Many people have a so called “bucket list” of places they’d like to travel before they die. I am no different. But for me, I’ve come to realize I’m drawn to places I want to “meet.” Places that can be my teachers. Places that will confuse as much as enlighten me.
From the time I was young, I always remember being drawn to the continent of Africa. Who can explain these seemingly random affinities? I can’t, but I have come to trust them.
My second day in Nairobi, Kenya as an Advocacy Peace Fellow, I sat in a bar drinking Tusker beer with my colleague from the Undugu Society and one of her friends. Her friend was surprised to learn I had only been in the country two days. “You seem so comfortable.” I was. And I wasn’t.
I went to Kenya not with answers. I went with questions. I went expecting to be discomforted by the disparities I encountered. I went hoping to be divested of Western “solutions” related to aide, Millenium Development Goals, and the like.
I ended up spending most of my “free” time in Kibera a slum, not out of a sense of charity, but because that’s where the life was, the youth were. It’s where I could witness the rich civil society unfolding, refolding, transforming in the hands of the youth. It’s where I could listen to their stories of creative and peaceful rebellion. It’s where I found the most friendship, partnership, and hope.
If ever I feel false or out of touch with myself, if ever I feel too ambitious and distrusting of my motives, it is youth that bring me back. Their raw and often accidental authenticity help me not to lose my own. The youth are my truth.
I may make it to those countries that I hope will be my teachers, but even if I don’t, I know that I will always learn in the presence of youth, Kenyan or otherwise.
Follow the links above to read more stories of youth civil society and self advocacy in Kenya.
- Youth make market in Kenya shine (cfcausa.org)
- The Advocacy Project – Voices of Youth (whimsagogy.wordpress.com)
- One man’s trash … the jewelry made from boiled bones (cnn.com)
- Undugu shaped my future. (nakupenda2.wordpress.com)
- Youth Farmers = Youth Empowerment (omusiri.wordpress.com)