Friday, May 10, 2013


What is a Harambee?

A Harambee is an East African tradition of a community pulling together in a party with a purpose to turn what some would consider a crisis into an opportunity.   Harambees are probably most frequently held in Kenya though they represent the deep sense of community that characterizes African culture. 

What is the history of Harambee?

The Harambee tradition largely goes back to the early days of Kenya’s independence.   Prior to independence from the United Kingdom Kenya was experiencing the violent Mau Mau crisis.   Fear reigned.   Mzee (wise elder statesman) Jomo Kenyatta was imprisoned, but released shortly before independence. 

Kenya's founding President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta
In 1963 as Kenya gained independence Mzee Jomo Kenyatta brought immediate calm from the Mau Mau crisis, healed wounds, and gathered the humble to build. His message was Harambee (,9171,875094,00.html.). We must organize together. Kenyatta was aware of his own failings, but confident in the strength of his united people. He said, "There is no society of angels, black, brown or white. We are human beings and as such we are bound to make mistakes. If I have done a mistake to you, it is for you to forgive me. If you have done a mistake to me, it is for me to forgive you.

As a community faced a challenge that required capital he made a donation and asked for others to join in sharing their resources. With Kenyatta’s Harambee culture schools, hospitals, and infrastructure were developed. Among the humble Harambee economics provided realistic hope.

What typically happens at a Harambee?

A shared good meal, speeches, song, dance, and financial and practical contributions.

I’ve heard about corruption and Harambees.  What happened?

Doreen Rwigamba explaining Agaciro
Until the Lord returns to this earth the best of God’s intent wrestles with human depravity.  Sadly, there have been times when the Harambee tradition has been corrupted.

At times morally bankrupt politicians have used Harambees to bribe voters in a district.

At times the poor have been excluded from elite Harambee functions.

The worst desecration of our Harambee tradition happened in Rwanda during the Genocide in 1994 when the community work of the Interhamwe (note similar grammar to Harambee) was to murder innocent men, women, and children.

Yet, God made us in His image.   We all by simply being human have Agaciro (dignity.)     Harambee is a way to display that though an individual may be at loss together we can overcome.   Our children can have hope.   
One way we display this divine dignity is to come together as a community to overcome all obstacles.

Tarbet family in 1970's Kenya
Have you ever contributed at a Harambee before?

Yes.   Many times.   In fact, as our family spent 29 years in total in Africa our parents, Gaston and Jan Tarbet were the first ones to contribute to Harambees.   

We’re thankful to have been part of building schools, churches, roads, and other community infra-structure through Harambees.   We’re thankful to have helped couples marry through Harambee.   We’re thankful to have sent young people to school through Harambee.   We’re thankful to have helped those were sick become well through Harambee.  

Have you ever hosted a Harambee before?

Only once.   When our oldest daughter, Sophia was accepted to Wheaton College in 2011 we applied for all the financial aid we could and still were about $22,000 short.   We hosted a Harambee in Rwanda.   Our Rwandan community raised $5,300.  Others in the USA made some contributions.   We barely had enough, but with Harambee Sophia got through her first semester at Wheaton.

We didn’t know what would happen her second semester, and then we got a surprise.   Sophia
Sophia's Harambee in Kigali, Rwanda
received an unexpected grant, and her college bill was paid.

Our African friends were confident that a Harambee was a step of communal proactive faith that God would honor.   They were right.   

What is the purpose of this Harambee?

Our son, Caleb has also been accepted to prestigious Wheaton College.   The anticipated total cost is $42,390 in 2013-2014.   Caleb has done well with scholarships and only lacks $5,600 to pay for his freshman year.  

The gifts the Lord abundantly gave us in Africa were friends and experiences.   Yet, we have no savings or property.  It is time for a Harambee to give Caleb a blessing and a push.

Caleb with the College of DuPage Cru
We are immensely proud of Caleb.  We returned to the USA sensing a call of God.   Yet it was extremely disruptive to Caleb.   We returned during Caleb’s senior year of high school.   He surveyed the options.  He made good choices.   He took a GED (High School General Equivalency Degree Exam.)   He enrolled at the College of DuPage (local community junior college.)   He quickly got involved in Cru (Campus Crusade.)   He joined the band.   He made friends.   He threw in with a new church planted called, “The Branch.”  He got exceptional grades.

For such effort over and beyond the call of MK (Missionary Kid) duty we believe Caleb merits our community blessing of Harambee.  

What should I wear and bring?

Dress casual.  Bring a little food.  Bring a little money.  Bring some encouragement.    If you have some musical skill we’d enjoy a song and dance.
Caleb's final concert at the College of DuPage
If you are considered an mzee (wise elder statesman) bring a short speech to bless Caleb.

We’ll provide kuku muchomo (grilled chicken,) and some drinks.

We’ll take cash in Shillings, Francs, Pounds, Pesos, Euros, and both Canadian and American Dollars.  We’ll have a money trader nearby if you need some exchange.  Also, we’ll trust your check is good (and even hold it for a season if you want to make a pledge.)

If you have something that you think would bless Caleb as a college freshman please also feel free to bring it.

What if I’m broke?

With his foster brother, Gabriel
Show up anyway.   Your presence is the greatest value.  Harambee is about Agaciro (dignity.)  You are made in God’s image.   All you need to bring is what God has given you.  God will take your presence and use it to bless our community.

Karibu sana (You are most welcome.)

What if I’m on a safari (journey) and unable to attend?

Safari salaama (Journey in peace.)   If you would like to send a contribution by mail send it to:

Caleb Jenkins
108 Kellogg Place
Wheaton, IL 60187
United States of America

Asante sana.   Webale nyo.   Murakoze cyane (Thank you very much.)

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