What a day. It is now almost midnight and all I can hear is the tapping of my keyboard and the bird outside the window chirping as though it is three in the afternoon, yet it feels more like three in the morning. My day started just after 6, and it has been non-stop. Getting to Mathare at 8:15, we awaited the arrival of the students as we set up the chairs. There were no desks or whiteboards, so we had to improvise with booklets and pens.
Initially, very few students arrived. I was the first to speak and my voice was shaky and my words stumbling while they stared at me with big curious eyes whispering “we have no clue what you are talking about.” Our Strathmore student (a local partner university in Nairobi), Paul, helped out a lot. He not only translated the language, but he understood the culture and how to relate to the students. Whilst the students were extremely respectful and eager to learn, the first hour was difficult and draining. As time went on, though, we started to learn about them as they learned about us, making the classroom more enjoyable and entertaining.
In one exercise, we asked them to discuss in small groups what some solutions are to the problems in their community. They outlined these issues as;
- poor waste management
- lack of clean water
- lack of homes
I sat with a group of relatively young people; two women and two men, and they chose to tackle malnutrition. The two men had come in and I immediately identified them as the “cool kids” laughing and joking in the backseat, and assumed they would be an issue, yet they were so so eager to learn and create and got very passionate about their fruit kiosk business idea quickly. They turned to me for approval of all of their ideas and translated anything from Swahili into English for me to understand. It was that moment that it clicked I think, I suddenly realized how much I was enjoying myself, even if I were so far out of my comfort zone it almost didn’t feel like real life.
This evening, we ordered pizza and all hung out in the boy’s apartment debriefing about the day. We talked about what we define as success, and VJ suggested we all take a few minutes to write down what we consider success to be on this trip.
” Success to me would be achieving some sort of positive impact on at least one student due to knowledge gained through their experience and the course work.”
I think to me this could mean a lot of things; a boost in confidence, a business idea, an actual start-up, growth in a business, or simply a story to tell their friends about the month they spent with the Mzungu.
Overall, a success, and I am more than excited to go back tomorrow.