idea fell through the cracks of lack of support. Such a shame. Documenting positive history is such an integral part of our heritage.

I recently had the opportunity of working briefly with Ufadhili Trust . They did a case study on Philanthropy in Kenya during the post election violence. The trends of their report indicated that Kenyans do have a culture of giving and that this needs to be cultivated and ingrained in our daily lives. Working with this dedicated group of people made me realize that we have people who perpetually document optimism in Kenya. We hope some day soon this constructive investment pays off.

In retrospect, the Post Election Violence brought out some good in us. That dark phase gave us an opportunity to emerge from our mediocre lives and express our compassion to those affected. It was also clear that many who reached out to help did not seek any gain; these were pure and unprecedented selfless acts of human kindness.

It’s a Kenyan thing.

Why then are we colonized with cut throat Kenyan Corporates who seek only to brand themselves and push sales and PR stunts?

As it were, if we their stakeholders are suffering or sick or dead how many sales would they push then?

I find it pretentious that some Kenyan Corporates set up whole policy documents on “Our Company’s (Truly…Truly) Philanthropy Division” independent so to speak from the profit making section….then require their applicants to do a follow up on how supporting this “noble venture would make their company look good….”

The secret is out - nothing makes a company look better than plain unadulterated giving….Some old adage says “You can’t receive if you don’t give.”

And so how much do we expect to receive each day anyway? As an individual; in remuneration or appreciation?

Or perhaps as a corporate – in share profits, daily sales and returns?

Perhaps the real question we should in fact ask is how much we give out first…..

Comments 4

Log in or register to post comments
  • Auma
    Feb 10, 2009
    Feb 10, 2009

    Hi Sikiliza,

    I have just been going through this article and loved it! Welcome on PulseWire!



  • Jennifer Ruwart
    Feb 13, 2009
    Feb 13, 2009


    Your journal post touches on so many things.... light emerging from darkness.... the power of positive thought and intention... corporate community involvement.

    Before I joined World Pulse I consulted start-up companies in the US in corporate community involvement. Our goal was to instill giving back in the corporate culture from the beginning, so that as the company grew, so did their commitment to the community. That their commitment was authentic.

    It sounds like you are not trusting the authenticity of Kenyan Corporations. Do you have examples of companies who demonstrate, "plain unadulterated giving?"

    In anticipation of a rich conversation with you!


  • Sikiliza
    Feb 14, 2009
    Feb 14, 2009

    Hi thanks Leah - I was also happy to find out that Maureen has been nominated for an award by Media Focus because of the work she did in Kibera during the post election violence....We need more women like her ....we need more mentors to look up to.

    I wish her all the best...


  • Sikiliza
    Feb 14, 2009
    Feb 14, 2009

    Hi Jennifer

    Thank you for your comment.

    I spent a lot of time last year poring over companies’ policies on community giving and philanthropy.

    I am very put off by Corporates like East African Breweries, or The Coca Cola Foundation or Safaricom Foundation. One cannot penetrate any grants from these kinds of foundations if you are a “newbie” or without strong and powerful connections.

    In that time I came across the most generous the corporates were the little ones… I must commend a few:

    Nyaugenya Bus company – they helped transport victims of the violence from hot spot areas to safer destinations... the bus owners fuelled and paid the drivers who courageously drove past vigilante groups who had sometimes put road blocks at the height of the post election crisis.

    Kijabe Hospital – I spent sometime in this hospital. Its one of Kenya’s oldest established in 1915. Over the years this hospital opens its doors to all who seek treatment. They are mission based and have a policy of treating patients whether they can pay for it or not.

    I had visited them to see some special little children who were burnt in a church fire in Eldoret when we had post election clashes. Kiambaa Church victims The hospital had hosted them long after they treated their burns as they had no where else to go…..

    They also have an amazing outreach for management of HIV and AIDs spreading three districts with plans of further expansion…in the violence last year they used peer educators, neighbours and volunteers to ensure that majority of their patients on ARV meds got their medication. The work they are doing is amazing – non for profit…

    I did a profile on a Kenyan business magnate Dr Manu Chandaria who started one of the oldest Kenyan foundations. It was a family venture, a way for them to give back to the less fortunate mostly children who could not go through school. Right now we have many professionals who are where they are because of this kind of work…

    Several other corporates sought to help – some sought anonymity…I had a leading law firm offer free legal advice and they registered our trust paying for all the fees…in addition they even provided a seed fund for the newly registered trust to open a bank account.

    So many of us give as individuals…or as small firms…I just hope one day we can also have the big Kenyan corporates genuinely give back to the community its vested in…