“Why are you doing this?”
For months before members of the CPS fellowship left for their different summer locations we had conversations together about community and development work. Kim and Jeff tried to get us thinking about our roles, what community means, and what our purpose is this summer.
Before I got on the plane, ready to embark on 36 hour journey that would take me to Kisumu, Kenya, someone very close to me asked me, “why are you doing this?” Why do I travel to a country thousands of miles away, when I could study community development at home? Why do I put myself at risk for diseases that my body is not prepared to fight? Is it for the thrill of traveling to a new place? Is it naivety to the problems and dangers of the world? Is it because I actually believe that one person can make a difference?
I’ve been thinking about this question for a long time, and have not yet come to an answer that I can articulate clearly to you today. I hope by the end of my time working with KMET in Kisumu I will be able to give you a conclusive answer.
A preacher at a church I went to with my host family in Kisumu yesterday put it best: “When you study and you have knowledge your brain becomes expensive. But I cannot take your head and put it on another’s shoulders to share that knowledge. Your brain is so expensive; it is gold, so how do you use that wealth.” He of course was speaking in a religious context, and even though I personally am not very religious, I related to what he was saying.
I believe the best way to learn is through sharing knowledge, sharing experiences and making connections with people whose life experience is different from yours. We all have our own unique knowledge, our own wealth of experiences; to use the preacher’s words “our own brain gold”. Maybe, through traveling, through meeting new people, through exchange programs such as these, we can share our experiences and share our wealth. Maybe together we can find solutions and answers to all of the scary questions this wacky world keeps throwing at us.
While I have no conclusive answer as of yet, there are a few ideas I’ve started to favour. The first being, that knowledge and education is not the same as experience. Knowledge is ridiculously important, knowledge is what changes the world; but when it comes to the field of developmental studies we have to remember that what we are studying is the way people around the world live. There is no other way to properly contextualize this until you experience it.
So, what am I here for? Why am I doing this? I am here to learn. I am here to understand how the theories, and the studies, and statistics actually affect real people. I am here to learn more about this world we all live in. To learn about a different culture and connect with people that I might never have been able to if I didn’t travel this summer. Yes it’s scary, but that’s just because it’s different, and I don’t believe we should be afraid of “different” or things that we don’t quite understand. Why am I doing this? Because, there are so many things that are “different,” and I hope through learning and experiencing the “different” and by learning form others “brain gold,” maybe I can start to understand more about why anyone does anything.
Cassie Scheiber ’17