“Kenya from Two Perspectives” by Zachary Peterson
Last summer I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Kenya as an intern for Kenya Keys. Having worked with refugees and immigrants for two years prior to going, it was a unique experience for me to see what life was like for many of the Africans similar to those with whom I had worked. When I got to Kenya, I was literally on the edge of my seat every second of the day. I probably drove everyone crazy with how many question I asked, whether it was badgering our driver Mbote to tell me more about the Kenyan tribes or conversing with Board Member Michael about Duruma language and culture.
I spent a lot of time trying to learn phrases in the local tribal languages. And no matter how many times I saw it, it was always incredible to see women balancing 10-liter water barrels on their heads. I tried immerse myself in the culture as much as possible and I grew to really love the Kenyan people. I guess I was sort of surprised that I was enjoying myself so much. I imagined that I would be distressed because of the constant exposure to the suffering the people went through.
That being said, there were many instances in which I physically felt sick because of the problems people were dealing with. I saw what living on one dollar a day was like. I saw women collect water from puddles in the street. I saw how far children would walk to get to school and how desperate their parents would be to pay school fees. I saw what life was like in the orphanages and special needs school, and heard countless stories of friends and loved ones passing away due to the AIDS and malaria epidemic. But in spite of their challenges, the people I met were some of the happiest and most grateful I’ve ever met.
I don’t think I’m the only one to have had the perception that Africa is a sort of hell on earth: a hot, dry place with extreme poverty, corruption, disease, and violence. Without question, all of those factors are present in Africa. But there is also another story to Africa which lies in the hearts of the African people. The struggling continent is lifted by the people through selfless acts of kindness, hospitality, faith, and gratitude in spite of their hardships. That is what makes Africa truly a remarkable place.
Zach Peterson served as a volunteer intern on our 2017 Team and had such a meaningful experience that he returned again this summer, and is actively teaching in the village secondary schools. Zach is in college studying Economics and International Development, has worked extensively with refugee students and has a propensity for languages. His ability to speak Swahili enables him to connect with the students and the entire community at a much deeper level. This blog was written following his experiences last year: we look forward to his perspectives after he returns from his work in Taru this summer.