Rabbit Houses and Final Reflections

Well this is my final blog. I leave Kenya in a few days and head back to life in the States. I figured I would spend my last blog talking about all I have learned and end with some questions that still remain.

My project has been completed and the rabbit house is up and working. I officially handed it over to the community last week and the community members were very happy. I can’t wait to hear about the success they have in the future with the rabbit farming. It has been nice to get to know a small group of community members and be able to help them in a way that they wanted help. I wish them the best.

I have learned a lot while in Kenya this summer. I have gotten to know the way of life in Kisumu and become very comfortable travelling around this city. I have learned all about the things that people value here and have learned about the development that is still ongoing. I learned that people are very caring and welcoming here and that almost anyone will help if you need it.

I have also learned a lot about myself. During my time here I have felt uncomfortable, unsafe, and uneasy at times. Some of these were due to being in a new place, and some of these were because things are so different than I am used to back home. These feelings also allowed me to learn the most about Kenya. If I never got out of my comfort zone I would have barely done anything beyond work at KMET. I learned that leaving my comfort zone is very important to experiencing new things and making the most of a trip.
Before coming to Kenya, CPS provided us with a though provoking idea about service. The asked us to think about how much “good” service actually is. Foreigners come to the developing world all the time to try and “help”. They don’t stay for a long time and they usually don’t understand the culture right away. They can be overly opinionated about things they really don’t understand and can end up having a negative impact on the community. We were asked to think of the impact we were having on the people we worked with beyond the projects we implemented. Things we said, body language we portrayed and different unintended messages can be received and misinterpreted by some. Overall, we were asked to think about whether our impact would be positive or negative overall.

This is a question that I still don’t have the answer to. I’m not really sure if there is a concrete answer to this question of the validity of service. I have seen the vast amount of nonprofit work that is done in Kisumu alone. The work that is done is making a positive impact on the people it affects. But, I wonder what kind of impact the help leaves. I have been asked at least a hundred times to give someone money or to help out. So many people ask me for money because I am white and people around here associate white with wealthy. This concept is entrenched in the minds of people in this area of the world. My best guess is that it comes from a long history of foreign aid. This leads me to my final concluding question: Does foreign aid cause increased complacency among those receiving it? I wonder if people lose that drive to advance because they see how much aid there is to receive out there. This is a question I have about all aid worldwide. Do foreigners inadvertently stunt development by trying so hard to help? It is a question that I will likely never answer in my lifetime.

I have had an amazing time in Kisumu this summer. I cannot thank CPS and Jim Heston enough for making this experience possible. I have learned so much and have had a blast. I hope all the other Heston interns are having great times too and I wish everyone the best as they conclude their internships.

Dan Rustico ’15