December 7th 2012 marked 18 months in Kenya for me. While my experience has been overall amazing I have to admit it has been a rollercoaster ride. Joining Peace Corps I was always told that I would take away so much more than I would give. I didn’t think this could possibly be true, but it is. Kenya has made me a stronger woman in every aspect of my life. I know what it is like to walk an hour to town just to get electricity, lift 10 liters of water out of a well when I need it, wash my clothes by hand, use a pit latrine and be judged or harassed just because of my skin color. Life is simple, but it is not easy.

I have tried to make my projects over the past year and a half as sustainable as possible. I have taught women how to make reusable sanitary towels, held cooking classes, and started a school library and garden at CBSM. I have also taught life skills at two secondary schools on a weekly basis and have had nutrition classes at the hospitals in Kimilili. I have had women’s and men’s health/sports days encouraging physical activity and health awareness which have been extremely successful.   have applied for solar cookers and lamps for the women’s groups and orphans of CBSM but I have yet to hear back. Perhaps my best week in Kenya was Camp GLOW sponsored by PEPFAR. This was a weeklong camp to empower and teach high school girls about HIV/AIDS/STIs/STDs, pregnancy, career opportunities, income generating projects, etc. I realize my projects are small scale but I want to stray Kenyans away from the “every white person has money” donor mentally. Just giving them money but never teaching them the importance of capacity building and sustainability is (in my opinion) not the right way to go about development work.

For future projects I would like to build a rain capacity storage tank for CBSM. Sometimes the tapped water is turned off or just doesn’t work and I think it is important to have another clean and readily available source of water for the students. I would also like to have a jiggers outreach and treat all of the CBSM children infected with jiggers. I hope to also paint a world map mural in one of the new classrooms if possible and will help Racheal Singley wherever needed in her efforts with the children’s home.

I honestly think my most rewarding projects are not projects at all but the everyday conversations I have with Kenyans sharing my culture and learning more about theirs. This cross-cultural exchange has made me a much more open-minded, tolerant and patient person. On the flip side, I have been told from many Kenyans that they have learned a lot from me as well. These conversations and experiences are the things I will miss the most when I leave in August. Well, that and the beautiful simplicity of life here.

Happy holidays!