Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Polly Renton

You may or may not recall the disquiet I felt about one organization's way of Helping the Poor African. I do not know if my squirmy squeamishness is justified or not. But today I (alas) read an obit for a person where I thought, "THAT! That's what makes me feel comfortable!" Polly Renton was only 40, and her four-year-old daughter, pictured with her here, also died in the car crash that killed her. Simply tragic. Alas, for I only learned about her wonderful work because she died.

Alas, too, because I would have loved to see what she would do with 40 more years. Here's what she did in the last 10:

In 2000 she went on holiday to Kenya and decided to make the country her home. Struck by the mediocre and highly restricted local news programming, she began using her experience to its greatest effect. With sponsorship from the Ford Foundation she set up Media Development in Africa (Medeva) in Nairobi to train a new generation of Kenyan television film makers, and helping them to make a series of factual magazine shows about Kenya for Kenyans.

With the exception of its founder, Medeva was entirely staffed and managed by Kenyans, and it survived countless political upheavals and pressure from politicians to whom its standards and independence were completely alien and not always welcome. It trained well over 100 Kenyans in television journalism and production techniques – and paid them. It also made five series of a current affairs magazine show called Tazama! ("Look!" in Swahili), the most popular Kenyan television show after the news, with more than four million viewers each week.

[emphasis mine, although I'm struck by the --dash before "and paid them." Such an extraordinary thing?]

Medeva is also now working in Tanzania and Rwanda, according to this article. The Medeva website says that 20 Ugandans have also received training just this year.

Oh, breaks my heart, though, this one. Prayers for her husband and one-year-old son. Prayers for her co-workers and the program she founded. May her work continue to bear fruit.


holaguapa said...

I knew Polly well when we were 10-16 and even then she was a passionate being with an AMAZING zest for life.

Nothing frightened her and I am gutted we lost touch and now she's gone.

RIP a wonderful person.

I'm glad I was lucky enough to have been a friend once.

Anonymous said...

I knew Polly from a distance when I was at school with her. She was a bright star even then, full of breezy charm and enthusiasm. She did a beautiful rendition of The Girl from Ipanema for a school show once and I was completely bowled over - one of my favourite songs ever since. Its shocking news. Why do the best of us often become the first to go?

LKT said...

I'm sorry I never got to know her in person. She sounds tremendous.

Anonymous said...