Interim 2013: Leadership in Kenya


The list of major issues in East Africa is building and I have only been in Kenya for two days.

The course was "Leadership in Africa" and I spent Calvin's January interim in Kenya with 27 students and two other faculty members, exploring the many dimensions and tensions between development and dependency.

What was it like? Overwhelming. Inspiring. Sobering. Life-changing. And it all happened in one month.



I hear a lecture by a leading Kenyan scholar on land degradation in Africa. Soil fertility is on the decline, and if there is any chance of reducing poverty in the region, the ecosystem must be restored to a point where it can provide adequate services for human well-being. 


Today I meet one of the world’s leading doctors fighting the HIV pandemic. I find a deep sadness welling up in me, but at the same time, I am inspired. I remember that this course is about leadership. About people who are influencing their communities. I am in the room with someone who had a voice in developing the Millennium Development Goals and who is spending his life trying to alleviate and eliminate suffering.

DAY 15

After a week in the capital city of Nairobi, we travel west to a Maasai village in Kilgoris. Here, water is scarce. Many young girls spend much of the daylight hours walking to water sources and back home. When they walk, they are not in school. Not being in school limits their future, but their families need water ... so, day after day, they walk.

DAY 28

Fast forward two weeks and my time in Kenya is nearly over. It’s late at night, and the students and I are discussing everything we’ve experienced. We wrestle with issues like urban planning, education, public health, missions, micro-finance, sustainability, international relations and poverty.

We go through our journals and notes from lectures. With laughter and many tears we retell stories and highlight the things we’ve learned in this country. We remember meeting women who are operating a business with beehives. We pause as we talk about meeting families living in the Kibera slum. We reflect on what it was like sleeping in a traditional minyata.

Then, one of the students flips to a quote she wrote down: "Leaders are the keepers of hope."

In that moment I realize what an amazing opportunity I have had. I met local leaders who are changing their communities for the common good. I saw Kenyans whose lives consist of constant hardship, yet they exhibit great joy. I saw people who were hopeful and hopeless. And I have been encouraged by a generation of students who believe in a God who is big enough to handle the many challenges they saw.

VERGE: spring 2013

First-Year Experience