Colleen Denny (Kenya)


Colleen Denny

Colleen is currently a candidate at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in the Master of International Public Policy program with an affiliation in Conflict Management and will graduate in December 2018. Colleen is a native of Buffalo, NY and graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 2009 with a Bachelor of Science and a commissioning as an Ensign in the U.S. Coast Guard. Immediately following graduation, she served on the Coast Guard Cutter FORWARD. In January 2010, the FORWARD responded to an earthquake that struck Port Au Prince, Haiti. As a responder, she led the first shore excursions into Port Au Prince to provide medical care and deliver humanitarian supplies. She was also responsible for coordinating helicopter medical evacuations in and out of the harbor. In 2011, she sailed with the FORWARD to Western Africa where she trained the newly created Liberian Coast Guard, Senegalese Navy, and Sierra Leone Navy. After completing another at-sea assignment and then a shore-side special staff assignment, in 2015, she transferred to serve as the Commanding Officer of Coast Guard Cutter DONALD HORSLEY, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While captain of the ship, the crew netted over $7 million in illicit narcotics, successfully interdicted multiple human smugglers, and conducted Search and Rescue operations in the Caribbean which resulted in seven lives saved. After returning from his fellowship over the summer, Colleen discussed with AP the impacts the fellowship had on him. "Working with CPI Kenya and doing actual peacebuilding work in the field was an invaluable experience. My 10 weeks taught me so much and exposed me to how the dedicated work of just a few individuals at CPI Kenya has completely transformed the communities of thousands of pastoralist families. It also showed me how resilient the human spirit is; the families and children we worked with have struggled through so much, yet are still kind, generous and optimistic. It was truly an incredible and humbling experience."



A Beacon of Hope for Children – Hilary Halkano Bukuno

20 Jun

After days of horrific reports that thousands of immigrant children are being separated from their families at the U.S.-Mexico border, the welfare, treatment, and development of children have been at the forefront of many people’s minds. These scenes are disturbing and heartbreaking, and I am dismayed and disgusted by the actions of the U.S. President and his policy choices. But I also feel hopeful because of the people I work with here at Children Peace Initiative Kenya, who are so committed to the development of children and helping empower them to become protagonists for peace. So while it has been a dark couple of weeks for children and families, I offer you this blog as a possible beacon of hope; to read about the work of a dedicated individual who has devoted his life to children. With that, I present to you Hilary Halkano Bukuno, the Director and one of the co-founders of Children Peace Initiative Kenya.

CPI’s Director, who we call “Humble Hilary”

 

Hilary is a passionate, inspiring man. Everything he does he does with gusto; whether it’s playing the card game “Uno” while we wait for our dinner at the “Pizza Inn”, or speaking about peacebuilding and children being the bridge-builders of their communities, or watching EVERY (no exaggeration) match in the World Cup so far, he is passionate. As a young boy he wanted to become a priest, and his ability to pontificate and inspire makes me believe that he would have been a good one. If John Lennon were still alive I’d bet he and Hilary would be friends, working together to help improve the lives of others. But Hilary found his calling in another direction; peacebuilding.

Hilary was born in 1972 in the small village of North Horr in Marsabit County, Kenya. Marsabit is in Northern Kenya and shares a border with Ethiopia. It’s the largest county in Kenya, yet less than 300,000 people live there due to its harsh desert landscape, perennial droughts, and conflict that has plagued the area for decades. Born into a pastoralist tribe (meaning a tribe that raises livestock and moves with the herds, since the land is not arable) he grew up in conflict, remarking in a matter-of-fact way that “that is a very normal story.” He was sent to boarding school at a young age to escape many of Marsabit’s conflicts, however, his mother had to endure them. “In her lifetime she’s found herself in a raid three or four times. She survived all of them, and is very very lucky to [have] survived.”

These raids that Hilary’s mother survived are what Children Peace Initiative Kenya have stopped from happening in the last 7 years since implementing the Children Peace Building program and Heifers for Peace program with the Pokot and Samburu tribes, Turkana and Gabra tribes, and Rendile and Gabra tribes. I wrote about these two programs in my last blog; if you missed it, go ahead and read it now!

“In the last seven years, there has been zero violence, zero raids, and this is the longest in history these tribes have lived without fighting. Seven years is the longest they’ve stayed without fighting” he says with pride. As he should; some of these tribes have been fighting since the 1850’s, but now that they are at peace the results that CPI Kenya has fostered are incredible. Children are able to stay in school, families are able to build more permanent homes since they don’t fear having to flee, markets are open where the tribes trade and interact with their former enemies, and the cattle herds are growing. In Northern Kenya, where drought and famine are all-too-common, this food security and peace is monumental.

Hilary conducts Monitoring & Evaluation (M&E) with a Samburu family in the rural village of Logoreti in 2016

 

As Hilary speaks, you can tell he has found his calling. As I interviewed him one evening after work, he comfortably lounged his tall frame on a couch while I recorded him and took notes. Speaking about the impact of children is when he comes most alive, his voice getting louder and his speech speeding up. “From the start, things happen automatically with the children. They’re like an army without guns. They transform immediately and start building trust immediately.”

