Now, I know, “The Marketplace” doesn’t exactly sound exciting. However, I promise you, that this trip was anything but boring.
You see, this marketplace was not one for tourism, but rather one community members relied on to get their everyday supplies. Not wanting to unbalance the local economy, we did not buy things for ourselves but were rather broken into smaller groups and each given a different, realistic, scenario.
My group’s scenario was that we were a part of a family of seven, with four kids. The kids had come home with scabies in their hair and needed to have their heads shaved. The mother’s rope for carrying water was starting to fray, and it would be helpful if we could buy a new one. We also needed to buy enough food to last us for two weeks. We were given 500 Kenyan Shillings, the equivalent of about 5 USD, to do this.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to barter for a hypothetical haircut in a foreign language before, but let me tell you, it is not easy. As such, by the end of the day, we were feeling pretty proud that we’d procured all that we needed, and still had our hair intact.
However, when we returned to camp the facilitators asked everyone to prepare a meal plan for their family over the coming two weeks. As we divided up our food, we realized that our family would starve. The facilitators went around the groups and asked everyone how they’d faired, and agreed with our assessment when they reached our group.
Then, the facilitators asked how our family’s scenario would change if the children in the family went to one of We Charity’s school. I didn’t understand until they informed us that each child going to a We School received a free lunch each school day. This just scattered my brain! Not only did this mean that the children in my hypothetical family would be fed, it meant that we had 20 fewer meals to put on the table, enabling the rest of the family to survive, too.
My mind already reeling, I listened as the facilitators then asked how our scenario would change if the mother of our family was a part of We Charity’s opportunity program. I again did not fully understand, and one of the facilitators gave an example off the top of her head. She said that a mother could make perhaps an extra 750 shillings helping to make congas, traditional beaded, wooden batons. We Charity also provided other services such as financial literacy training. This just blew my mind! This meant that not only would my hypothetical family survive, but thrive.
This opportunity allowed me to almost live the impact We Charity is having in communities around the world, reminding me that even if you don’t see the impacts of a socially conscious purchase or donation, they are there.