The day’s at Global Encounters quickly blurred together. Our movements swift, often uncoordinated, and yet efficient (maybe our risk management team would suggest otherwise, though). The second and third weeks of Global encounters included a few upset stomachs, a little more home sickness as we celebrated Eid and Imamat Day (honouring the day our current living Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan IV, took his role as leader fifty-nine years ago) and missed our families at home, and much movement. The Global Encounters (GE) facilitators got creative when it came to time sensitive activities, including the morning of Eid. The approach: encourage a group photo for the girls residing in Block 1 fifteen minutes prior to departure.
For many of the youth at GE, this Eid celebration was the first religious celebration that they participated in without their immediate families. You may be able to imagine the bonding missing one’s own family promotes in a scenario like camp. Also, many phones were fully loaded with credit for phone calls home, Skype interactions with family members, and Facebook messages to those that mean more than words can express.
Following our Eid celebrations and a full day at service sites working on various projects including painting school names on walls, creating and adding to murals, organizing and bringing functionality to school libraries, repairing and educating others on how to repair basic computer problems, re-building playgrounds, promoting interactive educational programs, and promoting clean and safe environments, we were preparing ourselves to commute from Mombasa Kenya to Nairobi Kenya.
I have to admit, I am still attempting to work through the need for school names to be placed on the outside of their buildings, more than just as an identification marker. A few schools head-masters I was able to speak with talked about the need to promote their institutions to bring more students to school in order for the school to have more monetary income. What concerns me most is that these schools are already crowded, this one in particular a two room school with nearly ninety students. Educators have found ways to engage many of the children but it is not uncommon to witness children walking in and out of the classrooms without informing educators, having some students sit on the sidelines and other fully engaged. I suppose not significantly different then the interaction of students I have witnessed in the Canada, but immediately upon walking into such schools I found my Western blindfolds pop up and a need to peel them away in order to understand the processes taking place in many Mombasa Kenya educational institutions.
The next day, 170 strong, we travelled in significantly larger groups then our service site groups and ventured through airports to arrive in Nairobi where we would be visiting various Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) sites, celebrating Imamat Day, and going on the much anticipated safari.
Our time in Nairobi was educational, inspiring, challenging, and exciting. Half of the GE camp arrived slightly earlier in Nairobi then the others and visited the Nation Media Group’s factory. After a dinner, where many of us wished we had more layers to keep ourselves warm, we walked through the factory and got an inside look at how the Nation Media Group produces newspapers. I was most interested in the amount of individuals that still pick up physical newspapers as their source of daily news, something I feel has dwindled away in North America where we constantly turn to social media and online resources for our news.
The vast education into the AKDN was just beginning. Days following the youth, facilitators, and staff received insight into the functioning, challenges, and value of the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and various other sites supported by the AKDN.
We also split into smaller groups and ventured out to various sites supported by the AKDN. The group I ventured with went to the offices of Nation Media Group, completing the tour of the institution as a whole. Here we became witness to where the news is collected, prioritized, written for the public, outlines created, and newspapers formatted (any journalism friends out there can share the correct terminology). We were granted privilege to see radio station rooms, office spaces, and the space in which live news is recorded.
The day concluded with Imamat Day celebrations with the Nairobi Ismaili Muslim Jamat (community) where a handful of the GE youth were able to perform their cultural dances from the week previous in front of thousands of individuals. The celebrations were just beginning for the weekend but let me keep you in suspense for just a little bit. Our celebration led into a wonderful safari adventure, all worth their own blog post!