With great power comes great responsibility. Individuals who make it to the national limelight enjoy more opportunities to influence society than ordinary people.
In 2011, Kenyan celebrities approached the Kenya Red Cross and corporate leaders to launch the "Kenyans for Kenya" initiative. The fundraiser, which was in response to media reports of famine and deaths from starvation in Turkana County, managed to raise more than Sh500 million.
What the organisers of Kenyans for Kenyans demonstrated was the ability of individuals to use their fame to devote themselves to public services, carrying out charitable work or simply transmitting positive energy to society. Currently, the number of Kenyans facing hunger is projected to reach 4.4 million by December 2022 according to a UN outlook for October 2022 to January 2023. Of these, 1.2 million people will be in the emergency phase and will need urgent support.
The famine extends to the whole Horn of Africa and one of its main causes is a global climate crisis that takes a global effort to reverse. In such a case, small acts of kindness to help those in need go a long way and charity is the hallmark of African communal living.
In recent years, Kenya has developed a new crop of celebrities with both local and international audiences who can be instrumental in times of need like the current famine facing parts of the country. It is not strange to see people in Europe, America or Asia jostling for photo-ops with greats like Eliud Kipchoge, Ferdinand Omanyala, Angella Okutoyi or Victor Wanyama, just to mention a few. However, the love our sportspeople enjoy both at home and abroad is an underexploited resource.
In a recent feature by CNN's Arit Okpo on the network’s Africa Voices Changemakers series, a good example is offered by Daniel Botha, a surfer from South Africa. Botha founded Surfpop, a non-profit organisation that helps fight malnutrition among poor children in South Africa while teaching them about cleaning the environment as they learn the surfing spot.
Botha has used his networks to include volunteers who come from outside South Africa and says that this is a great opportunity for people to come and experience South Africa and give something back. By shining the national limelight on a local problem, his programme not only provides finances but a consistent flow of people coming from different backgrounds and cultures with new solutions and viewpoints on how to tackle local challenges.
As we contemplate long-term programmes to help the vulnerable, the current hunger crisis requires immediate and effective attention and the connections our renowned sportspeople command is the proverbial 'nearest staff' that can ward off the snake.
One of the best game changers the famine situation in Kenya can receive is having our athletes come together to shine the spotlight on the disaster. Our athletes have made themselves good friends at home and abroad and as we go through this bad time, they have the power to summon the helping hand we need.
Mr Mbugua comments on topical issues