I’ve got a new name to add to my ‘hero’ list, actually I’ve got a few.
The list isn’t that long, I’m not going to name those that are on it because people often get uncomfortable when you heap praises on them.
Ok, screw it, Nathaniel is my hero.
I don’t care what you say about the level of hard work it takes to become a professional athlete, these guys should be on the cover of the Wheaties box. These guys should have their own trading cards. These guys should be the ones getting million dollar endorsement deals from Cheetah Power Surge.
It’s been almost three years since I left Kenya and to see how much has been done since then is a little overwhelming. It’s not just the physical change of the centres and everything going on inside, it’s the change in spirits and outlook of the youth that run them that makes the most impact.
The name of our project is Up With Hope, but that needs to be updated now because it’s not hope that we’re seeing with the guys and girls that we work with, but satisfaction, accomplishment and pride. Just ask Kaka about the new resource centre that has almost completed phase one of construction, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
Not only have the groups grown leaps and bounds, but our own team has transformed into something completely different than what it was in 2009. Working with Nathaniel in the field, I find myself just staring dumbfounded on a regular basis, asking myself ‘who is this guy’?
Here’s a guy that decided to drop by Nairobi as an extension of his travels in the middle east in 2007, and subsequently stayed on for what because our first major project in Kibera. Then, as a full EYA member, he came back with Sean and me to expand the program to two more areas in 2009. After we finished that project and went back to Vancouver, he was the only one to take the call and go back to finish what we started.
It’s been over two years that he’s been living here and from the way he interacts with folks out here, you’d think it was twenty.
Not only is he speaking Swahili like a local (more accurately, Sheng, the ebonics of Swahili) but you can’t go to any part of town without somebody recognizing him and saying hello. It’s like walking around with a celebrity.
In the slums, he’s spared the usual ‘How are youuuuu mzungu’ that is the usual salute to foreigners taking a day trip to see what the majority of Kenyans live like. I’m sure still gets the stares/laughs reserved for outsiders, but those are heavily outnumbered by the amount of friendly greetings by name.
The easiest comparison is to the character from the book Shantaram. I don’t remember his name, but that’s Nathaniel, minus the part where he breaks out of jail, sells fake passports and runs guns through Afghanistan. Other than those details, he’s just like Shantaram.
I’m seriously indebted to Nathaniel, Kaka, Farouk and the rest of the guys that have done so much work that I can claim to be a part of. Their efforts day in and day out push everyone around them to work harder and strive for bigger things, and for that I salute them. I wish everyone back home could fly out here and see first hand what their buddy who was known more for skateboarding and trouble making is doing these days.