With no family to spend Christmas with during my two years in Kenya as a Peace Corps volunteer, my fellow volunteers became my family. One year my Christmas holidays were spent in northwestern Kenya. There my fellow volunteers gathered to celebrate the holidays in the Pokot tribal area, home to a traditional tribe whose customs included wearing animal skins and eating a meat-based diet.
We didn’t exchange gifts – volunteers have no money to spend. Instead, our focus was on spending time together. We honestly didn’t mind sleeping on the floor or in tents and having too many people sharing one bathroom. We were having fun in the way young people can. But we never dreamed it would be so difficult to cook our Christmas dinner, the focal point of our celebration.
The volunteer who was our host had purchased a turkey for the occasion – a live turkey. She thought she was keeping it safe near her house but two young children practicing their hunting skills with bow and arrows killed the turkey a week before Christmas! With no refrigerators in sight, my friend and her neighbors ate the bird before we arrived.
Ever resourceful, our group pooled its cash and bought a few chickens for our Christmas feast and made a Robinson Crusoe-style oven (a large metal pot with a lid and charcoal on the top and bottom) to cook them. The chickens took forever to cook; yet, when we finally ate, what we lacked in style and cuisine, we made up for in spirit.
Perhaps feeling responsible for our missing a turkey feast, community members, dressed traditionally, gathered the next day and danced and sang for our group. Soon, they paraded in a cow and slaughtered it in our honor. One enterprising member of our group, experienced from working in a butcher’s shop while in high school, elbowed his way to the front and carved out the filet steaks. That night we ate the best meal that the tribe could offer us. We were grateful.
From my work with ChildFund, I know that 870 million people do not have enough to eat, and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. As you enjoy your Christmas dinner and count your blessings this year, I would ask you to also think about what you can do in 2013 to ease the hunger of others across the world.