I volunteered with Outreach Kenya Development Volunteers for three months
in Bungoma, Kenya. As a team of six volunteers, we lived with a traditional
Kenya family and shared in their daily experiences. Our primary focus this
summer was AIDS education. We reached over 7,000 Kenyans about the potential
dangers of HIV/AIDS. We used a secondhand vehicle bought by OKDV during the
summer of 2000 and an old TV and generator to educate Kenyans. We traveled
throughout rural western Kenya and reached people of all age groups and backgrounds.
One day, we would teach a group of two hundred high school students whereas
on another day, we educated a women's group of ten members. As well, using
funds collected from private donors throughout the 20002001 academic year,
we built the first public library in Western Province, Kenya as well as a
preschool in Kabula village (the village we lived in this summer). OKDV also
worked with several women's groups to set them up with capital so that they
could start up their own sewing shops and schools. By providing them with
initial capital, they were left to their own creative and business skills
to make efficient use of resources.
I don't think there are enough words to describe the amazing experience I
had this summer. I believe my whole perspective on life has changed for the
better. After living in a developing country for three months, I have realized
just how most of the world lives. It was as though I got a true glimpse of the
human condition. There are so many poignant images that appear in my mind when
I think of Africa; street children begging for money, AIDS patients wasting
away in the darkness of a tiny room, stacked skulls at genocide sites in Rwanda
and many more. But what gives me hope and keeps my spirits optimistic are the
positive images; people welcoming me into their homes, laughing and playing
with children who don't even speak the same language as I do and many more.
Even though Africa is a continent of contrasts, my summer experience helped
me shatter my own stereotypes of the land and offered me an honest glimpse into
the lives of ordinary Africans. Not only did I get a glimpse at their lives
but also got to make a difference in their lives.
As well, from a more practical perspective, this experience helped me understand
the dynamics of running a student group at IUB. Phil Roessler (last year's President)
taught me a lot of what I need to know about running an organization. I basically
learned the ropes from him so that I can head up OKDV this academic year alongside
another IUB student. Together with her, I'm making sure that OKDV continues
to make a positive impact not only in the Bloomington community but also in
the lives of ordinary Kenyans. I will definitely return to Kenya next summer
and hopefully stay longer than three months.