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Kenya: Educating and Learning About Agricultural Methods and Techniques in Nyeri, Kenya, by Carly Glassmoyer, Agricultural Science major, INTAG minor

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Posted: May 31, 2017

Traveling abroad and doing human development work is challenging and rewarding; listen to your inner self, listen to others, be open, be accepting, be understanding, but most of all, be able to comprehend that your actions are done with good intent and a pure heart.
Peter planning some Calliandra and Leucaena for the cows

Peter planning some Calliandra and Leucaena for the cows

During my stay at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC) in Kenya I learned a great deal of lessons, many of which I feel were only gained by witnessing and participating in person. I came to the realization that classroom work can be rewarding but nothing compares to how you will feel by actively going somewhere and viewing the things you learned about as they truly are.

During the course of our trip we were broken up into separate groups. There was the shamba (garden) team, the dairy team, the business team, and the gender team. These different groups were created to tackle the separate areas the center felt they needed some help with. I was part of the dairy team and worked with Peter to strengthen the health and production of his and the center’s cows. The first thing I surprisingly learned was communication skills, because Peter was not fluent in the English language. Personally, I thought I had great communication skills and I’m sure a lot of other Penn State students do as well. We learn from middle school on that we need to speak up and keep a straight head, make eye contact and don’t stutter. We take speech and communication classes all throughout our career and yet I was not prepared to communicate with my partner who had a language barrier. It was frustrating at times when we agreed on a meeting time to later find that we had miscommunicated, but exciting when we made new language breakthroughs.

The dairy team also worked with the business and shamba team to create more organized records and to talk about planting certain grasses for the cows. Many trips were taken with Peter and some other boys to nearby successful farms, to take notes and view the farmer’s methods. Everyone we met was so welcoming and willing to teach and really shared their love and inspiration with us. Although all of the knowledge we gained from the farmers and through our personal team research should have made production of the dairy cows soar, there were still setbacks. For example, certain feed and minerals as well types of grass needed to be implemented into the cow’s diet for the best possible production. These were often expensive and hard to maintain and the boys didn’t have the funds to accommodate them. I also often wondered if they would take our advice seriously because we were foreigners, asking them to change the ways and habits they were accustomed to. At the end of the trip these questions were still left somewhat unanswered but I was more at peace with them. I knew that if we gave them the tools to improve their lives and left them with the compassion and inspiration to do so, that they could rise to the challenge.

Along with doing agricultural work during the week, myself and the other students went on other exciting adventures. Almost every other day a group of us ventured into town to get snacks or to shop. This in itself was a trip to remember because the streets were packed with busy people and bright colors. Those trips really made me understand that everybody is just living their lives in a similar way that we are and simply trying to provide for their families and trying to give themselves a happy life.

Towards the end of the trip we went on a safari where we stayed at a lovely lodge with a wonderful woman. She was very kind and the other guests she was hosting has great stories to tell. During the safari we got close to Rhinos and Elephants (which was a little scary), and even went on a small hiking adventure to witness some beautiful waterfalls.

This trip was rewarding in many different ways, not just to a potential employer, but personally as well. I’ve traveled to Africa before, but have never worked with children in a center like the CYEC (Children Youth and Empowerment Centre). They have such zest for life and really believe that if they try their absolute hardest they will become something great. Learning that from them was so inspiring and beautiful. It also ignited a spark inside me to come back to Kenya and keep doing international human development work. It made me value the skills I gained through my program at Penn State and even though it may be hard, I truly feel lucky to be able to do the work I do.