News | June 29th, 2006

It is part of the culture here in Kenya to have high walls with barbed wire surrounding your home, metal bars on all windows and doorways and your own security guard(s) on duty 24-7… at least for the middle and upper class residences. Many of the homes with such protection would be lower middle class homes in the U.S. or even homes of those considered to be poor. There are military men and police officers carrying rifles on the streets and at shopping centers, and frequent police checks along all major roadways. It seems there is much more wealth to protect in the states, yet even many wealthy estates are not surrounded by the kind of walls you see here in Kenya.

Maybe it’s that our security in the U.S. is more hidden. We have electronic alarm systems, sophisticated law enforcement databases, etc., etc.

Maybe it’s that we have a much more trusting culture in the U.S., but here you see young children walking alone down city streets, country roadways and highways. Here people sell and eat food without the high health standards and regulatory agencies you see in the U.S.

Another paradox has to do with wealth. In the U.S. we have so much technology, convenience and material wealth compared to Kenya and developing countries; yet what I see now is how much wealthier Kenyans are in other respects. There is a great sense in the U.S. that we don’t have enough time. With all our gadgets, inventions and strategies designed to make our lives more efficient; in general we still don’t have the kind of time for things that matter than many Kenyans do. Relationships and family are integral to life here, much more so than in the U.S. On every roadway, there are many people walking…. and walking, and walking. There’s no great rush. And often they are walking through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. On our way to and from the airport here, there are giraffes grazing like cattle or deer.

Things are much slower here. You go to a friend’s house for tea or dinner and leave maybe 4, 5 or 6 hours later. You get the sense that there is time for everything important. And so many of the things that occupy our minds with concern and worry in the U.S. are not even missed here in Kenya. My travels these last 3 weeks have not had me meeting people in misery. Even children and the elderly in the gravest circumstances seem to have a certain inextinguishable gleam in their eyes, and they are so easy to smile.

Wealth? We chase it in the U.S. Most of us know it is not material riches that make us wealthy, but the quality and abundance of other values in our lives, such as our relationships, our happiness, our enjoyment of life. These are the values Kenyans share in abundance.

I should mention another, related paradox. In the U.S. eating healthy seems to be a luxury of the rich. Yet, in Kenya, normal meals consist of what was grown in your garden, the livestock in your field and/or that of your neighbor’s. There is a striking absence of the over processed and “convenient” foods you find everywhere in the U.S. You have to look very hard to find candybars, “health” bars, pizza, burgers, etc. And things like microwavable frozen dinners are virtually non-existant. Look in the pantries or “stores” of most Kenyan homes and you won’t find what you find the chips, cookies, canned foods, snack foods, etc., that nearly every American keeps in abundance. And seeing an obese person here is quite rare. So much so, that these people really stand out and are stared at.

Kenyan’s lifestyle is an active, healthy one in large part because they are not so comfortable and life is not so convenient. They can’t order a pizza delivered to their home while watching the World Cup. They can’t walk to the kitchen and grab a bag of potato chips. If they do want to get some fries, they’ll either cook them themselves from fresh potatoes, or they will walk several blocks to find a vendor who has cooked them fresh. Gyms and health clubs are very hard to find. You could say they can’t afford such luxuries, but on the other hand, they don’t NEED such luxuries, and such activities do not take up their time.

Opportunity? Yes, we have so much of it in the U.S. But, I am inclined to think that there is a greater value that Kenyans and third world citizens share. Hunger. Literal and figurative. They work hard to survive. They work incredibly hard just to get by. That kind of hunger is worth more than opportunity, isn’t it?

In the U.S., so many children grow up with so much convenience, so much time, so much opportunity that they never experience the same kind of hunger. They never have to face the kind of challenges that most Kenyan children face daily.

What I am very excited about is how Kenya’s doors to opportunity are about to be flung wide open! And I am excited about what Vision Force’s role could be in this. Opportunity, really, is everywhere. What is missing from Kenya’s culture is the ideas and cultural structures for entrepreneurship, vision and wealth creation. These doors can be opened through education, and Vision Force can play a major role here.

