One of the first words I learned upon arrival in Kenya is “Karibu.” Meaning welcome, Karibu continues to be a common theme in the way of life in Kisumu, especially at Korando. Nearly two months into my time here, to me one of the most incredible features of the lifestyle here in Kenya is the emphasis on family and community. Korando is a special kind of family; it’s amazing to me to see the love, compassion, and support Mama Dolfine, teachers, staff, and children all give each other. Coming from the States, I’m used to everyone living in their own worlds, train rides are silent, everyone is plugged into their phones, ignoring the person sitting next to them. Here, everyone greets each other as they get into the Matatu or the Tuk Tuk before settling in for the ride. One of my favorite moments of my day is when I’m arriving home from town and am greeted by a crowd of Korando kids playing football and enjoying their afternoon. The warmth and love they have for each other is evident and I feel very privileged to be able to be a part of their lives.
I am so happy to be able to spend nearly six months total at Korando as an intern through Northeastern University. My university places a special emphasis on experiential learning, a process of hands-on learning or learning as a result of experience and reflection. As a fourth-year student, I have engaged in two other internship programs called coops and am confident that Better Me is very different from the average coop experience. In my other positions I was able to learn a lot about large, American based non-profit organizations. My first job allowed me to engage with local Boston nonprofits that were doing work to improve the community using grassroots methods and utilizing Northeastern student volunteers. My second job took a more global approach, engaging with social entrepreneurs from around the world. I learned a lot in both of these positions but for my next coop I wanted to work at a more grassroots level and learn how smaller NGOs were run and operated. I also wanted to immerse myself in a new culture and learn as much as possible about the different lifestyle, values, and ideas. Better Me seemed to be the perfect fit for my next step in experiential learning.
Working with the Korando school I am learning a lot about the Kenyan educational system. In America, oftentimes children view school as boring and it is seen as a chore rather than an opportunity. I’m in awe with the children here in Kenya who have a far more positive attitude towards school. Even with far longer school days and a curriculum that is trilingual, I have never heard a child complain, they remain very curious and excited to learn. I hope to take some of their energy and optimism back with me when I return to university and remind myself that gaining an education remains an enormous privilege that I should not take for granted.
I hope to continue to learn from the children, staff, and other community members while I am here and share my experiences with my friends and family in the States. When people back home think of Africa, they often think of the poverty, violence, and disease we hear on the news. It seems that very rarely we hear about the amazing positive work that local people are doing to affect change in their communities. My time in Kisumu so far has really helped me change my perspective on this and the work inspires me every day. Kenya truly has some incredible people doing incredible work and I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.