Classic example of a volunteer whose heart is in the right place but has totally impractical ideas. Today’s lunchtime conversation among me, Chris (the fellow I’m replacing), Ange (Nyumbani Volunteer) and Clueless Volunteer (the name is quite fitting as you’ll see).
Before I begin I’ll give you some background on Nyumbani Village. It’s located in Kitui Kenya, a semi-arid region where clean drinking water is very scarce, especially since the rains gave a no-show last year and the Horn of Africa was hit with the worst drought in 60 years.
Clueless Volunteer: Nyumbani needs a swimming pool.
Chris (trying not to choke on his lunch): um, I don’t think a pool is a priority for Nyumbani right now.
Clueless Volunteer: yes, it is. It’s not that hard to build, just dig a hole and put some water. It will be great for a wellness center for the su-su’s (the grandmothers in the village). The US has them, we should have them.
Me: Building and maintaining a pool is not as easy as you think. It requires a big investment and the demand on water is ridiculous.
Ange: There’s no way a pool can be sustainable in this village if we want to be self-sustaining by 2018 (a goal the Village has set for itself).
Clueless Volunteer: What about a golf course?
Chris: Are you serious?
Clueless Volunteer: Or a driving range. We can definitely do a driving range. The next Tiger Woods can be from Nyumbani. All they play is football.
(at this point I can’t breathe as I’m holding back laughter)
Chris: So you want to stop the children from running and exercising and make them stand swinging a stick?
Clueless Volunteer: Yes, it will be good.
(after talking down Clueless Volunteer about this idea he moves on to plan B)
Clueless Volunteer: We should have a factory here. The kids sit around all day and do nothing.
Ange: They’re on their summer holiday. During school they are in classes and help out their families with caring for the younger children and making food. They don’t have much free time.
Chris (sarcastically): maybe we should get them to make golf clubs.
Clueless Volunteer: well, the village should try to make things to export and sell. China does it. What about quilts?
Chris: the su-sus make baskets that they sell.
Clueless Volunteer: but we can teach them to make quilts. When they brought African slaves to America they taught them how to make quilts.
Chris: I don’t think it’s a question of whether they can learn to make quilts. People like to buy the baskets not only because they are useful, but they are a part of the culture of the region.
Clueless Volunteer: Really? Oh, okay. (Clueless Volunteer looks totally unconvinced).
There’s so much more to this conversation but I’ll stop my summary here. To the benefit of Clueless Volunteer he did finally come upon a good idea of exporting the baskets to sell in other countries using aid for shipping costs from NGO’s operating in the region.
What an unbelievable character! ( I didn't make this up I swear!)