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Volunteers Survey Villagers in Rural Kenya

by Connie K. Ho | August 8th, 2011

It was a sweltering, summer day in a village outside of Nairobi, Africa. Jenna Tourje, a second-year graduate student in urban and regional planning, had approached a man who lived in a mud hut in the middle of the African savannah. Armed with a translator at her side, Tourje sat down, among the gathering of goats and chickens, to speak to the man about his water needs to understand what kind of project her group, Engineers Without Borders (EWB), could accomplish at that site. As the conversation came to an end, Tourje heard the ring of a cell phone. To her surprise, the man, who had almost nothing to support his three wives and starving children, took out a cell phone and, at the moment, Tourje realized how incredibly connected the world had become and what a humbling experience she was having.

Tourje’s story is just a snippet of the challenges faced and adventures taken by students who embark on international service trips. Tourje, the Vice President of Community Development for EWB, first became involved in the organization through a friend and the organization has grown since its inception in September 2009. The first trip in the summer of 2010 focused on identifying key problems and organizing a project. The second trip, was completed in June, will be a continuation of the first trip, as EWB members begin to educate community members about public health issues and build latrines in the community. This project will be the beginning of a five-year commitment to the small village outside of Nairobi.

“The trip will not only focus on implementing solutions, but also empowering the community to meet their own needs in the future,” said Tourje.”

Photo via Yolanda Espiritu

Yolanda Espiritu is a dual-major Japanese and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine. She is involved in the international community on campus, including participation in the Olive Tree Initiative, Engineers Without Borders, and International Club. She hopes to pursue a career in education later on.

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