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Kenyan Media is to Blame for Economic, Political and Social Woes

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By Mdddo Ochieng’

During last year’s Madaraka Day, I was disappointed to watch as viewers threw veiled comments at renowned activist, Okoiti Okiya Omtatah, on NTV’s The Trend. One viewer alleged on twitter, that Omtatah was a gun for hire by the highest bidder, and that he pays ‘chokoras’ to smear him with dirt so as to attract public sympathy. Another viewer insinuated that Omatatah was on someone’s pay roll to stage his activisms—some of which he does in bizarre styles.

Omtatah denied that he was an activist and preferred to be called ‘conscious citizen’. This implies—correctly—that there are other citizens who are less conscious of their rights. In all developed countries, almost every citizen would behave like Omtatah—or worse—were they in similar circumstances, and they would still be seen as quite sane people. In the United Kingdom, citizens protest against much smaller things than Kenya’s earth-shaking scandals, wanton corruption, brazen greed, tribalism and impunity. And their styles of protest are even more creative, dramatic and highly sophisticated; thanks to advanced technology. In fact, most protests and demonstrations are triggered by intended policy changes and financial rip-off in the offing; not already executed crimes as is the case in Kenya—save for the recent pay rise demands by members of parliament.

But who is to blame for such display of apathy and laxity among Kenyans when it comes to demanding for their rights? Why are many Kenyans less conscious of their rights and privileges? Whereas we have just a handful of activist organisations in Kenya—which only erupt spontaneously and intermittently whenever there is a crisis—in the United Kingdom for example, there are hundreds of them whereby all spheres of human, animals and nature’s welfare is catered for. The organizations also have chapters all over the world. However, some forms of new activisms are still quite alien and remote to Kenyans. For instance, a pressure group called Friends of Environment is currently up in arms against the government’s multi billion pounds plan to construct a third runway at Heathrow Airport. Economists say this will spur UK’s economic growth exponentially. But the activists fear it will degrade the environment. The stand-off continues.

In Kenya, the media which is supposed to be the defender of the realm has shamefully gone to bed with the fraudulently elected Jubilee government. President Uhuru Kenyatta has a hand in a new media company that pays journalists attractively, hence most journalists would rather not criticise a potential employer’s government. Kenyans are therefore kept in the dark as Jubilee frustrates devolved governments—the core pillar of the new constitution. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) is unlawfully delaying the publishing of March general election. CORD, and a handful of activists allege massive irregularities. Isaac Hassan acknowledges there will be disparities in his figures amid loud silence from the media.

In the run up to March election, it was writer Barack Muluka who brought back the media to their senses in a hard-hitting article in The Standard newspaper on November 17th 2012: How Media is Failing Kenyans. At that time the IEBC was busy messing up its electronic system while the media was in deep slumber. Muluka reminded them of their role as the ‘fourth estate’–a noble role that got negated by their mad and myopic preoccupation with cheap and irresponsible political utterances at press conferences, political rallies and burial ceremonies. It was only after that that the media tried to come up with some national agenda  for election but the belated attempt flopped miserably.

 The only agenda that seem to attract public participation in Kenya is the idle talk on mushroom FM radios in the morning. When the media fail to set important agenda for constructive public debate, the society fails to de-construct the truths and untruths of matters. It becomes ignorant, passive and submissive. That is why passengers still endure blaring music in PSV vehicles without protesting. They accept and move on with the fact that bus fares sky-rocket with rain. They believe that traffic policemen collecting bribes on roads is not their problem. Unroadworthy vehicles over-speeding and killing multitudes on a daily basis is normal part of life. Spending five hours on the road from JKIA to Rongai seems okay. Landlords switching off electricity during the day to subject tenants to 12-hours stark darkness still seems a way of life in modern cities. Stinking garbage and broken sewage running on the surface is also normal. Regular unexplained power black-outs continue to occur and in most cases damage our electric appliances, but we only express outrages by posting a few ‘NKT!’ and ‘WTF!’ on Facebook and Twitter.

