The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

Posts tagged ‘Politics’

Proudly Humanitarian – Reshma Aziz Khan

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It is very rare in life to come across people who literally put their heart into what they do for a living. Fortunately, I have got one such friend called Reshma who is not only a warm pot of joy, but a true warrior when it comes to the business of helping people. But what makes one stop for a while and think, “I want to be a humanitarian?” Well, this is how Reshma discovered her passion as an aid worker.

Reshma: When I was young, I wanted to be a cardiac surgeon. My dad had a heart condition, and I wanted to grow up and help people like him… but then before he passed away, I started to get some averse reaction to seeing blood, so that plan definitely was not going to work! I still wanted to help people, and when I was in high school, someone told me about the life of an aid worker – I was hooked! Knowing that there are millions out there who need a helping hand. We have all been put on this earth as ONE humanity, and it is our responsibility to lend that helping hand, no matter how tough that can get!

So what has Reshma been up to lately?A marathon! But not just any other marathon. This year, Reshma has signed-up for the #Dead2Red marathon where she will be running with her team from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea.  She tells us more about the marathon:

Reshma: So it’s actually an annual event, the Dead 2 Red Marathon,  a relay event suitable for amateurs and athletes of all ages and genders without restriction. The marathon stretches 242 kilometres from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea. It starts at an altitude of 415 metres below sea level and leads up through the Arabian Desert reaching an altitude of 120 metres above sea level before descending towards the shores of the Gulf of Aqaba at the Red Sea.

Quite a brave challenge it is to be running from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea! What would make Reshma leave her comfy desk in Nairobi to take-on such a challenging task?

Reshma: This year, the date of the race coincides with the three year anniversary of the Syria Crisis. CARE International is running this marathon to raise awareness and funds for the plight of the more than 2.5 million refugees in the region and the more than 6.5 million people who remain displaced within Syria’s borders. As a lot of the media remains focused the on military clashes and the political efforts toward resolving this crisis, CARE urges the world to not forget the  humanitarian needs of more than ten million people. We want to raise awareness by putting a human face on this crisis and by showing our solidarity.  Our goal in running this marathon is to raise 50,000 US Dollars for the Syria Response in Jordan and Lebanon.

To accomplish such a great task, Reshma needs a great team to run with her from sea to sea to show solidarity for refugees in Syria. How will she do it?

Reshma: The CARE team consists of CARE staff working in Jordan, Lebanon and Kenya, as well as five Syrian refugees who themselves are volunteers in CARE’s urban refugee centres. In total, our international team consists of 10 members hailing from the USA, Portugal, Kenya, Germany, Jordan and Syria.  The Syrian refugees on the team are former engineers, teachers, graphic designers and students. They all volunteer with CARE to support and serve fellow Syrian refugees.

Yes, humanitarians do get the chance to creatively spread awareness about the increasing need to help people. But why did Reshma sign-up for the #Dead2Red marathon? Isn’t it a big risk?

Reshma: Having worked with refugees in Kenya’s Dadaab camps, and having heard their stories, you realize that any one of us could be a refugee. Could you imagine a life where you had to leave everything you knew behind, including all your possessions, community centres, possibly friends and family, job, everything. I am running for the refugees of the world, to show them that they are not alone.

Preparing for marathon from the Dead Sea to the Red Sea is not a cup of English tea! Reshma is honest to say that it has been tough, especially when it comes to physical training ahead of the event. However, quitting is not an option for this lady.

Reshma: …Running the marathon in itself is one of my biggest challenges! Those who know me know that I cannot run to save my life!  So trying to run more than 100 metres has been difficult, but I am happy to say that I can run 3000metres today without seriously huffing and puffing, so getting there! Also, I am always so busy, so trying to find time to run almost every day has been a challenge!

[But…] I keep pushing! I have to do this, not so much for me, but for the refugees! Keeping that in mind makes me go on!

On a lighter note, the life of a humanitarian comes with a variety of fun moments especially in cultural contexts. Here is an example where camel is involved.

Reshma: The inter-cultural communication – especially when you don’t speak the same language as the people you are helping, or your colleagues in another country! I remember the first time I was offered nyiri nyiri, dried camel meat – a delicacy in northern Kenya and Somalia….Everyone was looking at me expectantly for my approval, so even though I was not the biggest fan, I had to smile through this camel-fat filled aroma – not pleasant at all!

Aside from supporting CARE International in Kenya as a Knowledge Management Coordinator, Reshma happens to be a professional belly-dancer!

Reshma: Well many already know, but I LOVE to dance…….. I have been a belly dancer since I was young…dance is my way of connecting to the real me, carefree, like the wind!

