I was tasked to visit the business we have in Kakuma. I was there for ten days:
As I start my day in Kakuma I hear women working around our compound singing songs about Jesus. Oh, what a glorious way to start the day, surely this is how it should be? Across the river in the evening and in the morning you can hear the proclamations. Sometimes orthodox chants, Roman Catholic choral voices or harmonious worship songs from the Christians.
Please don’t be tempted to rationalise this as the culture of a less developed people, shackled by a lack of opportunity. Do you honestly think you are better informed or more enlightened? Well shame on us for allowing such ignorance. I eat, chat and hang out with these people and they wrestle with the same daily problems as my neighbours in Bristol. They have ‘lifestyle choices’, materialistic influences and competing messages just as we do in the west.
A crucial difference, from what I can tell, is limitations on credit. As a rule all you have is what’s in your account. Resisting the temptation to live beyond your means seems easier. However, the choices between necessities and luxuries are still there. The relational issues are just as real. A husband stopping on route home to spend his wages filling his belly with a meal that includes meat while there is none at home for his wife and children happens in the same way as the Brit who may visit the bookies ahead of providing for his family. I guess my observation is people are not nearly as different as I may have at one time imagined.
There are opportunities for those who work hard, even around refugee camps, and for the idle they quickly get left behind. The obvious difference between our cultures is one of gratefulness through celebration and song. Approaching the daily grind with a heart rooted in the promises of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, with a certainty that whatever trials are approaching they’ll never be deserted or forsaken – that’s the difference.
Joy echoes through the day and night providing the anthem to sustain our labours and accompany the onset of another evening of community time and rest. I will miss Kakuma.
Hard work in the desert sun making concrete plinths for loos in the camps. Note the typical footwear for this kind of work.