 Until the media come to the forefront to question the socio-political and economic ills which take our money down the drain, until they teach us to stand up for our rights, until they demand accountability and openness in public offices, we will continue wallowing in ignorance as the elite enrich themselves at our expense. It is incumbent upon the public to push the media to stop their trivia and tackle important issues. We must be conscious of our rights and stop calling Omtatah and a few others ‘attention seekers’. We should each strive to outdo Omtatah in activism.

Agitation and activism are requisite for citizen rights awareness. They boost our knowledge of our rights and privileges as enshrined in the constitution. Activism is a panacea to an organised and developed society. We will not achieve vision 2030 by sitting there and lamenting over corruption, tribalism and bad leadership. At 50 years of independence, Kenya is still talking about its ignorance, disease and poverty. These social drawbacks exist in smaller scales in developed countries where activism is each and every citizen’s lifestyle and obligation.

dagran2002@yahoo.com

Hiring a Resume & Forgeting the Candidate

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By Okello Okello

Business Administration & Philosophy. 

It is a common phenomena in hiring process to see a manager or a human resource’s person hire resume instead of employing the candidate. This article is a guide on hiring etiquettes, what to look for and what not to focus on. If followed keenly, hiring can result in productive operations in any company.

Administration and Organization: Most managers do not focus on potential employers’ ability to meet tight deadlines and schedules alongside multi tasking capabilities.  A track record of consistently committing and delivering comes handy in hiring a performing employee.

Group Skills: No man is an island therefore looking for ability to work with other people is an asset when it comes to hiring. Strong team skills and understanding of crowd as well as carrying out task in solitude is very important but again respecting other people’s personality is needed, that is, one who knows how to handle introverts and extroverts in a business setting.

Decision-making  and Problem-solving : By presenting a realistic job-related problems to a candidate, you can know how they think, reason, and how they solve puzzles that might arise in a work place. It is handy to get examples of similar problems they’ve handled, and how they were solved. It is important to follow how cogent their arguments are and how they closely tie to question in question.

Personality: As much as it is important to focus on the resume, it is advisable to go for the personality, how the candidate responds to questions, gestures, facial expressions and how confident they are and feel about themselves and their future job. Personally as a president of an organization, my first challenge to people I interview is to ask them if they are smart. A lot of people find it intimidating, they lose their confidence, and push themselves in a defence corner. Whoever handles that question tactfully and falls in all the categories pointed above stands a high chance of getting the job.

Aptitude and Technicality: Always be on the look for an exceptional worker, a quick learner, problem solver, an influential person who understands technology and holds impeccable communication skills. Ask your potential employee  how he reaches into conclusions when solving a dilemma and how long it can take him to get to the solution.

UK Scandals Unhealthy for Global Social Intellectualism

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By Maddo Ochieng’

Education experts concur that taking a university degree in the UK has many advantages. There are mushroom institutions of higher learning providing places for home, EU and international students. The UK is also a developed country endowed with state of the art technological facilities that make learning efficient. Its political tranquillity guarantees completion of programmes within stipulated time frames.

And, the UK is a culturally and religiously tolerant country where students from divergent backgrounds feel at home. There are several private and public institutions and organizations that provide work placement and employment opportunities for graduates. Also, the UK is a vibrant place where various events unfold everyday, generating heated debates that enhance intellectual alertness.

The last two years alone have provided university students with myriads of relevant events for their essay topics, researches and cases study. Journalists and scholars have written massively about the role of new unfolding in the fast adjusting social structures. Bloggers have had a field day giving opinions on these new topics. Latest text book editions have been updated to incorporate the emergent issues. But not all events are healthy for learning and student experiences. Some of them are mind boggling scandals of monumental proportions; touching on both morality and intellectualism—core pillars erecting the fabric of any society. The media have been awash with investigations and inquiries in rows and droves. Students have sunk into in-depth studies of scandals which can turn out to be either beneficial or catastrophic or both.

