I have just returned from India two days ago after a whirlwind pilgrimage to the source of the Ganges, only to find I am at the beginning of another footpath, this one into a place I’ve never been – I have, actually, no idea what to expect once I begin this journey. Africa is a completely unknown continent to me, despite my studies of its people, culture, and politics this year. What I don’t know are the most important aspects of daily life – how do people bargain in the markets (stern face? with overt gentility?), are there a lot of bicycles or do people mostly walk or drive, do people smile when their eyes meet, or almost always stare or look away? Without any of this ground on which to stand, I already feel wobbly about my entry to Kenya, less than two weeks away.
I’ll be working with three amazing local organizations, all of which are partnered with AP’s partner, Vital Voices (VV). The Umoja Uaso group is a community of women who have banded together to provide each other with a place of refuge and support after being forced out of their homes because they were raped. The Empiris Women’s group includes individuals like Kakenya, who turned a fate of arranged childhood marriage and planned genital cutting into one in which she made her own choices – going to school, raising funds in her village to go to college in the United States, and now has returned to her village to give back by building a school for girls so they, too, may have other choices – some of their own. And finally, I’ll be collaborating with Ripe for Harvest, that empowers young people by providing life skills and job training to them while also helping to transform society’s perceptions of youth as more likely to be destructive than to be positive leaders in their communities.
I am very moved by the mission of each of these organizations, and that each one is operated by Kenyans and is not dominated by international interests or staff. I am still uncertain what role I will be with each organization, as I’m still learning what each one is currently doing and where they would like to continue to go with their projects, but I feel so motivated by the inspiring work they are doing that I am eager to offer the best of my self. Sometimes it is easier to leap than to wade in, and it seems this new direction is asking me to leap; I’m quickly learning there is so much more to gain when I stop resisting the truth that I know so little. Letting go of this ego-heavy attachment, I’ve got the space to explore, to learn, and to offer a more fresh and creative side of myself for each person I photograph, and each entry I write. This is what I hope to do, and who I hope to be, for the people I meet in Kenya this summer.
Posted By Kate Cummings
Posted May 27th, 2009