The kids aging from 5 to 20 at the orphanage/school in Ngong ate butterless bread and tea for breakfast, beans for lunch (sometimes with cabbage or rice, and for the few who could afford such, an avacado), and more beans for dinner. Most walked to school, others boarded there. The bathrooms they used were outhouses, the water they drank turned their teeth yellow, the school rooms they sat in had no A/C and no electricity, the library remained closed because the books were way too outdated, the computers they used were relics from the ’80s, the close they wore were often the same ones they wore the day before unless they washed them by hand themselves. These kids were real. They were humble, they were genuine. Most of their parents were barely subsisting just so they could pay for their kids to have a highschool education.

Ngong classroom, Form 2

And most of these kids knew that going to university was there only chance of having any kind of a life beyond what their parents had had; and that going to university was a slim, slim chance. Most of the kids knew what it was like to stay home from school for days, weeks months or even years when their parents could not pay the school bills.

When I spoke to them about basic concepts of wealth creation and entrepreneurship, you should have seen them light up! You should have seen the look in their eyes, and even the tears, as many of them saw for the first time how they could make it!

Teaching vision and entrepreneurship!

Teaching vision and entrepreneurship!

Teaching vision and entrepreneurship!

Teaching vision and entrepreneurship!

Teaching vision and entrepreneurship!

(Above, you’re looking at the future of Kenya!)

AND, you’d be amazed how easy and cheap it can be to start a school in Kenya. I saw how my vision from 1996 of having a physical academy where kids can learn entrepreneurship, life skills and advanced thinking methods could be realized here quite easily.

We met a man named Morris, who left a very privileged American education and a very comfortable life in the states as a reggae singer in a popular band to return to make a difference. He saw something worth standing for. He has renovated an old home in the country and stuffed it with old computers. He invites the local kids who live on the streets and/or whose parents cannot afford their highschool education into his house to get computer training for free. These kids become proficient in the latest applications and computer repair, and are poised to become independently wealthy when Kenyans start buying personal computers for their homes.

Another paradox is the ubiquitous use of cell phones for text messaging. You can come across a traditional Massai man out in the wilderness of Africa text messaging someone from his cell phone, or in a cyber cafe emailing someone. This technology has become so cheap and is so useful that it’s everywhere! And, most people don’t even have personal computers, dishwashers, cable TV, washing machines, etc.

So, there is all kinds of opportunity right here in Kenya. Their revolution in which they freed themselves from British rule occured only 40 years ago. Corruption is still everywhere. What Vision Force concepts such as honor, vision and taking a stand can do for the youth here! And there are so many who are ready to take the lead.

I could go on and on about the conversations we’ve had with people here. Unlike the U.S. where there is so much cynicism and resignation about politics that so many people discount politics altogether; here in Kenya there is anger. People are very keen on the issues of the day that are facing their country. What holds so many youth here (ages 20 – 40) from stepping forward is the longheld tradition about deferring to authority. There is a consensus here that no one will listen to you if you are not well over 40 years old, and that you could lose your job and respect if you speak up. Even 10 years ago, we’ve been told, assembling privately in someone’s house to talk politics was something you were terrified to do. People did not do it.

We held one such meeting at a house here about a week ago with 2 people who are highly active with solving Kenya’s problems of hunger. They each held respected positions, one in government, and the other with a highly visible NGO. The conversation we had was one of revolution! Non-violent of course, but it seemed to me that everything was right there in front of us… there is about to be a revolution here, in many respects. This, it seemed, is what it must have been like for America’s founding fathers at the formation of the U.S. of A.

OK, that’s all for today. Sometime soon, I’ll share the vision that is emerging from my voyage to Kenya, and how I see it affecting our operations in the U.S. and globally.

Please post your comments. Thank you.


  1. katrina

    Jun 29th, 2006

    wow! just looking at the photos of those four beautiful men, i could feel their spirits! i think they know what living is more than most americans ever will. nothing in their lives seems to be taken for granted. there life foundation is based around core values like family, health, and community. i am absolutely in love with the idea!! and, at the same time, i know if i lived there, i would probably miss the conveniences of here. how do you protect their beautiful spirit and energy AND bring in our technologies? i would hate to see them loose the essence of WHO THEY ARE! what i ask myself is this: how can i simplify my life and nurture those core values here in the states? there’s gotta be a balance!!!!
    hey, mike, when are you coming home? we miss you here. nathan asks for you a lot!
    love you!!!!