Still vivid in our memories are the gory images of bonfires, running battles, assault and looting meted on members of the public during the 2011 London riots. The riots bore similarity with the student-tuition-fee-rise-riots in many ways. These two events created abysmal moral panic and brought feelings of racism, class disparity and economic disenfranchisement; becoming a rich niche for study by social science students and of other disciplines as well. Once again police performance in the handling of these fiascos was in focus.

The phone-hacking scandal may have appeared on face value as a press affair but it also raised fundamental questions on the ethics of corporate and political practices. World economy is driven by trade and politics. Major players in question were the press, the police and the politicians. The reputation of Britain’s tabloids sunk so low that the well-meaning members of the public lost trust in them. Metropolitan police’s director of public affairs Dick Fedorcio had no choice but to resign. The inquiry revealed David Cameron’s earlier relationship with some News Corporation journalists including Andy Coulson whom the PM later hired as his spin doctor. Together with Rebekah Brooks and a battery of other journalists, Coulson is facing criminal charges. More heads rolled and jobs were lost. News of the World newspaper wound up as News Corporation parted with huge sums of money to compensate its victims.

Another appalling scandal was the decades-old Jimmy Savile and Stuart Hall’s paedophile revelations that put BBC’s reputation in retrospect. It not only unearthed decades of cover-ups and inept management but also eroded the image of this public institution that has been trusted as an objective, impartial moral educator and informer of the realm since its inception in 1922. The BBC’s moment of fumbling was worsened by the shambolic manner in which it handled the unfounded allegations of ‘Tory paedophile’, Lord MaAlpine. The saga led to the resignation the new Director-General George Entwistle and drew sharp criticism of Newsnight programme. Public trust in the BBC waned, and the terrible stories about historic child abuse cases remain indelible from people’s minds.

The infamous ‘Plebgate scandal’ was another unfortunate one. At first it was thought to be a gaffe, but to date we are not yet sure. The inquiry is still under-way, but the Tory government whip, Andrew Mitchell is out of job and several Met officers’ heads have rolled. Downing Street was one again in limelight for bad reasons and the Tory party received all manner of negative comments from the opposition and the public. But later, the ball game changed dramatically and the Met is feared to have colluded in blackmail. The issue has now become a little more complex. It is another unfortunate state of affairs.

There is a good side to these events though. Their occurrences have challenged the strength, relevance and ability of certain legislation to reinforce standards. They have also triggered some drastic measures such as the disbandment of the Press Complaints Commission to create room for a more effective press regulatory body in the case of Phone-hacking scandal. The government is reportedly, working cautiously on policy changes to avert crises. People in positions of responsibility are now more aware of new threats to their roles. But the other hand, these events point to failure by the society and its leadership, posing serious concerns as to what the students in the UK right now might be learning out of this. What if students, especially those from the international community capitalise on these antisocial events to learn the labyrinthine networking and the sophistication required for effective scandal, only to perfect them back in their home countries?

As the Chris Huhne takes time to reflect on his next move after a short stint in jail for over-speeding and horse meat saga silently getting swept under the carpet, I end with Alex Stevenson’s posit in his 21st December 2012’s article on politics.co.uk: ‘Such is the extent of the turmoil which British society now finds itself in that it’s hard to tell where political scandals end and begin. They bleed into each other, prop each other up and together create a fire-storm of anger and resentment at the UK’s ruling elites: those in charge of our politics, our financial system and our media were all battered by public hostility in 2012. Mix all that up with the return of some old favourites (expenses, anyone?) and you get a mouth-watering pot pourri of outrageous, unacceptable failure’.

Email the author: dagran2002@yahoo.com

Is Western Higher Education Realy Relevant in The Global Context?

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By Maddo Ochieng’

UK and US universities have been widely credited for producing exemplary world leaders. Bill Clinton, Margaret Thatcher, David Cameron, John Kufour of Ghana and five members of Japan’s imperial family are Oxford alumni. Barack Obama, Theodore Roosevelt and Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, (the first Africa’s female president) among others schooled at Harvard while President Joyce Banda of Malawi (the second Africa’s female president) has a Cambridge School Certificate.

