Photo by World Vision
World Vision’s Kevin Tan recently visited Kenya with Thankyou Group‘s Chief Impact Officer, Peter Yao. Kevin saw firsthand the impact of our work together, as well as the resilience and confidence of the local Kenyans to overcome hardships and pursue a reasonably normal life.
Jumbo! (‘Greetings’ in Swahili)
I have just returned from a trip to Kenya with Thankyou Group’s Peter Yao (Chief Impact Officer) and Ben Thompson, the new Managing Director for their New Zealand operations. We visited Kakuma Refugee Camp, the largest in the world, which is home to approximately 190,000 people from South Sudan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, D.R. Congo and other African nations.
Thankyou Group, a partner of over four years, helps to fund World Vision with profits from their water, sanitation and food ranges. To date they have funded projects in six different countries and a variety of programs ranging from WASH, food distribution, food for assets, agricultural co-operatives and emergencies food assistance. Dan Flynn, who founded the company at just 19 years of age, is passionate about inspiring others to make world-changing dreams a reality.
Ben, who travelled with me, was once a manager at a large FMCG company. He is an example of another person taking up the mantle. After hearing Dan share his vision at an employee forum Ben quit his managing role the next week to join Thankyou! This trip to Kenya was Ben’s first field visit with Thankyou and his first experience visiting a World Vision project. Their amazing support helps distribute food to approximately 12,400 refugees.
After travelling more than 60 hours door to door, across three plane rides and a 2.5-hour car ride on a road that would rattle off any loose teeth you had, we found ourselves in the very dry and dusty northern region of Kenya.
Kakuma Refugee camp is truly a sight to behold. Even after years of travel to community development projects I was blown away by the scale of this project. Although it seems arid, which it was with no rain for over a year, it was an oasis for thousands who have had to flee their homes due to war, violence or famine. It is a sharp reminder to me that the World Vision logo may mean many different things to many people but on the field, it is often an amazing sign of hope.
There are many archetypal field stories to share from this trip, from the youths who find themselves in the camp fending for themselves to the stories of sacrifice and dedication by the World Vision staff. However for now let me indulge in sharing two atypical ones which are hopefully thought provoking highlights.
The first was my experience of the impressive growing capability of the field countries. On this journey I met Mwangi Kirubi a Kenyan photographer. Mwangi blew my mind with the quality of his photos. Please check him out on Instagram. Most notable was when he whipped out a top of the line drone to take the very first aerial shot of the refugee camp. Now I do not claim to be an early tech adopter but it was my first time seeing a drone take photos 2kms away ever, let alone in the middle of Africa.
Check out the photo on Thankyou’s Facebook page. Mwangi is a growing example of the amazing capability being developed within field nations. Moreover they are the ‘Change Maker‘ community World Vision can partner with. Imagine the possibilities of content creation and digital engagement across World Vision with people like Mwangi as a local professional!
The second is my Ethiopian macchiato in the middle of a refugee camp. Like many Australians I had an image of what refugee life was like – tent cities, desolate, hopeless. When the World Vision Kenyan team invited me to try the best coffee in town and told me that it was in the camp I was instantly curious how that could be. They brought me to the market area of Camp 1 where I had the privilege of being served by enthusiastic Ethiopians who had saved up enough money to open a now thriving café.
There were crowds of people enjoying a slice of ‘normal’ within a very abnormal context. I was struck at the resilience and entrepreneurialism of the camp community.
Their human drive to make it on their own even in the hardest of circumstances with little to no resources amazed and humbled me. We are privileged to serve these amazing people. This also only confirms the necessary work of World Vision’s Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (SEED) team to create environments for commerce and ultimately self-reliance and dignity.
The Kakuma Refugee Camp is now experiencing half rations due to the straining demands upon the World Food Programme. For many, this will mean going hungry for half of the month. Let us do all we can to end this unnecessary circumstance. With the Multiplying Gift Appeal up-coming, may God empower all our efforts to meet their needs.