  2. Connie

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Your article is very moving and I see the paradoxes you talk about. I feel for the people you are seeing in Africa because part of my heritage is from there and the other is Native American. My mother used to jokingly say we were on the boats and met the boats.

    I also know many of the same conditions still exist here in the U.S. but in a perverse way. There are many youth in the same age bracket you talk about who have lost or never had the dream of entrepreneurship except through gangs and violence. They see wealth all around them but not something they envision ever having through traditional means. We still have poor, hungry, starving children in Appalacia–homeless children and families in the midst of our major cities. We have this here whether you are Black or White. That’s our paradox. Poverty is not an ethnic distinction here.

    I remember when drugs came into my neigborhood as a child to control African Americans. I remember the widening one of our main streets that ran the length of the Ghetto in order to run tanks down them in case of riots. And there are still tent cities today that we thought were gone after the depression. It may be only 40 years since Kenya’s independence, but it’s only been 45 years since Martin Luther King’s “I had a dream,” here in the U.S. and the African American was free to vote. And there’s still Jim Crow in the South.

    You’re talking about opening schools in Kenya. They’re closing schools here in the U.S. Why? Because the number of children enrolling does not equal the number of children graduating. The number of children doing well does not equal the number of children doing poorly. We here don’t need to close schools; we need to open more schools. Since when did it ever make sense to help only the motivated? We have to help the ones who are not motivated, have no hope. We need to see through the baloney of “no child left behind,” unless we mean “no child who can make it on their own is left behind.” It’s easy to help motivated children. We have government to help us tackle the hard stuff. That’s why we pay our taxes.

    I guess what I’m saying is you don’t have to leave home to find the same conditions you’re finding in Kenya. You do have to leave home to find hope among some people.

  3. Darry Turock

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Hey Michael,

    I worked with a young man from Kenya in a hospital here in the US. He was working long hours while going to school. In addition to that he had another part time job. He was always deeply respectful and always kind, no matter how tired he was.

    When I was in the southern part of Texas, many years ago, I was selling flowers and jewelry for my church. Everyone on the team wanted to go to the poor Mexican neighborhood because they had such love to give. Even though they had no money they would scrape together what they could and give it to me along with some of their food and always with a smile and gratitude.

    I am glad that you are giving these kids this opportunity. I dare say, at the same time, that they are giving way more to you than you will ever be able to return. I hear it in your voice and in how you are writing. The lessons of the heart, of what is truly important, shines through in what you wrote.

    This will make a difference in the work you do here at home, as well. Get back here soon so I can bug you some more.


  4. LISA

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Wow! Just seeing what you’re doing and experiencing is overwhelming! It makes what I do to “help” others (practice law) seem totally insignificant. Your observations underscore that we, as Americans, have got to get back to basics….valuing family, friends, etc. It’s amazing to me the focus that is required to keep from getting “caught up in it all”, the proverbial rat race. Whereas, others less fortunate still value and appreciate what is truly important in life. Hopefully, they can move forward without losing sight of those values.


  5. Audrey

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Wow! What a brilliant reminder of what a gift diversity really is. For in seeing cultures, people, lifestyles, languages, and styles that are different than one’s own, the “comfort zone blinders” fall away… and curiosity, awareness, and openness come flooding through… And POOF! So clearly does the fact appear: We’re not so different after all! Specifics may be quite different, but the stuff of us is the same. Everyone wants to be loved unconditionally, feel safe, be nourished, learn, evolve, celebrate life, and experience deep connections with our fellow men. What a fantastic reminder for us all, no matter where, or who, or what, or when, or why, or how we are.

    Michael, thank you for this post and for all that you’re doing. I see the fire in those kids’ eyes that you’ve stoked to new, powerful intensities. What a gift that is… for them and for you!

  6. Ted Howard

    Jun 29th, 2006

    Hi Michael

    I come from a different culture, yet not so different, and I agree with Connie, that diversity exists everywhere. I grew up in a form of poverty. I didn’t own new clothes or new shoes until I was in my teens, yet at the same time I was rarely truely hungry, and there have been very few times in my life where I have been uncertain of my next meal – I am aware of the wealth and security that represents (perhaps because of the few days in which they were not present).

