Benjamin Johnson (Kenya)

Ben is a graduate student at Tufts University’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. His studies are primarily focused on how legal regimes can facilitate development and international environmental and resource policy. He is an Ohio native and completed his bachelor’s degree at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. During these studies he enjoyed the opportunity to study abroad in both Oviedo, Spain and Sao Paulo, Brazil. These experiences, in addition to working within the medical field, established Ben’s drive to serve marginalized communities around the world. Following his undergraduate studies, he spent time in Ecuador working with a LGBTQ health initiative, in South Africa directing the operations of the Khoapa Land and Community Trust, and in Tanzania assisting the Maendeleo Ya Wakulima agricultural cooperative expand operations during a time of extreme commodity market volatility. After Fletcher, Ben is interested in working with organizations that bridge the gap between sustainable development initiatives and the expanding scope of human rights law.



A Disoriented Arrival to My New Home

11 Jun

I left East Africa over two years ago.  Ever since then, I have dreamt of returning to a region of the world that both fascinates me and feels like home.  The Advocacy Project has offered me the opportunity to return and assist peace projects throughout the northwest of Kenya.  Now, after two grueling days of travel on bus and plane, I have arrived in Rongai, my new home for the next three months.

Sleep deprived and excited to have arrived, I moved through immigration and customs control like a ghost.  Luckily, I was able to contact my partner organization, Children Peace Initiative Kenya (CPI), through the Wi-Fi signal of the quaint Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.  Unfortunately, having arrived earlier than expected, and at an hour when traffic from the airport harkens to the gridlocked highways of Los Angeles, we had to coordinate a taxi driver to take me to petrol station where I would be picked up by Hilary and Purity.

En route to the petrol station, our taxi was halted by a presidential motorcade of nearly 40 government vehicles.  In my sleep deprived state, I fumbled with my bag to find a phone to record this unexpected welcome to Kenya.  However, my reactions were slow and just as quickly as the motorcade arrived, it had disappeared.  At this moment I realized that this country is full of unexpected events and promised myself that for the remainder of my time Kenya I will be ready to record these happenings.

Magadi Road in the morning. Upon my arrival to the country, we briefly stopped by the office, and as we did, I saw the traffic open up.

 
Meeting Hilary and Purity of CPI was like meeting old friends.  They felt familiar and their kindness quickly made me feel at home.  As we drove to the house of Mr. Ndolo, my host for the summer and a close acquaintance of CPI staff, we spoke of the work ahead.  The Advocacy Project’s training over the previous week had prepared me for this workload.  However, despite this training, the long history of conflict in the region of Kenya where we will be working keeps me humble.

The Children Peace Initiative has an important and ambitious mission of “building bridges among children and families of neighboring communities by creating opportunities and capacities for them to engage in peace processes.”  Complicated politics, resource scarcity, and tradition make conflicts between communities dynamic and contextual.  Additionally, no effort to mitigate and prevent future conflicts can be successful without addressing the scars of the past.  With a team that recognizes these complexities, CPI has already built a network of projects that focus upon the youth as the source of sustainable change, trade, and shared resources as a way to build a shared prosperity, as well as interchanges between former warriors and elders in an effort to heal old wounds.

With this in mind, and a track record of notable successes in their projects, CPI now seeks to expand their efforts to surrounding counties and communities.  Later this week we will travel to Isiolo to work on the Peace Exchange project between children of the Turkana and Borana peoples (for some context, please read Abdullahi Abdille’s piece for the International Crisis Group and Vivian Jebet’s piece for the Daily Nation).

Credit to the Delegation of the European Union to Kenya: Isiolo County

 
With my feet placed firmly on the ground, I am beginning my fellowship at a full sprint.  There is so much to do and so much to truly appreciate.  This is not only an opportunity to support an organization that is making a meaningful impact, but an opportunity for me to learn and appreciate a wider spectrum of humanity.  Nonetheless, I will first try and catch up on some sleep.

Posted By Benjamin Johnson (Kenya)

Posted Jun 11th, 2019

5 Comments

  • Sam Nass

    June 14, 2019

     

    It sounds like the president drove by just to welcome you. I admire your enthusiasm and I can’t wait to see what you accomplish during your fellowship!

  • Abby Lahvis

    June 14, 2019

     

    I can’t wait to see how your previous work in East Africa translates into true success in Kenya! Sounds like you’re the right man for the job.

  • Emily

    June 17, 2019

     

    I love your writing style! Very honest and descriptive. I can’t wait to hear more about the people you’re working with! Good luck and stay safe.

  • Rachel Wright

    June 18, 2019

     

    The quick background you provided into the complexities of the conflicts that CPI seeks to address was very helpful and informative in understanding the work you will be doing. Looking forward to your future blogs and hearing about your personal experiences!

  • iain

    July 2, 2019

     

    Welcome to Kenya, Ben! Exciting that you’re heading out to the field so quickly. You have a busy summer ahead!

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