Summer Reflections: My Summer In Kenya

Rama Mwenesi, a longtime member of the MSA, took a trip to Kenya this summer and visited family, worked on projects sponsored by some of Michigan’s student organizations, and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro for charity. In the following piece, he reflects on his time in Africa.

Rama

Rama Mwenesi (center) and residents of the Amani Children’s Home

After what felt like an incredibly long year at Michigan, I honestly couldn’t wait for the downtime that was soon to come with the Summer months! All I could think about was getting some much-anticipated R&R, but little did I know just what lay in store for me.

As soon as the academic year ended, my countdown to Kenya began. While this trip was a yearly occurrence for me, it still was as special as the first time I made it at the end of my freshman year! Travelling to Kenya, for me, was travelling home; I could see my family (immediate and extended), and be in the place where I felt most at ease. Everything in Kenya was extra-relaxed, and the pace of life was far slower than that in the U.S. Something I missed dearly!

Nevertheless, that didn’t make much of a difference for me since as soon as I completed my 20-hour trip from Detroit to Amsterdam to Nairobi, I was off to attend an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Conference the very next morning. My trip to Kenya was partly for me but mainly for Michigan (to a certain degree…)! This is because I was there to carry out two UofM related projects during June & July. One was for a newly established non-profit called the Michigan-Kenya-Partnership (or MichiKen) and the other was for E-MAGINE, a student organization I am a part of.

The work with MichiKen was absolutely amazing! For two weeks, I along with one of the organization’s founders led an interdisciplinary group of six UofM students along with 13 local Kenyans through a series of social-entrepreneurship workshops, team building activities, and much more. The goal of the trip was to have our participants engage in the cross-cultural & entrepreneurial experience facilitated by MichiKen in order to come up with potential business ideas that could be implemented in the rural region of Kithoka in Meru, Kenya. What made it even more enjoyable was the fact that we were among 40 other UofM students conducting medical research in the area! From medicine to pharmacy to public health policy and dentistry, we had it all!

The second project I was involved in entailed determining whether or not I would be able to deploy an Internet access system at a very remote school I travelled to last summer. This was on behalf of E-MAGINE, which sought to assist rural school teachers in dire conditions by providing them with access to online educational resources, helping them become better equipped to help their students! During my time there, I also had the opportunity to visit other locations I had been to last year such as the Kithoka Amani Community Home. Going there and spending time with the kids was not only fun but truly heartwarming. Our social-entrepreneurship group had donated dozens of balls for sports along with 500 washcloths to the orphanage. My trip there reminded me about the importance of “finding joy from within” and not taking for granted any of the blessings bestowed upon us.

As soon as I was done with both projects, I took up the chance of a lifetime to climb Kilimanjaro for charity on an enduring week-long trip. While others had been planning to do so for over half a year, I simply took a leap of faith and made my decision to join them just seven days before the climb. With that I knew my plans for a restful summer were long gone, but all I can think about looking back at it all was “Alhamdulillah” for the plans Allah had for me all along!

Rama has also been blogging his experiences in Kenya at michiganemagine.tumblr.com.