Out of strange coincidence, the NGO I work for here in Kenya receives its funding from a Canadian charity called Chalice. I was matched up with my NGO through an American organization called the Foundation for Sustainable Development, based on my education, resume, and experience in my field of work, and not because of my love for the great white north.
I didn’t know anything about the Canadian connection until I walked into the sponsorship office at Camp David. I saw a mixed Canadian and Kenyan flag on the wall and thought “oh, that’s weird to find here.” Then, I saw that on their walls they have children’s drawings on “happy Mr. Beaver” (who tells children to share as often as they can) and a map of Canada also drawn by a child that completely ignores any cities between Calgary and Winnipeg that might happen to exist (sorry Saskatchewan). I quickly started to look around and thought, “oh my gosh, this entire room is Canada-themed to extensive levels.”
I quickly saw a totem pole on a shelf that my coworkers explained a visiting sponsor from Squamish, BC brought over. Apparently, it was never understood what the object was, a totem pole they asked, what was that? I tried to explain as best as I could what a totem pole represented (holla First Nations Studies major coming into use) and I got a flow of funny statements and questions in return. One person said, “I thought it was scary and didn’t understand why it would be gifted to someone.” Another asked if such creatures existed in Canada that were hybrids of each other and all attached, like what the totem pole looked like. Immediately I knew, this was going to be a good time.
Everyone was stoked I was a Canadian. There are always a lot of Americans that come through the area but rarely a Canadian. I was able to explain hockey, why the Stanley Cup riots happened, why Stephen Harper is still our Prime Minister, Canadian geography, history (and where all of our first people went), and culture. Often I have been asked, “are there tribes in Canada?” In Kenya, there are 42 tribes and associations with certain tribes caused the 2007 post-election violence and still to this day is very visible Kenyan culture.
So basically, picture being on the other side of World Vision operations.. or Plan Canada.. or any of those late night commercials you see about sponsoring a child for less than a dollar a day in Africa. That’s where I am, on the other side of that commercial. I’m on the ground in a grassroots organization that receives that money and does something positive with it. I work in the office that receives the Christmas cards, for example, from the sponsors in Canada that are going to their matched sponsor child.
I can imagine anyone’s first instinct when they want to send a Christmas card from Canada to their sponsor child in Kenya, and that would be to send something Canadian with it.
Here is a good story illustrating that. At first, the social worker for the NGO doesn’t know why the sponsor mailed their sponsor child a napkin all the way to Africa. A napkin? Why a napkin? Luckily, I can explain that the napkin has maple leaves all over it, symbolizing Canada, and why the napkin was probably placed inside the card. To my coworkers, strange, but okay, that’s cool. Conclusion to the story; we now have a napkin hanging on our office wall.
It has been fun being able to see things received here in Kenya from Canada and I’m the only person who feels connected to it. Today we received Papermate pencils, we receive labels for all of our sponsor files on Staples brand adhesive sheets, and one of the sponsors for a child we sponsor is named “A&W.” Which is fun for me, because my little brother has been a cook at our local A&W throughout high school.
Thank you to everyone who sponsors children around the world through Chalice, I’m here as a Canadian by some weird chance, and I can say that the money is being used right and well. It makes a difference and I think all of your cards are wonderful. Especially the ones with photos of the sponsors back in Canada, those are my fav.