Aly’s Second Visit to Kenya: Intern Post by Aly Vislocky
I am just completing my second trip to Kenya in one year. I feel so honored that I have been able to travel to a place with the most genuine and grateful people living in some of most deprived and drought-affected villages of the world. To summarize the trip in one sentence, it was eye opening, hopeful, and humbling; but at the same time, equally exhausting and overwhelming. The depth of some of the issues rural Kenya is encountering is staggering, but given ANY resource Kenyans thrive on creating an opportunity. The focus of the trip was similar to last trip, that being supporting and promoting education, but this time 14 university interns joined the team to research and serve the people of Kenya. After witnessing the trials, my optimism was challenged as I heard story after story of challenges the children face.
We arrived at one primary school, Nyari, and instead of being greeted by big white eyes and smiles, the children were missing something we couldn’t identify. Later we found out that most of the children attending this school have to walk 10 to 20 kms (6-12 miles) to school each morning (these are 4 year-olds to 16 year-olds) leaving their houses at 4:30 am without breakfast, studying hard at school from 6:30am-5:30pm without lunch, and then walking the 10 km home to help fetch water and to maybe receive dinner. Most of the students hadn’t had a meal for days. No wonder something was missing, it was food and energy…as a result the souls of these children were barely surviving!
At another school, Egu, we saw students that slept on their desks at night because of the long travel time to walk home. Walking home wouldn’t allow them to study in the evening. We arrived at 7:30pm and it was completely dark, we were in the “elephant country” and words can’t express the humbling sight of seeing a classroom of children studying silently under one kerosene lamp. There were no teachers or parents forcing them to study. They were motivated by their own drive and desire to work hard. When we asked why they were studying so hard they said, “Because I want to succeed in life.”
You might ask why my optimism was only challenged and not destroyed. The answer stems from the hope, resourcefulness, and gratitude of the people. The schools that have been touched by Kenya Keys are different. The children at these schools have energy. Creativity is freed and a positive feeling has spread to the community at large. It is beautiful that as Americans we can provide the resources and watch Kenyan do all the rest. They are developing the programs and continuing the work while we are not there, all signs of a great collaboration.
Some of my projects:
Women’s soap/hygiene project:
While I was there I had the idea to combine a micro-finance women’s soap community with a school hygiene project. I am going to sponsor the project, which will create small income for the women in the community and provide 500 bars of Aloe soap to schools.
Girls Community Outreach: Sponsor a Village
Last time I was in Kenya, I organized a community forum to talk about barriers of female education. There were 15 local leaders that came and we brainstormed grassroots efforts to change cultural views of females that make education difficult. I was very happy to see that over the last 7 months the group organized a committee, outlined an annual plan, and created a budget. They started the work, which included traveling to 17 villages, speaking with the local chiefs, and holding meetings to discuss female education – and they did it out of their own pockets. Now, it is my turn to try to assist. I am looking for people who might be interested in sponsoring a village of outreach. Their goal is to travel to 17 villages which will positively influence 4,864 people (I laughed when they knew the exact number). The committee is going to commit to visiting each village 4 times: setting up a meeting, completing the agenda of the meeting, setting up a local committee, and then a follow-up meeting for the committee.
If anyone might be interested in supporting the girls community outreach program, by sponsoring one of the 17 villages. With your help of $60 the discussion of female education issues will begin and touch the lives of hundreds of female students.
Sponsor a Kenyan Student
With the help of the other interns I also completed case files on every student that is sponsored by Kenya Keys. 100% of the money donated goes directly to pay for these secondary students to go to school. The sponsorship program is AMAZING. The children get so excited about the relationship with their sponsor, promise to work hard, and most importantly WOULD NOT be in school if it weren’t for these scholarships. I have met with the student my family sponsors twice, his name is Gabriel. Seriously the most genuine person I have ever met. He took me to his family’s house the night before I left and his mother handed me a live chicken as a thank you. Awkward, but so funny.
If anyone is interested in sponsoring a secondary student (high school) it is $325.* This pays for school, boarding and food for ONE YEAR! We are hoping to find people who are willing to commit to 4 years to build a relationship with the student.
I wanted to share some stories and provide an opportunity to anyone who might be interested in supporting education in rural Kenya, which also supports a fight against poverty.
*The sponsorship amount has increased to $375 / year.