Embracing Philanthropic Culture in Africa

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Many African nations celebrate years of independence. Candidly speaking, out of 54 states only south Sudan can rightly claim to be a toddler in self-rule and development having that it acquired its self-government this year, 2011. It is a fantastic fact that some nations in Africa got independence at the same time or way before some countries in the middle east which are now classified as the second world and are quite developed. A good example is Indonesia and Malaysia which got their independence almost at the same period as Kenya. Amazingly Kenya and Malaysia have no comparison in their economy and the people’s lifestyle. Kenya is characterized by hunger and cultural intolerance while Malaysia is posed as a developing economy and democracy. The current status of the two differs from day and night or life and death.

With this said one would wonder where I am getting with this, well, here I tell you, despite the many years of self-rule, African nations remain very backward, and we have embraced a begging culture instead of promoting a philanthropic culture like the west and Asian countries. Africa like all other continents has its share of problems from HIV/Aids, poverty, corruption, illiteracy and since this list can fill a whole volume let me say, etc. All continents have, but it is how they respond to their problems that matter. Even the USA and China, the most significant economies on the planet have their share of problems.

I was amazed to see Japan receiving donations when calamities hit her; however, this opened my eyes to reckon that all people despite where they are have issues. To point a few America has a massive problem with hurricanes, health care and many more. When I googled the predicaments that face USA today, I was shocked by a list of issues including illiteracy, ignorance, low employment, etc. I learned that these were problems also experienced by many European countries and yes, some of the complications are very identical to African difficulties though the scope may differ. The difference is the way people respond to local problems. There are many local initiatives in these countries that operate effectively dependent on local people support and with minimal government support or no at all. This is made possible because people embraced philanthropic culture; unlike here people in the west do not keep what they do not use unless they are antiques. They have gone further to have websites that list give away stuff.

I have over eight years of experience in social work, I claim to be a philanthropist, but I leave the world to judge me. In these years I have learned that what hampers the progress of local initiatives is lack of local support. People in Africa do not give. The poverty mentality has enslaved us to the point that even the rich do not offer, yet what they do not use. It is only in Africa that people do not also dispose of what is no longer in use. In many homes, you will stumble upon closets filled with clothes that are never worn and in the same neighborhood children and women walking half naked.

Many claim to have no money and this is genuinely understandable because of poverty, but still, if you call people to come out for collective work, the turn up is always wanting unless there are incentives or handouts. Is it not expected that if one can not give money they one can contribute their time for the good of others and nature?

We have a Christmas gift program where we provoke the local community to donate to show love during Christmas even as Christ loved the world. When analyzing the donations collected ready for distribution we were shocked by what some people gave. Either they mistook our team with garbage collectors or were driven by sheer selfishness, to our amazement some choose what to dispose of, there were some giving old patched clothes even undergarments and string tied women bra. We, therefore, had extra work selecting what to distribute and what to burn.

It has become a culture now when wherever there is a problem a blaming finger is pointed at the government. The truth is, the government can not do everything. The government will clean the towns but not your backyard; the government will plant trees in public places but not in your private land. Our government has done so much, if I am asked to speak for Kenyan government which I know well of, I will rate them above par, but it is the people who do not complement the government’s efforts.

The western community has embraced the liberal culture such that people own up and support local initiatives with great zeal. When I point out this fact locally, people are fast to say that mismanagement of resources here prevents people from giving, and hence I pose the question, how can you mismanage something that is not even there in the first place?

In one of our fundraising ventures, we featured a project on Global Giving, an international online fundraising platform. We were seeking funds to give poor girls sanitary towels and undergarments as well as provide school uniforms to children affected by HIV/Aids. Despite the fact that we publicized this project both locally and abroad we did not get a dime in donations from the local community from the whole of Kenya and Africa. Amazingly our plan was embraced and supported by the west especially the USA. Shockingly many who donated do not even know our initiative and many of them are what one would term as an average citizen far from being wealthy or self-sufficient yet with a heart of sharing. Many gave as little as 10 $ which meant a lot to our initiative. We have many vibrant and good-careered people here who could afford to donate but choose not to.

People talk about changing the world to make it a better place, but the truth is, you can not change the world as a whole only in bits beginning from where you are. As Africans and as a people, we need to redeem our selves from being the icons of problems, and it is sad that when many world relief agencies want to depict a problematic situation they draw or put a picture of a black emaciated African as if there are no similar problems elsewhere.

I am writing this passionately to my beloved continent, brothers and sisters, we have to embrace local problems, support local initiatives and join hands in seeking local solutions to local issues. We can no longer fold hand for people from USA, Europe, China or Japan to come and feed our hungry, plant trees in our catchment areas, take care of our orphans and sweep our backyards.

One doesn’t have to be rich to give; it takes the heart. If one does not have money, one can give material donations like clothing, books, farm produce, etc. One can also provide time and expertise and even volunteer online for many tasks that professionals can execute via the internet like web development, design, fundraising, blogging and publicity the list is endless. All in all, we need to embrace a philanthropic culture if we are to ‘make sense’ in the face of the world and God.


James N. Waruiru
Project Coordinator/Secretary to the Board
Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative Group


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