Even when I ask Hilary about the biggest challenges CPI Kenya face, he maintains his vigor. Hands down, funding is the organizations biggest challenge because there are so many children and families to engage in the Peace Building program and Heifers for Peace program. Over the next 8 weeks, we are hosting a major fundraising campaign for the Heifers for Peace program through Global Giving. There are currently 100 families (50 Pokot and 50 Samburu) who have successfully earned a heifer to share amongst each other, and we need to raise more money to buy these heifers by mid-August! Please consider donating and helping bring peace to Northern Kenya. If you can wait, I ask you to consider donating on July 18th at 9am EST – on this day, Global Giving will match all donations by 50%!

Next week we will be heading into the field to Baringo County to host a Peace Camp in the village of Chepkalacha. We will have 250 Pokot and Ilchamus children begin their interactions with each other and form friendships; hopefully two years from now, they will have successfully formed friendships between their families and will be ready to earn a Heifer for Peace. I am so ecstatic to be heading to Chepkalacha with my CPI Kenya teammates to see them in action, empowering children to be protagonists for peace and working with the pastoralists communities to bring peace in Kenya.

During a time when children at the U.S. Southern Border are being treated like criminals, I feel encouraged by CPI Kenya’s recognition of the importance of children. The revolutionary ideas of Hilary have the capability to change the Peacebuilding field; he views children not just as victims of conflict, but also the starting point to ending conflict.

All great social change starts with a small group of people who have a big idea; why can’t it be CPI’s?

Posted By Colleen Denny

Posted Jun 20th, 2018

15 Comments

  • Samantha Givens

    June 21, 2018

     

    Thank you Colleen for this inspiring story of a someone who wishes to do good in the world. I’m excited to see where CPI and our community goes this year!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Thanks Sam, and it was nice to hear your voice the other day on the phone! haha

  • Corinne Cummings

    June 21, 2018

     

    Hey Colleen. I would like to begin by saying your post made my day, after reading your words I felt a surge of promise for humanity, as initiatives including the Children Peace Initiative, the Children Peace Building program, and the Heifers for Peace program create a segue to a more harmonious living environment within a community. I agree with what you had to say about our current political administration; it is incredibly frustrating to watch the news to see children ripped away from their loved ones. On a positive note, It excites me to hear Hilary’s enthusiasm for CPI–I wish we had programs such as this one in the United States (unless we do and I am not aware of it!) The idea of establishing a program that promotes peace starting from a young age that teaches and fosters skills to break down conflict is essential. You ended your blog post by maintaining, “he views children not just as victims of conflict, but also the starting point to ending conflict”–this quote offers promise, restoring the notion that youths possess the power to change the world for the better. Children are the future in this world and are the facilitators to social change and sustaining amicable relations with one another. Again, I appreciate your blog post. Continue on with your work and amplifying the voice of Hilary’s ambitions. Best wishes, Corinne.

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Corinne, thank you for your support for CPI Kenya and their philosophy of empowering children for social change!

  • Ali West

    June 21, 2018

     

    Learning more about CPI and Hilary definitely gave me hope and excitement in the midst of the heartbreaking policy choices that are happening here in the US. I am glad that CPI is truly emphasizing the importance of children, and I am glad you are there to help make the organization even more successful.

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Thank you so much Ali! With your support we are very hopeful about our fundraising efforts and moving forward CPI Kenya’s work!

  • Patricia Denny

    June 21, 2018

     

    Bravo, Mom and Dad

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Asante asana, Mom & Dad! <3

  • Talley Diggs

    June 21, 2018

     

    Oh how I miss listening to Hilary pontificate over a Guinness and a card game. You hit the nail on the head with your description of his passion for peace. Keep up the good work and keep the stories coming!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Thanks Talley – everyone here says hello!

  • Olga Barnes

    June 21, 2018

     

    Colleen, What an awesome thing you’re doing, I am truly blessed to have met you and know that you will do what’s necessary to help the Children. I am Very PROUD of YOU. Your parents did a great job raising you. God Bless!!!

    • Colleen Denny

      June 22, 2018

       

      Thank you so much Olga, you’re too kind! I miss you!

  • Princia Vas

    June 29, 2018

     

    Such a heart-touching story of Hilary! This post definitely gave me hope that every positive change matters, however small it might be.
    Looking forward to hear more about your work on the field in the next couple of months 🙂

  • iain

    July 5, 2018

     

    Hilary is our hero! This blog helps us to understand how inspired individuals can launch inspiring programs and become agents of change! I’m also wondering how you would rate CPI as an organization? It’s important that leaders and founders are able to put in place a system to turn their ideas into projects and produce real benefits for stakeholders. Let us know when you know their secret!

  • iain

    July 5, 2018

     

    Well, Talley, you helped mightily to lay the foundation for this wonderful partnership!!

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