A tribute to my ‘Shujaa’ - DrJoshua Odongo Oron – Widows and Orphans International, London UK
Today, in Kenya, it is Mashujaa Day. Yes 20th October. It is a public holiday we previously called Kenyatta Day – dedicated to the name of the 1st president Jomo Kenyatta. Still not sure for what reason precisely but I presume for his role in the push for nationalism and independence from British colonial rule.
Well, we have found something more useful to do with the day. Unlike ‘Moi Day – 10th October’, named after Kenya’s 2nd president Daniel Moi that we abolished, it is now penned in the Constitution of Kenya – 2010 that on 20th of October of every year we take time off work to recognise, honour and celebrate exceptional Kenyans. I mean brave men and women who have defied the odds to demonstrate the true spirit of being Kenyan. Men and women who in one way or another, by the nature of their actions or the substance of their words have left a mark that defines our true Kenyanness – the athletes, the businessmen/women, the clerics, philanthropists, scholars etc. We call the day ‘Mashujaa Day’. ‘Mashujaa’ plural for ‘Shujaa’ which is Swahili for ‘the brave one’ – like warrior, indomitable.
Every year, on this day, I pause to reflect; to find that one person that has demonstrated that true Kenyan bravery. The kind of courage that I believe will liberate us not from colonialism, but from the littleness of our poverty, the littleness of our ethnocentrism and political bigotry. The kind of audacity that will someday make us truly ONE.
This Sunday 20th October, 2013 - For helping transform that humble village boy; raised in a sugarcane plantation in rural Kenya into a world-class citizen (the one I consider myself to be today) – You are my ‘Shujaa’ Dr Joshua Odongo Oron. I pause at this point to stand up, raise my left hand to my temple, to sing the words of our national anthem to honour the greatness and patriotism in that little deed.
I have come to believe that one of the greatest gifts that a person can be honoured with is the freedom to think openly and the ability to muster the courage to do something about those thoughts. The ability to objectively weigh and reflect on issues and freely express the way he or she feels about them.
You might not know it but that little known trip from the shores of Lake Victoria across countries to the midlands in the United Kingdom, thousands of miles away from my small world, that you gracefully sponsored has made the words in the paragraph above a reality in me. Doc, godfathering me, guaranteeing me an opportunity to receive high quality, eye opening education is invaluable. That is what true Kenyans do: getting out of their way to do extraordinary things that change lives, alter the course of history. Like investing in others - ensuring that an incapable Kenyan student like me, little known to you, did not worry about food or rent or healthcare while he concentrated on furthering his education.
Happy Mashujaa Day Doc!
My the good lord that we speak to in our national anthem keep you, protect you, bless you with good health and prosper you. May he grant you and Widows and Orphans International the grace and kindness to keep helping the many desperate children, women and households escape poverty - access healthcare, education and the dignity that every human being rightfully deserves. I lack the status to confer a medal to you - but I have this blog. I dedicate it to you!
Those of you who still doubt the power of ‘African philanthropy’ can come look at me