Christmas: African Poverty
16 - Dec - 2016 19:54:46


                                                            And so this is Christmas

                                                            What have you done?

                                                            Another year over

                                                            And a new one just begun.

                                                                                                John Lennon



Most of my readers will have read or heard of Charles Dickens' tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his conversion over Christmas from terrible miser and generally horrible man to a philanthropist giver because of being scared by visitations from his late partner in the form of a ghost representing Christmas past, present and future.


What are your memories of Christmas past and your aspirations for those yet to come?

For me growing up in England it was always cold, with short days and long nights, open fires, strong smells of roasting turkey and potatoes, Christmas carols, giving and receiving gifts while over indulging on food and drink.Many will share similar memories but for the vast majority of the world this festive season is very  different indeed. Even in the UK the homeless gather under arches to receive warm soup and bread from charitable organisations. The welfare state is fantastic but there still remains a largely forgotten underclass.


                                                And so this is Christmas

                                                For weak and for strong

                                                For rich and for poor ones

                                                The world is so wrong



In Africa it is seldom cold at Christmas! I am currently in Kampala where the temperature hovers between 25 and 30 degrees centigrade. Hardly weather for open fires and mulled wine. I have just returned from my morning exercise observing children gathering together in huddles on the street for mutual company and protection. They represent the increasing numbers of homeless young in a cycle of poverty and hopelessness. Five thousand shillings to share brought whoops of joy.

Five years ago, instead of remaining with family in the UK for Christmas I travelled to Accra to join a charitable organisation intent on bringing joy to orphaned and homeless children. We set up in the Children's park. I appeared on a TV show to promote the event and we provided food, gifts, bouncy castle, live music and dancing to the underprivileged of that City. I ate very little, drank only water and retired to bed exhausted and alone but truly content that I had done my small bit to bring smiles where pain and sorrow are so commonplace. Possibly my best Christmas memory ever.

Every year the charity does something different. Last year I helped pack hampers of essential commodities for distribution to villages around Accra. Unfortunately I was not able to be part of the distribution team but I was told of the joy that our humble offerings brought.

                                                And so Happy Christmas

                                                For black and for white

                                                For yellow and red ones

                                                Let's stop all the fight.




I will now move on from memories and aspirations to reality. Poverty exists all around us throughout the world but never more pronounced than here in Africa in my experience. I walk cities and see it first hand, humbled because it makes me realise how lucky I am to be among the haves and not the have nots, saddened by the fact that my meagre contribution is but a drop in the vast ocean that surrounds us, overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task to rid the world of this blight.

Whatever one's beliefs about Christmas and its meaning it is normally a time for family and I come to you cap (Christmas, Africa, Poverty) in hand not to ask for donations but to join me in a wish that 2017 may bring some alleviation to the worldwide phenomenon of poverty. Is this possible or are we as a world too greedy to care? I truly hope not.

In the inimitable words of Martin Luther King Junior.

' Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness'

Let there be light not only at Christmas but let it shine on this great Continent throughout 2017 and beyond.





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Comment(s) Below

Michelle Mbeng

"overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task to rid the world of this blight." yet you're right, every little helps so... ☺ and to more creative altruism (a smile or kind word counts just as well)
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