Six students at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and two adult advisors recently completed their “Quest Kenya 2017,” returning to the U.S. in early January after two weeks working in partnership with the Jirani Project in Kenya. Quest is a program spearheaded by The Crossing (an ecumenical campus ministry). Quest trips provide opportunities for college young adults to explore compelling issues, both domestic and international, in countries such as Israel and Palestine, Cuba, Northern Ireland and Mexico. Since 2009, Quest trips to Kenya under The Crossing leadership have focused on helping the Jirani Project students in Kenya participate in a camp experience. Approximately 100 UW students and adult advisors have traveled to Lumakanda, Kenya over these years of partnership, and 15-20 Jirani Project students participate each year.
The Quest Kenya group left Chicago on December 27, 2016. After arrival in Nairobi, Kenya , the group was driven in a van about 8 hours northwestward to the Jirani Project primary service region and office, then to nearby Soy Camp, where they met 15 youngest Jirani Project students (the 5 older students will have a separate career day later this spring). Quickly, the skills and outgoing friendliness of Quest young people helped break the ice.
Abby, a law student who had traveled to Africa previously, led group games – and showed off her soccer skills. Mariah, a library science student, was led reading and writing activities. Maggie, a dual major in elementary education and special education, adapted to the different styles of learning and teaching in Kenya. Emily, a social work senior, shadowed Mark Okello, Jirani Project Coordinator, as he used his own social work skills with the children and families. Emma, a bilingual Spanish/English student, gained some grounding for her eventual goal to serve in the Peace Corps after graduation. And Tippy from China, who is majoring in finance, captivated by the stunning Kenyan environment and complex issues of poverty among the Jirani Project families.
According to Kristen, one of the two adult leaders, Mark competently handled all the logistics with the Soy Resort, such as plumbing issues or power outages. Some of the students said that spending time with the kids was the highlight. One said: “I like the fact that this trip was mainly helping out and community involvement, rather than just traveling.” The Crossing leaders said: “Everyone on the Quest Kenya 17 trip was flexible, relaxed, and engaged – and willing to try new things.”
Mark reports that this was the best camp ever, and that the preparation made by The Crossing and the Jirani board supported a valuable experience for all. The Jirani Project board appreciates this long-term partnership that helps provide a special camp experience for Jirani children.