Half a** is better than no a**: Words of Caution to Those Who Are Helping Kenya

Straight off the bat let me apologize for the vulgar language. Though I tend to use profanities in every day life that’s not what I wanted this blog to be about. Every once in a while you come across one of those expressions that just can’t be expressed in any other way.Plus it got your attention didn’t it?

Angry monkey

But Before I Get Started

I just wanted to inform other Africans who may think that we Kenyans in the diaspora are doing nothing about the current crisis that there have been a couple of peace marches that have already taken place and I want to honour and salute them.

African unity

1) North Texas March

There are approximately 80,000 Kenyans in Dallas Texas (Wow! That’s a lot!! :-O greetings to all y’all Texans reading this). They held a March about a week ago and it made it into the Dallas Morning News. Below is a link to a blog that expounds on the matter:


2) Melbourne march

About a week ago there was a March right here in Melbourne. As of now all I have is hearsay and I will email the marchers to get more details. What just fascinated the socks of me was the way the Australian media reacted to the demonstrators.

A Brief Digression

I am yet to get confirmation of it but apparently the reason that the peace march wasn’t on the news down under was because they wanted an outright condemnation of the Kenyan government in order for the march to be newsworthy. The marchers refused to be hasty in their criticism, prefering to keep an open mind that says Kibaki might have and might have not rigged the elections….but either way “we want peace!” If it’s true, I guess that’s a fantastic insight into the mind of the Australian mass media.

Secondly, I emailed the Kenyan Red Cross.The public relations officer, who I share a name with, informed me that the Kenya Red Cross had facilities that allow one to make donations (oh, I just noticed it on their homepage. I’m blind, no? They even have links that allow you to become physically involved in the Red Cross; :-D How exciting). They will be setting up Paypal shortly so stay tuned for that if that’s how you want to contribute.

Zebra’s butt

So What Did I Mean By the Title?

I will begin by telling you a story.

The Famine

About…oh….maybe a year ago drought hit Kenya’s North Eastern province hard, again. There were a couple of us concerned folk in the diaspora who decided we would get together and do something about it. So we began by creating a wonderful non profit complete with tax deduction benefits for the donators. The organization had roles; we had a president, a secretary, a meeting secretary or whoever’s job it is to take notes among other absoloutely well labeled roles. The organization had a well planned distribution system: we raise money in Australia and send it to a church in Kenya that was already doing work in North Eastern Kenya. We printed out 1oos upon 100s of brochures and spent hours planning and tactically thinking about where we would distribute our material and the effect it would have.

What was the result? About thirteen dollars, or was it 100? I forget, but either way it wasn’t much. Now mind you I was probably the youngest person at the meeting so we are not talking about a bunch of zealous youths like myself. We are talking about for the most part calm, well-reasoned, sophisticated middle-agers and baby boomers. So this over zealous youth and the adults couldn’t raise more than 13 dollars (by the way the Australian dollar is the unit of currency in Australia if anyone is curious). What I want us to discuss is where I think I, and the group, went wrong and ways you can avoid the pitfalls we did as you go about serving Kenya at this time:

Why are You In This Game?

Why are you doing something?

1) We didn’t spend enough time discussing WHY we were doing it. Solution: Whenever you set out to do something get very strongly associated to the emotional reason YOU want to do it. Truth be told I never truly had a clear idea of why I was part of the group. I suspect the group was also not clear on why we were doing what we were doing.Were we doing it to assuage our guilt by temporarily ending the extreme suffering? (Even if you’re reason isn’t pretty be clear about it, if you don’t like it, find a reason that is more in line with your consscience.) Were we doing this because it was the right thing to do and we wanted to feel like good people? Whatever the payoff is for you and for whatever organization you are a part of , be very clear on it.

What’s the Solution? Not Just the Problem, the Solution?

2) We didn’t have a clear vision of the future we wanted to create .Solution: Whenever you set out to solve a problem, be extremely clear on what solution YOU will bring about. For those of you who have studied transformational psychology or the psychology change you are pretty well rehearsed in this idea. Spend 20% of your time fully understanding what the problem you are trying to solve is and then once you fully understand the problem (or feel you have an alright grip of it), spend 80% of your time on the solution. Did we want to create endless food abundance in Kenya forever? Did we want to be the source of food for the North Eastern region through the famine? Before you engage in any endevour to improve the lives of people be as clear as you can about what you want their lives to be like after you enter their universe. Do you want to take Kenya to a place where the vote counts? Do you want a Kenya where all children have unlimited protection and ability to self-actualize? Do you want all these things?BE CLEAR.

Begin with the end in Mind

Is your vision happy, healthy kids?

