“Turn your statements into questions.” This is the advice I received from my professor when I told her of my upcoming adventure in Kenya to work with the Children Peace Initiative (CPI). In her simple suggestion, she had immediately recognized the purpose of my fellowship: supporting local solutions to local problems. Her advice alludes to the frequent missteps, misunderstandings, and miscalculations of foreigners working within the local frameworks of community-based organizations.
Statements are informed by biases and assumptions. They reflect my American understanding of the world and its problems. Alternatively, questions are constructed by curiosity and will be key to understanding of cultural contexts. This summer while serving as a Peace Fellow for The Advocacy Project, I am committing myself to communication through questions. The Advocacy Project is a nonprofit in DC that advocates for marginalized communities by deploying graduate students into the field to work side by side with grassroots organizations. Learn more about AP’s remarkable outreach here.
Tomorrow, I will jet off to Nairobi to meet my host organization. CPI is a nonprofit based in Nairobi that works with the children of feuding pastoralist tribes to promote peace. Children are engaged in CPI’s programs as agents of conflict resolution; in striving to open the hearts and minds of children, CPI strives to transform the ongoing conflict between pastoralists over resources and cattle herding. Their model includes peace camps that bring together children of opposing tribes to facilitate friendships, exchange programs between families, and the donation of a cow to be shared by two families of opposing tribes as economic incentive for peace. I look forward to elaborating on this brief program description in future blogs as I learn more from my experiences with CPI.
In preparation for my fellowship, I spent last week with AP’s eight other Peace Fellows in intensive training. We met with experts to discuss cultural sensitivity, fundraising, organization strengthening, M&E, and social media strategies—and along the way we gained skills in blogging, photography, video editing, creating website, and making podcasts. These training sessions have succeeded in quelling many of my “how” questions. The training week was just the first taste of the learning to come from my experiences in Kenya.
Questions abound as the departure for my fellowship approaches. How can children be included and empowered in peacebuilding processes? What impact does the cultivation of friendship have on facilitating peace and assuaging cultural differences? How is the work of CPI transforming the conflict between pastoralists? Is CPI’s model sustainable and could it be adopted to address conflict resolution in other contexts? What indicators of social change will I be looking for to evaluate CPI’s programs? How can I best advocate for CPI in ten short weeks?
The very last question consumes my conscience. As The Advocacy Project’s fellow for CPI, I feel a great responsibility to advocate for marginalized pastoralist communities and tell their stories. This role is a humbling honor, a unique privilege, a lofty challenge, and an overwhelming sensation of purpose that galvanizes me. With a thousand questions tucked into my mind’s suitcase, I’m heading out tomorrow to find stories! Please follow me in my cultural detective work as I embark on a mission to listen, learn, and discover Kenya through the work of the Children Peace Initiative.
Wondering what you can do to bring peace to Kenya? Please click below to contribute to our work with pastoralists through Global Giving!
Posted By Talley Diggs (Kenya)
Posted May 30th, 2017