Information about winners of prestigious awards in various disciplines and their institutions of learning is easily available on the internet. Most of the times, you will encounter Harvard, Oxford, Yale and Cambridge universities.

According to Higher Education Statistics Agency, HESA, there were some 435,235 non-UK students in the UK colleges and Universities in the year 2012. Unesco’s Institute for Statistics recently reported that the number of international students around the world is continuing to rise sharply with provisional figures indicating an annual increase of 12%. The global figure shows a huge spike in numbers this decade, rising by more than 75% since 2000.

Other figures from the Institute of International Education reveal that the US is the biggest destination with 691,000 students, injecting an annual value estimated at $20bn (£12.3bn) into the US economy. The UK is the second biggest destination for overseas students, but The BBC reports that there are also other extra 340,000 students taking UK university courses in their home countries, either through partnerships between UK and local universities or else through UK universities setting up branch campuses, such as Nottingham in Ningbo in China.

Throughout the 21stcentury till today, the West has paid host to many students from third world countries who later returned home and transformed their societies drastically. Other notable figures also include Burmese democracy icon Aung San Suu Kyi and India’s Indira Ghandhi both from Oxford University. But the case has been argued differently in Africa, where political instabilities such as military coups, dictatorship and corruption still reign supreme despite its leaders flashing colourful university certificates from Europe and America.

As early as 1935 Kwame Nkrumah, the revered father of independent Ghana sailed from Liverpool to the United States and attended Lincoln University in Pennsylvania where he received a Bachelor of Sacred Theology in 1942. He proceeded to earn a Master of Science in education the same year, a Master of Arts in philosophy the following year and a PhD in 1943. He led his country to independence in 1956 but his degrees failed to yield for Ghana. His unpopular leadership led to his overthrow in 1966. He lived in Romania until his death in 1972.

Libya’s Muamar Gaddafi went to the United Kingdom in 1966 for further military training, where he underwent an English-language course at Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire and a Royal Air Corps signal instructor course in Bovington Camp, Dorset. He also took an infantry signal instructor course at Hythe, Kent. Gaddafi is reported to have been unable to adjust to the Country’s culture. He would assert his Arab identity while in London by walking around Piccadilly wearing traditional Libyan robes. However, he returned home more confident and proud of British values, ideals and social character. Gaddafi would later turn one of the world’s worst dictators, culminating in his shameful killing in 2001.

Back in 1935, Kenya’s founding president; Jomo Kenyatta studied social anthropology at the London School of Economics. He was an active member of the International African Service Bureau, a pan-Africanist, anti-colonial organization. He returned home to lead Maumau uprising against the British colonial government and was detained for seven years. The old and frail Kenyatta left prison to become an autocratic president whose death was even treasonable to imagine. His son, Uhuru Kenyatta, the current Kenyan president, has been accused of an avalanche of his father’s sins including massive land-grabbing and brazen looting of public wealth.

President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, believed to be the last dictator in Africa holds a ‘festoon’ of Western degrees: Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Laws, Master of Science, and Master of Laws, all from the University of London External Programme. The two Law degrees were earned while he was in prison, the Master of Science degree was earned during his premiership of Zimbabwe in 1980. Mugabe is the fiercest critic of the West as he leads the inflation-hit country. The 89-year-old octogenerian is still expecting to win Zimbabwe’s July 31st general election.

Thabo Mbeki the second president of independent South Africa spent the early years of his exile in the United Kingdom. In 1962, aged 19, he arrived at the brand-new University of Sussex, earning first a BA degree in economics, and then remaining to complete a Master’s degree in African studies. Abuse of office charges hounded him out of office towards the end of his term.

