Sometimes it feels like we’re worlds apart from our recipients: (most of) our domestic team is based in NYC, whereas our recipients live in rural Kenya and Uganda; and the $1000 we send is more than a year’s income for our recipients, but it’s just another month’s rent in NYC. Despite these differences, some things aren’t so different after all: for example, how we celebrate the holidays.

Two of our field officers, George and Witness, spoke to some recipients about their holiday traditions; the majority of our recipients celebrate Christmas. The specifics differ, but the big picture is the same: it’s a day to spend with family, indulge a little, and reflect on the past year.

In rural Kenya, relatives from all over travel back home to be together; they go to Church, sort through family issues, share stories and take photos. They buy clothing and shoes for themselves and their children, and food for celebrations: soda, cakes, and cooked nyama choma (roasted meat). Christmas is often the one day of the year when children get to enjoy foods like chicken, fish, chapatti, and rice. One recipient talked about buying beer, a treat saved for that day. Those who’ve left their villages and are working in town are expected to gift some of their money to poorer relatives.

First and foremost, Christmas is a celebration, but it’s also a time of reflection and planning: families share ideas about what they can do to improve their lives in the coming year, and discuss ways to financially support poorer relatives – often by contributing towards children’s school fees. One female recipient said that the women often talk about ways to empower themselves financially so that they’re not completely dependent on their husbands.

Over 1,500 households received a payment from us the few weeks before Christmas. As a donor, I’d be happy if my money helped a family make the holiday a little more special.

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