Written by CorpsAfrica/Kenya Volunteer Mr. Kelvin Mutuma
My first big assignment when I got to the site and held the very first community meetings was to trim down the walloping expectations of the community members. It was not a walk in the park to stand there and inform them it was not as they thought. It was a daunting task for them also to let go of their preconceived notions about the kind of community development that CorpsAfrica had brought. However, the community members in Kyuso were so happy to know that they were the ones who would lead this development intervention of CorpsAfrica.
The fact that I had come to the community with skills to pass on and facilitate them to get better was interesting, it was even more startling when I told the members “We will leverage the local assets that the community has to help them grow; it is Asset-Based Community Development”. But we are not rich, we have no assets, some said. Some were surprised that I was not bringing grants and direct aid to them as had been. For those who felt this way or shared similar kinds of feelings, it only took them a few community meetings to open their eyes to what was possible with what they had. As we used to sing with the other Volunteers “Our CorpsAfrica song” I communicated to them that this is CorpsAfrica the New Africa, a phrase that has always lingered in the corners of my head. New in the way that development is packaged and brought to them, in the wrappings of Asset-Based Community-Led Development to ensure sustainability and build capacity.
One of the challenges I have observed and been told about is the plight of people living with disability in this community. Many of the people here live in poverty and struggle to access necessities like clean water, electricity, and healthcare. Despite these challenges, I have also seen the incredible resilience of the people in this village. They are determined to improve their lives and the lives of their children and are always willing to work together to make things better. I have been amazed by their generosity and kindness, and by their willingness to welcome me into their community.
A personal experience that I have found interesting is the high-octane dances by the Akamba. Their dance is high energy and a vibrant display of cultural tradition and community spirit. The dancers moved in sync with the beat of their clapping hands, their colorful waist-tied cloth adding to the lively atmosphere. I am always captivated by the energy and enthusiasm of the dancers, who moved with grace and skill, creating a truly unforgettable performance.
As a CorpsAfrica Volunteer, I have had the privilege of serving as a teacher at the Nascent Kimu Secondary School, where I have been imparting knowledge on the intricacies of Biology and Physics to the students. The school, although newly established, lacks the necessary staff, making my presence all the more imperative. But beyond imparting knowledge, my volunteerism has also served as a crucial bridge to integrate and connect with the members of the local community. In addition to my teaching duties, I have also actively engaged in various activities and trainings with the community members, tailored to address their specific needs and challenges. These endeavors have been a collaborative effort, with the community members themselves identifying the most pressing issues and working together to find solutions. Some of them include community-asset mapping, charcoal briquette making, and training on WASH among others.
Overall, my experience as a CorpsAfrica Volunteer at my site since my arrival has been an incredible learning and serving opportunity. I have gained a deeper understanding of the complexities of community-led development, and have been inspired by the determination and resilience of the people here.