Many African countries are still filled with socio-economic and political challenges. Failed leaderships span from the old to the young presidents. Valentine Esegragbo Strasser of Sierra Leone was the youngest person in the world to become president at only 25 years-old. The young military officer staged a coup against President Joseph Momoh in 1992. But his leadership was shambolic, and four years later he got handcuffed at gunpoint by his own military bodyguards and was immediately flown into exile to Conakry, Guinea. Strasser later came to the United Kingdom where he studied law at Warwick University.

However, the performance demonstrated by the African Western-educated leaders in Africa has a long way to go until it’s satisfactory. The essence of education is to equip one with relevant knowledge and skills to tackle situations in one’s surrounding. Failure to accomplish that points fingers at both the training and the individual. It takes great amount of resources to educate someone, especially to the highest levels of academic ladder, and the result of that ought to be seen in practice.

With the huge number of students from Africa and other third world countries still trooping to the West in quest for university education, the concern should be about the relevance and quality of the courses taught to students from particular backgrounds. Concerned parties should encourage the debates on the issue of whether international students should have their curriculum tailored according to their backgrounds.

dagran2002@yahoo.com

WHY NAIROBI WILL MISS MIGUNA MIGUNA AS GOVERNOR

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 By Maddo Ochieng’

 The city of Nairobi—now county—has become Kenya’s monument of shame. In his novel, No Strings Attached, Dr Yusuf Dawood describes the state of Nairobi in the 60s and 70s through his character, who to his amazement, has just arrived at a beautiful, tranquil, efficient and rapidly growing but organised green African city he had never thought existed. Many Kenyans reminisce nostalgically at this beautiful city that is no more

 So many people decry the deplorable state of the city today. When I first came to live in Nairobi in the 90s, the first question I asked myself was: Does President Moi live here? To date I still ask: Do President Uhuru Kenyatta and DP William Ruto live in Nairobi?

Nairobi is Kenya’s capital and East and Central Africa’s economic hub. It is the epicentre of political and economic stability in the region. It also epitomises a modern, techno-savvy African city. But to many city dwellers, life in the city is a nightmare.

 In 1999, former President Moi’s motorcade was blocked near NSSF building en route to State House, by virulent surface run-off after a heavy downpour. He castigated the city’s road engineers for mediocre drainage work on the roads. That was a pointer at the sad state of affairs in our capital. Public transport is run and controlled by organised cartels. Noise pollution emanates from public transport vehicles, street comedians and preachers who stage their antics in every limited space (un)available. Broken sewage run though the estates like tributaries of a young river. Illegal shanties and skyscrapers have sprouted on grabbed lands. Demolition of buildings and structures is a daily preoccupation.

 Garbage collection is in the hands of unscrupulous cartels. Pipe water flows intermittently and occasionally gets mixed with raw sewage. Children’s play grounds ceased to exist in many estates. The council has lost a huge chunk of its land, houses and other properties. In fact, even the official boundaries in the city cannot be retraced. Roads by-pass disappeared. City roads are in deplorable conditions. Fire and ambulance services are laughable. The County’s budget is still strained by ghost employees on its payroll. Wanton corruption became a lifestyle in the defunct council. Access routes to slum areas are blocked and hence those areas have become safe havens for criminals and the terrorists detonating grenades on residents undeterred.

Such kind of mismanagement also crippled government ministries and state corporations since independence. But Nairobi is not yet too deformed to be reformed. With the new constitutional order and the creation of new administrative and management structures, there must be a paradigm shift in leadership and management. Nairobi is no exception. The city is in dire need of pragmatic, robust, indefatigable, incorruptible and sensible leadership. It craves an impartial governor who will not have conflict of interest in policies. Nairobi’s governor must be conscious of the needs and interests of all classes of its people. The governor must be be dedicated to formulation and implementation of ruthless but legal policies that will turn around the city.

Three months in office, Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero, has not demonstrated satisfactory mettle in tackling the county’s plethora problems. Why is Kidero slow at implementing his much publicised vision for the county? There are some programmes—such as transport system, street hawking, street preaching, sanitation and garbage collection—which merely need directives from his office. But Kidero’s hands are tied. Even though he was independently elected by the people, he was fronted by political or/and financial bigwigs with vested interests. My only prayer is that Kidero’s regime does not get entangled in the very underground deals of the former City Hall.

