In between his trip to Kenya and starting his paramedic course at Portsmouth, we managed to catch up with James Corney for a chat about his recent experiences. It wasn’t long ago that James returned from a trip to the Yukon in Canada where he learned about surviving in a cold climate in a very isolated part of the world. His trip to Kenya was something quite different – a challenge of a different kind.
He spent nine weeks in Kenya. The objective of his time away was to help increase the ability of local young people, women and those with physical difficulties to become involved in the local economy. This project about enterprise was in Wundanyi where Darius was his supervisor and guide. He was expected to come up with his own ideas and so he conducted a needs assessment in local primary schools with 10-12 year olds. He ran sessions on drug use and abuse and also on life and business skills.
James was hosted by a local family – Peter and his family provided a room, breakfast and dinner. This supplemented the family income. The room was separate from their home – 4 x 5m with a toilet in the corner! And a few mosquitoes!
His daily routine consisted of fetching water, first thing each morning, so that he could wash and dress (it was chilly in the morning). Then after breakfast of bread and butter and very milky tea, he would walk into the town to his partner organisation’s office or to get a Matatu (minibus) to wherever he was going that day. He was given an allowance to buy lunch, which typically consisted of boiled maize flour (Ugali) made up into something which looked like a ‘white mass’. Most things included beef in some kind of sauce. Every family seemed to keep chickens and a cow for milk before it went for slaughter.
James felt that he had learned a lot about how to get out of difficult situations, how to stay calm and it gave him lots of opportunities to meet new people.
James found it most difficult to accept the level of corruption that he encountered. Local government officials wanted paying because it is illegal to bribe – so you were expected to pay for their lunches, etc. – bribery under another name. You never knew where you stood with people and the excessive red tape was frustrating.
He expressed some concern that in some cases aid money had been spent on projects but no thought had been given to ongoing costs of maintenance or sustainability so equipment ended up not being used.
Overall, clearly James had found his time in Kenya to be good preparation for his future career, as well as extending his own life and professional skills, and we were encouraged by his example that there are young people today who have much to give and are willing to go that extra mile for the sake of others.