Life in the Diaspora: Bitter, Sweet, and Sometimes Overwhelming.


Sometimes when life comes crushing us down, we have to put out the fires in our lives before we can rise up, wipe off the dust and continue the journey of life. I heard someone say recently that the journey of life is always under construction; it is never straight, and you never know where or when you’ll find a bump, pothole or a stop sign. I had a terrible fire to put out those past few weeks. A life fire, burns, shakes, sobers and tries us out; more so if the fire you are trying to put out is in the homeland – but as I always say, our path is already charted, and all we can do is do our best and leave the rest to God. I have always wondered at that Kikuyu proverb that says something to this effect: “When a house burns down, even the owner gets warmed up by the flames” – sometimes there is no way to translate directly from vernacular, but I understand the saying to mean that, even when things go wrong, there is always a positive take-away from any situation – more like a silver lining in any cloud. But sometimes instead of getting warmed up by the flames as the house burns down, those flames actually burn the owner, resulting in double tragedy. My point: sometimes when we are struggling with issues, others can only watch from afar and sympathize, perhaps even help us put out the fires, but the full effect of the loss is borne by the victim.

The struggle for life is an interesting thing. When we left our motherland for ‘greener pastures’ abroad, we all came with, for the most part, the single expectation that all would be good, prosperous and happy. It marked, for most of us, the end of the long struggle of working extremely hard without making ends meet, ever. Most of us can identify with the cycle that was: Salary payment at end month, settling (some) bills, taking cash advance on 15th to bid you to end month, where the cycle repeated itself. So, when an opportunity opened up for a better life, most of us embraced it with wide open arms. It was a sweet feeling.

We had dreams of better days ahead, dreams of perhaps someday owning a home, where we could retire peacefully and comfortably, with our loved ones. But, life has a way of handing us an uneven deck of cards, sometimes. Most of us never came abroad expecting to meet our end of life here. We sometimes talk about it casually, but when death takes those close to us, it is extremely hard.

 Death in the Diaspora has unusual challenges because there are difficult decisions to be made regarding the final resting place of the deceased, how relatives back home will grieve or handle the situation, finances involved, and the many other unspoken factors. Some of these things are firsts for us immigrants, and the challenge can be daunting. Dreams get shattered, and lives get broken. However, we have the consolation that God makes no mistakes, and we are grateful that we were blessed to have had the opportunity to have tasted God’s goodness in letting us share our lives with His dear children that have departed. We remain strong and keep soldiering on.

At this time, we mourn with those among us who have been dealt the very hard and heavy hand of death. To the families of Mrs. Muchene, Ms. Nellie, and Mr. & Mrs.  Jeremy wa Damaris – and all those others that I personally do not know but are mourning at this time – please receive heartfelt condolences from the whole family of KPIUSA.  We may empathize, but we can never know the pain experienced by those grieving. May God ever comfort and shield you and your families.

I first saw Mrs. Muchene at a workshop about 3 years ago. She stood out as a strong Matriarch who really cared for her people. We have shared ideas on different forums, and she has been nothing but resourceful and very encouraging. We all know her as Madam President, for her relentless devotion to help her people both here in Diaspora as well as in Kenya. I believe she has been this successful and strong because she had a strong pillar supporting her, the jovial, kind and very peaceful Mr. Muchene. The loss of her life mate and dear husband is a great loss, not only to her and her family, but also to our community. Sometimes we don’t like talking about it, but death is hard. May Baba Chege rest in eternal peace.

I met Ms. Nellie during the ID & passport issuance event about a year ago. Her contagious smile would melt anyone’s heart, and she willingly notarized our documents. When I heard of her mom’s death in Sweden, it was such a shock. Some things are hard to imagine. May Mama Nellie rest in eternal peace.

I have also had the privilege of meeting the famous Jeremy wa Damaris, at a CD launch event in Marietta, sometime back. What a hero we have in this young man, what a blessing to the world! We empathize with the death of your loving Dad in law. May the good Lord be your family’s comfort, strength and source of peace, and may he rest in peace.

We shall continue to uphold these families in prayers for endurance and peace.

I began with the sad news first, but there is the good news about the lady, Ms. Veronica, for whom people tirelessly and very generously fundraised to help her get out of prison. She was finally released from prison, and it was such a beauty to watch a community coming together to take care of one of their own. What a beautiful and great spirit. We also pray that she recovers from the trauma of confinement, and that she stands again.

Talking of taking care of one another, brings me to the subject of supporting one another in times of need, financially. I must commend our community for their generosity and unfailing faithfulness when it comes to supporting one another in times of misfortune. In all the above cases, people contributed varying amounts of money, which is truly commendable. I think the spirit of giving is what upholds and keeps us together, no matter what differences may exist amongst us.

It is my sincere belief that this would be a good time for all of us in Diaspora to seriously consider coming together as one, to support one another when misfortunes come. No man is an island and Unity is Strength.  If my memory serves me right, most land buying companies in Kenya were initially formed by groups of otherwise poor men and women, who pooled their money and together bought large chunks of land, which changed their lives of poverty. In the village where I came from along the slopes of the Aberdares, there was a Farmers Cooperative Society that coordinated with the government for the farmers to get workshops on various farming methods, get subsidized farm necessities from Kenya Farmers Association (KFA), as well as sell their milk to then KCC.

During hard times, farmers borrowed money from the Society, and paid back after milk sales. Some of these farmers had the biggest and most beautiful houses with large acreage that I had ever seen. They could not have done it alone, but together, they formed a strong force that convinced KCC to send a truck to pick up milk from the Society, for delivery to their factory

If poor farmers saw the necessity and understood the importance of cohesion as a group, I believe we in diaspora, are in a far better position to see that together we can achieve so much. If only we can put aside our differences, we can go very far. Misfortunes and tragedies are a part of the journey of life, and soon, we will be called upon to contribute again.

I am not a mathematician, but simple maths: If only 1000 out of the possibly 100,000 (or so) Kenyans living in the USA came together and agreed to give only $10 every month towards community contingencies, that would be $10,000 every month. Give it the cumulative effect, and that would completely end the need to keep asking for donations each time an emergency arose.

We have so many different groups in Diaspora. What a great thing it would be, if only the leaders of these groups could agree to come together and discuss how they could bring their members under one umbrella, for the sake of standing with and helping one another in times of need, apart from standing together as one, in a foreign country. The mark of true leadership is when we purpose to let those we lead, benefit from the gift and honor we have of leading them.

Finally, let us take care of one another as we continue taking care of the Universe, because we are all one.

Strive to be happy, it is still a beautiful world.






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