Earlier this year, three Oxfam supporters travelled to Kenya to see for themselves whether supporting Oxfam really makes a difference. We asked them why they wanted to go, how the experience affected them, and how they feel now about their part in the Oxfam family.
As Liz, Joss and Andy prepared to travel to Kenya, they described very similar emotions – nervousness, excitement and a sense of responsibility. “I hope I will find it inspiring, though I know it will be upsetting at times,” Liz said.
After a busy five days visiting a wide range of Oxfam projects, any nervousness was long gone, replaced with a shared sense of having seen real change in Kenyan schools and communities. Liz described meeting “amazing people who are helping themselves and others with Oxfam’s help”. Andy said he felt part of “a movement for positive change”. And what Joss saw made her reflect on her place in that movement: “We saw so many signs of progress and impact,” she said. “Women coming together to make a better living for their families. More children being able to go to school because they didn’t have to walk miles for water. People’s lives being transformed because they had training to know their rights. “You set up your direct debit and you don’t really think about it. But to come and see the enormous impact it has on people’s lives is really quite moving. It’s incredible. I’m blown away by it.”
“I want to experience lots of different aspects of Kenyan life. What is school like?”
Joss McAuley, a Children’s Centre teacher, is married with two sons, and gives a regular donation to Oxfam. She loves nature and watching live music and theatre.
They visited Oxfam projects in Kenya that:
* Help people grow small businesses
* Build clean toilets in schools
* Support women to earn a better income
* Help people push for fairness and equality.
“I am keen to learn more about the practical help that Oxfam is giving to communities.”
Liz Budd (right) volunteers in her local Oxfam shop, and gives a monthly donation to Oxfam. She’s a retired primary school teacher and enjoys swimming outdoors.
Andy O’Loughlin explains how seeing lives changing deepened his connection to Oxfam.
Before I went, I was a loyal Oxfam supporter. When I came back I was still a loyal Oxfam supporter, with a lot more affection and admiration for Oxfam and a desire to pass that on. For me, the key was the before and after stories. I made a point of asking everyone we met what things were like before Oxfam’s projects began, so I could see for myself if these were worthwhile things to do. Without fail, they definitely were. The ‘before stories’ were a school where the toilet was a pit behind a wall, with no privacy. Or women having to walk 15 kilometres each way to collect water.
The ‘after stories’ were more children coming to school because Oxfam had provided hygienic toilets with doors on for privacy. They were Oxfam consulting communities about where they needed water, then digging boreholes, building pumps and training people to maintain them. We’d heard about so many domestic workers being badly treated, and there was a tearful moment when one domestic worker, Veronica, told us she had a good life and was paid well because she knew and had stood up for her rights. She said that it was all down to one Oxfam member of staff. We met a group who had been trained by Oxfam then successfully pushed for roads and a hospital to be built too. That’s what empowerment means. I spoke to a whole range of Oxfam people, from the engineer who trains people to maintain pumps to the person who manages Oxfam’s work in Kenya, and they all just came over as kind, caring people. I felt that I was amongst good people, and I do now feel a deeper connection with Oxfam myself.
“I want to see and feel hope. I want to see that Oxfam is making a difference.”
Andy O’Loughlin spends every Saturday morning running 5km at his local Parkrun event. He loves cooking and the countryside, and has been married for 33 years. He gives a monthly gift to Oxfam.