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My service work in Kenya this summer. By Nganga Muchiri ’09

Nganga Muchiri ’09 (Nairobi, Kenya) and Catherine Munyua ’10 (Kanjuku via Thika, Kenya) spent their summer working to expand opportunities for students in a high school in Ikutha, Kenya. Their project was sponsored by a $10,000 grant from the Kathryn Wasserman Davis 100 Projects for Peace Program.

  • Students Promote Education through the Creative Arts in Kenya

I spent this past summer in my home country Kenya working with high school students. The aim of the project was to help the students learn new ways of engaging with the political process and share conflict resolution, as well as other life skills such as social entrepreneurship that will enable the students to become responsible and active members of society.

The project involved designing a weekend youth leadership conference for 44 students and 14 teachers, as well as upgrading the school’s computer lab with 18 computers donated by Lafayette Information Technology Services. For me as a conference facilitator, it was very encouraging to see the students open up and willingly share and cooperate, making even the most boring activity a joy to conduct.

Furthermore, the students applied themselves intellectually and challenged one another, and us, with great debates about some of the social norms in the country. I was extremely proud to see the way the participants used the conference to arrive at several individual goals that they could take to solve some of the country’s and world’s issues, such as poverty, corruption, and violence.

The IT part of the project was meant to be the easiest and yet it ended up being the most challenging. Due to an unprecedented change in Kenya government finance directives, the equipment we had shipped had a big import duty imposed upon it. Additionally, it took several weeks to go through government red tape at the Mombasa port in order to clear the cargo. This inevitably reduced the amount of time we could spend at the school in addition to reducing our budgets and limiting the kind of activities we could engage in.

Overall, the project was a great way for me to practice some of the ideas I learned at the Development Project Management Institute at Monterey, Calif. in May 2008. Ideas about stakeholder participation and buy-in into the project became vital when we were trying to get the school as involved as possible in the planning stages of the various activities. This helped to ensure ultimate sustainability of anything we as partners initiated. Additionally, simple yet crucial skills such as report writing proved useful as we tried to explain to different organizations, most of the all the foundation that awarded us the grant, exactly what we did with the available resources.

I believe the kind of social work we engaged in during this summer project will have long term impacts not only on the students but also on us in our different career paths, having strengthened our time management, goal setting, and self-initiative skills. I want to thank everyone involved in helping make it a success.

  • Service Learning
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