Hello everyone, and Happy 2015!
The last couple of months of 2014 got international real quick -- after Sydney I popped over to Barcelona, Spain to work with LDK Consultants on their Sustainable Water Integration Management (SWIM) steering committee meeting. Then at the end of December I headed back to Samburu, Kenya to co-lead a two week volunteer tourism trip through Colorado State University for the fourth year.
The SWIM event was inspiring on many levels and I felt appreciative to be listening to lively and thoughtful discussion about a topic that is near and dear to my heart: water. Growing up in the high plains of Colorado using water wisely has always been something I have been conscious of. Seeing LDK bring together a diverse group of people from Mediterranean countries such as Egypt, Italy, Tunisia, Jordan, Israel, and Palestine to talk sustainable water management in a changing climate was fascinating.
Kenya was a vacation from ConverSketch in one sense because I did no graphic recording and had no access to a phone or internet connection for two weeks, so I was able to disconnect and be completely present with our group. I was, however, still in facilitator mode to some degree as each year I take the lead in group reflection activities so students have the chance to process what they are experiencing.
For many of these students it is their first time to Africa, and for some their first trip outside of the US. It is an eye-opening experience as we are in a very rural area of Kenya where access to clean water, food, medicine, women's rights, education and poverty are very real every day. We work with two women's villages and a local school to build or repair homes and shade structures, cut back invasive plants, paint classrooms and teach English, math and science at a local primary school, and most importantly build relationships and share with each other.
This community has taught me an immense amount about resilience, perseverance, kindness, optimism, hard work, and love. They change the lives of our CSU group each year in the best way possible through their open hearts, laughter and desire to do their best on this planet.
If you're interested in learning more about how to support education in this area check out the Samburu Youth Education Fund, an organization I've worked closely with that funds scholarships for students in Samburu to attend secondary school. Scholars are selected by local teachers for their academic marks and leadership, and an equal number of girls and boys are funded each year.