It was a big honor to be invited to the Collaborate, Educate, Celebrate event on April the 22nd 2016 by the Flying Kites and Daraja Academy and to see so many people coming together for a great cause. It was a great pleasure for Safari Boston members, Wamama Poa and other Kenyan, Ghanian, Nigerian and Ivory Coast Expats to be there. We’d would like to seize the opportunity to congratulate Flying Kites for launching this outstanding awareness campaign to run a Leadership Academy for orphaned children in Kenya and believing that education is a human right, and the key to poverty alleviation.
Kenyans are sometimes better known for politics of going round in circles with different politicians finding themselves in the same old spots.
It has been said that if all Kenyans in the world were laid end to end, they would not reach a conclusion. I will therefore try to get straight to the point, or rather; I would, if I had one.
You may have heard the story of the two Sales Men balloonists, high up in their gondola on some record-breaking attempt or other. Right over the middle of Iowa, they get caught in the world’s biggest fog. They cannot see the ground. They cannot tell one end of the gondola from the other. They cannot see their own feet. Suddenly, after many hours in suspended inanimation, there is a clearing in the fog. They look down, trying to find their bearings and see that they are above the world’s largest cornfield. Right in the middle of this cornfield stands a man. Our balloonist skillfully lowers their balloon until it hovers just above the man in the cornfield. They lean out of their gondola and shout “can you tell us where we are?” The man in the cornfield looks up and shouts back: “you are in the most amazing balloon, over the largest cornfield”. At that point the fog returns and our travelers are lost in the mist again. One turns to the other and reflects: “Bet you the guy in the cornfield was a salesman. His answer was both perfectly correct and absolutely useless”.
The charitable sector is an important and fascinating one, economically, socially and culturally. Every one of the world’s great religions emphasizes the moral imperative of charitable giving. There is no code of ethics, whether religiously based or secular, that does not mandate the strong to look after the weak. In St. Paul’s great ‘ode’, in 1 Corinthians, 13, caritas, or charity, is placed even above faith and hope. My personal appreciation of the importance of charity comes from the Christian family background that shaped me. Its origin was the encounter of a young, by most accounts rather poor family background, religious determined young man, my father, interested in becoming a catholic priest and a younger, deeply religious and Presbyterian young woman, my mother. The mystery of marriage transformed this couple into my Christian parents. They taught me that there are no owners, only custodians; that from those to whom much has been given, much will be asked; that charity is a duty, not a whim or a personal indulgence. This was really reinforced when I witnessed my grandfather donate a piece of his land for the building of Presbyterian Church. What is perhaps surprising, but certainly encouraging, is that others arrive at the same conclusions from very different starting positions. The charitable imperative transcends the usual divisions and pigeon holes: left-centre-right, radical-conservative, Christian-Jew-Muslim Buddhist-Hindu or secular Humanist. Perhaps there is a charitable gene or meme in all of us. It would make sense, since charity has great social survival value.
While the appreciation of the importance of charity and giving is universal, it isn’t always easy. You may be familiar with the sad story of the final communist party membership examination of comrade Ivan Ivanov in the days of the former Soviet Union.
The final test involved giving the correct answer to three questions:
“Comrade Ivanov, if you had three yachts, what would you do?”
“Well, comrades, I would keep one and give two away, for the benefit of the proletariat
and the greater glory of the Soviet Union”.
“Excellent. Now, comrade Ivanov, if you had three AK-47s, what would you do?”
“Well, comrades, I would keep one and give two away, for the benefit of the proletariat and the
greater glory of the Soviet Union”.
“Twice excellent! Finally, comrade Ivanov, if you had three shirts, what would you do?”
“Well, comrades, I would keep all three!”
“But why, comrade Ivanov? You told us that if you had three yachts you would give two
away, and that if you had three AK-47s you would give two away. Yet when we ask you what you
would do if you had three shirts, you tell us you would keep them all. Why the difference?
“Well, comrades. The difference is: I have three shirts”.
Whatever the difficulties, it is clear that the role of private charity and of private charities can only increase in the years and decades to come. The state is in full retreat everywhere as a provider of a social safety net. What is left often offends human dignity. Only private charity can fill the vacuum. We are therefore witnessing, and can expect to continue to witness, a growing role for private charity and, through that for private charities. Charity cannot be left to the haphazard uncoordinated efforts of well-intentioned private individuals. It requires organization, planning, coordination. It is both a vocation and a profession, a calling and a business, indeed a very competitive business. And we wish Flying Kites and Daraja Academy the very best in their future pursuits of their noble goals.
Let’s go on building the bonds of friendship and goodness through cooperation and mutual respect. Thank you all for coming!
By Tony Ngari