It’s Saturday morning and it’s freezing here. I’ve put the kettle on, but have grabbed a diet pepsi from the fridge. I have a throat that feels like there are razor blades inside and the thought of a cold diet pepsi is much more appealing that a hot tea… for now. Ruby climbed into bed with me at 5am and as she fell asleep, I slipped out of bed to steal a few hours of alone time. And now, as the power clicks on an off, I am sitting here rugged up in a blanket trying to keep my hands warm. Apart from the lack of tea, it seems like as good a time as any to write a new blog post.
Thinking about all that has happened with Shamida over the past few years is kind of easy to get my head around. I get to see it every day in the faces of the everyday people at Shamida — grownups and tiddly folk, and everyone in between. The daunting part is always “what’s gonna happen next?” However, next is next. Today is today. And tomorrow will do whatever it is going to do, and that’s okay because Shamida is always in preparation mode; always looking for the curve-balls before they arrive.
I’m not sure that I have made it clear in past posts exactly how astonished I am about the amazing and unrelenting support Shamida gets from all over the world. Seriously, the diversity of our supporters reads like the stamps in a 20 something backpacker’s dream passport. Middle East, USA, Australia, UK, Singapore, Canada, France, other bits of Europe, other bits of other places. Slowly but surely Shamida is being represented by the world. What is probably not clear is that with all that support, there is also the responsibility of gratitude – and it is a responsibility that I do not take lightly. But, it is also a responsibility that is one among many MANY other responsibilities here at the ponderosa. Primarily due to the conundrum that, although Shamida is very much a team effort on a global scale, when it comes down to the day to day, all the “stuff” usually comes down to me. Don’t get me wrong I have amazing help here too. Those smelly bums aren’t going to change themselves after all! And then there’s the feeding, and the cleaning, and the driving, and MOUNTAINS of paperwork.
But when it all comes down to it, there has to be a bus-captain, so when it comes to paying wages and funding and overall running of Shamida, it is an exclusive club. Of one. That one would be me. Thankfully I have friends here, great friends who also have their own families and work and dreams. I love that about my friends, we all seem to be together when we need to be, but respect our space. A good thing, and necessary.
That said, despite quite enjoying my alone time, it can still get a little lonely at times, particularly when fielding additional emails that suggest that I am not as grateful as I should be. Sometimes I guess I need people to understand that, as the pointy end of this whole production, most of the time I feel like I am doing okay, BUT there are times that I am not. So, there have been times when I miss a “thank you” or a deadline, and there are likely to be more. This is not because I am ungrateful, and certainly not because I am lounging around eating chocolates from a box. It’s usually because “something happened today”. Often those happenings are horrific, and involve driving for hours to pick up an abused young girl in order to find her the medical treatment she needs. There are times that my concern steers my engagement with the world toward issues of petrol for the car and wages for the staff.
There are times when I want to scream from the roof that I am doing the best I can. There are times I want to scream from the roof that I have done something amazing and want everyone to know. There are times that I want to scream from the roof that I am exhausted, and sleep is a 3 hour drive away. And sometimes I just want a cuppa! Preferably tea. This post is NOT to broadcast a poor Karen pity-party. Its purpose is one of explanation as to why sometimes I don’t respond to emails and calls in what some consider to be a timely manner. It’s not because I am ignoring them. It is because, here in Africa, in the face of everything that needs doing, the vulnerable HAVE to come first – it’s the whole point of us all being involved in Shamida, isn’t it?
In addition to the real work of Shamida, on any given day, I have 50 or more emails to answer. But, on any given day I could also be driving into the country to help that child that only has me. And what happens to the emails? Well those 50 emails then turn into 100 emails, and I have spend the day with babies in a hospital. So they turn into 150 emails, and I have to go and help a family to try to convince them that marrying-off their 12 year old daughter is actually not an ideal way to deal with their poverty. Before long, I have months of emails. Compounded by other emails demanding why I didn’t answer the emails. Some of which accuse me of being ungrateful – and as I look at everything that Shamida has done, it is those last emails that are the worst to get. BUT, I know that this will not always be the way. Thanks to all of the support from you amazing people, the Shamida dream is getting bigger. Part of that dream is to one day have more people here on the ground to share the weight. And I mean physically here in Addis, helping with all the things, including administration. The dream is that soon I won’t have to worry so much about finances, and only have to spend time on the things that need doing. Selfishly, I am also dreaming of the day when I can actually shut off for a day or two and not come back to more work and more emails.
Today, while I sit here finishing my diet pepsi and listening to the kettle boil for my beloved cuppa, I feel overwhelmed. But know this feeling will pass when I head next door to Shamida and see Bereket or Alazar or any of those babies and kids that smile. It will pass when I drive 3 hours to Ambo on Tuesday and 3 hours back just to make sure that they are all okay and have enough baby formula or money for food or warm clothes for this rainy season. It will pass when I see the room at Shamida FULL of aid that hasn’t yet been sorted through, and think how grateful I am that Shamida has people who feel so passionately that they sent the aid in the first place.