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Charity begins at home, so the adage goes. And philanthropy too begins at home, so say I.

Philanthropy, I often confused it with charity. Then Wikipedia told me that not all charity is philanthropy or vice versa. That charity relieves the pains of social problems, whereas philanthropy attempts to solve the problems at their root causes (the difference between giving a hungry man a fish, and teaching him how to fish for himself).

It was opportune to visit my country, Kenya, recently and one word came to mind every now and then; “Kenyans ought to be philanthropists.” And especially we in the Diaspora. Of the few Kenyans in the Diaspora I have interacted with, their country is the last place they want to go back to.  Our politicians are not the best to point to when talking of leadership, leadership loses its meaning. Our systems and how they run disappoint. Corruption is the norm. You have to be connected to someone at the top, if at all you want to be served satisfactorily.  The poor remain poor, or even become poorer as the rich swim in riches. This is the same country we need to give back to, regardless.

We have Kenyans with great minds, but their ideas get buried in the ground. Pessimist ask “what makes you think you are the first one to come up with this? This is Kenya man, that can’t work!” That is a dream killed, fact is that it has never worked, then everyone conceives it never will. A poor village boy is making an invention that needs funding, then gets a response like “we’ll look into that and contact you.” That is the end. A needy bright student will miss out on education when someone’s sitting allowance alone is enough to cater for his/her education at all levels. A rich parent will pay for their child to take an opportunity meant for the needy child, it is crazy. That’s why we need to give back to our country.

When it comes to giving back, most people think they must be into politics. That’s not so. We all know what is happening in our societies. We can’t run away. We can’t just close our eyes and pretend that nothing is happening. Waiting for our politicians to bring change is waiting for eternity. We must be the change initiators in our country. Let us not just complain and condemn, but do something. What do you think as an individual can be done to better the situation you do not like? It could have a small beginning, but the impact will be great in the long run.

For instance, both you and I know that the girl child is deemed  the weakest in the society. No one really gets concerned if she doesn’t do well in the science subjects, after all she is a girl. As a civil engineer in the making, I sought opportunities to speak to the ladies in schools  and let them know that nothing is impossible. That they should dream bigger and work for it, they can be whoever they want to be and forget about the definition the society has given them.

No one loves begging I know, but I don’t see why anyone with two hands and both legs will hold a cup in the street begging for money; honestly. I used that to talk to the beggars, I let those I interacted with know that they can change their positions. Instead of standing with a cup on the street, have a piece of cloth and water, undust peoples shoes for some cents, that too is work; get doing something. I have seen someone with an open wound spreading their legs on the street asking for help, yet that even prohibits the healing of the wound. Sometimes there’s stampede in the city and they could even get  injured more.  The best thing is for this person to stay at home and nurse the wound. I would by all chances eradicate begging in my country, most of the beggars are just lazy, even the bible does not allow such to eat.  It could take time, but talking to them will surely have an impact. Robbers have used creativity to steal from innocent people in the name of begging. We should have a system, something like a rehab where those with completely nothing in the society will be put and given something to do rather than begging. Just to mention but a few.

There are so many issues, problems in our society that need to be addressed. No one will do that if we all sit down and point fingers. Nothing will change if we only make wishes and do nothing. Kenya is all ours, and no one needs to pay us to develop it. I think we need no more charity, but lasting solutions. We in the Diaspora have seen much and wished it was the same in our country. It could not be that perfect, but something could be done to better it if we start small. We should not only invest in the country for our own interests, but aim at changing lives and the country at large. Find the needy, reach out to them. Inject good leadership skills from the grass root level, share what you know with the society, help someone get somewhere better. It is all possible, if we choose to do it.

So dearest Kenyan brothers and sisters, let us not forsake our motherland. She needs us more than we can imagine, and any little input will help steer her growth to greater heights. Let us give back to our country in any way possible, so we can look back and smile rather than lament when we did nothing to better it. Peace

With love.

By Liz Ekakoro:Diaspora Messenger contributor/Kenyan in Ukrain

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