#14 A Day With Safaricom

Today marked the launch of phase 3 of Safaricom Foundation’s (SCF) A World of Difference campaign.  Fr. Kiriti had received an invitation as a recipient of a grant—to fund the SFG solar/wind installation.  He had tossed the invitation, but when I learned of it I asked to go in his place.  The reason I wanted to go is because they had agreed to the funding, but the money never arrived.  I was unwilling to let it go b/c KH had eventually funded the whole thing.  SFC’s part was about $25,000, and I want KH to be repaid.  So, I invited Peter Muigi, SFG deputy to accompany me and off we went this morning at 7:30—much too early for me.  The meeting was scheduled for 9, so we felt very comfortable having 1½ hours for a 1-hour drive.  The SCF offices are on the near side of Nairobi so we even felt comfortable stopping for a petrol fill-up.  We arrived at the gate 10 minutes before 9, parked the car and headed in, only to be told, no the SCF parking was 2 gates down.  OK, back in the car, drive down 2 gates—but no, the meeting wasn’t at the SCF building but in the very prestigious Kenya Civic Center—right in the center of town and a number of traffic jams away.  Now I was even more grateful that Peter came along, as he is an excellent driver as well as a fun and interesting person.

The streets were all going the wrong direction, we had to drive to a big roundabout, then through other busy streets—we were getting nervous.  Finally we were on the right block, but still misunderstood where to park.  When we got to the correct place, we showed our invitation and were ushered into an almost empty parking lot.  We rushed up the steps of this very imposing building picked, our registration materials and discovered that 9-10 was scheduled for arrival, with actual meeting to begin at 10.  Not only were we not late, we even had time for tea!

I like to sit near the front so I can see the mouths of the speakers.  It helps with understanding the accents.  So we found seats in row 2.  A lady sitting next to Peter introduced herself as one of the trustees of SCF and I had to wonder again how these miracles happen.  I quickly explained our never having received the payment.  She used her phone to photograph our notification letter and promised to trace it back.  I will send her copies of the relevant correspondence and I think maybe we will get our money.

As I said, my motivation for attending was to try to get our money, but WOW!!! It was a great forum.  Safaricom is the largest phone company in Kenya, having received many, many shillings from me for my phone and my modem.  The foundation donors are employees—it has 3000.  They have funded 100’s of projects in all areas—education, health, child care, ending poverty, sanitation, water gender equaity—essentially the UN Millennium goals.  The whole day was impressive, great speakers, glitzy hi-tech presentations, great music, in a large auditorium that would rival any in the US.  It was beautifully organized and executed, with tasty teatime snacks, generous lunch with a wide variety of food and even good t-shirts!  The new CEO spoke very eloquently about how important it was to him to make a difference in the world.  He left a high position to become CEO of SCF and loves to visit sites of their projects and mix with the people.  At the break he proved his point by wandering about, greeting and mixing with the attendees.  So I decided to tell him about our problem as well.  When he finished his conversation with someone else, I handed him my business card and briefly explained.  The lobby was so noisy he escorted me outside so he could hear and asked about me, how I happened to be in Naivasha, about SFG all the while showing genuine interest in what I said.  Finally I said I didn’t want to take more of his valuable time and we ended it.  He didn’t seem to want to be rid of me at all.  In fact everyone connected with SCF seemed to be genuine, really caring people.  I came away inspired, as did Peter.

We each met very interesting attendees, and were able to network with a number of them, not just for the work of KH and SFG, but also for Life Bloom and for the work of Agnes, my Nakuru friend whose work is getting water projects into small villages.

Why are there no pix?, you may be thinking.  Surely she didn’t forget her camera AGAIN!  No, I did not forget my camera, what I forgot is the battery, which I left charging at home!  ARGH!!!  I thought about using my phone, but I had had to buy a new one and I didn’t see the camera app.  Just a few minutes ago, sitting back home on my bed I saw it, big enough to hit me in the eye, but too late.  I would have loved to photograph the venue.  ALAS!

I picked up applications for Ndingi, to help fund their very ambitious renovation program, Life Bloom, Jecinta’s child feeding and pre-school proposal in the Naivasha slum and Agnes’s program.  Just for fun I’ll include pix of the solar/wind installation, taken last year, of Peter and Agnes (if I can find one)Image

Catherine Wanjohi and Agnes Mwamburu meet for the first time in 2010

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