I believe if Miguna Miguna had realised his dream to become Nairobi governor, things would be different today. Throughout his life and career, he has demonstrated total commitment to the rule of law. He aspires for progress and loathes mediocrity. He never worked for the corrupt and inept City Council. He has been a victim of poor leadership, dictatorship, bureaucracy, mismanagement, corruption and contempt on basic and fundamental human rights. These qualities are best captured in his book, Peeling Back the Mask: A Quest for Justice in Kenya. I am neither aware of any book nor articles written by his competitors for the post. By writing the book, he has demonstrated the ability and willingness to expose the ills obstructing the course of social justice and development.

Miguna’s global exposure was a boost to his quest because he would strive to make Nairobi match the standards of Canada’s Ottawa or Toronto. In his book he laid bare his ideology, aspirations, beliefs, education, family and wealth (including how he acquired that wealth). Those are admirable credentials of a good leader. He has proven his honesty and openness—the attributes lacking in most of our leaders today. No one has so far challenged the authenticity of his claims about himself. It is only with such leadership that Nairobi would regain its lost glory.

My Fond Memories of Musa Juma in Dandora

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Musa Juma

By Maddo Ochieng’

For the two years I lived in Dandora estate with my alcohol loyalist friend, Vitalis Oracha—who would later graduate to become my brother-in-law—nobody made my life happy like the late Musa Juma of Limpopo International band. He was the man who enabled me to discover my hidden dance talent and the sweetness of benga music. Before, I was a Reggae fanatic who believed in Jah Rastafari and King Haile Slasie even without knowing their origin.

We kept migrating from house to house in Dandora because Vitalis simply couldn’t pay rent. It was from him that I mastered the skills of rent evasion, and alcohol addiction. And from me he learnt the best formulae for approaching a beautiful woman. Fortunately the house where we stayed longest—two months—was within the precincts of the famous Awendo Pub, where Benga maestros from all corners of the country performed every weekend. At times it also hosted Congo artistes who wore baggy trousers tightened with wide belts around their chests. They mentioned a lot of ‘bolingo’ word as we drunk beer until I assumed it was their Congolese word for alcohol. Vitalis and I never missed Awendo Pub on weekends. There was a Kamba barmaid there called Mwende, who topped the list of Vitalis’ priorities, while I secretly swallowed saliva for Vitalis’ sister, Sabina, who was staying with us.

When I got my first paycheck from a plastic manufacturing company in Babadogo where we worked with Vitalis as casuals, Vitalis travelled upcountry to greet his family. I remained at the helm of the house management. Stumping my authority, I took Sabina out in town and generously treated her to chips and soda at Luthuli Avenue. We took photos at KICC while holding each other tightly and grinning from ear to ear. Then we proceeded to lye on grass at Uhuru Park, chatting, giggling and chewing ballgum.

In the evening we conglomerated at Awendo Pub where Musa Juma was performing. We were smuggled in through the kitchen backdoor by one rotund Maina who asked for small corruption of only fifty bob for both of us. By midnight, dance was at its zenith. Musa Juma’s melodious voice nicely weaved into the blend of instruments tunes and beats in the song ‘Marcelina’. Sabina at first gave me a lot of trouble when she could not move with the rhythm. She danced as if it was some ecumenical church crusade which requires speed, exuberance and clapping.

Sabina, go slow,” I told her, “why don’t you try to match my pace?”

It is your fault, I told you I did not know how to dance benga!” She thundered. She kept bumping on me and stepping on my feet. I had to miss some steps to protect my toes. I shook my bottle in the process and my beer foamed and welled up in the bottle. But before it could spill over, I tactfully swallowed the foam as soon as it approached the bottle neck. At times Sabina clapped unnecessarily and attracted attention.

When the music climaxed, she removed her sweater and tied it around her waist. Fearing that she could remove her red slippers and clap them together, I held her hands and directed her movements to go with mine. But she wanted me to let go of her hands claiming: “I hate the smell of beer in your mouth.”

