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From Korea to Kenya with Good Cheer

Special from the Kenya Standard

GPYC-Kenya and GPYC-Korea youth leadership exchange.
Korean students with their Kenyan counterparts discuss
ways of improving their lives and the environment.

They came from Korea with abundant love for the Kenyan students and this could be seen from their joyful encounter, as they mingled and shared freely, with the girls from the Kariobangi community.

At the Kariobangi North Girls’ Secondary School, the Global Peace Youth Corps–Kenya chapter hosted students from different universities in Kenya and Korea for a global exchange programme recently. The corps’ secretary general Daniel Juma said the Korean students were here on an annual programme that involved them helping out needy people in communities they visited.

"The Kenyan students have had another chance to host the exercise, after a similar exchange that took place last July," says Juma. "The Kenyan and international students spent weeks of community service including visiting the disadvantaged and donating educational materials to the needy students in Nairobi’s marginalised regions."

According to a Korean student who gave her name as June, her people are generous especially when they are helping needy students. "We heard that Kenya’s children have a difficult time to study, so we did a lot of fundraising to buy them these solar lamps," she said, pointing at a heap of lamps.

When June and other students went to the streets to fundraise, they received generous donations as it was not difficult to convince them about their cause. June and 26 other students from Korea had come to donate solar-powered lamps as part of their voluntourism programme.

Someone cares

An excited school principal, Rhoda Ogara, said her students were happy to receive the lamps, adding that the lamps will go a long way in helping them in their studies. 

"It was so impressive to watch the needy girls receive help from their age mates. It shows that someone somewhere cares about their plight. I am deeply encouraged by this gesture," said Ogara. The global exchange, or Poomashi—Korean for exchange of work and service—is meant to enhance global citizenship regardless of race, tribe, religious credence or political affiliation. Juma says they have narrowed the programme down to assisting disadvantaged students to better their education as a way of helping the entire community. "When you educate a girl, you are assured of stability in her family," said Juma.

Juma added that it’s only through encouragement through such small initiatives that these girls will have a positive future.

Says Juma: "We are encouraging the girls to take their studies seriously. Through interaction with these foreign university students, they will be able to get a push, which in the end, we expect, to encourage them further. If we invest in them, then they will be the pillars of their families.

Common origin

According to Ogara, this was an inducement for the students to really work hard and make something out of themselves.

The Global Peace Youth brings students from Korea, Uganda and Kenya together for two weeks. Within this period, the merged group engages in community service within the two east African countries.

The Korean organisation leads this global project, sending Korean university students to other countries where they work together with the local young people to address social issues and recognise each other as members of a common origin.

This year, students from Korea and Uganda were in Kenya from January 8 to 20. A second programme will be held mid-year.

Exchange ideas

"It is within this time that we share, learn and exchange ideas. This has greatly helped us understand each other and also our diverse cultures. We also do a number of things which seek to help the respective communities," said Juma.
Says June: "We sacrifice our time and resources so that we can improve the education of our younger brothers and sisters."

"It is important to nurture education and through this solar lamps, we believe that the students will improve their performance. A solar lamp costs about Sh3,500 and we encourage a saving culture among the students so that each of them can at least own one," says June.

The principal said the school selected students whom they felt were in dire need of the lamps so that their performances could improve.

The lamps can be charged either by electricity or solar energy and when fully charged, they can power for up to eight hours.

"We really have bright girls in this area but the abject poverty keeps them from shining. I am encouraged by their determination and believe they will do well now," says Ogara.

The school, which was started two years ago. serves a needy area of Kariobangi and construction of some of the learning areas is still ongoing. "We are trying to put up some basic facilities for the girls. At present we do not even have a library and laboratory but this hasn’t dampened our spirits," says Ogara.

During their stay in Kenya, the Korean students were engaged in community service at Mutate (MRM) Primary School in Elburgon, Magodo Children’s Home, Little Rock Children’s home in Kibera and Kariobangi North Girls’ High School
At Mutate and Kariobangi North, the students engaged with the children and made presentations on character education and public service. Solar lamps were also donated to the bright but needy students in the schools.

Spreading love through environment

The Global Peace Youth Corps Kenya also launched a project called the Eco Bag. This bag is an environmental friendly and can be recycled and used for various things such as carrying laptops. The bag was first started in Korea last August. Eco symbolises sustainable environment.

"We named the project Eco to show that we are spreading Korea’s love to other countries. Twice a year, the youth corps hold an international volunteer programme called the ‘Global Poomashi’," said Dan Juma, the organisation’s secretary general.

Last July, the group sold the bags at Sh400 each at Nairobi’s Kencom area.

The sellers included university students from Korea and Kenya as well as students from Kangemi High School.
The profits from this sale bought books for the Kangemi High School library. The current project is aimed at raising funds to light up Our Lady of Fatima High School in Nairobi and also add more books to the Kangemi library.
"Through it, we also aim at creating and promoting entrepreneurship among high school and university students.
This is to help prepare them for their future challenges," adds Juma.

Besides, the organisation hopes to create moral and innovative leaders who are able to live for "the greater good, work as a team, have big dream and be owners of these projects and their destiny."

A fortnight ago, Korean university students were in the country where they joined local youth to address social issues and recognise each other as members of a common origin.

This article first appeared in the Kenya Standard, January 31, 2012. Reprinted with permission.