Written by Suthen Sivanesarajah, 2014 East Africa: Youth in Action.  I chose to join the Youth in Action program in East Africa in part to understand the impact and challenges of micro-finance in sub-Saharan Africa. For the uninitiated, Micro-finance is an alternative way of providing financial...

Written by Ben Presley, 2014 East Africa: Discovery. Our vehicles were running on African time today so there was no way we were going to be on time for the wedding. We didn’t mind passing the time waiting for a way to reach the wedding though. We used it to get all dolled up in our traditional Ugandan wedding dress and to take as many pictures as possible. The girls needed some help from Mama to get into their dresses but us boys had no trouble fitting into ours and strutting our stuff right away. Ready for a Ugandan Wedding

Photo by RWEYOWA.

The Team in Wedding Attire

Photo by Linda Ozromano.

We all got to the wedding in separate cars after getting lost a few times along the way. I learned shortly upon arriving that I was to be the best man and we were all an important part of the groom’s side for the ceremony. It wasn’t so much a wedding, more like a formal engagement in which the bride’s side puts on a celebratory show. There were dancers, percussionists, a Ugandan soldier, Buganda warriors, and two hired men to bicker and transition the celebration from one event to another. We were also involved in the ceremony, we ended up carrying all the gifts that the bride’s side had prepared for the evening. The girls brought baskets by balancing them on their heads and the boys carried an entire cow! It was so cool and interesting being thrown in the middle of something so different and new for us.

Written by Vanessa Rotondo, 2014 East Africa: Discovery. The philanthropist seeks to promote human welfare, to ease suffering, and alleviate the burdens that often find shelter in the human heart. Compassion acts as the footing to all which is built upon it and love is the structure that forever sustains it. On our way to Namasuba, structure it seemed, was nowhere to be found. Between time scheduling, transportation arrangements, and makeshift roads, it was safe to say that we got off to a rough and bumpy start. Nonetheless it was time to put the pedal to the metal, to hit the pavement, and to get our first project off of the ground. [caption id="attachment_13559" align="aligncenter" width="557"]Getting posters ready for community mobilization. Photo by Linda Ozromano.[/caption] After settling in to our quarters we were welcomed by our second of four partners, Rescuing Widows Elderly Orphans and Youth with AIDS (RWEOYWA). We were given the run-down of their efforts by Tony and Kasamba, two highly passionate locals, spearheading HIV/AIDS education and awareness within the community. Under their guidance we created over 400 posters in preparation for our community mobilization efforts. We walked the streets in one giant OG team, hammering nails into trees, brick walls, and any other surface that would support our words: OKUKEBELA OMUSAYI KWABWERERE OGWA SILIMU, KABOTONGO, CANDIDA, NENDELA ZONNA OZOBUKUBA JENGU OYAMBIBWE KU NKOLA ZONNA EZA FAMILY PLANNING *Translation? Free HIV/AIDS testing and other sexual transmitted diseases, family planning and counselling [caption id="attachment_13556" align="aligncenter" width="587"]Michaela and Vanessa. Michaela and Vanessa. Photo by Linda Ozromano.[/caption]

Written by Mike Lecours, Carl Lin, and Adam Darell, 2014 East Africa: Discovery. After our time in the big city of Nairobi, we set off for Naivasha, a lakeside town of flower farms, wild animals and dramatic landscapes. After stopping to overlook the Great Rift Valley – the cradle of mankind, we arrived at Fisherman’s Camp, our home for the next 3 days. It was a great place to learn yoga, tree climb, do head stands, and for the group to bond and reflect on our decisions to come on this trip in the first place. We discussed our hopes, fears, and expectations and all gave our reasons for coming to Africa. Tears were shed and dreams were shared as we huddled around the fire late into the night. It got deep pretty quick as each OG participant (and our leaders!) opened up to reveal our own stories of how we got here, and where we want the trip to take us. At that moment, we knew that this life-changing journey was about to unfold and become an indispensable part of our lives, and we knew we were in it together. [caption id="attachment_13521" align="aligncenter" width="574"]Campfire by the shores of Lake Naivasha. Photo by Adam Darell. Campfire by the shores of Lake Naivasha. Photo by Adam Darell.[/caption]

Written by Mike Lecours, Carl Lin, and Adam Darell, 2014 East Africa: Discovery. Our 6 week long adventure began in the bustling city of Nairobi. Once the late arrivals were settled, we shared greetings and introductions over cold Tusker Beers. There was Megan, the earliest to arrive; Ben, fast asleep; Vanessa, the poet; Carl, with his new found love of all things GOAT; Hanna, the nurse; Mike, Karate Kid; and Michaela, late as usual and already running on African time. Of course, there was also Adam and Linda there to greet us, Adam at the airport and Linda waiting back at the hostel with a hot bowl of soup, a blazing fire, and a warm smile. The tardiness of the airport, taxis breaking down before leaving the car park, the zebra on the side of the road, and wifi in the hostel were all surprises for the new arrivals. Forgetting all about the jet lag, we set off the next morning to the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, which sits right beside Nairobi National Park and is home to over 30 orphaned elephants. Caretakers gave us a talk about the elephants, and how they were prized from their families by poaching and human-wildlife conflict. The elephants are looked after by full-time carers, some of whom even have to sleep with the youngest of them. They remain in care until they are old enough and able to be accepted by a herd in the wild. We also saw our first troop of wild baboons! [caption id="attachment_13474" align="aligncenter" width="520"]Photos by students at the Mwelu Foundation. Photos by students at the Mwelu Foundation.[/caption] After a very African lunch at a police canteen, we headed to meet our first partners, the Mwelu Foundation in the Mathare slum district of Nairobi. Our first impressions of the slum were striking. What a huge difference from the built up areas of the city and up-market country homes surrounding the national park! Kids are shouting ‘Mzungu how are you!’ from alleyways, and our senses were truly bombarded with the sights, sounds and smells of slum life. It gave us a lot to ponder.

Written by Thilini, Amanda, and Charlotte, 2014 East Africa: Youth in Action. It's been a whirlwind week for the East Africa: Youth in Action team! We've spent the past few days moving through Nairobi, Naivasha, and now we’ve finally nested in Kisumu. On Sunday afternoon, after lunch and still battling jet lag, we took a matatu out to Kibera, an informal slum settlement that houses between 200,000 to 1,000,000 people and has developed a form of self-governance over the years. It's impossible to estimate how many people actually live there since people are constantly coming and going; there are no permanent houses, formal streets or addresses.   We weren’t sure what to expect when entering the slum. Though we’d heard about Kibera through documentaries and from others, nothing compared to experiencing it first hand. The houses are small and often double as a shop in the front. Garbage piles up in the streets, waiting for its turn to be burned. Sanitation is one of the biggest issues here, as would be expected in a community receiving so little help from the government. This issue is often highlighted in the infomercials produced by various NGOs. What they don't show you, however, is the number of small businesses and development opportunities that have emerged within the community. Almost everything that can be found in the western world can be found here too. Banks, pharmacies, kitchen supplies, beauty salons, shoe stores...you name it, they have it. Kids with Soccer ball in Kibera The children ran after us and we heard a chorus of "Mzungu" (which basically means white person) "How are you? How are you?", as we walked the streets. While the children were excited and fascinated with us, the adults simply stared on. They are used to foreigners observing and taking pictures of their living conditions. After walking through the streets of Kibera, we ended up at the Masaai Mbili art studio.

Written by Linda Ozromano, program leader, 2014 East Africa Discovery As team East Africa Discovery was finishing our first volunteer project in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, we felt very lucky to have worked with RWEYOWA. Our time spent working with them gave us much confidence and...