Lessons in song

We went to a Ball on Friday, a fund raiser, and listening to my friend Scholastica speak, I was reminded of my trips to Kenya and the people I met. The charity was New Ways and the ball was packed with familiar faces, regular supporters who run, bike, climb, and do many other things to help the people of Turkana gain access to clean water, better nutrition and education for their children. Children who have proper nutrition when young grow up healthy – with better brain and body function. Areas with a sustainable source of water are less prone to famine and disaster. We all do our bit to help, and it’s a joy to do so, especially when the opportunity arises to visit Turkana.

I’ve been twice, riding my bike round the Rift Valley and meeting the people in central Kenya before heading north to Lodwar and Nariokotome. The people are a delight. Friendly, interested, dignified and fun. Much of the teaching in schools is done by singing, and the children love to sing. The picture shows a group we encountered by chance at a lunch stop on our first bike ride. A group of children keen to sing for us and to laugh and shout. England and India were in the midst of a test series at the time and I doubt whether they’d seen much cricket but one of the guys on the ride had them enthusiastically chanting for India (he was rather outnumbered by English supporters the rest of the time). But the most poignant moment came when the girl in the picture sang her song. She sang beautifully but in Swahili and we asked for a translation. The teachers answer? ‘AIDS kills everyone. Rich or poor, old or young, AIDS kills everyone’. Another hard lesson for these youngsters and another dose of reality for the cyclists.

There’s another lesson in this for us too which is to take a leaf out the Kenyan book and enjoy ourselves in the midst of difficulty. In Turkana, where life is tough, the people sing and dance. So should we. So I’m looking forward to the next Ball – and to the fundraisers in 2012 which will include performances of my play ‘Visiting Time’ which explores the issues around Aid and AIDS among other things.

Those interested can learn more about New Ways on www.newways.org.uk

Tony Earnshaw

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