Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back to Nakuru

(Written Sunday April 29, 16:39 Kenya time)

After a long day of training and meetings with three of the thirty Pokot university students (of an estimated 200–300,000 Pokot people), we're getting ready to head to Nakuru. Carol has a meeting with the lawyer and police in the morning, and I'm going along to get some reliable power and to get online. I haven't even begun the photo edit since I've wanted to use what valuable battery power I have on this thing to write, and have shot nearly 3,000 pictures so far. I expect to get started on that tonight.

It's been interesting talking with the students about setting up a web site for the Pokot, initially as a source of information and eventually as a business tool to bring in funds for the Pokot as a whole. There are political ramifications to doing this that I don't fully understand, and even the students and the one Pokot doctor, Tim, who came out yesterday from Nairobi, think that Carol is being over protective in her warnings. But she has unfortunately seen people literally murdered over trying to establish their own freedoms – which is essentially what the website would be; a step towards financial independence – so she's very cautious in advising what the students should and shouldn't do with a website.

Today has been very enlightening. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what the role of IHF is meant to be; discussing and actually arguing with Carol on these points has been a big order of the day. What follows is my attempt at understanding this.

On one hand it's a way to help the Pokot to establish their own representation in leadership positions in business and politics in Kenya, and to ultimately have their own independence from outside assistance, while simultaneously teaching the rest of the world what the Pokot tribe, traditions and cultures are all about. Yet at the same time, Carol refuses to use the phrase "helping people to help themselves", which I find very confusing. Even the Pokot seem to feel that's what she's there for. However she insists that the role of IHF is not to be an organization that comes in and helps them. In fact she hates having to use the name IHF, and while she has been doing this work for 30 years, up until just a few years ago she did it entirely of her own volition with her own funds. A large sum of personal money she had has gone towards funding this work, and only recently has she had to ask for outside help (and hence been forced to become a non-profit business). I believe that she's having a hard time reconciling with that. So while on one hand her only involvement is meant to be to offer some advice and be one vote on an advisory board of 20-odd people (in the case of the Pokot), she walks and talks as if this is a major organization and things must be run by the rules. Which is true – she is the head of IHF which is now a real non-profit org in the U.S. which therefore must follow some very strict rules to remain a non-profit, and therefore she has the authority and necessity to demand that certain rules be followed or the IHF will cease to exist (not to mention that the rules are, of course, for the benefit of the children, which at the end of the day is what she truly cares about). But going back, at the same time as doing this she's insisting that the IHF is not an organization who's come in to "help the people help themselves", but that the Pokot themselves are the IHF, and that she's only here with her influence and connections.

I need to spend some more time listening and talking with her to really understand this. She's appreciating my objective input because she does recognize that this needs to be summarized and explained easily. If she wants people to continue to donate to the orphanages, famine feeds and more around the world, she has to get this summarized into a tidy little elevator pitch that will explain her work. But we're not there yet. It's an interesting journey.

In fact she's asked me to stay on with IHF as the director of photography. Over the years she needs photos of all the centers, orphanages, etc. worldwide. While I may not be able to do all that myself, she has asked me to oversee this. She understands my commitments to work and family are extremely taxing already, but I've agreed to give it a go. We'll see what that really means.

1 comment:

samantha said...

that is great Joseph. I knew this pilgrimage would have cathartic changes for you and new responsibilities.I believe you are finding your calling. It is good to feel you are doing something where you make a real difference, as an individual, Apple will rise or fall with or without you, but here, doing this, using your talent and passion for photography, and telling a story, you can make a meaningful contribution of yourself to life, for the highest good of all. Good on you for accepting this role. I love you.