Kristina Rosinsky

Kristina Rosinsky (Undugu Society of Kenya - USK): Kristina graduated in 2007 with a BA in government and politics (magna cum laude) from the University of Maryland-College Park with minors in French and history. During her time at university Kristina did study abroad in Nice, France for five months and then worked in Huancayo, Peru teaching English to children in early 2007. In her senior year Kristina wrote a thesis titled “The Effect of the Mexico City Policy on International Development: An Attack on Reproductive Health and Family Planning Worldwide,” which received high honors. Prior to her fellowship, Kristina worked at AP as an intern and then as the Assistant Information Manager.

Lowering the Barrier

23 Jul

My favorite place to have lunch is this little buffet restaurant behind the Undugu office. One afternoon I was walking back to the office, full of rice, githeri and vegetables and saw something out of the corner of my eye. I turned to see what it was and I see a young man around my age sitting in the corner of two walls along the alley. He is covered in the ever-present dust that covers much of this city so that he blends in so well with the wall that I had to do a double take to make sure he was actually there.

He served as a real life metaphor for the fact that those living and/or working on the streets blend in too much here in Nairobi. The other morning there was another young man sitting on a bench at the bus stop with a bottle of glue hanging from his face. A nicely dressed, middle class woman was sitting right next to him and didn’t look at him, didn’t move, didn’t look upset, uncomfortable or anything. Just sat there next to him looking into the distance waiting for her matatu to arrive.

It is hard to know what she was thinking sitting next to him. Maybe she was feeling sympathy but was just unsure of how to act. Maybe she was ignoring him on purpose. Or maybe it was engrained behavior from a member of a society that is so plagued with poverty that scenes like a boy high on glue, or a boy so covered in dust that he blends in with the walls in an alleyway, are normal.

I have been told by people older and wiser than I that I have to be careful of how emotionally involved I get so that I don’t get so overcome by emotion that I start to become ineffective in my work. Keeping your distance is a defense mechanism to protect yourself and I think that is what some Kenyans have developed to the extreme so that they can cope without going through emotional breakdowns everyday. This doesn’t make them bad people, but rather people that have developed a way to shield themselves from the effects of seeing poverty everyday.

While I too have built a defense, I can still see over the wall. Disturbingly, what I have seen is that some Kenyans have built their defenses so high that they can no longer see over them. They have resigned themselves to thinking that extreme poverty is something that will always exist, something that requires the construction of a tall defense for peace of mind.

A goal of the Digital Storytelling Project is not to tear down everyone’s defense, but rather take a few bricks off the top and show that there is hope. Poverty should not be seen as a permanent condition or unsolvable problem – but rather a temporary difficulty in need of a solution. I don’t want people to lie awake at night and suffer at work because they are so emotionally distressed, but people should not sit next to a poor child at a bus stop and look as comfortable as if they were waiting for a table at a high-class restaurant. These kids have problems and need help – they don’t need people pretending that they don’t exist.

The dust has to be removed.

Posted By Kristina Rosinsky

Posted Jul 23rd, 2008


  • Gwen Nelson

    July 23, 2008


    How Awesome Kristina. My eyes are welled up with tears…what amazing work. you should be very proud. I look forward to reading more.
    Mom just gave me the info and this is my first time checking in.

  • Debby

    July 23, 2008


    Very well said. People do look past the problems
    and I am glad that you are doing such a wonderful job in helping these children and adults understand the problems and to get their voices out so the world can hear them and see them. Keep working at taking the bricks off the top so more can be removed one at a time. We need more people in this world like you.

  • Jim Nelson

    July 26, 2008


    wow kristina,when i first heard you were going to africa, i was scared to death for you, and i still am. but after reading some of your story and knowing what a teriffic person you are,i guess you wouldn,t have it any other way. ijust want you to know how truly proud that me and aunt sandy are of you. please be careful and dont take anything for granted. you will always be in our prays. stay safe. love uncle jim and aunt sandy.

  • Ngelese

    July 27, 2008


    Thanks for the good work on the streets, you give the kids a way to cry out the world. The problem is not the we are used to it, its that we can do anything to help most of kenyans live under a Doller a day. And the ones out of the this brackets are consumed by mortages. The very rich dont have time becouse they are to busy looking for money for there kid. The problem is the issue of money most of survive from paycheck to pay check and we are rendered helpless. so we avoid getting emotional attached

  • Harvey R

    July 28, 2008


    I had a hard time understanding why someone would go halfway around the world to help people. I now have a better idea was to what it’s all about. With you dedication and hard work you can make a difference. It takes that special person to give to others and leave so much behind. I am very proud of you.

  • Joanna

    July 28, 2008


    I’m so proud of you. Can’t wait till you get home. I’m missing you a lot.

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