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Saving the Starfish

Sat, Dec 11, 2021

Collage of past issues of Timazi Magazine

“I love the way you carry us with you everywhere!”

This is a heartwarming comment I often hear of my Facebook posts. Many of my friends especially remember my #2019europetour. My family (read: husband) had dug very very deep into the family coffers to send me to school, and being in Europe was exhilarating. I happily lived on bread (and cheese) and spent my food money hopping on and off trains and buses and toured exciting places like Milan, Rome, Florence, Grenoble, Geneva, and many more.

I became quite the pro in navigating (and fighting with) google maps, taking a million pictures, and nicely inviting myself for sleepovers with old friends. While physically travelled alone (with my trusty backpack), my Facebook community kept me company; savored the sights and new experiences with me, laughed at my antics, advised me on what to try (and what NOT to!), and even reminded me what had taken me there in the first place (studies)!

The dawn of 2022 will find me on another trip. This time rather than the trains and buses of Europe, I will be traveling through the high schools of Kenya in words, ink, and on paper.

The story is told about a young girl walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.

She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”

The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,

“Well, I made a difference for that one!”

The young people in our country (and globally) are rather like those starfish stranded on the beach. Swept ashore by the terrible storm of myriad issues; waves of depression and suicides, violence and abuse in their homes, the grip of pornography that leaves them helpless and bound in guilt, exam cheating, and burning of schools, among others.

As we the adults ponder on who is to blame and fling blame at each other (should we reintroduce canning?) – waves such as the blue whale suicide challenge, online invitations to parties, and the perils of social media continue to wash more and more youth ashore, leaving them gasping for life – if lucky enough to be alive.

In this journey, I will be joining Timazi, a youth magazine published three times a year (once every school term) and distributed to high schools in Kenya. The publication seeks to throw a lifeline to the starfish who are our young people – and they are calling for help. At a subscription of KES 4,500 (USD 40) per year, a school receives 20 copies per term. Recently one of the larger schools (2,000 kids) in the country ordered for more – the copies in the library were not enough to go round, and the youngsters had resorted to stealing the copies available. The magazine is also sold directly to the students by Timazi staff in their regular visits to the schools.

I am therefore honored to join the 14-year-old Timazi team (as writer and editor) and invite you to join us in the voyage to provide wholesome well thought out content, specially written for the teenager, through which they can engage with the issues of the day; and find tools with which to make wise and informed choices.

In a country with approximately 10,500 schools with an average population of 1,000 students each, this magazine is currently read in only 400 of them. This population will increase when the pioneer class of CBC (new education system) Juniors join secondary school in 2023. Teachers as far as Nigeria, Rwanda, and Burundi have expressed interest in having copies of the magazine. The need to increase access to the publication has never been higher. The issues facing the young people continue to mutate; from the age-old question, why can’t I have sex; to newer issues of, I think I am gay, the starfish that need saving seem far too many.

The task seems as impossible as the young girl’s quest to save the washed-up and dying starfish. You can support a school to subscribe – may be your alma mater or your child’s school. For that one student who reads the magazine and is empowered to make life-giving choices, you will have made a world of difference.

What do you say – shall we take another trip together?

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