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Why are we doing this?

Dave Shorten writes: Since Tim’s amazing marathon we’ve been busy helping plan the refurbishment programme at Mwatate Children’s Home. That’s now well underway. So three months on it’s time for the blog to begin again: there will be one each month.

Why are we doing this?

In the middle of June I stood in front of 200 13 year olds in a South London school. In ten minutes I took them to Kenya and into the lives of four people living there right now: a four year old orphan abandoned in the streets; a single parent Mum doing three jobs so that she can pay her kids’ school fees; a primary school teacher who doesn’t earn enough to feed his family; a college student making ends meet by doing peoples’ washing and fetching their water. Different lives, different challenges. That the students listening to me were born into their UK lives and the Kenyans were born into their Kenyan lives is just an accident of birth.

Looking round the School Sports Hall, I could see that I had made my point. The kids were listening and thinking. At the end, I encouraged them to see themselves in the widest context, as members of a global community of 7.5 billion people -the human race. In today’s polarised world there is a desperate need- to use Bill Clinton’s phrase- to expand the definition of “us” and shrink the definition of “them”.

Education Exchange is in existence to expand the definition of “us”. For the last 15 years we have been raising funds (over £100,000 so far) to give people in Kenya a chance to use their own courage and determination to take the small steps which slowly lead to less vulnerable and more secure lives. At the same time we are trying to articulate the extent of the problem to our donors and supporters and enlist their help. Our work is a tiny drop in the vast ocean of inequality which scars our world. Billions of people have no access or restricted access to the resources which many in the developed world take for granted. There is no justice in that state of affairs. The more people that understand this and go on to help do something about it, the more the notion of “us” grows.

In his address to Congress on July 4th 1861 Abraham Lincoln described the Civil War as “….a people’s contest….a struggle….. to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance in the race of life”. Lincoln was talking about slavery, but his words apply equally today to the inequalities of our world.

In Education Exchange we’re doing something to give our partners in Kenya “a fair chance in the race of life”. Join us. Help us. Spread the word.