We were driving through the Maasai Mara, the Mara to locals, just after visiting Ole Nkuya Elementary. We came upon a cement structure. I asked our host Patrick what it was. He said it was a public toilet facility the Swiss Government had put in. My dad and I started laughing, thinking it was a joke. Patrick was not kidding. Here we are in the middle of the African bush where people may not even have access to clean water, but a public toilet seemed like the most viable option for the community?
I thought about how symbolic this public toilet was. It was a symbol of what foreigners think Kenyans need. I have no doubt that the person whose idea it was to build the toilet had good intentions. Like so much foreign aid to Kenya, it is usually not determined by a person going to Kenya and asking the locals what they need. Rather, a person or group decides, most likely from a Western perspective, what would be good for the Kenyan people. The children at Ole Kuya up the road, did not have a water well or clean toilets for themselves, but I imagine the Swiss Government did not take that into account.
Of course, this entry is not meant to insult the Swiss Government. It is only meant to provide an example of the common way of thinking by outside organizations. That is why I was so impressed with the work OFDC does, especially in such remote areas. As an organization, a point is made to visit the projects that are supported by OFDC. When a donation is made, there is a great sense of accountability to ensure that money goes where the donor intended it to go. This is something that made me very proud as a representative of OFDC in Kenya.
Unfortunately, I did not take a photo of that infamous public toilet, but I did take a picture of the students at Ole Kuya. The children that were so far removed from a city and genuinely frightened by the appearance of our white skin, yet so welcoming and grateful. That is what I wanted to remember leaving this area. That surreal feeling of being somewhere and doing something bigger than myself. There are few times in life when this is achieved. That is what I always want to remember about Kenya.