I want to help. I want to support every initiative I learn of to better the lives of the other Kenyans in their communities. That is so strange to say. Because who am I? I’m a 25-year-old college student. I’m a improvisational documentary film director. I’m a lover. I’m a fighter. And I’m tired of the “me’s”, “I’s”, and “mine’s”.
For now I am revisiting the home of Emmanuel Leina Tasur and his family in the village of Oronkai in Transmara District, Kenya. Having left my volunteering experience here last year, I received a text message from Emmanuel while en route back to the States. “This is the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership,” he said.
Three days ago I returned to my old hut. The messages that me and my hut-mate (and now dear friend) Chris wrote on the wooden partition are still here. Traces of memories I thought I would only recall in reverie now presented to me in vivid reality. Days before we departed Oronkai, Chris and I each grabbed a piece of chalk and wrote.
“It’s always the simplest answer… before you let the words turn to dust”
“Time exists just on your wrist, so don’t panic”
And my personal favorite: “Take of your gold coat and you will see hope and feel love” – a testament to our month-long sojourn in Transmara, campaigning with Emmanuel last year for his run as Member of Parliament for his constituency. We spoke of an end to government corruption, building international partnerships, and bold leadership. Our words translated into Swahili or Maasai for hundreds of Kenyans to spread to thousands more.
Tomorrow we will go to Kilgoris Town, where Emmanuel stood at the election polling stations in December 2007. In the sitting area of his home, lit only by a kerosene lantern, I ask Emmanuel about that day. He hangs his head and I watch the solemnity slowly wash over him. He tells me it was chaos. He tells me about how he and the group of voters were tear gassed by police and how the polling station was burnt down.
These small moments resonate within me. Emmanuel decided not to run again when a repeat poll was announced. Instead he rallied the other candidates together and decided to vote the old MP back into power. “Better a devil you know, than an angel you don’t,” he summarized. When I ask him how he looks back on it all he bears no regret. “I was completely honest,” he says. His Vision Launch in Kilgoris last year brought out 5000 residents from the area. Kenyans far and wide came out to support him. Because he was completely honest. Having taken a welcome respite from Kenyan politics and the corruption is suffers from, he has managed to begin building his dream from the ground up: The Sirua Aulo Academy.
Once completed the Academy will be the first boarding Academy in the rural area of Transmara. The school started out will 40 students learning under a tree on the empty plot of land. Now 82 students are enrolled, being educated, fed daily, and 15 are already sponsored for only $365 a year.
Last night he said, “We are digging the foundation for the next two classes with the faith that funding will come.” When the rains are heavy, construction comes to stop. The ditch they must cross to carry supplies fills with rainwater making it unpassable. Children are learning in temporary while construction crawls along. Yet, parents are plucking their children from their schools to enroll them at Sirua Aulo. So how can I help, I ask myself. By using the same tools Emmanuel employs: education. I have to say, I have my doubts, insecurities, and uncertainties about the whole thing, but I’m just going to follow this path and see where it leads.
Later that day:
“Human beings are human beings. Despite our small differences, there is nothing that is so different that it should be divisive. Relationships are what are most important. People need people.”
The smatterings of a die hard optimist. These words came in fragments out of my mouth. I was seated in the sitting area of Meshak and Leila, neighbors of Emmanuel’s in Transmara. The both silently nodded there heads before directly them downwards, as if to pray.
When my words, at once tired and true, were spoken and a tacit accord reached, I looked at Isaac, Leila’s 1-and-a-half year old boy cradled and asleep in her arms; I looked at their eldest daughter Resieto and the way her smile never leaves her face when she looks at me. And I thought to myself, “Where do I come up with this stuff?” As I said before, “It’s always the simplest answer, before you let the words turn to dust.”