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Third Time in Kenya: Nora Frumento, Community, Environment and Development

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Posted: October 19, 2014

This course has continued to challenge me, change me, and provide me with invaluable opportunities and learning experiences year after year.

For three weeks at the beginning of this past summer I traveled with CED 499A to the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre, located in Nyeri, Kenya. This past trip marked the third time that I have traveled with CED 499A to the CYEC, and hopefully not the last. This course has continued to challenge me, change me, and provide me with invaluable opportunities and learning experiences year after year.  I highly recommend this course to anyone and everyone who is currently a student, graduate student, or even a professor at Penn State.                              

CED 499A is part of an initiative to develop viable economic and youth development programs for the former street youth that now live at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre. This means that year-to-year the course has had students working with business development, social development, and agriculture.

This summer I worked alongside two other students in order to develop and deliver two sets of workshops to youth at the CYEC in high school, and women in the nearby informal settlement, Majengo. The first set of workshops focused on business skills, such as knowing how to identify your resources and basic business planning, while the second set of workshops focused on professional skills, such as identifying your resources, creating resumes, and job interview practice.

 CYEC KenyaUpon arrival, my group found that we had a lot of work to do over the next three weeks, in order to make each and every workshop relevant and beneficial for those involved. We spent time looking at what has been done in the past, collaborating with staff at the CYEC, and listening to what those involved wanted from us.

After meeting initially with the women’s group in Majengo, we learned that they were interested in discussing goal setting, savings, short-term and long-term financial planning. The women in the informal settlement had faced more adversity in their lives than any of us could even begin to imagine and it became clear after spending time with them that they were driven, resilient, and ready to provide a better life for themselves and their children. It was incredibly important for us to listen to what they wanted and create something substantial, useful, and beneficial for them. We collaborated with several staff at the CYEC, who continuously helped us edit and revise our workshops. Due to the language barrier we faced in the informal settlement, they also aided in delivering the workshops to the women.

This past trip was the first time that I had traveled outside of the CYEC to deliver workshops and it allowed me to gain a better understanding of the CYEC in the context of the community. As challenging as it was at times, this was an invaluable learning experience from which I have grown.

Over the past three years this course has become an integral part of my college career, just as the people involved and at the CYEC have become an important part of my life. Janelle Larson [the instructor for this course] facilitates an environment in which students can thrive, grow, and create tangible relationships all within a three-week time span. I’m proud of the work we’ve done over the past three years and am grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to spend so much time at the CYEC.

Although the CYEC faces a myriad of challenges on a daily basis, I’ve seen firsthand that because of the dedicated staff, the youth are given a safe environment that they can call home, the opportunity to go to school, and to ability to be spend time just being kids. I’m grateful that I have been able to see the youth grow up over the past three years, solidify strong friendships with the staff and youth, work alongside peers and mentors, and find this place in Kenya that feels like home.