Away from peculiar Kenyan calling habits, which a top CEO in the country mentioned a while back, Kenyans have now adopted peculiar fundraising reasons and means.
Fundraising has mutated from old school ways of ‘harambee’ for valid reasons like burials, school fees arrears, hospital and mortuary bills to lame fund drives with fancy names.
Social media has acted as the biggest catalyst for these endless and meaningless fund drives.
It is a Friday night, you go to bed feeling wasted and tired only to wake up to a Saturday morning of 1001 fundraising invites on WhatsApp.
Or picture this, it is the eighth day of the month, your rent is due and the landlord is threatening to slit your throat with his blunt car key, then someone adds you (without your consent), to a house warming party where you are supposed to contribute a certain amount of money and on top of it, bring your own beer!
Two case scenarios here: One, the other day, a city-based lawyer posted on his Facebook account that a young lady had boisterously walked into his office and requested him to be a “guest” in a fundraiser to help her raise money to start a business.
Never mind the two are not known to each other, but she explained that she knew him from back in the village. The lawyer wondered what Kenyans will not fundraise for.
He asked his followers what the next thing to fundraise for will be if we are already at fundraising for business capital.
Most responses said that was a really peculiar reason to call a fundraiser for but they would rather finance someone’s business than fund their wedding, baby shower or house warming party.
“I do not fundraise for weddings. Weddings are about two people going to ‘munch’ each other, they should sort their bills. Same way I have never asked and will never ask anyone to help me pay for my ‘munching’,” a friend to the lawyer wrote.
Case two, a journalist with a local daily, posted about Kenyans and their unending WhatsApp mchango groups.
She lamented that that morning alone, she had just left three such groups; a wedding, a house warming and burial funds drive. For the wedding group, the writer said the bride and the groom were unknown to her.
She wrote that they were people she had never interacted with or heard about in her life. More surprising, when she inquired from the person who had added her to the group, they casually dismissed her with her, “si utawajua tu!” (You will eventually know them).
For the housewarming, someone had just completed building their four-bedroom house in Syokimau and had found it fit to invite people to house warm it and help them furnish the house.
The invite came complete with a list of things the house owner expected her invitees to buy her.
These two scenarios beg the question: How low can we sink and what are Kenyans fundraising for?
These days, weddings are dowry payments are communal things that involve everyone.
The people wedding have to involve every single person they have interacted with all the way from nursery school to present life with an aim to get the highest amount of money to meet their high garden wedding budget and finance their honeymoon to a world destination.
Trizah*, a friend to this writer, says that she is tired of wedding fundraisers.
Hear her: “These days you get added to a wedding WhatsApp group left, right and centre. Never mind no one even asks for your consent to add you the groups. I do not see the need to fund raise for a wedding.
“If the groom and the bride cannot afford their dream wedding, then let it remain just that, a dream, until they can afford.”
Alternatively, si wapande boda boda iwafikishe kwa AG? (let them ride a motor bike to the AG’s office and sign wedding papers),” she says.
Trizah says these groups use catchy phrases to arm twist people to contribute. Others have set targets for members.
Some of these phrases included but are not limited to: ‘The Lord loves a cheerful giver, Be part of what the Lord is doing in our lives, Choose a good amount and stand with us and Leo ni mimi, kesho ni wewe.’
Baby showers, birthdays
Baby showers and children birthdays have also been turned into money minting events.
The people who post their children on social media asking for likes and comments on their birthdays have now taken it a notch higher.
“I have been invited to a kid’s birthday with very clear instructions that the parents expect presents and admission is by that. Mark you, not just any 100 bob police car you pick on the street on your way to the party. The instructions were clear the kind of toys the four-year-old kid needed. I found that ridiculous and did not bother attending, not that I am a birthday party person anyway,” narrates Oscar Kirui*, an accountant.
People are building homes and inviting others to help furnish them. At this rate, we are soon going to see an invite from someone asking you to help them buy a golden and pearly gate or a German shepherd to beef up security at their new home.
For house warming, a newspaper editor quips: “Do not bother people asking them to fundraise for your house warming. If you cannot afford to throw a party yourself for people to eat and drink to their fill, please just light a jiko and warm your house. Or just do it like the rest of us, warm it with your spouse.”
Another recent reason for fundraising are retirement parties. These are especially notorious with village teachers and relatives.
“Times are tough. People are sick with huge hospital bills, orphans are dropping out of school for lack of school fees, someone cannot bury their parent because a hospital is holding the body over a bill and some people still have the audacity to invite you to contribute for a retirement party!” says Beatrice Mwende*, a business lady.
She continues: “It is ridiculous, that party is unnecessary if you or your closest circle cannot afford it. Just walk home and retire in peace or wait for your pension and throw us a party.”
And advice on WhatsApp mchangos, the journalist in case scenario two above advises: “It is courteous to first seek people’s consent before adding them to groups. Make sure the person you are inviting is in good terms with the group person or at least knows them.
“If you add someone to a fund drive and they chose to leave, please let them be. Do not follow them in their inbox with the inquest of why they left. It is just a WhatsApp group, not a maximum security prison!”