Konstantin Hegewald – Internship at Sauti Kuu

Mzungu (Kiswahili for ‘White person’) how are you? – My time with Sauti Kuu
12 September to 12 October 2012

From the 12th of September to the 12th of October I lived and worked for Sauti Kuu. While looking for adventure and a deeper meaning in life I coincidentally was led to Auma Obama and her organisation Sauti Kuu.What will I be doing? How will it be in Kenya? What do I still need to prepare? Where and how will I live? Nothing was clear when I decided: I want to go to Kenya to find that powerful voice of Sauti Kuu.

Although the travel logisitics were complicated, they did not prevent me from immediately immersing myself in a new world once I got to Nairobi and met the people. Maybe this was because the 1600 metre high altitude that greets visitors to Nairobi made my arrival (acclimatization) easier. In the thin smoggy high altitude preperations for a big (SKF) workshop were in full swing. I did my best to contribute. Apart from having worked for one year with disabled people, I had no experience of youth work. I had just finished my second semester studying Psychology and was therefore particularly interested in the topics Self-awareness, Self-esteem, Self-confidence and Creativity.

In order to get a better idea of the importance of the work Sauti Kuu was doing and the effectiveness of their approach, I wanted to spend time in direct contact with the people they worked with. This was possible throught my participation in the workshop, which was held in Alego, and by staying on in Alego to help work on the development of the Sports program. After a shaky, pothole-ridden bus ride (with many more to follow) on a very dark night, across most of the country we finally arrived at our destination. Finally Countryside, finally Alego! The wide landscape, the equator! Huge cloud formations moving on the horizon that would suddenly turn into huge raindrops that surprised your eyes and skin and caused you to hasten your step. We had arrived at the Banda!

The workshop was a great experience, for me as well as for the Sauti Kuu Youth. I could relax and just enjoy being one of the participants. It was great to be one of them. I was no longer the stereotypical Super-White, with a magic solution, but simply a young person like them, with wishes, interests and challenges. Talking to each other, exchanging ideas about fundamental issues like corruption, aids, contraception, self-awareness and planning your life helped me a great deal to sort out my priorities.

After the workshop I stayed in the Banda with Auma und Wachuka to get the Sports for Social Change Program started. We visited the headmaster of the local Primary und Secondary Schools of Alego, Nyangoma, to share, get to know each other and discuss working together. The schools Heads were very open to discussion and very interested in what Sauti had to propose, which was to work on a regular basis with the schools to provide a sports programme that would include positive behavior change, around important topics such as Self-Awareness, Relationships, Environment, and Community, that would be passed on using play.

It was a magical moment to experience the forging of this new partnership that had not been there before. To be part of a coming together of people and ideas, and to know that you are part of it made a big impression on me.

I already noticed at the first workshop I attended in Alego how sport brings people together. In between the sessions the breaks were used to play games together. This worked really well with a ball and no words. Body language no interpreter needed. Pure fun. No manual needed. This resulted in a spontaneous agreement to meet up with some of the young people for an early morning run. The next morning I was treated to amazing views of the countryside and a spectacular sunrise. The sunrise in Alego is hard to forget. The sight of the deep red never ending expansion of sky, and my up until then unknow desire to wake up at 6 am every morning to start my day was awoken – a day rich and intense in colour and contrast as the sun itself.

I then stayed for two weeks at the Banda working with Dan, the local Field Projects Coordinator, to help with the Sports Program that now had to be implemented on the ground. We started off by developing a pilot project to be followed by the actual program. With regards to the work, the most difficult part was the coordination and communiation of time, materials and people and much less the actual implementation of the program. But we enjoyed every minute of it. It was a lesson in dealing with the ‘hard reality’ of working on the ground dealing with the challenges of the Kenyan school system in a rural context.

Next to the work on the sports program and dealing mainly with young people, I also had the opportunity to do practical grown up work. I spent a couple of days working hard and working up a sweat tilling the land on Mama Sarah, Auma’s grandmothers farm, experiencing a day in the life of any smallholder farmer in rural Kenya – Digging, weeding, sawing and preparing food for the animals. I really enjoyed this possibility to be part of and share the experience of the local people, while at the same time doing work that mattered and was so satisfying. I once again was able to experience how working together created bonds and connected people in a way that made their differences irrelevant.

I cannot list all of what I experienced – there is not enough room here. I don’t think I can even put into words or explain how I have processed these wonderful experiences. I seem to have just taken it all in without prejudice and unfiltered, and now, a year later, I notice how the experiences in my time at Sauti Kuu in Kenya are still circulating inside of me, are part of my being, uphold my spirits and accompany me from a fulfilled yesterday into my now and hopefully into my tomorrow.”

