An Adventure in Review: Africa

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I walked by the International Ventures bulletin board everyday at school my freshman year. I would slow down to examine the photos on the board, read the exerpts from students who had participated in a venture the year prior, and think “someday.” Maybe someday I would be in one of the photos of students in front of a majestic mosque in Turkey, or standing between the blazing hot sun and rich red soil of Africa.

And someday came sooner than expected.

This summer I flew 14 hours with nine King’s students to East Africa. Our team spent a week in Kenya with King’s alum, Ted Pantone. On the other side of the billions of dollars sent to Africa in foreign aid, we explored the question of what works, what hurts and what is needed in areas that are in a constant state of development.

With an emphasis on economics, we met first in Nairobi with the social enterprise Kick Start, an organization aiming to lift people out of poverty through their products designed to aid local farmers. Second, Ted took us to his office at Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA) where we learned about their project to purify water in Kenya and Uganda.

In Uganda we met with students from the Arts school at Makerere Universtity, the top universtiy in East Africa. We spent a few days comparing American and African culture as well as forging and furthering connections with students at Makerere with a local campus ministry. Our discussions inspired paintings, poetry and photo collages.

My group talked about the stereotypes Africans and Americans have of each other. For example, our Ugandan friends don’t like when Americans conclude that Africans are unhappy if they don’t have the luxuries we enjoy. We made a photo book of the slums, with quotes from the Kampalins.

For the next few days, our friends took us to a slum in Kampala right outside the gates of Makerere. These slums are where I met Kiiza Rozet, a woman I think about everyday. When my Makerere friends and I approached Kiiza’s home, she was sitting outside kneeling over a large canvas bag and working swiflty with her hands. As we got closer, I realized she was pulling live crickets out of the bag.

We began talking. I asked questions and the Makerere students translated. Kiiza told me that she sells crickets (seen as a delicacy) in a market close to her home, and she is the sole provider of her family of eleven. Her husband lost his job when he was critically injured in a boda-boda, or motorcycle, accident. Kiiza told me that she sometimes must make the choice between buying food for the day or paying school tuition for her children. Before we left, Kiiza shared with me, with a grin that grew across her face that I will never forget, that through all her daily adversity, she was happy -- she knew her God was always with her.

I venture to guess that Kiiza has never been educated like most Americans, but we have something to learn from her: we serve a God who is always, always enough. No matter the situation, no matter the need, no matter the loss. Honestly, I am envious of Kiiza’s faith.

We had many other uniquely African experiences. I watched a cheetah hunt in the wild on an overnight safari in the Masai territory of Kenya. I dipped my toes into the spot where Lake Victoria meets a bubbling natural spring to form the origin of the Nile river in Jinja, Uganda. I crossed the equator, rode on the back of a boda-boda, learned traditional Ugandan dances and picked up a bit of Lugandan and Swahili along the way.

Together, we explored development and culture, banished stereotypes and loved people. We were loved by people, too. International Ventures was an experience I’ll treasure and learn from for the rest of my life.

International Venture destinations for this summer will be announced during International Ventures Week, October 3rd-7th.

OpinionFriend Les