3) To paraphrase the great business thinker Dr. Stephen Covey, Begin with the end in mind. From there backwards engineer figuring out what steps will get you and the people you serve from where you are to where you want to be (or rather where you’re going to be). These backward engineered steps, written down are pretty much your plan. A couple of things that can really make the plan great:

a) Put deadlines: Without deadlines there is more likelihood we will slack off or postpone to infinity. We set up and regularly check on our deadlines-I don’t like the term it’s so negative, anyone have any alternatives?-and it’s more likely we’ll get things done.

b) Be flexible in your approach BUT NOT in terms of what you want to achieve: Be willing to change your approach until you get to the destination but do not change your destination. If you want to ensure that children have universal access to joy and happiness then:

Start orphanages, review the education system, take in orphans, lobby and get child laws changed, work with non profits that work on children’s issues……whatever it takes. Don’t be too attached to the way you’ll get there but if I may make only one suggestion in the midst of this rant that you take on, it is be flexible in approach but not about what you want to achieve.

Make it Easier For Yourself

4) Break it down to little steps: I cannot emphasize this one enough. This is particularly important when you are doing something that serves other people. I am inclined to believe that we are predominantly selfish beings who find it pretty easy to do things that we like and things that bring us pleasure especially in the short term. However for a lot of us, engaging in a concentrated effort to bring pleasure to other people feels unnatural and difficult. This is the reason that as you backward engineer your plan, you should break it down to the smallest steps possible. Break your plan down into microsteps with deadlines that are vey close to each other. This way you conquer the mountain ‘one step at a time’ rather than CONQUERING A HHUUUGGGEE MOUNTAIN over a reeeaaalllyyyy llloooooooooooooooooonnnnnnnnnggggggggg timeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee! In the example of the famine initiative, we could have broken it down to everyone distributing a couple of brochures with our details to two friends and acquantances every day for a week. The second week we could begin leaving one of our group’s posters in a public place-like display boards, telephone poles etc etc- daily. Typically, at some point the power of momentum takes over and it slowly becomes easier to work harder as we go along taking bite size steps.

Take Time to Reflect

4) Daily reflection and review of the goal: The famine project had weekly reviews;I am suggesting that we review and reflect on how close we are to our objectives every morning after waking up. This has really revolutionized my life in terms of what I notice in my day to day life . At the moment my primary interests are health and nutrition, business and personal development. Every morning when I wake up my focus almost immediately switches on to what I want to achieve in these areas. When I walk down the street with my cousin, my cousin will notice that someone is driving a car with great rims and go off on a tangent about how he wants rims like that. I will notice the protein shake in the passenger seat and begin to reflect ( I bore my family to tears when I discuss my interests) on whether he is using dairy products and whether dairy is good for you and what whey is made of etc etc. This is all because every morning that I wake up I am CLEAR about what I want to achieve in this world. So focus daily on how you want to serve and watch yourself notice things you never noticed before……. and by the way if you achieve your deadline, as soon as you do celebrate and have a party!

Party time

Clarity is Power

When you live in a country like Australia, it is extremely easy to get distracted. In the US, people are exposed to 10,000 commercial messages a day, and I know Australia isn’t trailing by too far behind.That’s not even mentioning television shows, music among other things. I would urge you to cut through the muck of distractions and keep your focus clear on what gift you have that you can share with Kenya at this time.

I have said this before and I will say this again,” Live by the Pareto Principle.”Clearly focus and be about the 20% of things in life that will bring about 80% of the results. And ultimately what it is more important than serving our fellow man, though we may forget that from time to time.

Kwame Nkrumah

Half-a** is better than no a**

For those of you who may be wondering, “What does this post have to do with the title?” Simply put, if your heart is in the right place and you are coming from a place of genuinely wanting to serve other people, doing anything, even though it’s a half-hearted, weak attempt is much better than doing nothing at all.

Don’t worry about getting the perfect grandiose plan that will end world hunger and bring justice, peace and understanding to the entire universe.Just one person you save from hunger, sadness, depression, poverty and fear is better than serving no one in the first place.

Tomorrow, I share with you what I have learned from communications I have had with my fellow Kenyans including DEMOSH, a photographer from Kenya who has been right there in Kenya on the ground in the midst of the action (please check out his pictures by clicking on this link).

Hope this has served; leave me a comment and let me know how this article has helped you, anything I have missed or any random thought that pops in your head as you read this.

Be blessed,



Other Links to this Post

  1. What is Kenya like in the midst of the riots and violence following the election? » The Displaced African — January 12, 2008 @ 2:47 am

  2. No Matter the Cause of the Post Election Violence, These Are Twelve Steps You Can Take to End the Suffering in Kenya NOW! » The Displaced African — January 26, 2008 @ 4:53 am

  3. My 4 Hour Work Week Journey: Target Daily Income » The Displaced African — July 16, 2008 @ 8:05 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Leave a comment