Karibu! Welcome!

Since 2004, EWB@ MSU's professional and student volunteers have worked with community members in Khwisero, Kenya to provide water and sanitation infrastructure at the district's 58 primary schools, making it easier for Khwisero's children to avoid waterborne disease and get an education.

In that time, the group has grown from a small club to one of MSU's premier student organizations, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars to fund seven borehole wells, six composting latrines and a biogas latrine that serve thousands of community members.

Thank you for joining us as we continue to work hand-in-hand with local partners to make a difference in one small part of our world. As Western Kenya's limited internet access allows, we will update this blog while in-country with the successes, stories and lessons provided by our work.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Home Again!





Home. Well home-ish. We arrived last Saturday evening to Bozeman after only three flights home: Nairobi to Brussels, Brussels to Chicago, Chicago to Bozeman. A seamless trip back to the states, though a bit miserable for me, as I was recovering from some interesting African bug that hit me like a sack of rocks when we arrived in Nairobi on the evening of the 13th. My energy has been up and down since getting back, but I feel rather good right now and am excited about it, mainly about having an appetite again.

After travelling to Africa for the first time last summer, I now have a vague familiarity with the burden of returning home with more than a fair share of emotional and intellectual dilemmas. I heard a remark yesterday that it’s great to return to a country that uses purified, potable water to flush its toilets. An enormously cynical remark, but one that is accurately indicative of the challenge that faces many: the assimilation back into a culture that we’ve been raised in for only two decades, but one that has permanently shaped us. A general response by many is a reassurance that we’ll “adjust,” but it’s hard to balance the fact that we do flush our toilets with the same water that we’re working to bring to thousands in Western Kenya, an issue that ultimately eclipses, though affirms, any personal dilemmas in priority or validity.

So with this in mind, I find myself, once again, sitting back in an attempt to take an objective look at what is going by. Class has already started, which is priority for nearly every one of my peers. I’m able to overhear how stressed everyone already is from two days of class which equates to a brand-new routine for many and how everyone’s break was “too short.” Agreed. Though after attempting to understand only sliver of what it means to live in a developing nation, and devoting a significant portion of waking hours to a project that attempts to create a better life for those who are purely less “lucky” than all of us, I am left with a deep concern for “those whose greatest expression of humanity is the newest cellphone,” as Nicholas Kristof put it last fall when he spoke to MSU.

What I’m left with is an affirmation that I’m on the track that I want to be on, one that might not be for everybody, though to some extent I think that everyone here is obliged to some level. Peter Singer, a famous contemporary philosopher put it pretty clearly, “if one can act without sacrificing something of equal of greater moral worth then one ought to.” I’ve been raised in food banks and helping with homeless feeds as my mother has devoted her life to helping the less fortunate in some way, as she understood what it meant to be poor in America. I don’t.

And in a more shallow sense, when it comes down to it, bouncing around in the back of a Kenyan matatu, avoiding police checkpoints (avoiding having to pay bribes/fines) is much more exciting for me than a night in Las Vegas or a 15’ cliff drop. Maybe I’m arrogant and self-righteous, I’ll take that, but I’ll defend the fact that there is more out there than the “newest cell phone.”

Thank you all for reading and following our trip. Apologies for not writing more (we had to walk about six miles for electricity), but I hope that if anything our writing helped to articulate what it is that we do: at the very least, providing clean water and sanitation at a few schools in another developing nation, at the most, catalyzing community development and offering a deserved opportunity for students to actualize their inordinate potential.

Until the summer,
-M

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