The journey for change

By Constantine Sunday, Christian Brothers, Kenya.

My name is Constantine Sunday and I am working with a church organization known as Christian Brothers. The organization is best known for reaching out to the poor, specifically women and children, in the areas of social ministry, education, environmental injustices and advocacy.

My journey began in 2012 when I was invited for the Training for Transformation course. I was not aware what it was all about until when I started few classes. Things changed for good as I took the personal journey that did challenged my mind. I had to unlearn a lot of things when it came to responses to poverty and interaction with people. The journey for change was that of personal transformation from old practices into new reality that values humanity. At the very core of development is the realization that people are subjects and not objects to be tossed around.

After finishing my Training for Transformation Diploma in 2012, I was tasked to work with women who were victims of post-election violence in Kenya. We were trying to see how best we can help them “be on their feet” again. Our work was made easier and more effective because we didn’t just rush in as expected, but we took time to blend in and learn about the local culture and systems of governance. We spent one year conducting a listening survey (going into a place and interacting with the people, getting to know the dynamics of that particular place in all facets). After that, we entered into dialogue with various groups, made up of women and youth to discuss what projects we could initiate with them. After several meetings the groups started “table banking”. This was a platform where members could contribute money in a day, with this sum being given out as loans with a small interest. In addition, there was also a platform where members contributed some social welfare money; this was to assist any member in terms of crisis within the family. After a period of saving, members could share the interest equally. Through table banking the women started a chicken project that they could sell both chickens and eggs and the profit would be used to help the members in terms of soft loans.

The listening survey made us work in collaboration with the locals and made most of the projects work for their good. Furthermore, the reason why both table banking and the chicken projects worked was because of the steps of digging deeper. This is a process of going into depth to the root of issues, in order to realize what the real causes are, and where the problem has a social, political or economic cause. From the fruits of the first project the organization posted me to one of our big schools. The school is a mixed secondary and primary day school with a population of about 1200 children. The reason for me being in the school project was to help it become a self sustainable school within the County of Kajiado. This particular project is more of a challenge; because the previous administration was handled by a foreigner who gave the locals everything and made them so dependent on him. The local community was not involved at any level of the school’s life, including paying fees for the children. What I had learned at TfT about how our various responses to poverty are linked somehow to our levels of awareness, was brought to life in the context of that school. As we all know changing a system of oppression is not always easy, and more so when the locals are made to believe that they can’t do anything to change their own destiny.

As part of the administration I introduced a Board of Management that was made up of locals. This was to help them realize that they do have a say in the affairs of the school. Slowly they have started seeing that leadership is shared and nobody has a monopoly on it. The learners from the local community were getting a full scholarship whether or not they performed academically in class. When the school board was established several things changed, and one being the allocation of sponsorship on merit. More parents started encouraging their children to work hard. The point was to make them realize that they have some responsibility when it comes to the academic life of their children. However, the biggest challenge is to ensure how the school will reduce the donor funding syndrome with time, bearing in mind that the donors provide 98% of the funding to the school. To regulate this donor funding issue I have introduced a strategic plan that has a clear vision and action plans for the school’s financial sustainability and other projects that run in the school like dairy farming and vegetable projects.

TFT has really changed me a lot. I have become more active on issues of advocacy and change. I have grown into an inclusive collaborative leader that gives people power to transform their own lives. However, those in authority have always seen me as a threat for speaking out on issues and I have been described as being “counter-cultural”. There is a culture that exists of dominance and control and nobody wants to change that because it gives those in authority false power and control. That is why it is difficult for the church organization to shift from making charity the only way of helping people, to a deeper activism of liberation. All in all, the struggle is on and will continue until transformation becomes our song.