Thursday, August 21, 2008

Message to the Miss Koch Assembly 2008

Message to the Miss Koch Assembly 2008

Otieno Wandei
Perth Western Australia
22 August 2008



Certainty of Purpose

Two events stand out today that embody the chosen theme. First is the Olympics’ being held in China, initially there was a lot of scepticism as to whether China could indeed pull it of - what with their human rights issues and a major outcry on pollution? But China has given the world the most memorable spectacle the world has ever seen so much so that Britain is now questioning itself whether the budget allocated for the Olympics is adequate. If that concern were to be unpackaged it means the Almighty Britain is questioning whether they can achieve what China has done or more so do even do it better! What the Chinese have proved to the entire world is that if people have certainity of purpose and then they will be un-stoppable. The fireworks at the opening ceremony perhaps signify how high China has pushed the Olympic legacy. Not so far from China though there are different kinds of fireworks as Russia pounds Georgia in what appears in my view to be a warped sense of purpose. The unfortunate occupation of Georgia is a pointer of lost purpose, lost cause.





These events might seem so far removed from the reality of life in Korogocho but I point them out as important and significant lessons of what can happen if we are to commit ourselves to our given objectives and aspirations. They also paint a context of the times we live in, times when it can be very difficult to define what we believe in, what we stand for and how we want to achieve our goals.

When Miss Koch emerged as an idea/concept it was viewed by some as un-achievable dream. We were saying that we the youth of Korogocho will take the centre stage in addressing our issues. This was at a time when the image of the youth of Korogocho was at rock bottom. It was during the era where the relationship between the youth and the community was characterized by suspicion this is aptly captured by the interaction between the police and the youth. The situation was so dire that every young young person was percieved giulty untill proven otherwise. But over the years I believe we have contributed in changing the image of the youth by addressing some of the fundametal assumptions that were held by the community and the young people. Miss Koch was also viewed as counter culture for we were reconstructing the notions of beauty and how young people relate to their identity. We were allowing the people of Korogocho to project what they held dear and once this was achieved we moved to embrace our beauty and used it as the basis to treat ourselves with respect and dignity and expected the same from the community. We realized that once we redfined who we were it would be possible to rally people to defend what we had defined as precious and worthy. Our work was also viewed as subversive as we were targeting the centre of political power, urguing for a paradigm shift. Asking difficult questions about governance and providing evidence of how things could be done differently to address the imbalance that had lead us to untold suffering and misery. We were presenting an alternative model of responding to issues like distribution of bursary, relating to people, communication e.t.c. We had numerous run ins with the powers that be, but I am reliably informed that the administration is now waking up to the reality and embracing some of the ideas we put forward.



With the benefit of hindsight it is possible to say that our analysis of the situation was correct and our response justified because over the past seven years we have continued to grow and make an impact at local, national and international level. I want to believe that we have achieved all that because we have certainty of purpose.

It would be misguided to assume that we have grown without pain, or that we have travelled without holding our breath or looking back and even at times despairing. The biggest challenge in my view has been internal harmonization and the recent loss of organization money. For me the priority of the organization must be to ensure that the membership is walking at the same speed and pace otherwise those who are running fast ahead will get tired of pulling the weight and in the process may be burnt out or worse bruise those who are moving slowly. The reverse is true that those who feel are following from behind also can be disillusioned and lose sight of the gaol, they could also be so heavy so as to drown those ahead. So as an organization we must periodically listen for feedback with sincere and earnest will to accommodate each other.


The reported loss of Miss Koch money again points to the fact that there could be a weakening of the trust we have bestowed on each other and a need for greater scrutiny of how we are conducting our financial affairs knowing that anyone who handles money is at great risk as there are so many forces at play to corrupt our souls. If one was to take a quick look at other agents of change in Korogocho one would be able to appreciate this fact. The St Johns Catholic Church for instance had its fair share of incidents at the beginning, so did the Tumaini Clinic (am not updated of recent events). That is not to say that it is excusable for anyone to work against the collective aspirations of the movement but I use these cases to illustrate that we are working in an environment that is quite unfavourable and any success we achieve we must guarded religiously.

It takes people of great courage and determination to achieve purposeful existence and I see all of us in Miss Koch born with that capacity. While there is need to acknowledge the people who sat around the table and brought into existence the organization, time has come now when we need an entirely new breed of leadership at the helm of Miss Koch. This leadership in my view should be individuals who joined the organization after inception and thus in theory have been mentored. Having new leadership is also strategic as it clearly shows that as an organization we have taken in the lessons we have learnt seriously-that given an opportunity and right structures we can all be leaders. I speak from a general point of view as I do not have the benefit of knowledge of day to day affairs of the organization....

Miss Koch continues to provide for me so much more than just a social gathering, it has provided for me over the last seven years with radical ideas, a place to sharpen my wits and I am better at what I do today because I am surrounded by people who we share a purpose.

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