The education team in action
Last May, another group of Penn State students from the College of Agricultural Sciences spent three weeks in Nyeri, working with youth at the Centre. Students spent the spring semester learning about Kenyan history and agriculture as well as topics in community and youth development. They also discussed the ethics of service learning as they prepared to partner with their peers in Kenya. This year projects were focused on silage production, a crop rotation production plan, and workshops on active learning for the staff.
When the 2017 team was there, Kenya was in the midst of a two-year drought and forage was hard to find. Once found, it was of poor quality and expensive. The students that year helped them plant more napier grass so they could produce silage to store for the next dry season. A number of the youth worked with our students to make three batches while we were there -- a genuine joint effort – and they’ve made several batches since we left.
The Centre seeks to grow much of its own food, both to lower costs and to ensure a fresh supply of vegetables throughout the year. Maintaining soil fertility and dealing with pests are always a challenge. One of the teams this year worked with the youth to develop a plan for crop rotation and basic integrated pest management (IPM).
The Children and Youth Empowerment Centre selected its name with clear intention -- they are focused on empowering the young people to solve their problems and those of the community. One way they do this is through educational and co-curricular programs that supplement formal education and enhance problem-solving skills. Our education team has worked with their staff and volunteers to build their capacity in active learning methodologies.
Of course it wasn’t all work. Several students brought art supplies to share with the children, and we made a day trip to the equator. Again, our students enjoyed sharing with the young people there, and they gained a greater appreciation of the challenges and joys of international development work.