CFI Kenya: Altruism Even at a Time of Economic Hardship during COVID-19

July 2, 2020

COVID-19 has changed the world completely. When China reported the first cases of the disease in the Wuhan province in early December 2019, many people did not know the virus would become a global pandemic and change the world entirely. With many people infected, a significant number of people dead, and new infections emerging daily, the future has remained unpredictable because the challenges cannot be foreseen. As the disease continued to spread, many countries took great measures, such as instituting lockdowns, nighttime curfews, social distancing, and stay-at-home policies. Within a short period, life changed drastically. A great number of people who had until then good employment lost their jobs, while those who had good businesses, and had been hoping for a great future, lost income and closed their businesses. These are the times when anxiety and stress is at a maximum.

In Kenya, the first case of COVID-19 was registered on March 12, 2020, and it caused panic in the government because the healthcare system in Kenya is poor and cannot even deal with the sick people suffering from other ailments, let alone coronavirus infections. There are few ventilators even in well-established hospitals in the country. Handling large numbers of people, as seen all over developed nations with the disease, caused the panic. As such, the government took immediate measures and instituted a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m., which was followed by restrictions entering major cities such as Nairobi and Mombasa, where many new cases were emerging. The virus caught many people unaware and unprepared. Several individuals who had just gone for small tour visits outside Nairobi and Mombasa found themselves locked out from their families in fear they would get or transmit the disease. They had to find ways to survive away from their families. The measures enacted by the government also led to many workplace shut downs, and the fear of the spread of the virus caused many organizations and companies to close. Even some of the established institutions could not manage to pay their workers, and many were laid off. At this time, many Kenyans started to panic about how they would pay their rent, as they watched on television people who could not pay their rent being thrown out of their houses and sleeping in the cold with their children. Even some of the most dignified organizations had to lay off workers. It is a time of crisis!

Whereas in developed nations such as the United States the government made efforts to give each affected individual a paycheck to at least maintain their lifestyle during the crisis, a developing nation such as Kenya cannot afford to give people sustainable income. People stayed at home without any promise of sustainability from the government. Big companies as well as small ones closed to avoid infections. Within a few days, people started to feel the effects of the disease. With no income, many people could not afford to pay rent or buy food to take care of their children. The landlords were on people’s backs, and their hungry children were crying hopelessly in hunger. Thus, many Kenyans started to believe that instead of dying from hunger and starvation, they should be let free and just die of the coronavirus so that their children could eat and they could pay rent until their death from the disease. It makes you realize how unreason is also spread by desperation in Africa. Many people in Kenya believe that the coronavirus demonstrates the end times as predicted in the Bible. They have seen the locusts swarm their farms, and now a disease has shut down the world and their churches have closed. To them, it is the end of times.

While the uncertainty has been high ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, CFI International had a surprise for CFI Kenya during these hard economic times. First, with CFI headquarters and executive offices closed to avoid the spread of the disease, it is likely that fundraising is now a daunting task. A good percentage of CFI revenues come from donations. With the closure of CFI offices, we at CFI Kenya if there would be cuts in budgets across CFI programs and if our center would be on the chopping block. During such tough economic times, anything can happen.

However, despite the difficulties in fundraising in such hard times, CFI doubled its usual funding of CFI Kenya. It caught us by surprise; we expected a cut of funding across all programs. It demonstrated the commitment of CFI to ensuring that the orphans present at CFI Kenya continued getting essential materials to survive even during such tough times. This has proven that CFI places importance on the orphans project, protecting albino children in danger, and the other activities of CFI Kenya. CFI is doing its best to ensure CFI Kenya survives the coronavirus pandemic and continues to prosper in the future. We have a plan where the orphans will get a regular supply of food, sanitary pads for the girls, soap and sanitizers, and masks. Joy, the albino child CFI Kenya rescued, will continue to get sunburn creams.

The orphans at CFI Kenya receiving food supplies.

Toward this, CFI CEO and President Robyn E. Blumner said, “It’s heartening that this year we could send additional support. It’s because Sherry Sheng, who is a board member of CFI, and Spike Wadsworth, her husband, directed extra support your way. With the coronavirus, it has been a very challenging year so far. So, I’m especially glad we were able to do something extra for you and CFI Kenya.”

Joy, her mother, and brother thanking CFI. CFI Kenya helped explain to Joy’s mother why she gives birth to albino children when neither she nor her husband are albinos. The couple reconciled after our explanation. Our work now is to protect Joy, because albinos are kidnapped and sold to witchdoctors. Thanks to CFI for ensuring we can protect Joy. Joy has a brother who looks like her. Her happiness has increased now that she is not alone.

CFI’s dedication to its foreign branch in Kenya is one of the factors that have led to CFI Kenya’s success. Ever since 2007, CFI has directed significant funds to ensure the center in Kenya is a successful organization. That is thirteen years of dedication to build its branch in Kenya. Even with the transition of leadership—starting from CFI founder Paul Kurtz, to Ron Lindsay, and currently to Robyn Blumner, CFI Kenya has received tremendous support. In addition, the current team that overseas CFI International activity has worked hard to ensure CFI Kenya thrives. With the coordination between Matt Cravatta (who is currently the international liaison), Pat Beauchamp, Barry Karr, Ron Lindsay, Paul Fidalgo, and Robyn Blumner, a lot has changed. They have put an effective communication criterion that makes everything work quickly. Whenever there is a need at CFI Kenya, this team ensures it is addressed. According to Matt Cravatta, seeing the orphans smile and Joy the albino child happy is what motivates him to ensure the center stays a success.

As such, even with the coronavirus and the uncertainty of fundraising in the future, CFI ensured the orphans at CFI Kenya continued to get fed, Joy the albino child got essential materials, and necessary fees were paid. Additionally, CFI ensured that even after the COVID-19 pandemic, CFI Kenya will continue with our activities at Maseno University and maintain our presence in Nairobi. It is this dedication and effort put forth by the CFI family that has made CFI Kenya prosper, and it is the reason the orphans took their time to say thank you for making sure they lead healthy lives and have an optimistic future. Together, we shall succeed!

George Ongere is the executive director CFI–Kenya. Our thanks to George for sending this report and for all his wonderful work.