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Ontario high school students travel to Kenya to learn

Written on June 21st, 2013

[caption id=”attachment_166” align=”aligncenter” width=”427”]Kenyatrip3fs-1 A photo from a previous student group’s trip to Kenya[/caption]

On the to-do list for a group of Ontario high school students spending July in Kenya is visiting the Mulli Children’s Family. Here on an 800-acre farm, more than 2,000 children are nurtured, educated and learning to grow enough food to support themselves and the surrounding community.

Learning from the work of many Kenyans is the core intent of the trip, says organizer Peter Oussoren, a teacher at King’s Christian Collegiate in Oakville.

“This is not intended to be solely a service trip.  First and foremost, I want students to go with the idea and the mindset of learning, that’s why it’s a course.  But, service is a component of this trip.”

Designed as a university preparation geography course for which the students receive credit, the trip will provide opportunities for each student to have conversations with people working in a field they have chosen to study.

One student is researching education opportunities for vulnerable children.  She will interview Kenyan educators, including a woman who works to find support for children who otherwise couldn’t attend school.

Another student is studying community efforts to lower HIV/AIDs rates.  His research will include interviews with health-care workers in a rural community, as well as individuals who receive HIV/AIDs supports from a local non-government organization.

Other topics students have chosen include the pros and cons of micro-finance, refugees and internally displaced persons in Kenya, food security issues, urbanization in Nairobi as compared to Toronto, and water-borne diseases and water purification methods.

The students will also do some service projects, such as volunteering at a children’s home called New Life Children’s Home and helping out at Mulli Children’s Family planting trees — last year, 1.5 million trees  were planted there. But Oussoren hopes they also approach these efforts with a view to learning and understanding.

“While helping out at the children’s home we’ll be exploring some key questions, (such as) why does this home even exist, where do these children come from, what happens to them afterwards?” Oussoren says.

The group will also visit an elephant orphanage, where again, the intent is to understand — Why are these elephants here and what are the issues around poaching?

The greatest possibilities Oussoren sees in this trip is that students deepen their comprehension of the developing world, its struggles and the solutions it is creating in those struggles.

He also wants to introduce them to a good cross-section of Kenya, with its mix of wealth and poverty, forward-edge initiatives and more traditional practices, to show the beautiful and tough sides of a country they might know primarily through the media.

Oussoren is also excited to connect the students with many people who have a real passion and calling for their work. As an example, they will meet one woman who runs a small medical organization in a rural area dedicated to ensuring people who are HIV positive receive the correct drugs, stay on the program and that their families are OK.

“That’s what I love about this course, the students will meet people who are very passionate and strong about what they feel God has called them to do,” says Oussoren, who lived in Kenya with his family for several years and still has strong personal ties to the country.

The course can also build students’ international mindedness, Oussoren says, noting several previous students have gone on to work in other countries, including one now with World Vision in Mexico and another in refugee camps in Jordan. A third recently completed a med school internship in Uganda.

Students will be submitting a report that compiles their background research, interview results and other information they collected while in Kenya for a final course grade.

The group of nine students and chaperones leaves for Africa this Sunday.

 

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