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Awakenings in Africa

Awakening in Africa

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I will not forget the beautiful people we met through our journeys, the simple moments that made us smile, or the endless supply of matoke we consumed from daybreak to dinnertime. Most importantly, I will never forget the feeling of what it’s like to live in survival mode in Africa or in the United States.


Coming from a hard working, blue collar family in Northeast Ohio, I always have felt as if I appreciated  the “things” I have, the opportunities that I have taken advantage of as an American, and respected the hardships that some people in the states have to endure. Many of us are in a mode of survival, unable to find the time to question authority or economics in any real revolutionary way. We are sleepers, passing the time, staying content with the way things are because we don’t make the time to sit back and question who is running the show of our lives. Sometimes, we simply can’t-many people are working so hard to keep up with the Jones’ or working those three part-time jobs to pay medical bills. Meanwhile, life passes by and nothing changes. We are led to feel powerless to big problems and walk through life with the rest of the cattle. Yeehaw.


Post Africa, I have realized survival mode and hard work exist in very different ways-ways that would shock most of the planet and make the American cattle seem un-creative and unmotivated to affect change. Africa equals creative survival; but it’s really all the same.


Pain and hardship are relative. A millionaire in America can have the same level of pain as someone in the Kibera Slum in Kenya. Two men (or women) in both places can feel as if they are day to day, just getting by with basic “essentials” and no matter what they do, they realize their situation may never change or improve. They feel, and maybe they are, stuck.  The difference is the millionaire has decided that being a millionaire is an essential need for his survival-the man in Kibera just wants to find drinking water that won’t take the life of the last child he has left. Both of these people may work from  sunrise to sunset seven days a week trying to “survive”; but only one of them is likely to die from western diseases and only one of them is likely to die from malnutrition, typhoid, e.coli, HIV, or malaria. In the end, we all die-but what happens in the middle makes us human.


I want to talk more about survival mode…and what it really means.


Survival mode is different, but we are all the same-EVERYWHERE.


The differences in survival between people and nations across the globe lie in what we actually value… and it all comes down to the money-the dolla dolla bills.


Why, with so much pain and stress in the word, is there so little monetary value placed on things that matter. For the millionaire or the American, maybe leisure time, human connections, community sharing, or the environment is undervalued.  For the African in Kibera, maybe it’s labor, freedom, or food. Either way, who is taking the time (or has the time) to even begin to step out of surviving and into LIFE valuing what matters?


Really, whats the deal? Are we all too wrapped up in our version of “survival” mode to not realize what’s happening in the big picture-in our world family-in our world environment. Pain is relative, but if we step back and look at the big system of our global family, I think what we find is that we can remove some unnecessary “stresses” (things we currently value that bring a false sense of security or worth) and GIVE BACK to our brothers and sisters who are truly hurting and truly have no way out without some interference from us.


GIVING BACK….it means being bigger than ourselves. This is INEVITABLE, un-avoidable and needs to happen for this world to survive and to be worth living in.


Let’s begin with GIVING BACK Love.


Love is a very easy thing to share. It’s all we felt during our travels in Africa.

People would ask

“why us” or say “thank you for loving us”  “thank your brothers and sisters back home for loving us and our children and our communities”

My response to “why us” is……. “WHY NOT. You are our family and our friends.”


I am utterly Sick and TIRED of people just being (or them feeling like) another number in a sad statistic for the state of the globe…especially the colored, the poor, the elderly and the sick.

If people can’t or donnot add to GDP, it seems as if todays value systems, policies and global practices value those people LESS.

Well…I’m over it.


LOVE each other. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

We need to create VALUE in EACH OTHER-the human connectedness we all share EVERYWHERE.


SHARE. We have the ABILITY….we have the time and everything else at our fingertips. Let’s get to the rodeo already, the world cannot wait forever and the most important part of your life is happening now-MAKE IT ABOUT SOMETHING EXTRAORDINARY or SOMETHING bigger than YOU.


Off the top of my head (and deep in my heart) there is something easy you can do today to begin sharing yourself with the planet…

You are rich-you didn’t know?!


Cleveland and the Great Lakes are home to people, supply gallons of safe drinking water per  , and allow    to thrive.

In CLEVELAND and the GREAT LAKES, we have the ability to share our water richness by creating better access to safe water for others around the globe….because the lives of people elsewhere are no less valuable than ours or our childrens’.

Water knows no boundaries.

Water is life and connects us all.

You can share LIFE….that’s pretty big stuff if you ask me.


But, what do I know? I’m just a normal Northeast Ohio girl who loves drinking safe water.


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ABOVE: Kibera Slum, Nairobi, Kenya, Director of DLDT Erin Huber drawing on the fly with slum children begging for money and food

BELOW: Joseph, a Mullajji Village child who’s parents could not remember his name as he starved, dehydrated and sick near their hut and other sick siblings (sick from “fever” lying on the dirt of the earth).

Photos by Laura Watilo-Blake, Elbee Studio