Getting Involved

If you have been looking for a way to contribute to charity or just touch someone’s life out there amid the Syria crisis, Reshma invites you to join the cause and send a donation through this CARE International page.

For more about the Syrian Civil War, please click here.

Join the conversation on Facebook by following the hashtag #Dead2Red and see what the runners have been up to as they prepare for the marathon!

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If you have never met a real humanitarian warrior, you can now check that off your list having virtually met one!

“…I can do my best to make sure that I helped as many people as I could to empower themselves , for the improvement of their own lives, those of their families and communities.” ~Reshma Aziz Khan

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The Lonely War in Kenya

Poaching for Ivory in Kenya

Poaching for Ivory in Kenya

My opinion is that poaching in Kenya is a great result of corruption in our government. I totally support the fact that Hands off our Elephants is a great campaign to address this matter but my worry is that this time it’s our elephants; next time, it might be our lions, then perhaps our flamingos which are already facing a population crisis. Or perhaps our forest covers which continue to be echoed by the late Wangari Maathai’s Green Belt Movement.

I say “I will not cry over elephants”, not because I don’t care about our elephants but because crying and worrying are emotional reactions to a situation that I feel is caused by our very own leaders. Yes! There is no way that all that ivory keeps escaping our borders without even one of our leaders knowing about it, leave alone blowing a whistle.

Our rangers can’t be out there risking their lives to fight poachers yet our leaders are part of the problem! This is the main reason behind my loud rant and I am glad that I have stepped on a few toes to make people speak up even in the social networks. The problem isn’t just the fact that our elephants are being killed by “foreign” poachers often pinned to the Chinese, China Wu Yi… The numbers of suspects are endless. But the problem is that while we are having sleepless nights about the poaching menace and how our economy is failing us, our very own leaders are part of the problem. This is why I strongly support the fight against corruption. This is the root cause of the problem!

I just wish, truly wish that all the vigour used in the anti-poaching campaign – the determination, the research and filming efforts (which I strongly feel Kenyan filmmakers should take lead on and not foreign filmmakers), the heavy emotion towards the loss of our country’s treasure (elephants) through the poaching crackdown – was put into fighting corruption which is the mother of this poaching menace.

How can we as Kenyan citizens best fight this poaching menace? How can I help to fight in the anti-poaching war in my daily life? Honestly, there aren’t too many options for us that will produce quick results that we need given the current state of the situation. My guess is that it might somehow boil down to raising funds just as we did with protecting the Mau forest, bringing Zack back home, Kenyans for Kenya and many other public appeals to take care of our own people and natural resources. But this shouldn’t be the case in my view. Instead, the country should be appealed to participate in a massive cleaning up of our house in our quest to fight impunity in our country. Yes, it might seem farfetched but I truly believe that if we as a nation put more effort in collectively fighting the big fire and not the sparks, then we would start seeing the change that we need.

Corruption is the mother of all evil

Corruption is the mother of all evil

Guess what? We don’t have to raise funds to fight corruption in our country! In fact, we’ll save loads of money by ensuring that resources go where they ought to go. You and I can simply start the war on corruption in our very own homes; the change begins with us! We could speak up and support the very few leaders in our country with a passion for a corruption-free Kenya.

I believe that all’s not lost and that we do have the opportunity to be a better Kenya and stop hitting global headlines as one of the world’s top 10 corrupt countries. This shouldn’t be, not with all the beauty I still see in my country. If Nigeria was able to fight this monster and be in a better place after the war on corruption…We can do it, we can make it. Not by getting together to raise funds but by collectively deciding, “WE AS KENYANS DO NOT TOLERATE CORRUPTION!”

We need to support true leaders who are managers, not crusaders who we often see in the evening news. It shouldn’t always be about them so let’s give them the silence that they deserve. We need to support our leaders who are true managers and focus on making do with what we have, not demand for more. Those who make strict policies to protect the dignity of Kenyan citizens. Those who don’t complain to every camera that points at them, but those who work and give results.
Then our elephants will forget the scent of poachers and roting blood of their own. Then Kenya will no longer be one of the highest taxed counties in the world. Then our children will grow up to taste the sweet fruit of integrity within our country.

The fight against corruption is big, insanely big, but we do need to start it soon before it’s too late.

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

Storymoja Hay Festival September 19th -22nd 2013

The Storymoja Hay Festival is on September 19 – 22, 2013. Mark the Date. You will definitely leave the festival thinking in a whole new way! Imagine the World.
Follow Storymoja Hay Festival on Facebook and on @SMHayFest on Twitter for updates on tickets, travel & accomodation, guest authors, pre-fest events and event programming. see also our official website.

Yours Truly,

Ayuma.

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