“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” ~ (Joshua 1:9)
Thank you for your continued support and encouragement for children with disabilities in Kenya. Many people have asked me how Kupenda is impacted by the September 21st Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya that took the lives of at least 67 people not including the 5 attackers that were killed. There is a good timeline summary of the events posted by the BBC if you would like to be more informed on what happened.
When people ask me how this impacts the children Kupenda supports, I first point out that Nairobi is 222.27 miles away from our work on the coast. This is more than the distance from Boston to New York City (213.7 miles). I also remind people that in my country, just a few days before the Westgate Mall attack in Nairobi, a man passed U.S. military security with a rifle and killed 12 innocent civilians at a Washington DC Navy yard. I’m not sure we can ever be sure of complete safety in any country or situation. Even if you stay in bed, locked away from the dangers of the world, you’ll get bed sores. However, this horrible attack in Nairobi potentially has some long term impacts on the children we serve. This is just my opinion on the potential impacts based on my past experience.
We had to cancel the last two years’ large scale trips because of the fears connected to potential election violence. There are new travel warnings due to recent events which, understandably, increase fears. Though no one can guarantee complete safety, we can assure people we take every precaution possible and do not take unnecessary risks. We know the dangers of life in general and those of Kenya although the media often exaggerates them. When trips are cancelled the kids don’t get to hang out with these volunteers which they look forward to. Volunteer trips have inspired local Kenyans to become more involved with children with special needs causing an increased involvement of the local community in the long term. Not having trips also indirectly impacts these children because many of our donors and/or board members started their involvement as volunteers. Kupenda has already experienced some financial insecurity without new donors from the last two trips. This has meant a struggle to meet the needs of the children we currently assist and inability to extend our reach to more.
Damage to the local economy. Horrible events like the Westgate Mall attack cause an understandable level of anxiety in tourists. In Malindi, where Kupenda’s efforts are focused, tourism accounts for 85% of the economy. After the violence surrounding the presidential elections in 2008, the economy took a big hit with a 30.5% inflation rate. It took years for things to get back to “normal”. Hotels were shut down, people lost jobs, and poverty was worsened for our kids. If foreigners significantly reduce their travel to Kenya because of recent events and threats, we could see a repeat of the economic issues of 2008.
Terrorist attacks, like Westgate in Kenya and around the world, are horrific in themselves. However, the long term implications of the fear it instils in people last far beyond the days of the events. The children we support need our assistance more than ever.
With much love,
Kupenda for the Children
If you’re interested in supporting one of the many children we serve, head over to our sponsorship page to learn about how you can make a difference.