We met Hassan Luchi two years ago during our first visit to Kenya on a beach in Tiwi, just outside of Mombasa. Back then we helped him out a bit but weren’t really able to do much and sadly we lost contact after we left – constantly wondering how he is doing.
The beaches here quickly fill up in season which means there is ample opportunity to do business with tourist. That’s the origin of Kenya’s beach boys, poverty stricken men from villages along the coast make a living by selling everything from fish to bangles on the beaches and have also created businesses like hiring out snorkelling gear, cooking meals or taking people out on unofficial beach safaris. Often they are relentless and can contribute to the disturbance of what can be an idyllic beach holiday, but the beaches in Tiwi are run by a bunch of great beach boys who add to the experience instead than taking away from it.
Luchi is a beach boy, and he is really very good at what he does, but his honesty, kind-heartedness and soft nature probably captivates you more than all the business he does on the beach. Since we last saw him he is better off but life is still hard in these parts and his family is always just scraping by. He has however gotten quite famous around here for the excellent work he does and even started a business hiring out snorkelling gear after saving up to buy them for almost a year. Sadly his gear was stolen by some bandits and it was a big setback for him financially.
Our friendship with Luchi quickly picked up where we left off two years ago and this time around we even got to meet his family. We spent an afternoon at his house with his mother, sisters, brother and cousins and were given a delicious meal of coconut beans and a big cake made from rice flour. It was one of our favourite days on this trip and an experience of human kindness that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
We came here not just because it is ridiculously beautiful but with the aim in mind to help Luchi. After four months in Africa however we decided to change the way we try to help by not only giving something sustainable but also to erase the element of begging. We therefore made use of Luchi’s numerous services for a couple of days and after paying him for that we used the money donated to I do Africa’s Help us Help Them to buy him snorkelling gear.
Reflecting on our time spent with his family and all the conversations we have had with him we realise that it is rather us than him who benefitted most from the friendship and we have promised to return to Tiwi in the future to spend more time with him and his family.
(There are numerous beach boys around and we could not help all of them the way we did Luchi, but we have made a point of contributing to their income by doing business – as they call it – with most of them.)