The message in the song was full of wisdom, especially to the love birds like us. It advised that marriage should be based purely on love, not on material wealth, that love based on money is devilish. Inspired by the message, I cleared my voice, inhaled a lungful of air and said, “Sabina my love, will you marry me despite my poverty as Musa Juma is singing?” She stopped dancing, lowered her head, twisted her neck sideways and said in a small voice, “Yes.”

dagran2002@yahoo.com

HOW FATE AND CIRCUMSTANCES TURNED AMBITIOUS GIRL FROM KENYA INTO ASYLUM SEEKER IN THE UK.

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By Maddo Ochieng’

Shortly after finishing her secondary education in 2005, Tina (name changed) joined Tiwi Beach Hotel, at the sprawling scenic beaches of Kenya’s coastal strip, to train as an animator. Soon, she met and fell in love with a middle-aged Briton who was a regular guest at the hotel.

Tina was only 22 years old when the man proposed to marry her and take her with him to the United Kingdom. The UK Home Office issued her with a tentative spouse visa for two years. This would be renewed at intervals as the marriage progressed, until attaining citizenship after five years.

The happy couple settled in the serene countryside of High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. The man promised to pay dowry as soon as they had settled in the UK, but he later reneged on the promise.

At first, life was good. Tina was happy to be in the first world country; something she viewed as a great achievement especially at her young age. Given the strength of the British pound against Kenya shilling, any little surplus would trickle back home and make a significant contribution in the peasant maternal family where she grew up after her parents had separated when she was still a kid. “I expected to go to school, and have a career afterwards.” Tina says.

But fate would change so fast. Tina’s life took a downward trajectory. She came face to face with domestic violence. “My ex-husband was sick, he experienced erectile dysfunction, which he claimed was due to stress at work, but he said it was only temporary…unknown to me, it got worse, which made him so violent and lose his temper all the time.” The tearful mother of one says.

The reality that she was in an abusive marriage, far away from home and in a place where she knew nobody else stuck her like thunderbolt. She panicked but still hoped that things would improve. However, after just a month, their tumultuous marriage came to a sudden halt, posing a potential threat to her legitimate stay in the UK. Tina sustained a knee injury while scampering to escape the flower vase that the man had aimed at her. She then had to abandon household chores to recuperate. But that only worsened things. “That’s when we had to go our separate ways, he was getting worse by the day, abusing, and hitting me, calling me names like black monkey…” She says.

After quitting the marriage, Tina became broke, homeless and desperate. She was still new in the country and lacked skills for survival. She looked for better jobs but only landed at cleaning with retail shops. She later lost her first job, and frantically sought another until she got hired as cleaner in a branch of Asda stores in London. There, she again fell in love with the store’s manager. His managerial position convinced Tina of his maturity hence genuineness.

However, luck was not on her side again. Despite the man having indicated that he was comfortable with Tina getting pregnant any time, he abandoned her after making her pregnant. He denied responsibility and hung up Tina’s phone calls. When a solicitor intervened, the man threatened to sue Tina for harassment. Tina had to survive on support and accommodation from friends until she delivered her bouncing baby girl.

Ten months ago, she sought asylum with National Asylum Support (NAS) in Leicester, but the UK Home office rejected her citizenship application. She appealed and is still waiting for feedback. Meanwhile, she shares a room with a Zimbabwean mother of a two year-old boy. “The room has a very dirty carpet. I can’t even put the baby down… I can feel the springs on my mattress. I believe it’s a breach of human rights to put me in such a dirty room.” She says, and adds that the waiting is equally traumatising because she hasn’t received any updates on her asylum application.

What if the Home Office decides to repatriate her? Tina stares into the space and says: “I don’t have a dad, I don’t know where my mum is; they split when we were kids but I know she is somewhere alive.” In the meantime, it is the radiant smile on her eleven months-old daughter’s face that inspires hope in her wrecked life as time ticks away, drawing close her day of reckon.

