Fund Raising Function in the Bush
The year was 1992, in Kenya. The Sotik centre of Baringo District had organized a Fund-raising Function (harambe) for the aid of the secondary school in the area. The majority of the residents were Kalenjins.
I was selected to be the Guest of Honour for the function. This would be the first time that a person of Asian origin was going to contribute and collect funds for the indigenous people of Sotik.
The function was supposed to start at 10 am on Sunday. Sotik was some 80 kilometres from my place. It was an hour’s journey if the roads were good, but we would have to wait and see. I was familiar as a fund-raiser in the district due to my good connections with the President of the day. It was not too difficult for me to raise the projected funds. I had my own way of doing it. Auctioning several common items to a high price was my speciality. I also carried out an auction on behalf of the President himself once a year.
People of the area gave the President a cow as a gift, which he then donated to the function to raise money for the schools. In most of the fund-raising functions there were more than 400 cattle which very easily fetched a lump sum of 5m or 6m Kenyan Shillings. This would be distributed among the various needy schools of the area.
I left home at about 8 am with my family. As with all such events, I used to take my wife, my son and my mother with me. I would then take them around the area before the function began. Unfortunately we ran into rain in the Sotik area. The road from the main road leading to the function area was too muddy to allow my vehicle to travel smoothly or safely. My experienced driver took us on a better route, but we were stuck before we reached the end. A message was sent to the centre and a four-wheel-drive vehicle was sent, along with a tractor, to help me out. It was tough going for the last five kilometres and we were forced to take the long way round which was better, but time consuming.
We reached our destination at about 11.30 am where thousands of people, young and old, men and women, had gathered to participate in the function. I was heartened to see such a huge crowd in the bush area, especially during the rains. However, the rain had stopped now and people were very eager to see a non-black “ MAHINDI” well-wisher conduct the function.
Hardly any people from the crowd, except guests, would be able to understand English. Half of the crowd would not even understand Kiswahili, the National language. I had never conducted any of such functions in Kalenjin, the native language of the area. I had some knowledge of spoken Kalenjin, but not to the extent of addressing a crowded function. Someone from the committee came forward and offered to translate my Kiswahili for the people.
However, I rose to the challenge and announced that I would conduct the proceedings in Kalenjin language. I did it, and with massive success. People were happy to contribute and money poured in freely. To see a non-African talking to them in their local language for the good of their own people was very convincing. Funds collected were much more than they had expected for the first function.
I asked the announcer to declare that anyone wishing to shake hands with the Chief Guest and his family should pay 20 shillings each, and people immediately lined up to do so. I collected 100,000 shillings from hand-shaking alone. That was well above the estimate. I was given several gifts of tribal dress, tribal weaponry, tribal vessels, and a number of goats, cows and chickens. I auctioned all of the items and collected another 100,000 shillings from that.
The committee and area MP were delighted. The crowd was overjoyed to hear that a total of one million shillings had been raised for their school.
This was a record. No one else had so far collected half a million in this fertile area. I was also very happy that I could raise that vast amount in an area unknown to me… the bush.