#FromTheField: in Kenya with Gabriella, a dream coming true between “ben d’Africa” and Masaai
We are always happy to share some of our alumni’s experiences on the field. This time we read the story of Gabriella Esposito, an alumna of our Master in Fundraising Management, graduated in 2018. Gabriella left on the 24th of December 2018 to work for a project with La Nostra Africa Onlus, an association that has been operating in the Kajado district of Kenya for ten years.
“I sip my Chai, close my eyes and see a starry sky, a carpet of stars. The most beautiful sky I have ever seen in 30 years: the sky of Kenya.
This Christmas I gave myself a gift and went back to Africa: the land where everything started.
The first time I have been to Africa, in 2016, I was greeted by the Memfe community, in Ghana. The first time I have experienced Africa, I did it with the support of an international volunteer organization: there were volunteers coming from all over the world. Each of us was there to take part to a different project: children education, orphanages’ support, healthcare, empowerment and local development. I was part of the micro-credit team and my days were spent visiting different villages in the Akuapem Hills. We would meet groups of Ghanaian women and give them awareness trainings about economy, marketing, packaging, technical conservation methods. Ghanaian women were the beneficiaries of the project and the centerpiece of the local economy.
Curiosity, sharing and the willingness to be engulfed in the African culture made my experience with one of friendliest peoples of Africa truly unique.
Everything had a different light: colours, flavours, scents, sounds, smiles, food, dances, life. A fuse was lit.
Once I left the country and came back to Italy, I started feeling the so-called “mal d’Africa” (a sensation of longing for the African countries). It’s a literary concept, one that many scholars consider a sickness of the soul, like a punch in the stomach, like wonder and discovery of life. Mal d’Africa manifests itself as a profound attraction to a place we feel like we belong to. Among the theories that have tried relating it to a scientific origin, there are two that underline a quite common aspect: when we set foot on African soil, we inexplicably feel at home. We feel like Africa has always been a part of ourselves. A feeling, an instinct, a vision.
To the negative connotation of the concept (the word “mal” implies something bad, a sickness), I have found a positive side. I have turned this “mal” into a “ben” (meaning something good, a wellness).
I started looking for a way to make it good and to make this experience more than just a parenthesis in my life.
In January 2018 I started a specialization path with Social Change School to work in the social sector. I attended the Master in Fundraising Management for International Cooperation and I had the opportunity to get in contact with professionals of the sector who gave me the right perspective to follow my professional and personal dream.
Life is made up of choices, and our choices make us who we are or who we want to become.
This year, the year I turned 30, was an intense and challenging one. Rich in satisfactions and confirmations about the choice I made.
By the end of this path, I decided it was time to go back to Africa, to go back to where it all started. I came back to the origins with different awareness and effort. I went to Kenya to promote a rural development project in one of the most ancient cultures surviving in Africa: the Maasai community.
No matter how fast and quick globalisation is, they are there and pole pole (which means “very slowly” in Maasai) pass on to the new generations the old uses and customs in consideration of a civilization that is aggressively advancing. The project’s beneficiaries are once again women. The objective is to offer them an entrepreneurial idea that will help them ensure their economic independence. My two friends (who came with me) and I, together with Paul, the local contact person, built a henhouse in 3 days and for the rest of the stay we focused on promoting the project to the various communities in the district of Kajado: Olpirikata, Karero, Eloilupa. We were able to build the first henhouse thanks to the support of families and friends. Inside the Maasai culture there’s a strong sense of community and sharing, therefore the project was very well-received. The henhouse will be managed by three community responsibles: Elizabeth, Lea e Patriciae. They will be my eyes and ears on the field once I am back to Italy.
Once again, I can say without doubt that I have received more than what I have donated, I have absorbed much more than what I have tried to convey. I am honoured to have crossed the threshold of a boma, the Masai house made of mud, manure and twigs. I am satiated of the dishes of chapati rice and sukumawiki they have cooked for me, food nourished with pure spirit of sharing.
I came back richer, rich of life, once again. I am happy about the choice I made today, and two years ago. They taught me that every Maasai has a name based on the spirit that hover around their soul.
Lea chose for me the name Nadupa, “the strong lady who will help”.
I will see you again.
Gabriella’s blog: https://sharpiness.com