 

The Hard Eucharisteo

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By Kate Finman,

BA in Religious Studies and French
The day after Easter, I was devastated to learn that my younger sister had a brain tumor. In an instant, I was no longer just an almost graduated college senior. My thesis didn’t matter, my symposium didn’t matter. My friends, my work, my classes – none of it had any significance. I immediately packed a backpack and drove 3 1/2 hours to spend the next week in a hospital, feeding a recovering girl ice chips, massaging sore muscles, and helping her go to bathroom in the middle of the night. It was the hardest thing I had ever done.

I returned to school that Saturday at my parents’ urging.

Sunday was the most meaningful communion of my life.

Earlier this year, when I read One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp, I knew that it was going to be the most life-changing, non-Bible book I’ve ever read. And over the last months, it’s continued to echo reminders of grace in my life.

Eucharisteo

Greek for “to give thanks”, its root word, chara, means “joy”. In giving thanks for all things, we find that the joy of the Lord really is our strength.

I had the kind of week no one can prepare you for and no one ever wants to have. It started with the kind of phone call no one wants to get and sent me to places no one wants to be in.

In the early morning, as I sat in the critical care unit, I read:

Lean into the ugly

Whisper thanks

Give thanks for all things

At all times

Because He is all good.

Finding ways to give thanks in the darkness didn’t mean it wasn’t the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It meant I was receiving the grace to do it for another minute, hour, day.

And the grace strung those days together, turning fear into gratitude and desperation into hope.

Until, it was time to face the Eucharist on Sunday morning.

The ultimate giving of thanks.

I walked into church and I saw those communion plates shining gold right up in front and my heart went to my stomach. Tears flowed freely and my neighbor wordlessly acquired a box of tissues. I sat in the church at the cross and let the lament happen. Everything I didn’t let myself feel all week poured itself right out of my heart. And then I took that bread – the Word of God – on which I survive, the Body of Christ broken for me, and looked around at my family, my church family, doing this together. We took the cup – the Blood of Jesus – poured out for our salvation, our life, and how do you not rejoice?

And that’s when I felt it the realest I ever have: eucharisteo joy is not just about giving thanks when things are common or good or great, it’s about giving thanks when it’s as dark as it can possibly be and we’re just hoping for one candle to be lit. It’s about believing in a light that will shine in the darkness and not be overcome.

I’ve found myself wishing I had three hands because then I could play guitar and raise one hand up in lamenting worship and express my honesty and eucharisteo physically as well as with my heart.

I read Hosea this week and it solidified its place as my favorite book. I read it and I see who I am and who I’m not and it stills me.

Therefore, behold, I will allure her and bring her into the wilderness, and I will speak tenderly and to her heart. There I will give her vineyards and make the valley of Achor [troubling] to be for her a door of hope and expectation. And she shall sing there and respond as in the days of her youth and as the time when she came up out of the land of Egypt. Hosea 2:14-15

That just makes me fall deeper in a sea of love. The valley of troubling becomes a door of hope. She will sing.

I drew them with cords of kindness, with bands of love, and I was to them as one who lifts up and eases the yoke over their cheeks, and I bent down to them and gently laid food before them. Hosea 11:4

I knew (recognized, understood, and had regard for) you in the wilderness, in the land of great drought. Hosea 13:5

To be understood when you are confused, to be found when you are lost, to be known when you feel so very small, this is the river of eucharisteo satisfying the aching dryness of a weary soul.

But I think the hardest part of the hard eucharisteo is coming to terms with how selfish I am and how little I think of other people, and then when I do, how hard and foreign it is to put myself last over and over again. I don’t know how to do that, and I don’t like how it feels and I don’t like that I don’t like it. I am selfish and foolish and I only want the good and I can’t see that God is good at all times.

And so I sit with the body and the Body and the Blood and I weep and I give repent and I give thanks and I lament.

Eucharisteo

Return to your rest, o my soul
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you.
Psalm 116:7