On the 9th of August  I attended an International Youth Day event organized by 4 organizations working on youth empowerment in Kenya, and funded by the EU. The theme of the event was “Nafasi Kwa Vijana” or “Safe spaces for youth”. The whole perfectly encapsulated my experience working in Mombasa for the last 13 weeks. It was hot, chaotic, partly inefficient but through it all people had a LOT of fun. In the time I have been in Kenya, I have learned to look past the messiness and enjoy the people and the experiences, and I am infinitely glad for that.

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One of the performances by a youth group.

Attending the event helped me see just how much work AKF does in this community, and how invested everybody is in the work that they do. Multiple people in the office have come to me in the past 2 weeks and asked about my report, asked if I need help and expressed enthusiasm to read it (not going to lie, that makes it a little more nerve wracking). The extremely supportive and motivating culture within this office made it extremely difficult to be saying goodbye so soon, when I feel like I have so much left to do. As I submitted my report with my recommendations, I couldn’t help but wish I could stay here and be a part of the future program design and implementation, and see through this project to its full potential.

In the past 13 weeks, I have learned so much about Kenya, its education system and about myself. To be perfectly honest, I came into my internship thinking that having lived and worked in a developing country had prepared me completely for my time in Kenya. While those facts did give me an edge, it was foolhardy to think one developing country would be like another, especially when it comes to something as complex as education.  I am grateful for the many conversations I had with my colleagues who took the time to answer all my questions about the education system, its intricacies, its failings and its successes.

On a personal note, I was lucky enough to have my family visit me for 12 days at the end of my internship. I hadn’t seen my sister since I left home last August, and having everyone together exploring a new place was an extremely special experience, and one I know I was privileged to have. My family and I traveled to the Masai Mara National Park together and had an amazing time among thousands of wildebeest, prides of lions and other beautiful animals.

 

I flew out of Kenya yesterday with a big lump in my throat, sad to be leaving this beautiful country that welcomed me with such open arms and made me feel at home instantly. The work being done by AkF and other organizations in the country leaves me hopeful about the future for its children and the change to come. I know for a fact that this isn’t goodbye, because Kenya and I will be a long-term affair.