"To the world it doesn't matter that much. Until you remember that it means the world to the individual. One exact world, bright and full of sounds, per person."
In case we haven't met: I studied abroad in Kenya in 2008 as a Vassar student. This is now my fourth time in East Africa, doing research for a public policy think tank and generally trying to be decent in an indecent world. Fighting poverty can't be all about food aid and donated pencils; we need sound public policy too.
Patrick's Story: I met Patrick in 2008, when I started buying breakfast from him every morning on my way to work in Nairobi. He's a father of three who sells an assortment of peanuts, boiled eggs, sweet potatoes, samosas, vegetable rolls, bananas, and fresh salsa (often made on the spot if he runs out). The various terms for his self-employment are street vendor, street trader, informal businessowner, hawker, or informal trader. I usually call him Patrick.
Exactly six years later in 2014, I still get two boiled eggs and salsa with a banana from Patrick every morning for 60 shillings ($0.66). I've visited his home in the Kiambiu slum in Nairobi's Eastlands, where he lives with his wife and youngest daughter. (His two older kids live with his mother outside Nairobi because it's too expensive to have them in town.) If you're not a Nairobian, the Kiambiu slum looks pretty much like the picture of "urban slum" in your head. I borrowed this picture of Kiambiu:
The Plan: Patrick has three kids, the eldest nearing secondary school age, which means school won't be free anymore, so he's looking to change his business, which is decreasingly profitable in Kenya's economy today. To make a long story short, I talked to him about what he wants to do and did some research on feasibility, and his plan is solid and sustainable even if it doesn't make people's hearts swell: become a taxi driver.
A Personal Note: I won't try to make a sob story about someone I respect, but I will say this: We encounter a lot of people in our daily lives, maybe more if you live in Nairobi than if you live in Tampa, for whom a small gesture would change her/his circumstances dramatically. Patrick is a decent person who's worked the same long hours at the same hard job for over ten years. A little bit of decency given in his direction will go a long way for the people who depend on him.
My contribution: If I can raise enough to set Patrick up with a taxi, I'll get him a fancy smartphone so he can benefit from mobile applications like EasyTaxi (popular in Nairobi) that will keep him busy with passengers and keep his income consistently high.
Your contribution: It's unbelieveable how quickly $10-$25 donations add up to a taxi. Three thousand US Dollars is about 270,000 Kenyan Shillings. Patrick can reasonably purchase a taxi for around 250,000 and have a small amount left over (around $200, which is far more than he currently makes per month) to help him make the transition. Other than that you can post this somewhere that people with a few extra dollars might see it, along with a proud announcement that you gave too.
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