The Good Lie
Editor-in-Chief, African Kitchen Table
We are surrounded by ideals in this world.
For many of us living in the Western world, those ideals may include an ideal body, an ideal report card, an ideal household, or an ideal income. For someone living in South Sudan those ideals would understandably vary drastically.
This past Tuesday, July 21, 2015, I watched The Good Lie, a brilliant movie about a group of kids whose village is destroyed in a civil war in South Sudan, and as consequence must walk hundreds of miles to a refugee camp in Kenya, where they are then sent to America.
They lived their daily lives, climbing, playing, and reciting the names of their grandfathers. Even though it was so different from how we might live, they were happy and very content in Sudan. Unfortunately, the existing civil war in their area forced them away from their ideals of life and home in Africa, and into life in Kansas City where all their ideals were challenged and changed.
Post movie, I discussed it with my mother, who accompanied me in my viewing.
We talked about my thoughts about their having to adapt to our lifestyles and ideals, and my mom added an interesting point. She said that she found it interesting that even though we are all born into different families, different backgrounds, different countries, different financial positions, and different levels of oppression, we are all very similar at our core.
We agreed that, indeed, the whole point of the movie was a certain motive within Theo, the oldest survivor, to tell a good lie in order to protect his brothers and sisters. That sense of community and desire to protect those that we love, is global. I explained to my mother that a strong sense of community is a large part of what we learn from Pencils For Africa.
We believe that we should do what we can to help those that are living in worse and marginalized conditions, with little or no access to clean water, food, and crucial medical care. She did surprise me next, telling me that she sometimes felt that it seemed snobby when some entities helped, almost as if they were acting bigger in the sense that they are so much wealthier. I thought it an interesting point of view, although I could not agree with it. I argued that although some entities may be richer financially, African cultures are often much richer in spirit and sense of community.
We also recounted the point that Mr. Ajania made back in Spring, 2105 at the PFA Film Festival about some countries who historically partook in The Scramble For Africa today gave what he referred to as “guilt money”.
That is a dangerous game to play, because in many African countries there are corrupt governments in place and the money is either pocketed by officials or wasted.
That, in my eyes, is the beauty of Pencils for Africa:
Through Pencils for Africa’s Portfolio PFA program, we raise money through school fundraisers and, instead of directing it straight to Africa, we send it to partner organizations such as Bicycles Against Poverty, who know how to wisely put the money towards the benefit of Africans. It is a smart donation because we know exactly where the money will go and how it will directly benefit the people in Africa, instead of blindly giving to organizations who do not have a history of giving to the people, but do a lot of shame and guilt advertising, or have political motivations.
My mother also brought up the fact that we may not know how to best help them all the time without westernizing them because we are so unaccustomed to their ways of life. I told her that this was exactly why it is important to listen to the people of Africa. They do not need what we sometimes assume they need, like cell phones or computers. In some places, all a child needs to go to school is one pencil. That’s it, that is the only requirement, they don’t need an iPad.
All an African woman in rural Uganda needs in order to get her vegetables to the market, or to fetch water for her family, or to get her sick child to a clinic, is a bicycle, not a Lamborghini.
At the end of the movie, my brother, mother, and I had a group hug out of our newfound gratitude to be together and so fortunate. To think that this story of those amazing kids and what they became is so common is mind blowing. It was a real eye opener for me and my family.
I invite you all to all to contribute your thoughts on the topic, weather you have seen the film or not, although I do recommend taking the time to see it.
Pencils for Africa Film Festival
Marin County, California