What they don't tell you when you begin volunteering, is that white folks have the letters 'ATM' tattoed on their forehead. While we love the work we are doing, it's difficult not to get a bit disenchanted when you're constantly being asked to buy things. For everybody.
I mean, I get it. I know it's not very often that an American couple with a small handful of bank accounts comes waltzing through their doors. In fact, we are the very first volunteers at the school this YEAR. They are truly in need of everything imaginable, and are only trying to seize each rare opportunity to get it.
It's still a bummer though when it begins to feel like they only see us for the cash in our pockets.
You want me to see your home town? That's great!! Oh, if I pay you to take me there.
You want my email address? Cool, let's keep in touch! Ah, you just want to send me some reasons why you need money.
The requests are starting to sound suspiciously like demands...
"We need sugar."
"You bring the kids biscuits on Sunday, they will be so happy!"
What just about put us over the edge was a 7am text from the Pastor alerting us that the landlord was demanding rent by the following day, please help them to pray, we are truly ambassadors for them and oh yeah and the amount is 14,000 shillings.
14,000 shillings is about $20. An amount we could surely afford for a good cause. On the other hand, we were beginning to feel dangerously close to being taken advantage of.
I am by no means saying that these people are swindlers, trying to take us for all we're worth to buy a new flatscreens for their houses. (We have seen the homes of the directors as well as some of the staff. And they are very, very modest.) I also hope to not discourage anybody who may wish to donate to the school. It is a fantastic cause and there is no doubt that these kids are in need. But if you do donate, don't be surprised (or offended) when the 'thank you' is overshadowed by a request for more.
I bet you are wondering if we paid their rent. The answer is, no. Instead, we bought 14,000 more shillings worth of rice, beans and ugali for the kids. I think we made the right choice.