Report by Franziska Enzmann – REHAU Intern at Sauti Kuu

Diary Abstract, December 12, 2013

“I have been in Kenya for three weeks now – time flies when you’re in Africa. This Sunday I spend practicing motorcycling – and head for a place to eat 20 kilometers away from here. In the evening I meet with Dr. Auma Obama and Dan, an employee of Sauti Kuu. The meeting is about the logging of all activities that have to do with the biogas plants.

The following day I meet with Dan again – this time to go shopping in Siaya. He comes a little later than expected. “Never mind,” I think to myself. “Kenyans aren’t known to always arrive bang on time”. Once in Siaya we look for a shop that sells chemicals since I desperately need some sodium to work on the biogas plant.

Back in Alego I check the biogas plant at the school. Things are not functioning, as they should, since as compared to my expectation too little gas is produced. Together with some young people from Sauti Kuu I dig out the plant’s hose and rinse it thoroughly. We pin the clean hose and seal the connection with silicone – unfortunately with no luck. But I won’t be so easily intimidated and look forward to an absolute highlight that is on the agenda later today: two employees of Sauti Kuu will take me to Ndori. First, we have dinner and then go to a club. I’m amazed by the fact that almost all the guys in the club are dancing whereas most of the girls are just watching the scene. The club fills up later in the evening and we have a swell time. By the way, Kenyans dance to similar music as Germans.

The next morning, the serious side of life waits for me. Somewhat discouraged, I note at the school that the biogas unit produces little gas. What is to be done? First, I seal a small hole with some silicone that lets through cow dung – which of course should not happen at all. Then I put a balloon over the outlet of the system so that no gas can escape during my work on the plant. Once I regulate the outlet a little, the balloon fills but sadly, it doesn’t fill up with gas. “Somehow, this is all quite mysterious,” I think to myself. When I remove the balloon I notice that gas leaks from the outlet, but as soon as I connect the gas cooker instead of balloons, I can’t create a lasting flame. What does that mean? Well, I still have a lot to do. At the market in Alego I pick up a huge pineapple meet with children from Sauti Kuu. With a pocketknife, which I inherited from my great-uncle, I cut the pineapple into small, bite-sized pieces and share it with the children. Later, I teach two young people, who are helping me, about chemistry. In return, the two help me learn some Luo dialect (the language that is spoken here in the region). With this in mind: Oriti! – (That means “goodbye”).”

My experience of a Sauti Kuu Retreat in August 2013

Konstantin returned to Sauti Kuu a year later:

In August 2013 I had the opportunity to once again work as an intern to support the work of the Sauti Kuu Foundation in Kenya. This time I was there to do an Evaluation of a week long Retreat-Workshop of the Personal Development and Character Building Program, which was held at the Sauti Kuu Banda in Alego Nyang’oma for 50 young Sauti Kuu people from the Alego and Nairobi programs.

I wanted to connect my interest in youth development in an intercultural context with the valuable practical work Sauti Kuu was doing in this area. This research was conducted in preparation for my Bachelor Thesis in Psychology. While it was difficult to prepare ahead from a distance while I was in Germany, a structured plan of action emerged when I was in Kenya that fit in with the workshop’s concept and my academic line of thought. I wanted to research how certain psychological resources in ourselves are strengthened, and what conditions were necessary for them to develop. I used the following parameters to conduct my study: “general self-efficacy beliefs”, as in the global basic trust in one’s own competence in dealing with difficult challenges, as well as a so called “pro-active attitude” characterised by the experience of one’s personal purpose based on experiencing meaning and direction based on personal values.

I wanted to take into consideration exactly these values that made personal “Pro-activity” possible – after all there are quite different, opposing value-based attitudes, for example “Openness towards new things” versus “Maintaining the Status Quo” or “Commitment for the Common Good” as opposed to “Pursuing one’s own interests” – so I also collected data on these constructs. My hypothesis was that although an individual’s competencies are a precondition and the “motor” that drives a successful life, the overarching values are the “Navigational tools ” and the deciding factor in determining the direction of how a person uses their freedom, and how the combination of both enable self-determined actions in the sense of “Pro-activity”.

