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."



You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks

20 Jul

 

Samburu County, Kenya

 

Samburu County in Northern Kenya is absolutely beautiful. I am 99% sure that the artists for the Disney movie “The Lion King” visited it to draw inspiration from the landscape when creating the movie. The vast green hills roll with tall green and yellow grasses, there are mountains in the distance, and the low green bushes and trees are exactly how I imagined Kenya would look like. But this beautiful landscape was a battlefield just 7 years ago.

Children Peace Initiative (CPI) Kenya has been working in Samburu County with the Samburu and Pokot tribes since 2012. The conflict between the Samburu and Pokot started in 2005 and ravaged the lands until 2012 when CPI Kenya intervened and held their first of four Peace Camps for Pokot and Samburu children. From 2012-2016, CPI Kenya held a Peace Camp every year for the children. This not only ended the conflict but also created a harmonious, peaceful coexistence between the two tribes. They don’t just live separately and no longer fight; they live together. They rely on each other now. They inter-marry. They visit each other. They hold a weekly market for each other and conduct business and trade with each other. Their cattle graze in both Samburu and Pokot lands. They own animals together. They pray for each other. And they love each other. The communities truly have been transformed, and it is because of the work CPI Kenya did with their children.

Samburu County, Kenya

 

For the past nine days, the CPI Kenya team and I have been in Samburu County meeting with the families who received a shared Heifer for Peace in 2015. These beneficiaries shared not only valuable data that helps quantify the impact of CPI Kenya’s work here but also shared some incredibly moving stories. I would like to share one of them with you today.

 

Malatu (left) and Losuke (right) embrace upon their reunion

 

I had the pleasure to interview two fathers’ whose sons attended CPI Kenya’s Peace Camp in 2012. Their names were Malatu Lebenayo, who is Samburu, and Losuke Lonyangaking, who is Pokot. Because of the conflict, both of these men lost their homes. Both were unable to farm and grow food for their families. Both of these men’s children had to drop out of school because it was too dangerous to attend. Both lost cattle due to raids. Both had their children sleep with their shoes on at night, in case they had to flee from a raid and hide in the bush. And both blamed the other tribe for the struggles and losses their families had to endure.

Watch the video of Malatu and Losuke being reunited by CPI Kenya! (Due to living approximately 16 miles apart, having no transport, and both being 60+ years of age, Malatu and Losuke only see each other every 2-3 months. We brought Malatu from his village to visit Losuke during one of our trips to Pokot lands)

After seven years of fighting, Malatu and Losuke were a part of the brave group of parents who allowed their children to attend Peace Camp and interact with children from the other tribe. Their sons, John and Topote became friends at Peace Camp, and came home inspired by their friendship and the possibility that they could be the ones to bring peace to their communities. Through John and Topote, Malatu and Losuke met and began to warm towards each other. Through a series of engagements and interactions fostered by CPI Kenya, Malatu and Losuke grew to become best friends. “I was 60-some years old and had never entered a Pokot home until CPI Kenya came” said Malatu. “Now we are kin. This friendship is going to last – we make it stronger every day.”

“Kabisa! Kabisa!” (“Total! Total!”) Losuke and Malatu’s answer to my questions about integration and trust between their two tribes

 

In 2015 Losuke and Malatu received a shared Heifer for Peace, through CPI Kenya’s Heifers for Peace program. This shared heifer solidified the friendship formed between the two families through the children, and now their bond is unbreakable. To pastoralists, a cow is sacred; cows are a part of their identity and are their livelihood. So when Losuke and Malatu decided that Malatu would keep and raise the heifer, and that Losuke would receive the first calf it gives birth to, their pastoralist bond was fortified. Sure enough, their Heifer for Peace gave birth to a calf a few months ago, and Malatu handed over this calf to Losuke. When I asked them if there were any problems with their sharing the heifer, both vehemently responded “No! None!” Losuke went on to say “I trusted Malatu to take good care of the heifer. And he did. And now I have a calf because of him!” They then shook hands again, and shared a look only best friends can share.

The benefits of their shared Heifer for Peace will continue for the rest of these men’s lives; a cow can give birth up to 12 times in its lifetime, so that means Malatu and Losuke could each receive six more calves from their one shared Heifer for Peace. Essentially, a family’s cattle herd can be completely rebuilt and repopulated by one heifer, and this is the opportunity CPI Kenya provided these men.

Amani! Amani!

 

When I asked Malatu and Losuke why CPI Kenya’s approach to peacebuilding worked, compared to all the multiple other governmental and NGO failed attempts, Malatu answered simply. “The peace is fair, not political. We accepted the peace because of the friendships and all the suffering from before. And then we proved to each other that we’re trustworthy because of the Heifers for Peace.”

Malatu and Losuke are why I titled this blog “You Can Teach an Old Dog New Tricks”. Not to emphasize their age (sorry, gents!), but to show how entire communities have been transformed by CPI Kenya’s work. By working with children, both the Pokot and the Samburu have overcome a lifetime of prejudice, forgiven the sins of each other’s tribes, and embraced each other through peace. Just seven years ago these men were at war, and today they call themselves brothers. “Our friendship is from the heart. Even the way we embrace each other comes from the heart” says Losuke. And it’s true.

Donations = Heifers = Peace!

 

To help CPI Kenya purchase 50 Heifers for Peace for 50 Pokot and 50 Samburu families whose children went to Peace Camp in 2015, please donate! All donations are tax deductible.

Want to see more photos? Check out my Flickr Album!

Posted By Colleen Denny

Posted Jul 20th, 2018

6 Comments

  • Corinne Cummings

    July 23, 2018

     

    Hi Colleen, what a beautiful story! I am so impressed by the strong relationship between Malatu and Losuke. Thank you for sharing their story — it is incredible to hear about the positive benefits that come from this peace initiative. The special friendship that Malatu and Losuke share is priceless. I am so pleased that their heifer had a calf too! Hopefully, in the near future, their cow will give birth again. There is so much good that comes from these Peace Camps, and it’s excellent that you captured this notion in your blog post through firsthand accounts. The picture of you three is great! I look forward to incorporating their story into the next blog digest — it’s fantastic material. Keep up the inspirational work — this program is making such a positive difference in the lives between the tribes. Take care, Colleen. Best, Corinne

    • Colleen Denny

      July 24, 2018

       

      Asante Asana, Corinne! There are so many stories like Malatu and Losuke’s – Heifers for Peace really works!

  • Princia Vas

    July 23, 2018

     

    Colleen!
    Thank you for the detailed update on your work in Samburu County. The pictures are very heartwarming as well 🙂
    What a wonderful thought behind the title of your blog post as well.

    • Colleen Denny

      July 24, 2018

       

      Thank you Princia!

  • Ali

    July 23, 2018

     

    Colleen, I really appreciate CPI Kenya’s approach to conflict transformation – it is so wonderful to read about success stories such as Malatu and Losuk’s friendship. Beautiful photos, also. Thanks for sharing!

    • Colleen Denny

      July 24, 2018

       

      Thank you Ali! It really was something to see grown men hug each other and call each other brothers, while admitting that less than 10 years ago they would have killed each other. So powerful!

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