Chaffinch, business, plans and networking

It’s been a very different sort of a day today. No stories of remote villages, extreme poverty, sublimely innocent children, or the ‘hands-on’ side of making a difference. Today has been about the…how do I say it?  Maybe the less ‘human’ side of charity. 

But before I continue, there is something I must say. I realised today that it might not be clear to Chaffinch supporters exactly the relationship between the charity and what I have done so far in this trip. You need to know that this trip has not been funded by a single penny from Chaffinch supporters. Every monetary donation received has gone to Future Stars. The suitcases full of donated goods will be delivered to the centre in a few days’ time. Chaffinch has not funded my flights, my food, or my malaria tablets. The sweets I have handed out in their hundreds were not purchased by Chaffinch. I need to make it clear that I am not spending our wonderful supporters’ money on anything other than the projects for which it has been so generously given.   I AM doing Chaffinch work however. This is most definitely a Chaffinch trip. This week in Diani may be a long way from the slum in Nairobi, but what I am doing here is, I feel, vital to the growth of the charity. 

Here I am learning about what Chaffinch can achieve. I am talking to people with experience of all the things I want to develop.  I am making connections with people who are in a position to help.  I’m not talking monetary help – I’m talking about services and the sharing of knowledge and resources.

For a large portion of today, I have laid on the veranda with my iPad, researching opportunities, government processes and requirements, and the vast number of practical challenges that we will need to overcome if we are really going to make a difference. To begin, the loss of 50 children from Future Stars has hit me hard. Chaffinch has no real purpose if we cannot grow. We need to be moving forward, expanding, actually changing things for the better. It’s going to be tough. But nothing so worthwhile was ever promised to be easy. So I have spent many hours today trying to formulate some coherent plans for the future.

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As a bit of ‘light relief’ I have also been working on updating the website.  So apologies to anybody currently trying to view it – I am aware there are a number of broken links, missing images, and confused pages. It is ‘under construction’ or should that be ‘renovation’?  I have almost completed a redesign of the page that concerns our child sponsorship programme. By the time I return to England, I will have more profiles to add – more children in need of sponsors. I am focusing for now on the youngest children as I know many sponsors like to watch ‘their’ child grow and progress through life. However, we are still featuring some of the teenagers who, whilst not offering the same sponsoring experience, are still in great need, and indeed, due to the issues resulting from a childhood of poverty, the challenges to be overcome can be extraordinarily satisfying. Please do have a browse through the profiles of our children if you are even slightly curious about this opportunity. I do repeat my warning about the current functionality of the site though and ask that you be patient with me. I am not a qualified web designer and it can be slow work.  

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I have been looking into a wide range of potential avenues for future growth. All will require real vision, and serious capital. The vision is probably the easier part, but the contacts I have made in the past few days have given me many ideas to bolster our limited finances. I have explored some of the issues surrounding expansion of Future Stars such as buying land (looking at what is available in Kibera), water and electricity supplies, and the permissions and paperwork required. I have also investigated the option of creating a Chaffinch office here in Kenya, which would make any significant project much easier as we would have a government registration number, a bank account, and a permanent Kenyan address. Also something I have looked into before – the possibility of bringing Chaffinch volunteers to Future Stars. Again, through my networking, potential has arisen. The main concern of that particular project is providing a reliable, fulfilling and, more than anything else, safe, opportunity for people to get involved here ‘on the ground’. 

With all the ideas flying around, there is still much work to be done to determine what is currently realistic. We do need to dream big if we are to make an impact, but there is also importance in realising the extent of the challenges. I am certainly not willing to take unnecessary risks.  Everything that Chaffinch does must keep in mind our supporters. I am aware that there are those giving money when they do not have a lot to spare. I am honoured to be trusted in that way and do not take lightly the responsibility of using that money in the most effective way possible. 

So, once back in Nairobi there are many more avenues to investigate, places to visit, people to talk to. I am extremely limited with regards to how much time I have but I will do my best to complete as much as possible. 

This trip to Kenya has ignited a real fire in my heart. I really feel the opportunity to make a difference here, and seeing the possibilities is just awesome. I feel so happy and so alive.  Tonight I went for a drink with Simon who has had to cancel our dinner plans for tomorrow. Hearing him talk…well, he has so much passion. It is truly inspirational. He falls in with my own view that money is simply a means by which to do the important things. And what is important is not to leave a large figure in a bank account, but to leave your footprints on the world. To make someone smile is worth a whole lot more than the piece of plastic you slot into the ATM. 

On Tuesday I am travelling north, to Malindi and Watamu, with Simon, to investigate potential business opportunities. I’m not going to say too much here and now, partly because it’s not coherent in my own mind yet. However, I feel an incredible pull along a path that leads me deeper into my African life.  England is my birthplace and home to the people I love most in the world. But it is here, in Africa, where my heart truly resides. 

I will be asking God for guidance in my decisions. It would be of so much comfort if I also knew others were praying for my future and the future of Chaffinch.  God called me to Africa for a reason. Oftentimes our path is only revealed one step at a time and we do not understand why we are walking the road that we are. However, faith is taking the next step even when you don’t have the map or a sight of your destination. I know that, if this is God’s chosen path for me, then it is right to keep walking.

Anyway, tomorrow is back to a more active, less reflective, format. I have purchased a further 300 sweets in preparation for another village visit. There’s also a women’s project in the mangroves to explore, plus the solely-for-fun trip to the reef for snorkelling. Thrown in is a bit of a Kenyan history lesson in the slave caves of Shimoni.

In ending this entry, I should probably conclude by saying that, despite the general message of the post, it’s not all been so cerebral. There was the 90 minutes I spent outside Nakumatt repeating the phrases ‘This Is Africa’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’ as I waited for electrical power to return to the store so I could do my shopping. Or the ‘got to laugh or I’ll cry’ moment when I woke up this morning absolutely covered in mosquito bites thanks to a monkey who broke my mosquito net.

Once again, until tomorrow, lala salama na Mungu akubariki marafiki wangu. 

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