Wandering and Wondering

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Feeding starving kids in Africa

When I was a kid I was told not to waste food, because it could "feed a starving kid in Africa". Ironically, while travelling through Africa we have had the opportunity to donate some of the food that we can't eat to hungry kids in some of the villages we have passed through. Here is Mel dishing out some oranges to some kids in a village in Zambia:

Dishing out oranges

While we haven't seen any really severe poverty on this trip, there have certainly been lots of kids with their hands out begging for money. The amount of begging increases dramatically around touristy areas. Unfortunately, however, the people who are the pushiest in asking for handouts are often those who need them the least (eg after asking for money, you'll see them pull out their mobile phone or pack of cigarettes), and the people who are the neediest often don't ask for anything. My general policy is therefore to only give when nothing is asked for, although it can be hard to stick to this all the time.

One place where we were hounded quite a bit for money was at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi. As soon as you walked outside the gates of the campsite, you would be approached by someone trying to sell you something, whether it be a tour of the local village or a wood carving of some sort. You could usually determine quite easily if they were after your money, because they would introduce themselves with a name such as "Donald Duck" or "Julius Caesar". If you keep on walking away from the campsite, however, the people you meet are more genuine and aren't just after your money. I met Gloria on the beach doing some washing:


I discovered that she works for an orphanage named "We are one". She continued her washing while I was given a tour of the orphanage. I was then taken to the Kande Care School, which was setup 5 years ago as an NGO. The kids were having lunch when I arrived. They were very well behaved, and stacked their dirty plates in a pile when lunch was over:

Kids at Kande Care School

In giving the tour of the school and orphanage, they didn't once ask for any money, so I was happy to make a donation.

Even after travelling across Africa for 8 weeks, it is hard to fully appreciate the difference in the level of wealth between western tourists and local villagers. Sitting safely in the back of the truck and listening to my MP3 player as we drive through villages and farmland is quite surreal - almost like watching a documentary on TV, with the windows of the truck as the TV screen. It is only when we get the chance to visit the local villages on foot that the difference in the level of wealth becomes more apparent. While we were staying at Kande Beach on Lake Malawi, for instance, I decided to upgrade to a nice bungalow for a few nights, because I was a little bit sick of sleeping in a tent every night:

Beach Challets

Most of the locals in the nearby fishing village, however, live in simple mud brick houses and sleep on the floor every night, not just when camping:

Mud bricks make mud-brick houses

The fact that I could just whip out some cash to upgrade to a nicer room whenever I wanted made me appreciate how different my life is to the lives of the local villagers. Still, money isn't the be all and end all in life. Even though they don't have much money, they live a fairly simple life so they don't actually need that much money. And even though I may have had a nicer bungalow to sleep in, we still shared the same beautiful beach:

Sunrise, Lake Malawi

As a local, you also have the advantage of being able to buy stuff at much lower prices than tourists. National parks in particular are one area where tourists get stung a lot more than locals. The entrance fee to the Arusha National Park, for instance, is US$35 for tourists but only 1500 Tanzanian shillings (which equates to about US$1.20) for locals.

In most of the places that we have visited, the kids for the most part seem fairly happy and carefree. When you don't know any better, you don't have anything to complain about. Whenever we drove or walked past a group of people, it was pretty much always the kids who were the first to say hello ("jambo" in swahili). While on a 3 hour hike through the Usambara mountains, we must have heard "jambo" yelled at us over 1000 times. When driving past a group of kids in the truck, the kids always wave, and sometimes do a little dance:

Strike a pose

So although I did see a lot of people in Africa who are struggling to get by, I also saw a lot of people who are actually living quite happily.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi - just found your blog when I googled trying to find out the name of the orphanage near Kande Beach. I was given a 'tour' by Mr. T (!!!)but never got the name of the orphanage - all he said was that it was run by some lady from Australia, and she wasn't there at the time. By the time my 'tour' was over, even though I found the kids and everything very interesting, I just wanted to ditch Mr. T and get back to the campsite! Do you know what the name of it is and how to contact them? If so, I might try to send a donation that doesn't go through Mr. T's hands! My email address is rfinch@shawpipe.ca.