    I have also experienced the insecurity of violence, of people pointing knives and guns at me, and knowing they were perfectly happy to kill me, for little more than “sport”.
    I am reminded of the theme song of a 70′s BBC drama “Turtle’s progress”, where Turtle was a tough street kid, and the lyrics went “It’s rough at the top, but rougher at the bottom, and positively boring in between!” – he had no interest in transiting from the bottom to the middle – many don’t!

    We need to offer them a place worth moving to.

    We can do that!

    Billions in the world lack the security of food.

    Billions lack the security of housing.

    Billions lack the security of personal safety.

    Billions lack any hope of bettering themselves.

    You can find them anywhere, and they are perhaps more common in Kenya than New Zealand (or USA), and I can find them here in beautiful Kaikorua – even though we are a town of only 4,000, and by world standards wealthy on average – there are people here with incomes of hundreds of thousands a year and other families who barely make $10,000 – when a cheap rent is $200 per week ( a family’s entire income).

    I believe in Vision, and that what you teach is a powerful part of the picture.

    We are all 99%+ the same, and we treat the minor differences between ourselves as major obstacles (they’re not).

    The big obstacles are the paradigms through which we interpret the world around us.

    Vision and self belief is part of that.

    Responsibility for everything we d and say is another.

    Fundamental to both, is being able (consistently) to break out of judging the world to be right/wrong, and to allow that there are many paths through the infinite, and just because someone is walking a different path, it is not necessarily wrong, unhealthy, bad, or anything else – it might just be different.

    There are always exceptions to that of course, some things simply cannot be tollerated – damage to life, liberty, property, the environment that supports us all, one’s own word.

    These things we must each be responsible for, and we can be held accountable for.

    I believe it is possible to have a world where everyone experiences security in all the fundamentals I mentioned above – food, shelter, physical safety, tasport, education – and at the same time learns to experience love and respect, first of themselves, then of every other self aware entity (human and non human).

    I believe we can most powerful if we create systems that we can replicate easily that create the conditions where people can make these discoveries for themselves.

    Perfcecting the Vision Force training systems so that anyone can learn it effectively off the internet, or via a program that anyone can lead after downloading and studying something from the internet (for a few days) appears to me the most powerful thing you could do, and it may not call to you.

    You are free to do whatever you choose.

    What is it you choose?

    What is it you stand for? Really!

    Whatever the answer to those questions, know that there is someone in Kaikoura New Zealand who Loves YOU, and holds you in the highest regard – one of the most honourable people I have ever met, and someone whom I am proud to call friend and ally – someone worth risking my life for.

    Love Vision and Empowerment


  7. Brian Massey

    Jun 29th, 2006


    While you’ve been in Kenya, we had the premier of Pipkin’s movie Nobelity here in Austin. Caroline Boudreaux of the Miracle Foundation who sponsored the premier said “be glad you are one of the givers.” I was struck by the same paradox from India that you blogged about here.

    Her story inspired my post on Zaadz and I wanted to share it with you.

    Brian Massey

  8. Cheryl Jonesw-Latimer

    Jun 29th, 2006

    My friend in Kenya….Michael skye,

    I see Kenya as another demension of reality. A reality in which the
    Spirit within one rises from within… The Being within the Spirit or the Spirit
    within the Being…either way shows up as dignity of the Human Spirit and
    again we see “Honor” shows up. No matter where or how far one may go
    or from where a country is “honor” sems to be universal. This Stand of Honor seems to draw ones humanity into the human endevor of a deep
    passion or drive within the human existance that brings forth “Hope”
    for all to strive to grasp whatever is in ones reach to better the future of whatever generation you are from into the next for “Another Stand of Honor” to Stand upon or from whereever one can rise from as a platform
    for the Dignity of Humanity to rise for all no matter who, where or what ones condition or circumstance may beof or in that One has the
    Power to Rise in The Stand and The Stance of Honor..”
    To all at the school and others in Kenya and Micael Skye..
    I Salute You and Rise in The Spirit with you as a Friend from another land,
    but a Friend coming from the place of Honor….I Honor You All…and my
    energy, and Empowermentgoes out to you. Remeber Honor…this place of
    Honor is just a cloud away within your soul…
    Blessings from America…
    signing on to the Honor of The Kenya School…
    Cheryl Jones-Latimer

  9. Clovis

    Jun 30th, 2006

    I just can’t stop reading your article.
    It is so touching.
    It is real, it portrays what is happening on ground.
    If I had powers, I would commission you for a novel.
    It is an award winning true,analytical piece, that touches every reader’s heart. It is sharp and breath-taking.

