Malcolm Bane was right…

A meme I came across a few years ago from a pastor named Malcolm Bane made me think about society and the world we live in and, in particular, the apologies that we create in order to ignore helping less fortunate people.

The phrase was the following: “if you wait until you can do everything for everybody, instead of something for somebody, you´ll end up not doing anything for anybody”.

Almost all of us born in developed countries are aware of the unjust distribution of wealth and resources on this planet; however, we are convinced that it is useless to try to change this situation because: “if we donate, surely the NGO keeps all the money”, “the King / Dictator / spiritual leader will spend it on another Mercedes …”, “they are lazy, it’s their own fault “… Up until 4 years ago when I came across Bane’s quote, these excuses served as a justification for my inaction, simply ignoring the situation and filling my life with irrelevant issues … Will Cristiano Ronaldo or Messi score more goals? Will Fernando Alonso´s Ferrari / McLaren complete 3 laps of Spa?

On realizing that these excuses were unfounded, I decided to do something, no matter how small a gesture and started looking for an NGO with which I could collaborate. Talking about these issues with a friend having a coffee, the name of an NGO came up, Kubuka, and that by chance, had been co-founded by a girl who, like me, had studied at Runnymede College in Madrid. My friend encouraged me to investigate the NGO seeing as she had heard that the NGO was improving the lives of many people in Kenya and Zambia.

I watched a documentary about Kubuka and, after listening to Álvaro Pérez Plá who was a co-founder of the NGO, I understood the NGO’s vision of helping by setting up projects that can become self-sufficient represented the values that I was looking for and that they operated in a transparent manner.

Through my company, EKON  Strategy Consulting, which at that time was little more than a “start-up”, we began to collaborate with Kubuka with a small donation. It was the year 2015. It has been 3 years and now we are honored to attend the Kubuka Council meetings as advisors. We have witnessed, first-hand, the development of the NGO, although only from the organizational point of view, that is, from Madrid … Not in the countries where they are making a change, we had not visited the projects in Kenya / Zambia, but that changed at the end of June of this year, when accompanied by my two children, we visited the projects in Zambia … An unforgettable experience.

At the end of June, we arrived at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula Airport in Livingstone in southern Zambia, bordering with Zimbabwe. The aim was to combine tourism with visits to several of the NGO´s projects. I was keen on visiting the “sports project” that is in a marginalized area north of Livingstone, the Safe House that houses girls, in some cases orphans, between the ages of 14 – 18 and, finally, I wanted to visit Kasiya, where Kubuka is building, with the help of the local community, schools and houses for teachers.

After a day visiting the Victoria Falls, for which I could write a separate blog, we met with three members of the Kubuka team in Zambia who lead the coordination of several projects.

At that time we met Joyce, Sofia and David, later we met Oscar and Virginia. Between them and with the help of 2 or 3 more people, they coordinate all the projects in Zambia. Together we planned the visits, we would start with the sports project that same afternoon.

Sports project in Mwandi

We went to Mwandi in the Kubuka van, the contrast between our hotel and the houses in Mwandi was shocking … The asphalt roads soon became mud tracks as well as the houses that went from a solid construction with bricks to being little more than mud huts…

What did not change were the smiles on the children´s faces, unalterable, many of them looking over the “stands” that many families set-up (apparently illegally) at the entrance of their homes, to sell tomatoes, onions, eggs or anything else they could produce in order to earn some money.

When we arrived at the school in Mwandi northwest of Livingstone, about 50 children were waiting for us to play football, netball, rugby or volleyball … That number would possibly be more than a hundred ids by the end of the afternoon.

My children and I played with one of the teams and enjoyed an intense game of football.
At the time, and with a possible heart-attack looming, the trainer sent me to the bench because if I kept playing I would have ended up in the hospital …

From this sports project it is clear that it inculcates children with very important values, teamwork, and sacrifice, keeps them entertained and keeps them fit…. They play 3 or 4 hours almost daily.

Safe House Project

In the center of Livingstone, we came across the Safe House, this being one of the most important projects to visit, given our active role in supporting it over the years. The Safe House is a shelter for girls between the ages of 14-18 who are in a vulnerable situation. When we visited there were 12 girls living in the house, the caretaker cares for them as if she were their mother, but under very strict rules based around the collaboration and the sharing of the chores.

The girls from Safe House welcomed us with joy and expressions of gratitude.

The caretaker explained that there are several initiatives to make the project less dependent on a subsidy, among them the sale of the 30 eggs that the hens lay daily, which they sell directly to the public for 30 kwachas, which is equivalent to around € 3.

We were honored to help prepare lunch, which consisted of the typical dish of Zambia, nshima, in this case with chicken. The nshima is basically ground corn with water and in many homes, it is prepared three times a day. For breakfast, the nshima is prepared with sugar; for lunch or dinner nshima is usually served with meat or fish, or with a tasty tomato garnish. In this case, they prepared it with chicken and vegetables, and it was really delicious.

After sharing this time with them, I can vouch that the impact that this shelter has had on improving their lives is reflected in their faces. Thanks to this initiative, the girls feel safe, taken care of, they have time to study, and when the music was on, they danced and performed a show for us …. Although their lives are still hard, they now have a second chance.

After sharing this time with them, I can vouch that the impact that this shelter has had on improving their lives is reflected in their faces. Thanks to this initiative, the girls feel safe, taken care of, they have time to study, and when the music was on, they danced and performed a show for us …. Although their lives are still hard, they now have a second chance.

Kasiya Community School Project

About 15 km from Livingstone, which seems a short distance until you travel it in a 4x4, we came across the community of Kasiya where some 500 families coexist in conditions of poverty and without basic infrastructure and in which many of the children have to walk several hours every day to go to school.

Before arriving, sitting in the back of the 4x4 enjoying the potholes and experiencing the dreaded “African massage”, Sofia and Oscar had explained that 2 or 3 years ago, when Kubuka began to help the community, the school was little more than a mud hut, and with the help of the community they had managed to build a school. At present, an extension was being built to the school to cover more years of schooling. When we arrived there were about 30-40 people working on the construction site, of which all but three were volunteers from the community, something that reinforces my opinion about the suitability of the strategy that Kubuka follows. Do not give things away, you have to involve the community, and make it sustainable without an eternal presence of the NGO.

Upon hearing the arrival of the 4x4, all the workers and children who were playing in a field near the construction site with a “football” that turned out to be plastic bags compacted with rubber bands (sounds like a cliché, but that is what it was).

It is not easy to explain in words how the community has focused on this project and on the two previous projects we had visited, nor the feeling of gratitude perceived only by looking at the smiles on the children´s faces, talking with members of the community or simply observing the speed at which the school expansion was being constructed.

The construction site emitted a positive vibe, the transformation of this community is unquestionable … And this is possible thanks to the work of Kubuka, especially its cooperators. On the flight home I was determined to continue supporting Kubuka, what their volunteers are achieving in the projects that I saw, is close to being miraculous …. Thanks for letting me be part of it.

If I had any doubts about the veracity of Bane’s phrase, they vanished contemplating the transformation of the communities we had visited: it is clear, don´t wait, something must be done, and now!

Bane was right.

Steven Taylor,
9 August 2018

EKON  Strategy Consulting

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