Dear Tei wa Syana (TWS) Sponsors
You might notice in the most recent, or future letters from your sponsored student, requests for additional sponsorship or for other things. We the TWS committee in Canada have given a lot of thought to whether or not to send letters to sponsors that contain requests from their students, and have decided that we will so that you can enjoy your student’s news! There is no expectation from us that you will grant your student’s request so please do not feel any pressure at all.
There are big cultural differences around asking for gifts or loans or further sponsoring, when made by Kenyans compared to how we might view it ourselves. When I am in Kenya, requests are made of me pretty much daily. I struggle with how to respond because I want to help, but my resources are not limitless. Something that helped me a lot was when my brother sent me an article written by Josiah Neufeld entitled “The Way We Give”. It’s available online at thewalrus.ca in case you want to read it.
I’m going to share a bit of it with you because Neufeld explains much more eloquently than I can about the African culture of giving around receiving. He writes about Burkina Faso but it applies 100% to Kenya.
In Burkina Faso, a complex network of personal debts and familial obligations undergirds society. People who live in rural areas work together to plant and harvest crops, store food in communal granaries, and eat together in large family groups. Because the well-being of the community is valued more highly than the advancement of the individual, those who acquire more wealth than the others can expect constant requests for money, which they must not refuse. In any close friendship, the person with greater means is obliged to help out less fortunate friends and relatives with gifts or loans that come due only when the borrowers’ and lenders’ fortunes are reversed. When you have money, you invest in your community, knowing that in your time of need they will be there for you. One can see evidence of this in the amount of money Africans living abroad send to their kin. In 2010, the African diaspora sent home $51.8 billion in remittances, more than all of the official development aid that flowed to the continent.
I wanted to share that with you to explain that the added requests don’t come from a place of ingratitude, or entitlement, or an effort to take advantage rather they come from a teenager living in a culture where asking for what one needs is simply what is done and is completely normal and appropriate. If you have any questions feel free to contact me by leaving a message here or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can arrange to chat.
Thank you as always for your generosity and on-going sponsorship! I hope you enjoy your student’s letter. If you’d like to write back to them you can scan and email your letter to email@example.com and I will make sure it gets to Kenya.