When asked to briefly describe how the service learning project to Kenya has impacted them, those involved in the project said:
I was reminded of the important lesson to slow down, (Kenyan time). I think that we forget the importance of slowing down in our rush, rush, rush society. Part of this was helped by not being attached to a computer or a phone. Everything (work wise) that I left here in Wyoming was still here when I got back. I was reminded that by slowing down I'm better able to take on each task. I have found myself less overwhelmed since returning and everything is still getting done in a timely manner. It is just no longer rushed.
I am appreciating the things I have a little more, air conditioning, food I like, clothes, water pressure. An example that comes to mind was being in Wal-Mart the other day with my 8 year old who was whining about getting a toy and something to the effect that he doesn't get anything. I asked him if he had more than one outfit. He was quite confused at my line of questioning. I asked again. He said yes, questioningly. Then I asked if he had more than one pair of shoes that fit. (By now he had caught on). Yes, with a bit of a defeated whine. And is your only toy a ball made out of pieces of cloth tied together. No, but… Then I don't want to hear it.
Contributing to the cafeteria was an incredible experience. I found two aspects to be nearly overwhelming: 1. the appreciativeness of the children and, 2. the compassion of the work crew. The children exemplified the extreme poverty most clearly to me. To look in those hungry eyes and know we were doing something to alleviate their hunger was incredibly powerful. Their gratitude bordered on worship. I do not remember ever having the feeling of making a worthwhile contribution to that extent. Getting to know the construction workers was the other powerful experience I had. I worked most closely with Kinuthia. He taught me, supported me, and happily worked right beside me, regardless of his beliefs or experience. He was a true gem.
It is amazing to think that my two weeks spent in Kenya have really made me think about things differently. I know that travel can be an eye-opening experience, particularly for people traveling for the first time, but I had lived abroad for extended periods of time prior to this experience, so I thought that I would be impacted in a similar manner. However, what I enjoyed most on this trip and was meeting people from Kenya and being able to talk to them—this impacted me in a much different manner than previous travel experiences. It is often too easy to just stick with Americans when traveling abroad, and yet in Kenya because of the set-up of this course, I was able to meet Kenyans and talk and just have fun with them. This firsthand knowledge makes me a real proponent of service learning and has really made me go back and rethink my perceptions of Kenya, but also the way I see my own life back in the United States. I have never been too attached to things, but traveling to Kenya made me realize how much junk I actually own and the amounts of money I spend on truly unnecessary items. I (surprisingly) have not had much difficulty adjusting to life back in the United States, but in the back of my mind, I continue to make comparisons between what I experienced in Kenya and what I see daily around me.
Learning the cement business from my friend Paul at the school was a great experience. Paul was rather humble and pretty quiet, however he was extremely smart and very helpful. Paul not only taught me "Koroga" but he taught me about how genuinely nice and well-meaning the Kenyan People are.
I noticed a few differences in the children in Kenya versus the kids back in the states. I was touched at how the girls held hands, and seemed very protective of each other. It didn't seem to matter to any of them that their uniforms were tattered, their shoes didn't fit, and their socks had holes in them, as did their sweaters. The condition of their clothing seemed insignificant to them, unlike the children in the States, where clothing is a status symbol and name brands are important even to young children. The soccer ball they used looked like the guts of a very old ball or just baggies tied together. No one seemed to mind. When one of the children on the last day fainted 3 children simply picked her up and carried her to the shade, they unrolled a blanket and put her down. There was no drama, teachers were alerted but the children carried her, stayed with her and returned to the program. I was amazed at the calmness in which this all took place. That same scenario in the United States would have been quite dramatic. I cannot imagine children carrying a student, I am sure they would not have moved her for fear of a law suit.
The children also seemed to be a part of the work which in turn made them part of the community. Boys carried the big heavy pots of soup from the kitchen, to a wheelbarrow and then to the place where it was to be served. They were a part of preparation of the lunch served to us on the last day. I have helped out in school settings and I haven't seen that kind of interaction. I was touched to see the community of kids, teachers, cooks, and principals all working together to get things done.