From Bridgette: Seeking to Understand
After being here for 7 years now, I have learned the hard way that I need to always remember to ask before assuming. Author Stephen Covey says that the very first principle of an effective leader is to seek to understand. We are constantly trying to raise support in the US to support our Kenyan team of 40 to implement the vision and do the work on the ground here. Part of the funds raised go to pay for the salaries of our Kenyan staff as well as their social security and health care benefits. I assumed that like us they would use their income to take care of their own needs as well as the needs of their immediate families. But when I take the time to “seek to understand”, I am surprised and humbled but what I don’t know.
Without mentioning any specific names, I didn’t know that one on our team members sends most of his monthly salary back to his home village where he supports his mom, sister and younger brother. In addition, he cares for his now 5 year old niece who has lived with him for 3 years. I didn’t know that another staff member is the sole caretaker for his sister’s 5 children after she was recently killed in a tragic accident this year. Before that, he was and continues to financially support 16 extended family members. I didn’t know that another has 3 children of his own and supports a single mother of 2 in Marurui slum who he met through his important work with PFC. I didn’t know that a husband and wife team in the coastal area we worked with last week support 2 children of their own while adopting 4 more ages 3 to 11 who had been orphaned. I didn’t know that one team member uses his own salary to support several older men in his village who he tutors on his own time before and after working for PFC all day. I didn’t know that another is sending 90% of his salary monthly back to his parents who are both disabled as well as supporting his 5 siblings so he can fulfill his dream for all of them to get an education. On top of all this, one of his brothers was recently struck and killed while riding his bike and he was responsible for all of the burial costs.
I could continue…but I think you can see the point here. The salaries we pay this incredible team not only support them and their immediate families…but almost all of them carry heavy financial burdens for their extended families and friends. Not because they have to – but because they would rather sacrificially support others than spend it on themselves. What an honor it is to support this amazing group of young men and women. Every time I come and I ask…I am blown away by the example they model of putting others before themselves. We raise funds to support our staff…. never did I realize that the funds we send for our staff’s salaries impacts so, so many other people as well. Sometimes I wish I never knew their stories…I would surely sleep better at night. But I am here for a reason, if not for anything more than to share what I have seen, heard and now know. I am a better person because of their example. So blessed to be here…Bridgette