The Motivation to Give

Hello lovely Kindness Crusaders! I hope life is kindful. 🙂

I have had some inspiring experiences in Tanzania lately, and wanted to share a little of them with you. It’s funny how even though my time in Kigamboni seemed on the surface like a totally different adventure to the Year of Kindness, kindness was still a predominant theme. Perhaps it always will be. Even when travelling to one of the most far-away and culturally different places I can imagine, I learned first had how closely connected we are by the nature of giving.

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Singing songs with some children at KCC.

Some say it is our soul, some say it is our ego. Some believe in selfless good deeds but most are willing to admit that when they give (time, materials, money) it is because they get far more out of it than anyone they might be giving to. International volunteers here are Kigamboni say they can be more creative, more useful, more appreciated, more innovative than they ever were in paid jobs back home. The experience and knowledge they are gaining is far more valuable than money. Everyone I have spoken to so far – both locals and foreigners – agrees that Tanzanians generally do not have much motivation to volunteer. Understandably, their main priority is to ensure they get money to eat and provide for the families. And yet, at the Kigamboni Community Centre there are nearly thirty people volunteering their time, energy and skills. Many of them are at KCC seven days a week, often turning down paid work to fulfil their responsibilities at the centre. This means relying on friends, family or sponsorship for their basic needs.

Since I have been in Kigamboni, the most common words I have heard apart from “Mambo” (hello) are “Karibu sana”, meaning you are very welcome. The local people have welcomed me into their classrooms and their homes. I have met their families and been offered food and drink. They have readily shared their struggles and their hopes for a different future. In short, they do not hesitate to give of themselves in every way, to anyone that may need it -whether they are a homeless local child or a Western tourist. Everyone is welcome and everyone has something to contribute. So if volunteering is unusual here, what is it exactly that motivates this unwavering dedication to giving?

Sakina, one of the local volunteer teachers at KCC tells me “you must have volunteering in your heart, otherwise you will not live your life in the right way.” Although she is a full time volunteer with no paid income for herself, she dreams of opening a house for street children to live. For Nassoro, the Entertainment & Activities Director and one of the founding members of KCC, giving is about leaving a legacy worth being remembered by.  He says he could have used his acrobatic skills to make money for himself, but he prefers to dedicate his talents to the centre because it is the only way he will feel satisfied at the end of his life. “I could have ten cars and ten houses, but when I die no one will cry for me,” he explained. However, “If I do good things for my community, even when I am no longer alive it will be like I left a part of my body behind, because many people will remember me and the great things I did.”

The Business Director and handicrafts teacher, Fanuel, has a very different take on why it is worth giving his time and energy to volunteer at KCC. He believes that if they all continue to work hard for a good cause, they will eventually be recognised with wealth and fame because that is the way it should be. He spoke with such passion that it seemed perhaps he could make his vision come to be purely by his unwavering certainty that it would. For now, however, he says “We are okay without money. We are struggling but we are happy. We help each other, we share, and we live through friendship.”

Although their specific motivations and expected outcomes may be somewhat different, all of these volunteers possess the same unwavering dedication to continue giving no matter what. So it presents the age-old question: Does it matter what our motivations are, as long as the end result is a positive one? I’m not sure what my personal answer would be, but for most people at KCC it seems the only thing that matters is working hard, collaborating with one another and believing. With these three ingredients, they are sure KCC can only get bigger and better, and with so many passionate individuals giving so wholeheartedly, it would be difficult to doubt it.

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To read more adventures, go here: www.nextstoptanzania.wordpress.com.

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Embracing My Inner Hippie

 

“You can’t be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.” ~ Hal Borland

Days 17-19: There is something incredibly appealing to me about the hippie movement of the 1960s. Its not just about the music or the clothes but more importantly the peace-and-love ideology in a time of chaos and upheaval all over the world. Over the last few days, I have been happily embracing my innner hippie, slowing life down to cook with love and get reacquainted with Mother Nature.

On Thursday I had a hot cross bun baking day, making three different types (traditional, mocha and white chocolate with cranberries). I then played Easter Bunny and made deliveries to very appreciative friends and family.  This process took up almost the whole day and it would certainly have been far quicker and easier to go out and buy the buns. However, I think it precisely because we live in a culture obsessed with convenience that there is something wonderfully nurturing – for both cook and recipient -about slow food cooked with patience and love.

Friday was Earth Day and in acknowledgement of this I decided to be kind to the enviroment any way I could. I used green bags at the supermarket, took my own eco cup to the coffee shop, did not turn on lights unless absolutely necessary, read a book instead of watching television and even put a timer on to ensure I didn’t spend more than five minutes in the shower. I also made sure I took the time to appreciate the lovely little offerings Mother Earth presented:

Going for a bush walk early in the morning I noticed the crisp Autumn air and crunchiness of newly-fallen leaves beneath my feet. I was reminded how lucky I am to live in a city surrounded by beautiful little pockets of nature. In the middle of the day was thankful for sunshine (as I always am!) and t-shirt level warmth outside of Summertime. Later I took a few minutes to appreciate a stunning pale pink and burnt orange sunset bursting through gathering storm clouds. And then, as I was walking home through a clear starry night – the clouds had gone to visit some other part of the world – I recieved a message from a friend telling me to look at the moon. And it was gorgeous; a mammoth full circle resting lazily on the horizon.

All this nature loving made me think about something else I had been procrastinating about for quite a while. So on Saturday I signed up for Bushcare, a community volunteer program helping to regenerate and preserve bushland. They have an under-35s group in my local area that meets up once a month to work on a specific project. Though this is a very small stone in a very large pond of enviromental issues, it feels good to have committed myself to positive action on a regular basis. Sometimes the problems we have created for our earth can seem overwhelming and impossible to fix, particularly when there are still so many people who refuse to even acknowledge there is a problem, let alone do anything about it. But just like spreading kindness to people, I think its important to take little steps towards being kinder to the environment, in any way we can.

Living in a world of ‘peace-and-love’ is in many ways an absurd and impossible notion, and yet I think it will always be something we strive for. Just as any Star Wars fan will tell you, there will always be a balance of good and evil. Cooking slow food does not stop fast food, being kind does not stop rudeness, turning off one light does not stop global warming, and placing flowers in guns doesn’t stop wars. But each of these things provides a powerfully positive counterpoint to the other, reminding us that while we may not have the power to take away the bad in the world, we most certainly can contribute to the good.