A local paramedic is planning to use her skills to help create healthier economic development projects in rural Kenya.
To put her plans in motion, Katherine Seal is hosting two fundraising events: A Music Night at the Java Jive with entertainment by Larry and Jane Stephenson, The Roman Blain Band and Randi Browne from 7 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 22 and a showing of the documentary Poverty, Inc. and silent auction at First United Church at 7:30 Saturday, Jan. 23.
Filmmaker Michael Matheson Miller spent four years travelling to 20 countries to meet with those who give and those who receive humanitarian foreign aid.
What he found is that the system initiated after the Second World War is broken.
He conducted more than 150 interviews, some with non-governmental organizations that profit from the aid industry and some with recipients who feel trapped by their “humanitarian way of life.”
Poverty, Inc. has garnered more than 40 international film festival honours, including a “Best of Fest” selection to IDFA Amsterdam – the biggest documentary festival in the world.
Seal’s interest in sustainable development began in 2014 when she went to Kenya to share her skills as a paramedic. Her licence was not accepted there so instead she spent three months teaching Grade 8 science and sexual health and Grade 6 social studies.
“It was all about East Africa so I got to learn and teach about it at the same time,” she says, noting she was introduced to Maurice Nyongesa, who wanted to start an independent ambulance service in Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa.
Nyongesa repeatedly asked Seal for funding and supplies. She advised him that she couldn’t do that but could give him the tools to fundraise for himself.
“It was unfortunate because he was passionate about his cause and I also believe he had the best of intentions,” she says, pointing out that upon her return to B.C., she did try unsuccessfully to acquire equipment through BC Ambulance.
“It was more than just asking for funding, it was that he asked if he could put my name on his funding proposal because he said ‘you’re white and from the West.”
That statement transformed Seal and her attitude to how support is provided to developing nations.
“We have been very good about exporting our culture into developing countries, whether it’s goods or services – Levi, Google, all the trappings of the so-called West, which is unfortunate.”
Seal quotes Senegal’s Magatte Wade, a wealthy entrepreneur and listed by Forbes Magazine as one of the 20 Youngest Power Women in Africa, who says that Africans must be leaders in global culture if they are to be respected.
“As long as the West thinks of us as poor suffering people in need of their constant help, we will never be perceived as proud peers in the co-creation of the best culture,” Wade says, noting Westerners need to stop the demeaning attitude of viewing Africans as objects of pity. “And once they’ve become enlightened to the fact that we Africans are creators, innovators and entrepreneurs, they need to get busy co-creating with us and purchasing the best of our products.”
Seal plans to return to Kenya in the spring with the goal of raising funds to help create sustainable economic development projects such as an emergency first response program in rural areas that will be financed and operated by Kenyans.
Her objectives include:
• work with the Kenyan people to create sustainable economic development plans to help impoverished members of rural communities start their own businesses – according to what they want rather than what aid providers think they need.
• create a network of professionals in Kenya who can help individuals with entrepreneurial ideas to start a business.
• use funding from corporations, philanthropists and indigenous aid agencies within Kenya to provide financial resources for their own people wishing to start a business.
• promote economic diversity.
• support cultural initiatives.
Seal is hoping to raise $7,000 for phase one of her plan, which involves a six-week visit to Kenya.
Her expenses will include venue rentals for the screening of Poverty, Inc. in Kenya and Uganda, meetings to discuss strategies for development initiatives, events and advertising, domestic travel expenses and services of a driver/interpreter, which is essential to getting around the larger city centres and rural areas.
On Jan. 23, the silent auction opens at 6:30 and tickets are $10 at Java Jive or at the door. The suggested donation for Friday’s Music Night is $5.
Donations may also be made at www.gofundme.com/mdjv88. Visit Seal’s Facebook page to learn more about her Kenyan Empowerment Initiative.