29-year old Daniel Borg talks to Universe of Faith about how a family from a Kenyan tribe gave him "a very high sense of well-being". He relates his story of a reciprocal experience of sharing and giving.
After years of wishing to volunteer in an African country, last year I spent three weeks living with a family in the beautiful land of the Maasai tribe on the outskirts of Nairobi in Kenya.
The family lives a very rustic self-sufficient life. Accommodation is very basic with a house made from corrugated iron sheets. The only source of electricity is a donated small solar panel which is capable of lighting a couple of bulbs when it gets dark.
There is no running water in the house. Water is only available from a well which is situated around 2km away from home. Traditionally, the family relied on their cattle to cater for their nutrition. However, the depletion in livestock has led them to turn to farming practices which became their primary source of food. Nowadays, their food mainly consists of a small variety of crops such as corn, tomatoes and beans.
Completing the necessary tasks for survival, consumes the major part of the day for the family. Chopping trees to obtain firewood, cutting corn, milking goats and carrying water are the typical tasks performed by the woman on a daily basis while the man looks after the cattle. These activities are done on foot unless the family is rich enough to own a donkey.
Although one might think that this lifestyle does not give much to worry about, the family does encounter difficult situations which are beyond its control. But within the family there is a strong sense of faith. I recall one occasion when the water supply stopped due to a leakage in the piping system. After the fourth day without water, I asked the woman what will happen if the fault is not found soon. She replied that the community will survive as God will not forget them. She was convinced that the leakage will be found and fixed soon or else it will rain. The leakage was found within the next two days and water supply was back to normal.
You might be thinking of what a poor life these people are leading with very basic living standards. However, although most families are deprived of what you may consider as needs, they are also rich in other ways.
The land is still in its natural state and the people living there are in harmony with nature. The area is home for many wild animals such as giraffes and dik-diks. The family enjoys watching sunrise and sunset, two free and beautiful moments which help start the day on a positive note and find peace before the day comes to an end.
There is also a strong sense of family and community values. Children have the constant presence of their mother and father during their upbringing, getting their necessary attention. The family house does not only host the nuclear family but also the extended family which creates a sense of unity. Sharing is also highly present within the community. Food is shared and the family finds a helping hand from the community in the completion of manual work such as house maintenance. Other community members or guests like myself are welcome for dinner and a sleep over at the family’s house with no obligations. Cattle are left to herd alone, knowing that other families within the community will not take their cattle.
Although deprived of material possessions which are considered as basic, these family and community values gave me a very high level of well-being which is also visible within the rest of the community.
Daniel Borg volunteered with the Maltese NGO Right2Smile.
Published: September 2016