Monday, March 28, 2011

Want to know what's happening? Go to the barber shop

One of the areas I am hoping to build some insight on through this sabbatical trip from Coker College to Muhuru Bay, Kenya is community thinking and community building.

So, if you want to know what is going on in a community, where do you start. My first inquiries were to the motor bike drivers (Muhuru Bay's main form of transportation) who have been helping me get around Muhuru Bay. Not always easy to hear or concentrate as we negotiate down the dirt-packed highway that gives you the feeling of a bumper car ride but it has provided some good background.

As I wandered around the center of the village retail area, called Customs, I glanced into a shop where a barber was cutting hair on two little children and there were some others sitting in chairs around his shop. And, that was at least a double and maybe a triple in beginning to learn even more about the problems and opportunities of this lake-side community. I also learned that after age 60 you find it very difficult to work in Kenya. The 60-year-old telling me that said the computer rejects him when he goes for a job so, "I am self employed."

As I was walking down the road a man yelled from his shop, "Welcome..." That is a common call to an obvious visitor - I do stick out in this community. I think I may be the only gray-haired person in the town. I answered his welcome and went up to offer or accept a greeting. This was a small retail tailor shop with three tailors hoping more business would come in because times are tough in Muhuru retail. That was another great discussion and helped me get additional community thinking perspectives.

One major observation, the community could be Hartsville, SC or Muhuru Bay, Kenya, or 'name the place' but people are quickly able to list some of the major things needing improvement in their community -- and for Hartsville and Muhuru Bay -- MORE JOBS would be at or near the top of both lists. (lots more thinking on this but the post is getting a bit long.) These are a couple of ways of beginning to gather community information in Muhuru Bay.

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