So here it is...the end of another life-changing summer adventure. I have said this every summer since high school, but that is because life keeps growing and changing in outstanding ways! Five years ago I decided to really break out of my comfort zone with a backcountry canoe trip to the boundary waters. In each summer since, I have been pushing myself through more challenges than a classroom will ever teach me.
I came to Africa on a quest to figure out more about my future career. All of sophomore year, I was stuck in a rut, unsure of where my life was going. When I found ThinkImpact, I was not sure what it was, but Africa, rural village, and making a difference sounded like an experience that might help me figure it out! Three months later, I boarded a plane to East Africa, not really knowing what the upcoming weeks would bring.
To sum it up shortly, I was introduced to the world of social entrepreneurship and the role that it is playing in the developing world. Through being fully immersed in a rural "impoverished" Kenyan village, my views on helping the poor, international aid, and the role of the western world have changed dramatically. Previously, I doubted the role of business, but now I see the power of market-based solutions. By working with my design team of seven local community members, I firsthand witnessed that these people did not need to be given donations, they just needed a nudge of confidence to realize the greater potential that they held. In my village, Kinani, many families lack money and go hungry frequently. Most families have a shamba (small farm), but their maize yields are very poor. Decades of monocropping have left little nutrients in the soil, and the farmers lack the money to buy chemical fertilizers. That is where the plentiful resources of Kinani come in. By combining ash, sawdust, maize stalks, cashew nut leaves, vegetable scraps, and more, my team is creating an affordable, natural compost manure that they will be able to sell in the local area. In time, the increase in nutrients will result in higher yields, bringing more meals to families. While I learned a great deal through guiding this team, I also grew through 6:30 AM workouts, eating vegetarian, and embracing cultural, religious, and political differences.
After yes, another life-changing summer, I am leaving Kenya with completely different perceptions of the world. What perceptions you may ask? I cannot place it into words, but here are some examples of what I no longer believe:
- I thought I knew what it took to change the world.
- I thought giving free clothes and donations was improving lives.
- I thought that mission trips to build new schools were giving impoverished children a chance.
- I thought that constructing wells was giving more people access to clean water.
- I thought the non-profit sector was the answer to poverty alleviation.
- I thought Africa was unsafe.
I could go on for ages. If you are curious what I now believe, do not hesitate to ask me about that or any other aspect (latrines, safari, etc.) of this adventure upon my return next week. I am finally out of my rut of sophomore year and ready to see what the future brings with the new ideas of social entrepreneurship bouncing around in my head!