Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Dead Muzungu Market

Have you ever wondered when you donate to an organization where that stuff actually goes?  Let me tell you.

Actually, before I get into my story, let’s make sure we are all on the same page.  According to Phelan’s Dictionary:

Muzungu [moo-zune-goo]: (noun) Slang: a white person, a term used primarily in east and central African countries to refer to someone with light skin.

Ok, now that we have that key word defined, back to our regularly scheduled broadcast.

When you donate clothes or food or school supplies to an organization which claims to be helping orphans in Africa or homeless victims of a typhoon or some other depressed group in a land far, far away, what do you think actually happens to your donations?  Do you think those exact people actually get it and use it?  Survey says: NO.

Here’s what really happens:  Salvation Armies and Goodwills and other non-profit organizations all over the world collect donations and then send them to communities of their choosing.  Very often those things get sent to Africa.  And while sometimes they are donations, very often someone, somewhere is making a profit.

In most cases if the clothes actually make it to their destination and are given free of charge to community members, those people turn around and sell them.  All over Africa I see little kids wearing t-shirts that say “Sexy Grandma” or mechanics wearing “Race for the Cure” bandannas.  The University of North Carolina must have a huge student group which collects clothing donations and sends them to Africa, because I think that is the most prevalent collegiate attire I see in every country on the continent.  And when I was in Congo last week I finally saw…… a guy on a motor bike wearing a Texas Tech sweatshirt!  I practically caused a traffic accident trying to talk to the TTU sweatshirt guy, but was unable to take a picture because there were half a dozen police officers standing nearby witnessing our conversation.  When I asked Mr. TTU Sweatshirt where he obtained his prized possession he told me he purchased it at the Dead Muzungu Market.

The Dead Muzungu Market is where your donations begin their second life.  The reason it is called the Dead Muzungu Market is because everyone shopping there believes the clothes previously belonged to dead muzungus.  Why else would someone get rid of perfectly good clothes?  Obviously, someone died which is why their clothes ended up all the way in Africa.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, anything you own in Africa (car, refrigerator, phone, etc.) is used until it literately dies and cannot be used any longer.  So the concept of disposing of clothes which can still be worn does not make logical sense to anyone here.  Hence, if the clothes are still intact and can be worn there must be another reason someone got rid of them.  If the clothes didn’t fall apart and die, then their owner must have, thus creating the belief that all these clothes shipped from abroad belonged to now dead muzungus.

Keep this in mind and smile next time you donate your former sorority rush night t-shirt to your church group.  Chances are sometime in the future a taxi driver in Sierra Leone will be wearing it proudly and announcing to friends that he purchased it at the Dead Muzungu Market.

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