This past November, as the Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow at RefugePoint, I was given the incredible opportunity to travel to Nairobi, Kenya to visit RefugePoint’s international office. RefugePoint’s mission is to identify and support Nairobi’s most vulnerable refugees.
As I traveled through Nairobi, I was overwhelmed by the knowledge that no matter how much work the humanitarian sector put in, no matter how many private individuals decided to donate, or how many hours someone dedicated to a cause, there will continue to be needs that we cannot always meet. I found this concept incredibly challenging to grapple with, and I began to second guess a career path where there is still so much work to be done, and where I would be constantly asking myself if I was doing “enough.” But after seeing the great work being done by my organization, I began to realize that so much good work is being done by nonprofits around the world, and I have found comfort in knowing that every philanthropic effort helps.
On my third day of the trip, we visited one of the neighborhoods in which a significant number of our clients live. As we drove through the rows of temporary shelters and unfinished apartment buildings, I was dismayed to see how hard life continues to be for refugees who have already gone through the shock and trauma of having to flee their homes.
Later this day we met with a group of our clients to ask them about their experiences with our services. They repeatedly stated how some of the smallest services—food, rent assistance, or just someone who was willing to treat them like a person—restored in them a feeling of dignity and self-reliance, and how that made all the difference in their lives. It reminded me that every small action means something to someone.
I am trying to remind myself that a small action is not trivial and that while it is important to keep an eye on the big issues life does not have a relative value. Even though it sometimes feels like we are trained to see life as more valuable in large, measurable numbers, I am learning to respect that while one life changed might not be “enough,” it does mean something.
By Kendra Cornelis – Newman’s Own Foundation Fellow at RefugePoint in Massachusetts