The First Week in Kisumu!

After three flights, sixteen hours worth of layovers, and nearly leaving my bag with all of my clothes in Nairobi, I finally made it to Kisumu on May 28th. The drive from the airport to my house was very telling of the situation in Kenya. I noticed a vast amount of poverty; large informal settlements in which the nice houses consisted of mud, small stones, and a tin roof and the bad ones consisted of a combination of tin and feeble wood. These informal settlements contrasted against the nice “estate” areas, which are gated communities that hold well-built two story houses. When I arrived at my house in one of these gated communities called Kenya-Re, I unpacked my bag in my room and proceeded to sleep for the next six hours. When I woke up I walked down the stairs and met the people who are to be my family for the next eight weeks. My host family consists of my host mother, Liddy, father, Paul, Brother Teddy (seven years old), and cousin who lives with the family Ben (nine years old). Liddy works for KMET, and Paul runs his own clinic about an hour away. Both are some of the hardest working people that I have ever known; it is not uncommon for Paul to take calls from patients in the middle of the night.

The weekend consisted of a slowly building mob of children in the Kenya-Re challenging me to races (I won, don’t worry), and jumping on me trying to tackle me to the ground, which was eerily similar to being a counselor at summer camp. When I left Kenya-Re, I explored the city of Kisumu, and with a successful trip into the city by myself via Matatu, which are the public vans. The weekend was extended through Monday because it was independence day.

Tuesday the student that I am here with from Gettysburg, Amy, and I finally got to KMET. So far we have been looking at the various departments and have seen the catering school, hairdressing school, and tailoring school that are a part of the vocational training for girls to have the skills necessary to generate an income and potentially start their own business. On Tuesday and Thursday we were able to go into the informal settlements and listen in on the community conversations. These conversations are ways for people in those communities to spread knowledge and bring up issues that the community faces in order to create an action plan to overcome that problem. KMET trains certain individuals in the community to lead the conversations and educate them with the knowledge to spread throughout the communities. On Thursday we also got the opportunity to visit an environmental organization that is connected to KMET called BAMATO. This organization’s goal is to use community empowerment for sustainable development is the areas of solid waste management, water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS, Gender mainstreaming, and governance. While at BAMATO I learned that I will be working there for the next two weeks. While there, through the staff and the community conversations in the settlements they work with, I will potentially be able to help promote a project or improve on an area of the organization that needs help. During the time with BAMATO, I expect to learn a lot about how empowering communities can help the environment as well as understanding more about the pros and cons of a bottom up approach to development.

Augie Masucci ’17