A Trip to the Highlands of Kenya


Posted: February 16, 2018

By Hinal Modasia (Agribusiness Management major, International Agriculture and Sociology minor) “Behind every smile there is a story.”
A small smooch

A small smooch

I am very grateful for the opportunity to spend 2.5 weeks at the Children and Youth Center in Nyeri, Kenya. The CYEC is an organization that houses and aids the development of former street children. The majority of my time in Kenya was spent at the center running business workshops and researching bamboo propagation. Every morning, lunch, and dinner our wonderful chef David made us gourmet Kenyan dishes. Every day after breakfast all the teams would split up and work on the various workshops with the youth, the staff, or the children throughout the day. Some days the youth would take us into town to buy supplies, and some days we would help them with their daily chores, such as milking the cow, feeding chicken in the coup, or weeding the shamba (field). 

Some of the best memories I made were after the younger children came home from school. Almost every evening, the children would sit on the steps outside of the kitchen waiting for us to entertain them. We would play games, paint nails, paint pictures, or make friendship bracelets. One evening, I gave the children markers and plain paper to draw whatever their heart desired. Most of them wrote thank you letters to me which brought me to tears.

Every night the youth from the center would play cards with us. They taught us many Kenyan games and we taught them American games. Some nights we would have a bonfire and simply talk late into the night. I made many friends but what stuck out to me was the passion, love, and care the youth had for the children of the center. They treated everyone as their little siblings and never once hesitated in helping the staff take care of the little ones. Every child at the center has a traumatizing past, but they were always laughing and enjoying the little things in life. I quickly realized that behind every smile there is a story.

I was able to be a tourist for a couple days on my trip. I had the opportunity to go on two safaris at the Aberdare and Solio National Parks. On the safaris, I saw buffalos, rhinos, zebras, monkeys, and a lot more wildlife. I also went to Nanyuki, Kenya to see the equator. It was marked with a circle with a line through it on the side of a highway. My favorite tourist attraction was the Giraffe Center. I fed two female giraffes with my mouth. It was a unique experience to be kissed by a giraffe; their tongues are like sandpaper.

I have gained a lot of knowledge from this trip. First, I learned how to deal with all sorts of travel mishaps from a delayed flight to missing a flight to missing luggage. Next, I learned how to communicate with people without talking. Majority of Kenyans know how to speak English because it is the national language; however, in small towns like Nyeri people speak their tribal language. This experience gave me the drive to learn a fifth language. I also learned the importance of teamwork. A lot of the business workshops required one on one work with the youth due to the language barrier. The youth spoke English, but understanding certain business concepts was a little difficult for them. Problem-solving is another skill I gained because a lot of the workshops had to be changed at the last minute to meet the needs of the center. Some workshops had to be made easier and some I had to get rid of all together.

I would describe this trip to a potential employer as an opportunity to use my educational knowledge for a change. I did a lot of research on bamboo propagation and business concepts while at Penn State. I had to use this knowledge plus the training I received at Kenyan agriculture sites to teach and train the youth at the center. My experience taught me how to communicate with a language barrier and showed me the importance of teamwork. I would also tell a potential employer about the children and the impact they have had on me.

My trip to the highlands of Kenya has not come to an end; it is to be continued...