This Friday, June 1st, I am set to head off to Kenya for what promises to be the adventure of a lifetime. I was recently accepted into a Fellowship Program called Princeton in Africa, that provides recent graduates with the chance to do work in the field, in (as the name would perhaps imply) Africa. Within the context of international development, the industry I hope to work in, there is this maddening Catch-22. It’s very difficult to get work without some sort of “fieldwork”, and yet, it’s tough to get any sort of real fieldwork without substantive experience in development. For this reason, I am very excited to get this opportunity. It’s exactly the sort of work I hoped to be doing, and in a lot of ways it’s surreal that I’m getting the chance to go out and do it.
I am working with an organization called The BOMA Project, who does really, really awesome work. BOMA provides grants, business development training, and micro-savings to women in the North of Kenya (primarily in the Laisamis, Samburu and Marsabit districts, check ’em out on Google Maps!). A group of three businesswomen receive a grant of $150 to start a business (such as a corner kiosk, a bakery, or a fishery), then local Village Mentors in each of the 20ish villages where we work provides them training in basic business skills. We also offer micro-savings programs, such as a commitment savings program, where women pledge to put aside a certain amount of income each week (with the expectation that these funds can be used towards goods and services that might otherwise be difficult to have enough money for, like school fees).
Much of my work will be on the monitoring and evaluation side of the project. Basically, we want to be able to see the extent to which these programs are actually working. Accordingly, I’ll be doing a lot of surveying and talking (via a translator) with these women, to gauge how the grants and programs are affecting them, and how we can improve the program going forward. I’m super pumped about going to into the field–I’ll talk about it a lot more I’m sure once I get there, but it’s really one of the elements of my position that really compelled me to be a part of the organization. I’ll also get to contribute to the fundraising side–showing donors in the US the sort of work that BOMA does on a day-to-day basis, which should be a really fun way of thinking about the work we’re doing, and how to make it relatable to people half a world away.
While I’ll be going into the field, I’m not gonna be spending all my time there. Instead, I’ll be based in a town called Nanyuki (hence the name of my blog!), which is located about 120 miles north of Nairobi and is at the base of Mount Kenya. While it’s super sparse, I think I’ve literally read the Wikipedia page of Nanyuki more than 20 times, so I can tell you that the population is around 32,000, the weather year round is great, it is a “market town” and the Kenyan Air Force and British Army both have bases there (it sounds like my chances of being able to watch English Premier League soccer on a regular basis are quite high).
Hopefully, the next time I update this blog (and hopefully there is a next time, I just need one more post to eclipse the number of times I posted on my blog during my time in Argentina) I will be in Kenya! My goal is to update this every week or so, for periods of time when I’m in Nanyuki and not up North “in the field” and therefore incommunicado. So anyway, check back for posts for my talk about The BOMA Project, Nanyuki, Northern Kenya, development, life abroad, and any other musings I might have. But for now, Nanyuki and the North, here I come!