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Hutton Honors College

 — Indiana University

Kunal Desai
Summer 2001

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.