Planting Blue Gum Trees
Elementary School Students
Tea Plantation and Factory
The Kenyan experience provided multiple opportunities for service learning and for observing and participating in Kenyan culture, economics, education, and agriculture. Below is a brief summary of the trip activities.
Travel to Kenya went without a hitch. There was a slight flight delay in Minneapolis causing a rush in Paris, but the connection was made and all luggage went through to Nairobi. Participants arrived in Nairobi around 8 pm local time, and were shuttled to the hotel by Bamba Tours guide and drivers.
On Monday, June 13, after a stop to exchange money, the group drove to Naivasha, stopping at the Rift Valley Overlook. The first tour was of the Osearian Flower Farm. This is the largest and most technically advanced fair-trade certified flower exporter in Kenya and a leader in sustainable practices for the industry. Participants observed aspects of local and international business, economics, and agriculture. Instructor Janet Scott, who teaches Intro to Sustainability for SCC, gathered a lot of data and information for her class.
After the tour of Oserian, the group retired to Cray Fish Camp, where they took an evening boat tour of Lake Naivasha. Out on the water they saw hippos, birds, and giraffes on the shoreline.
Early the next morning, Tuesday, June 14, the group went on safari in Nakuru National Park. Among other animals, buffalo, Thomson gazelle, Grant gazelle, baboons, monkeys, crested cranes, giant kingfishers, water bucks, warthogs, white rhinos, Rothschild giraffes, impalas, and 2 lionesses were seen on the safari. After the Safari, the group traveled to Kisii.
On June 15, Wednesday, the group visited Amasago St. Paul High School. Early in his career, SCC Instructor Danvas Mabeya was a teacher of the Swahili and English languages at the school. This was the location of the service learning project, where the group began their discussions on helping to build up the school library. Discussions took place between students, staff, and faculty of both institutions regarding the differences in Kenyan and U.S. educational systems.
In the afternoon, participants visited a soapstone quarry at Mt. Tabaka. Local artisans were observed extracting stones from the quarry, cutting-down, and carving stones into animals, dishes, sculptures and various artistic works. From the quarry, the group moved to a small area of huts where women sanded and painted the artistic items. There was also the opportunity to purchase the artifacts as mementos and gifts. This experience allowed SCC participants to see local artists and entrepreneurs at the grassroots level.
On Thursday, June 16, the SCC group visited the non-government agency, ADRA, where the local leaders explained their work with communities in fighting Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In the Kisii area, FGM is still a common practice affecting up to 80% of the female population. In conjunction with NGO leadership, trip participants drove to a very poor part of Kisii to a meeting of a local community project. This particular group was comprised of rescued girls and women are re-building their lives after being disowned by their families for refusing FGM. The ladies welcomed us with song and dance and put on a skit demonstrating how they had been able to escape the practice. Further discussion followed among the SCC participants, the local ladies and a local chief who is a big supporter of the movement. As the group departed, the ladies again sang and danced for us in farewell.
After the conference, the group travelled to Gusii Institute of Science and Technology, where a tour of the facilities took place and a partnership, specifically in online classes, was discussed with school officials. Gusii Institute's Business Division was very interested in having their students enroll in SCC's online classes.
The last activity of the day was to travel to the Gichana family farm. After being introduced to the family of instructor Danvas Mabeya, the group headed out to a nearby field and planted 100 blue gum trees.
As the trees were being planted, a large crowd of children gathered to watch the American's. When the planting was completed, the group headed back to Instructor Mabeya's house, joined by the local children. Until dusk fell, the SCC group played and sang songs with the children, teaching them action songs (hokey-pokey, chicken dance, head-and-shoulders-knees- and-toes, YMCA) and then learning some traditional Kenyan songs and dances.
The morning of June 17, the group visited the Masige Primary School where donations of children's books, sports equipment, candy treats and some toys were given. Again, the SCC group delighted in interacting with the local children. SCC faculty member Jane Bock, donated money for several of the school children to buy shoes. Since the completion of the trip, additional funds have been collected by trip participants to go towards school improvements. SCC faculty Danvas Mabeya has committed to fund construction of a new classroom for the school. With donations from the Mabeya family, carried to Kenya by Dr. Mabeya's sister, $700 will be donated for the classroom.
From the school it was a short drive to Niansiongo Tea Plantation and Factory. Although the factory was not in production, participants were again able to observe a local business community and economic environment very different from anything in the United States.
Saturday was spent primarily in the vans, as the group drove from Kisii to Nairobi. Upon arriving in Nairobi, the group spent a few hours at a famous Masaai market bargaining for mementos of Kenya and gifts for those back home.
June 19, Sunday, the group headed out early for a game drive though Nairobi National Park. First stop, the sight of April's ivory burning, where 105 tons of elephant tusk and 1.35 tons of rhino horn was turned to ash. Participants were reminded of the problem of poachers and the ethical dilemma that Kenya has faced in its decision to burn the ivory. One student mentioned that after seeing the ash, the issue became real in a way that it wasn't before the experience.
Unfortunately, the game drive on Sunday was not as successful as the previous one, and only giraffe, zebra, gazelles, ostriches, baboons, crocodiles, and a few other animals were observed. Participants were compelled to appreciate that the animals are living in their natural habitat and not always out in the open for tourists.
Lunch at the famous Carnivore restaurant was a highlight for meat-eaters in the group. After lunch, the group visited The Giraffe Center, started to protect the Rothschild Giraffes, but which continues to provide conservation education for school children and the youth of Kenya. Trip participants were able to feed, touch, and even kiss giraffes while taking take fun pictures and videos.
Monday, June 20, the day started with a tour of the United States International University in Nairobi. The library was a highlight, as SCC participants observed various technologies and learned that course textbooks are checked out rather than purchased at USIU. A visit to the IT department identified both differences and similarities with SCC IT systems. Lunch with school administrators brought discussions of potential exchange programs between USIU and SCC.
At 2 pm, the group arrived at the United Nations Office at Nairobi, the UN Headquarters in Africa, for a tour. SCC participants toured the buildings and grounds, viewing sculptures gifted by countries in the pursuit of peace and a tree planted by Pope Francis. Participants learned about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and gathered information about the UNEP and UN-Habitat programs. One highlight was a visit to the two conference rooms where the UN General Assembly holds their sessions. Many students were not aware of the role that the United Nations plays in global relations and conflict resolution.
The last day of the trip, Tuesday June 21, was bittersweet. The day began with a meeting of the SCC group and each student giving a brief presentation of things that impacted them during the trip.
Instructors asked the students to present observations of cultural differences, identifications of a change in perspective they experienced, and to share what they might tell others in the United States about Kenya.
When presentations were completed, the group headed to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust. This organization helps rescue and raise young orphaned elephants and rhinos. Many times the animals are orphaned by poachers, or left behind because they have fallen into a well. The group watched the feeding of several groups of elephants and were able to touch and photograph them.
The final activity of the trip was to Bomas of Kenya. A center providing a representation, through music and dance, living styles, and crafts, of the wonderful diversity of cultures that make up Kenya. A show of traditional dances was presented, followed by a walking tour of unique village structures present in the country.
The tour company, Bamba Tours, did an excellent job for Southeast Community College. The hotel accommodations and food were good and the tour van drivers were very knowledgeable about the culture and sights. Primary contact and primary guide, Lilian Akatu was phenomenal. She did an excellent job organizing the trip as well as making last-minute adjustments. Bamba Tours dropped the group back at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in plenty of time for an uneventful trip back to the United States.