Next to the (local and individually focussed) scientific organizational tasks, my main priority was to observe the actual work conducted with the youth to capture their experiences during the workshop. It was great to be able to combine the dry theory of my academic work with the lively activities of the workshop: I was impressed with the optimistic outlook of the young people despite their difficult living conditions, as they happily found a middle ground to work through their challenges together. I was able to experience this sharing more intensely because I had already bonded with many in the group during my last stay with Sauti Kuu in September 2012. Nonetheless I was aware that coming from Germany with all the ‘privilege’ that it offered, I could not be seen here as the ‚poor student’ that I was. The fact that I could come and go as I pleased was already a confirmation of my privileged position. Through the many personal relationships I forged I was able to shift this perspective by focussing on the personal level of interaction. By asking questions such as: What is important in our lives? How can we achieve it? Which problems can we solve and how? What connects me with you in this situation? I was able to experience the universal communalities of these questions that were the same for a “poor” German student and a rural Kenyan youth, even if the answers were many and varied. All in all, the workshop was very eventful und diverse. Sports, games, reflection sessions, discussion groups, excursions, joint meals, washing up and tidying – all added up to weave an intricate net of structured activities and experiences that were enriching and liberating for the young people.

Having the opportunity to be part of, and to contribute in my small way, to all of this was a very valuable experience for me (in addition to the work for my studies, I also did different activities to reflect on my own understanding of my resources and values). It remains a valuable experience, where psychological constructs came to life and boundaries between and within individuals were moved. Thank you Sauti Kuu and all the best!

Sylvia Sabarth – My internship at Sauti Kuu in Kenya

How three months can seem like three weeks
20 Juli to 8 Oktober 2012

“My fist trip to Kenya was in 2009 when I visited my extended family with my parents. I was able to see a lot and enjoyed exploring the country, which was new to me. But I some how never quite felt that I was actually there. My second trip was very different. I was there longer and really got a chance to experience the country and people. I tried out delicious cuisine, met great people and got a lot of work experience. I loved it!

I immediately fell in love with the Sauti Kuu office. It is situated on one of the longest and liveliest streets of Nairobi, Ngong Road. Despite this fact one had a sense of the outdoors, thanks to a huge fig tree that our office window overlooked. It was possible to watch the comings and goings of a large variety of birds. The then (still quite small) team welcomed me with open arms and managed within seconds to make me forget how nervous I was. I was embarking on a new episode of my life (I had just finished high school). This was easy in the warm and friendly environment.

My first task was small. I was asked to update the profile information of all Sauti Kuu beneficiaries. Eventually I was given more responsibility and was allowed to update our Partners on the status of projects, coordinate the exchange of photos and information for the development of a project concept. I also supported our Edc Program Project Manager, Wachuka Njuguna, with some areas of her work – at least I tried to. It is not possilb to list all of what I did at Sauti Kuu, but I would like to highlight a few of the experiences I had.

First and foremost; dealing with the Microsoft program ‘Excel’! It sounds unbelieveable, but despite 12 years of high school and successfully completing my final exams, I had not once used Excel! Now after three months of “learning by doing”, I have no problems conjuring up Budgets or workplans on Excel that actually add up!

Another great experience was observing and taking in how efficiently the Organisation operated. Before coming to Sauti Kuu I had never worked in an office. The only experience I had with deskwork was the few times at school, when I would get seriously studious and desk bound. I had to learn to be disciplined, organized and set priorities. At the latest all tasks needed to be completed by the weekend. As far as I can judge, these skills will help me and work to my advantage when I, following the internship, persue my studies at the Univerity.

Of course I did not spend all three months just in the office. I was lucky enough to also be able to travel the country and see not just Western Kenya but also the Kenyan coast. I visited Mombasa, the Tsavo National Park, Alego (where Sauti Kuu implements its work) und Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria. It would again be too much to try to list all the highlights of these trips. I fell in love with the most generous of people in the whole world, with the scenery (most have seen pictures, but the reality is breathtaking) and, yes, the food. The first thing I would advise potential visitors to Kenya is to be prepared to travel back home with at leaset two kilos more than they came with. Few can resist the magical taste of of Chapati, Mandazi, Mukimo, Nyama Choma, Samosas, Ugali and lots of other tasty Kenyan dishes.

I would really love to be able to convey even more clearly than I have done, how special the memories of this time are for me. This would have not been so if not for the people who accompanied me on this journey in those three months. Thank you Wacu, for going out of your way to show me and help me understand how Kenya ‘ticks’. Thank you Patricia, Atieno and Cathy for the many lunch picknicks we had in the office. You all managed to create an atmosphere of harmony and warmth benefitting a good working environment. But most of all: Thank you Auma, for giving me this opportunity to contribute in my small way to the amazing work being done by the organization. Thank you for being a great boss – tough but caring. I will miss you all and hope to be back soon. Or better said in NGO speak: My WORKPLAN anticipates that my BUDGET will improve and thus allow me to return ASAP!

Praktikum:Internship: At this point in time and until further notice, we cannot offer internship positions.