Enthusiasm in Development Work at Nuru International
Guinea! Burkina Fasao! …No, it couldn’t be Burkina. Somalia? Malawi! The contestants shouted.
Last Saturday, after coming back from a World Cup game, we sat on the front porch and played a game. There was some disagreement about what the largest city in the world was. Thomas on his iPod Touch looked up the answers using our WiFi. But he wouldn’t tell us. He made us guess and rank them. We argued with each other and shouted cities.
Like an episode of Family Feud, Thomas would give us the top ten lists. We’d wait with anticipation for the answers to follow, “[World Bank] survey says…” Our respective knowledge or lack thereof on world city sizes was revealed. It turned out that Tokyo was the right answer for #1. Sorry Mexico City, you got passed up (twice). For another 10 minutes, we tried to guess #2 and failed. After a long long time, Thomas, our Korean Education Program Manager said, “I’m very disappointed in you for not knowing this,” to which I replied, “So am I. We should know this!” And he said, “No. I’m very disappointed.” I paused for a few beats. “Seoul!” I exclaimed! Stupid! How could we have forgotten Seoul?
After we finished off with the cities, we went on to top 10 GDPs, and then to bottom 10 GDP per capita’s. Then, just to spice it up, we did beer consumption per capita (Go Czech Republic!). We had a lot of fun. We laughed about dumb guesses, and at our own collective ignorance of the world. We drank Tuskers, the classic Kenyan beer, and enjoyed the just-barely coolness of the night.
I realized a few things that night. First, that Nuru people are cool. I mean really cool. Even a hundred miles from a ‘city,’ we can make our own fun. Maybe we’re learning from the children here whose incredible creativity shows through in brilliant trash toys they play with. I’ve seen one kid who created a gear from a margarine lid to transduce rotational velocity in a perpendicular plane to power a series of spinners, made from flayed margarine tubs.
The fact that we could all be entertained by World Bank statistics is interesting it demonstrates a profound nerdiness in the development field. We all really care about this work and the numbers that surround it. This is not just a part-time deal for us. This is just a silly example of what my peers and partners live out each day. We all care about the poor and are excited to work with them on their behalf. We are all excited.
As I wrap up my time with Nuru, I’m really going to miss nights like Saturday and the work that surrounds them. Non-profit work, particularly in Africa, is getting a bad reputation for stale and pessimistic workers. The vitality and energy I see daily which was caricaturized on Saturday gives me great hope for the world that there are such people in it. I hope that in my future endeavors, there will be other people like those in Nuru.