So there I am. 8 hours south of Nairobi, arm wrapped around Tom my bass player on the back of an old Honda dirt bike. In between us is Pickles, the one month old goat we have just purchased. As we bump down a road that looks more rut and rock then dirt, I look to my left and catch eyes with Jake. Sure enough he has Pickles Mom in a two arm carry and is same as me, balancing himself as carrier on the back of a bike. If the destination wasn’t 8 miles away, I’m sure we would have chosen to walk. Travelling with Hedley has taken us to some strange and interesting places, but this may take the cake.
Flash back to a week prior and we are performing at Free The Children’s West Fest in downtown Vancouver. FTC runs a youth ambassador program that helps high school students raise money to build schools, medical facilities, and start clean water initiatives in under privileged communities around the world. What a cool thing it is to be in a room with so many ‘shameless idealists’ at one time. One class had raised well over $5,000 dollars and sponsored a village in the south of Kenya. What a huge contribution! All of us were super inspired by the efforts of this one class. Even though schools all over North America were doing the same, we wondered how this money would directly effect its recipients. Marc and Craig, the 2 brothers who founded Free the Children in their basement with friends, gave us a challenge. They produced a $50 bill from their pocket and asked us to travel deep into The Mara. We would use this money to purchase a goat for a family in need. They wanted us to see not only what one goat would mean to a family, but what a brand new school means to a whole community. Our Journey was about to begin.
Flash forward to the back of a Land Cruiser, we are jamming with members of The Kenyan Boys Choir on the way to a newly built school. Africa is beautiful as we play some Bob Marley and share stories. When we arrive, a chorus of voices welcome us as we are greeted by the the villagers both young and old. We are told of how the first school in their community had been built in the 50’s. Now with crumbling walls and a room too small, that tiny building stood behind the new school as a symbol of parents wanting change and more opportunities for their kids. Equal education for boys and girls. A chance to go to university in the city, returning as doctors and graduates, further helping their communities change with the fast moving world. We tell an elder about our mission to buy a goat, he directs us down the road to the house of a local Shepard who can give us a few tips. In an hour we are underneath the shade of an old tree, sipping hot tea and asking question to a man who has lived for 65 years on that same piece of land. He tells us how to look for a healthy goat without disease, he recommends buying a female to provide milk and make babies, and even lets us know about a friend of his who is selling goats at a market. Armed with knowledge, we get ready to buy.
I will forgoe the transaction, except to tell you after much searching and bartering we had not one, but two goats. Mama and her little one Pickles. We named him. Let me add that if you ever find yourself in a similar situation in Kenya, make sure to bring the local currency of Shillings. Imagine our surprise when Chris pulled out the same Canadian $50 from his pocket that had been given to us back home. Thankfully the seller was happy to take our funds after being assured it was legit and that he would be able to exchange at the bank in the nearest town.
Our goats went to a woman named Anna. With 2 children and 1 newborn of her own, she was also looking after her deceased brother’s children. She cried as we delivered our gifts and packed water from the river for her. One goat would provide milk for her children, and little Pickles would one day be sold at market or nourish the family. Anna is currently doing great; she is the head receptionist at the local medical facility that was still being built when we visited. The last report is that Mama goat is still with the family.
We are extremely lucky to live where we do and very fortunate to play music for a living amongst friends. We continue to support Free The Children and are constantly impressed with each new generation striving to be the change in our world. We all have the chance to make a difference in someone’s life, sometimes all it takes is one goat.
For more information on how you can help make a difference go to www.freethechildren.com our talk to your local guidance counsellor in your school about starting up your own FTC club. Ours is only one story, yours could be the next.