    What is happeming here in Africa is real. The continent is realy beautiful, her people very hospital, loving, traditions valued and family life cherished.
    It is very true we lack enterpreneual abilities, and we don’t value the 21st century curency-TIME.
    The youth are used as stepping stones, easily bribed because they want to get fast cash.
    Is it because the world is moving at a very fast rate that we are becoming impatient every second?
    There is a need for the youth to keep awake, the need a vision, not just a dream.
    Michael, what you have done for Kenya we remain in the hearts of many not for a short time but for a life time.
    You are one person who has stood for the SPIRITS of many. You have a cause, you have a vision to unveil.
    I beg you to cherish your vision, the doors are now open, opportunities await you. Lives are going to be transformed through your programmes.
    What you are doing is not only for Kenyan but for the continent as a whole.

    I want to personally thank the memvers who have responded to this so called World of Paradox. Members, your words have transformed my thinking. You have inspired me, and I will not settle for less.
    I will do what I can to help a human spirit every day.

    Thank you once again Michael and your team.

    Visionary in the making.

  10. Jay Murray

    Jun 30th, 2006

    Looks like a challenge. The only continent I have not visited is Africa. But I do know what you mean by being the only caucausian in the group. My wife and I once visited a German village in Jamaica and the local school was full of black people who came up to us like they had never seen a white person before. The children were adorable, all of them and the school was more or less an unairconditioned hut, but no one seemed to care although it was fairly hot and humid. In any case my wife and I remember it well and wonder about Africa and other places where the education and opportunities are less than we see as attractive.

    You are doing good work, laying a great foundation for future empowerment. Your ideas are powerful and the method of spreading them to the young is great. I wish you success, and I know that much of what you are soaking up won’t really be clear to you until much later. But you can be proud that your message is being heard and I’m sure will be acted on in the future.


  11. Bob Daulby

    Jul 1st, 2006

    Ah… great article. You brought me right there and I felt everything. There is nothing else to say other than, just do it!

    Thank you for bringing me into that world. I loved it and look forward to its fruition.

    Much love to you all.


  12. Colleon Hill

    Jul 1st, 2006

    Hi Michael, I take my hat off to you for your achievement on your Kenya adventure. I feel as though I am right there with you. My heart goes out to the children of Kenya. My love and my prayers also goes out to them. I pray that they will have a better life, and they will become educated and have the oppunities to stand tall and be accouted for in their country. No, people in the United States do not relize how blessed we are living in a free country. Thank God for you, because you are making a difference in these children’s lives. A smile is worth more than a million dollars in the lives of children. One day I will travel to Kenya, and perhaps these same kids will be there making a difference in their country thanks to you, Michael. May God bless each and everyone of you. I say to the children “Keep your heads up because a brighter day is Coming.”

  13. Tish

    Jul 2nd, 2006

    Michael thank you for the insightful account on Kenya which Carmen shared with me. I was in Kenya twice last year as an emissary for the International Humanity Foundation to conduct famine feeds for the Pokot tribes in the East Rift Valley. Most heart tugging were the smiles and hugs we received from the women who had walked sometimes a day and a half to reach us and greatly showed their appreciation for what little we could provide. You are absolutely correct about the differences and values. Those that need our assistance the most are the women who nuture the children and the children who need to be educated to raise their country.

  14. Huang

    Jul 4th, 2006

    Hi Mike,

    4th July 2006
    The words are out that: even students from the best colledge in US, are running to China to learn Chinese.
    Because,in future, anything you deal with, will consist of Chinese. And here i am to bridge the gap. My thanks to the resources available for free now. It’s only a few minutes a day. How wonderful it is, for you, one year from the day you came to my site, ,you will be able to read, speak and write Chinese. It’s not Mission Impossible.

    My Vision for Kenya is one day All Kenyen read, speaks and write Chinese.


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