Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, waheshima, mabibi na mabwana,
Hamjambo! Habari zenu?
It’s great to be here to join you in celebrating the Kenya Red Cross in Nairobi and its spirit of volunteerism and commitment to public service. During half a century of volunteering, the Kenya Red Cross has helped people in Nairobi and across the country. So, tonight, we recognize the volunteers in the Kenya Red Cross in Nairobi for outstanding service and say “thank you” for your dedication and work.
You come from many different backgrounds. You have many different experiences. You may be from different political parties, tribes, or religions. But you all have one thing in common: your willingness to help your fellow Kenyans. All of you have stepped up, sometimes at great personal cost or risk. You help your fellow citizens and contribute to the strength and well-being of your neighborhoods, your communities, and your country. You help educate and prepare Kenyans for disasters, fires, floods, terrorism, disease, or other tragedies. And, then, when disaster strikes, you are there to help. You help the injured, rescue the stranded, and comfort those in need. You are always there. Your generosity of spirit and your compassion are remarkable. In Kenya and across the world, the commitment and the work of volunteers — such as you — bind humanity together in times of tragedy and hardship. You bring us together and help when we need help most. On behalf of my Mission and the government and people of the United States, thank you.
The humanitarian ethic and spirit of volunteerism that you so well embody have also been crucial in our American history and character. Former U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke of the vital role of volunteers in American society when he said: “Citizen service is the very American idea that we meet our challenges not as isolated individuals but as members of a true community, with all of us working together.”
Over the years, volunteerism helped build America. Indeed, civil society groups, and volunteers, have been pivotal in moving our nation forward, politically, economically and socially. When Americans see a need, a gap, a problem, they step up. Volunteerism is part of who and what we are as a nation.
And, it is part of who and what Kenyans are as well. Americans and Kenyans share this ethic, spirit, and value. Given our common commitment to volunteer service, it is no surprise the Kenya Red Cross and the U.S. Government have often worked together in partnership. The Red Cross was founded in Kenya in 1965 and we have been working together ever since.
Together, we have responded to extraordinary challenges and disasters. We have joined hands to respond crises in Kenya and the Horn of Africa. We have responded to outbreaks of disease and population displacement from tribal violence. We have responded to floods and droughts. And we responded to terrorist attacks at Westgate, Garissa, and the U.S. Embassy bombing in 1998.
We have worked together to meet so many challenges across the years. Following the 2013 fire at the arrivals hall of Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, we provided temporary tents to support Red Cross efforts in response to the disaster to help reopen the airport. In 2007, we provided critical relief to communities battered by post-election violence. Just in the last year, together, we took on the threat of Ebola. We worked in tandem throughout the West Africa Ebola Outbreak. Here in Kenya, we collaborated to improve preparedness, including coordinating with Kenyatta National Hospital.
And, right now, the United States and the Red Cross are preparing for the possibility of flooding in Kenya as the result of El Niño rains. Working with the Government of Kenya, the Red Cross has identified twenty-three hotspot counties likely to be affected by heavy rains and flooding. As part of El Niño preparedness and response planning, the United States will help the Red Cross replenish warehouse stocks of emergency commodities, in the event of flash flooding.
In addition to immediate recovery and humanitarian assistance, our partnership helps to promotes long-term economic development by allowing people to recover from the shocks of natural disaster, war, and epidemic. And emergency preparedness gives communities the resilience to stop extreme events from becoming disasters. Across the country, the Red Cross gives aid to populations to withstand and to recover from disasters, helping communities to get back to normal, helping children get back to school, and helping parents get back to work.
Our strong relationship with the Kenya Red Cross in Nairobi mirrors our strong partnership with the Kenyan government and our support for Kenyan civil society organizations. Earlier this year, Kenya hosted the visit of President Obama. During his visit, the President spoke about the breadth of U.S.-Kenyan relations when he said, “America partners with Kenya in areas where you’re making enormous progress, and we focus on what Kenyans can do for themselves and building capacity….” We value and support the work civil society organizations, such as the Kenya Red Cross, do.
Our partnership saves lives, prevents tragedies, and helps communities across Kenya. Thank you for what you do, each and every day. You are amazing. I look forward to our continued partnerships as we work to ensure that Kenya meets the challenges of today and prevents the disasters of tomorrow. Together, we are building a better future for both Kenyans and Americans.
Pamoja tusonge mbele.