A phrase, written by a pastor called Malcolm Bane, I read a few years ago made me reflect on the society in which we live in and, in particular, on the apologies that some of us seek to not help less fortunate people. The phrase was the following: “If you wait until you can do everything for everybody instead of something for somebody, you´ll end up not doing anything for anybody”.
Almost everyone born in developed countries is aware of the unfair distribution of wealth and resources on this planet; however, we are convinced that it is useless to try to change this injustice because we think that…. “if we donate, surely the NGO keeps all the money”, “the king/dictator/spiritual leader will spend it on another Mercedes…”, “they are lazy, it´s their fault…”… Until 4 years ago when I came across Bane´s sentence, these excuses served as a justification for not doing anything, simply ignoring the situation and filling my life with absurd concerns…Will CR7 score more goals or will Messi? Will Fernando Alonso´s Ferrari/McLaren complete 3 Spa laps?
Once I realized that the apologies lacked reason, I made the decision to do something, no matter how little, and started looking for an NGO to collaborate with. Talking about these issues with a friend while having a coffee (we already know, a “relaxing cup of coffee with milk in Plaza Mayor”), the name of an NGO came up, KUBUKA, which, by chance, had been co-funded by a girl who, like me, had studied at the Runnymede College in Madrid. My friend encouraged me to do some research about the NGO since she knew that it was managing to improve the lives of many people in Kenya and Zambia.
I saw a documentary about KUBUKA and, after listening to Álvaro Pérez-Pla, the organization´s president, I understood the NGO´s vision of helping to create projects that could become self-sustainable. I also realized that KUBUKA represented the values I was looking for and that it conveyed absolute transparency.
Through my company, ONYX Energy Consulting, which at that time was a little more than a start-up, we began to collaborate with a symbolic donation. It was the year 2015. Three years have passed and now we have the honor of attending KUBUKA Council meetings as advisers. We had seen first hand the development of the NGO, although only from the organizational point of view, that is, from Madrid…Not in the field, we had not visited the projects in Kenya and Zambia, but that changed when, at the end of June this year, I went with my two children to visit the projects in Zambia in-situ. An unforgettable experience!
We arrived at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbuka airport in Livingstone in southern Zambia, bordering Zimbabwe, with the idea of combining tourism with visiting several NGO projects. I was curious to see the “sports project” that takes place in a marginal area north of Livingstone, the Safe House which welcomes girls, in some cases orphans and, finally I wanted to go to Kasiya, where KUBUKA is building, with the help from the local community, schools and houses for teachers.
After a day visiting the Victoria Falls, which deserve a separate chapter by themselves, we met with three members of the KUBUKA team in Zambia who lead the coordination of several projects.
In that moment we met Joyce, Sofía and David, later Oscar and Virginia. Among the five and with the help of 2 or 3 other people, they coordinate all of the projects in Zambia. Together we planned the visits, we would start with the sports project that same afternoon…
Sports project in Mwandi
We went to Mwandi in the KUBUKa van, the contrast between our hotel and the houses in that area was shocking…The pavements became dirt roads as well as the houses that went from a solid construction with bricks to being made up of mud.
What didn´t change were the smiles of the children, unalterable. Many looked after the “stands” that many families put together (apparently illegally) at the entrance of their homes, to sell tomatoes, onions, eggs or anything they could grow in their gardens in order to earn some money.
When we arrived at the school in Mwandi, northwest of Livingstone, about 50 children were waiting for us to play football, netball, rugby, volleyball…That number would possibly be more than a hundred by the end of the afternoon. I was surprised by the warmth of the welcome, the spontaneity and the smiles of the children.
My children and I played with one of the teams and enjoyed an intense football match. At the time, and before a possible high risk of heart attack, the Zidane on duty sent me to the bench because if I kept playing I could have ended up in the hospital.
From this sports project I leave with the clear impression that it instills very important values to the children, values of teamwork, sacrifice, it excites them and keeps them in shape. They play for 3 or 4 hours almost every day.
Safe House Project
The Safe House is in the center of Livingstone; this was one of the projects which I was most excited to visit. It is a shelter home for girls between 14 and 18 years old who are in a vulnerable situation. When we went to visit there were 12 girls living in the house, the midwife cares for them as if she were a mother, but under very strict rules and focusing on encouraging collaboration and the sharing of functions amongst all.
The Safe House girls welcomed us with joy and signs of gratitude. Something unexpected and exciting.
The midwife explained that there are several initiatives to make the project less dependent on a grant. Among these initiatives is the sale of the 30 daily eggs laid by the hens of the house, which they sell directly to the public for 30 kwachas (3 €).
In addition, we were honored to help prepare the food, which consisted of Zambia´s typical dish, nshima, which basically is ground corn cooked in water, and in many homes it is prepared three times a day. For breakfast, it is usually lighter and with sugar; for lunch or dinner it becomes denser. In main meals it is usually served with meat or fish, vegetables, and it was really delicious.
After sharing this time with them, I can affirm that the impact this shelter has had on improving their lives is reflected on their faces. Thanks to this initiative, the girls feel safe, cared for, they have time to study and also to dance and enjoy. Although their lives are still hard, the now have a second chance.
Kasiya Community School Project
About 15km from Livingstone, which seems a short distance until you travel it in a 4×4, we can find the community of Kasiya where some 500 families coexist in conditions of poverty and without infrastructure. There, most children have to walk between 4 and 5 hours every day to go to school.
Before arriving, sitting in the back of the 4×4 enjoying the bumps and experiencing the dreaded “African massage”, Sofía and Oscar had explained to us that 2 or 3 years ago, when KUBUKA began to collaborate with the community, the school was a little more than a mud house, and, with the help of the community they had managed to build a school. Currently, it is being expanded to cover more schooling grades. When we arrived, we found about 30-40 people working on the project. All except three were volunteers from the community, something that reinforces my opinion about the suitability of the strategy that KUBUKA follows. Do not give things away, you have to involve the community, and make it sustainable without an eternal presence of the NGO.
When we heard all the workers and children playing in a field near the works with a “soccer ball” that turned out to be plastic bags compacted with rubber bands (it sounds like a cliché, but it was like this), they gave us a reception very much like “Welcome Mr Marshall” and my children were speechless.
It is not easy to explain how the community has focused on this project and on the two previous ones, nor the feeling of gratitude perceived only by looking at their faces, talking with members of the community or simply observing the desire with which the expansion of the school was being built. The place emitted a positive energy, the transformation of this community is unquestionable. And all this is possible thanks to the work of KUBUKA, especially of its cooperators.
I returned on the plane determined to continue supporting KUBUKA; what its volunteers do in the projects that I saw, border the miraculous. Thank you for letting me be a part of it!
If I had any doubts about the veracity of Bane´s phrase, they vanished while contemplating the transformation of the communities I have visited: it is clear, there is no need to wait, something must be done and now! Bane was right.
Director of ONYX Energy Consulting