I was in the UK when news of the Westgate attack started to break in Nairobi. My family and friends couldn't disguise the fact that they were pleased I was there and, by implication, not at the mall. I quickly made contact with my colleagues in Nairobi to see what on Earth was going on. The flight back the next day, during which time the attack was continuing, seemed an agonising parallel universe where the only news screened was a report prepared before I'd left. I didn't know what I would get off the plane to and worried for my colleagues and friends in Nairobi.
Now, a week or so later those details are well known. They've been screened on TV and described on Twitter many, times over, and, like many others, I have been glued to those images, searching to understand and look for answers. In Nairobi, everyone knows someone....or knows someone who knows someone....who was affected. Just senseless and horrific.
Amongst other things, I was in the UK to discuss the kind of organisation we wanted DFID to be in 2020. After the discussion I was pulled into a makeshift TV studio to give my views on what I thought would be important for the organisation in the future. When I'd got over my inability to string more than 2 words together sensibly, my basic message was that it's individuals that turn good organisations into great ones. Everyone has to get stuck in for change to happen. You can't watch from the sidelines. It's the sum of those parts (however small) that make an organisation better. Reflecting now, I see the same can be said for many situations, including here in Kenya.
There has been amazing signs of unity in Kenya over the last week or so. The 'WeAreOne' Twitter hashtag on has gone global; thousands of people queued in hot weather to donate thousands of units of blood in just a few days across the country. There have been numerous heroes, not least the Kenyan Red Cross. And the UK has provided help to the authorities including assistance from the Met Police, supplies, equipment and is already funding the Kenyan Red Cross in its crucial work.
For myself, I've unglued myself from the news, though not from my Twitter feed. On Sunday morning, when across Kenya, church services were remembering those affected, I read 3 tweets that personally resonated with me. The first was from Sunny Bindra, writing in the Sunday Nation. The message I took was that individuals can rebuild and change Kenya after the events of this week. The second told me that Kenyans had filled the first 5 places in the Berlin Marathon, giving the nation such a lift. And the final tweet said that in the last year, globally, the UK’s investment in development had enabled 30 million people to work their way out of poverty by providing access to financial services; prevented 13 million children and pregnant women from going hungry; reached 8.7 million people with emergency food assistance; and supported 6 million children – half of them girls – to go to primary school. For the individuals behind these numbers, this help is life changing. And another set of individuals have enabled that to help to happen. In the case of Kenya, British aid is just 1 small contribution from UK taxpayers that is helping ordinary Kenyans to change their lives for the better and help this beautiful country to repair and prosper. On an individual and organisational level, I'm proud to play my part.