What do you do at the orphanage and nursery school you support?
In 2008, we partnered with an organization that founded a nursery and an orphanage. We spent two years co-running our organization. They were struggling financially but had a huge amount of energy, and a lot of passion. So, each side of the partnership benefited from collaboration. We were able to help their programs grow; they were able to help our programs grow.
We continued operating that way until October, when they felt they were stable and better able to manage their own affairs. Now instead of jointly running our programs, we support them. We pay for the education of the children at the orphanage, and we provide food at the nursery school and the orphanage.
Do you have some takeaways from working in a cross-cultural setting?
Everyone I work with is Kenyan, with the exception of volunteers who come for three or six months. At the latest point we had a staff of 17, and I was the only non-Kenyan.
Everyone is young, in their 20s. Most are high-school graduates; some are not. These are young people from the community we’re working in with the same background as the beneficiaries we are trying to support.
Working in Kenya is not easy. Corruption is rampant. It’s a factor in absolutely everything that you do. That makes for a very challenging working environment.
Also, working with young people with a high-school education, you’ve got limited writing skills amongst the staff – but you also have an incredible wealth of local know-how, connections, credibility. A young Kenyan mentoring another young Kenyan has much more influence than I could. I think the advantages outweigh the challenges.
My thinking is that one of the greatest sources of impact that an organization can have is on its staff. In order to live our mission, we need to be creating jobs for young people in our community – finding those talented, passionate people.