Time Has Come
By Christopher E. Lowman
After a few months in India and a brief trip to Nairobi, I find myself currently situated in the Hudson Valley of New York. As I bring my attention towards funding two ambitious projects — totally rebuilding our Malezi School as a brick & mortar structure and, finally, opening the doors to the Umoja Centre — I find myself in something of a “pre-flight” mode. If our fundraising is successful, I would spend the majority of 2020 (and beyond) living in Kenya, overseeing the construction and launch efforts—and entering a brand new chapter of life.
I have been involved in development work for the past decade, honing the craft, and evolving on a personal level. It’s all been underground and mostly performed out of the public view without scrutiny. Late last year, acting on the counsel of a dear friend, at long last, I incorporated as a non-profit organization and received 501(c)(3) designation status from the IRS. Though this changes nothing about what I do substantively and is merely the equivalent of a signed piece of paper, the move had the effect of concretizing and certifying the self-styled career of travel and service I’ve adopted. Further, it made me financially and otherwise accountable to a Board of Directors, the US Federal Government, and the public at large. There’s no going back now. I’ve entered the arena that Teddy Roosevelt spoke of, and it’s a highly welcome change.
Malezi, too, has been operating underground for the past many years, more or less “piecing it together” as they went along. While it was advantageous to remain somewhat hidden in this way, the center’s roots run so deeply now in the community and its reputation has grown so strong that it makes sense for Malezi to formally establish itself (similar to how I have) — through a total rebuild — as a school and community center here to stay, versus a school and community center that never knew if the lights would be on tomorrow (figuratively speaking, as lights were only just installed recently). It strikes me as oddly coincidental that we find our stories overlapping in this way.
Umoja, speaking personally, represents the culmination of everything I have learned so far and is my “little bit of good” that Desmond Tutu spoke of, for addressing the immense challenges facing the earth and humanity.
In other words, if somebody were to ask me what I would do to solve climate change, poverty, and the less-than-sound mindset that has brought the planet to the brink of ruin, I’d say, “Build something like Umoja.” That is, a self-reliant resource center founded on the concept of local livelihood, that avoids use of industrial building materials, and which puts service, the “farming” way of life, and inner fulfillment at the center of its mission.
The time has come. The time has come to take Malezi to the next level. The time has come to realize the mission of the Umoja Centre, and the time has come to present myself and Mahtabe to the world.