YIDA Intern Shares the Colors from Kenya
There is an almost indescribable appeal to being in Nairobi, Kenya. The trees are lush and verdant, birds with vibrant feathers and obnoxious calls abound, and brightly colored flowers are blooming in the half-dry, half-rainy season. Foods are usually sweet fruits, spicy meats or – inspired by both British and Indian influences – a healthy dose of chapatis and Masala chips (or French fries with masala sauce to some). People are warm, low-key and friendly.
It has been a long and fantastic journey from when and where I first started, in the cold depths of mid-January in a German town called Bensheim, which is home to the headquarters of an international development organization known as CBM. Guided by Christian values, empowerment frameworks and a vision emphasizing the full inclusion of persons with disabilities, CBM is a key ally for disability communities in developing countries.
A large part of my work is related to an organization that CBM is a member of, known as the Global Campaign for Education (GCE). Every year, there is a Global Action Week where GCE members are encouraged to come up with activities that support that year’s theme. For 2014, GCE has decided to focus on disability and education, which of course is a natural fit for CBM. My primary job is to document all of CBM’s activities for the action week and compile it into a report to be published this summer. So far, plans are being developed in countries such as Honduras, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Germany and Kenya.
For obvious reasons, I couldn’t visit all of the countries where activities for the Global Action Week are happening, but I could visit at least one – hence my presence in Kenya. While I will be back in Germany before the Kenyan activities happen in early May, being here in CBM’s East Africa office in Nairobi enables me to observe and record the process that occurs behind the scenes, and act as an informal connection between a regional office and the international office.
It has been eye-opening as a deaf woman from the United States to be able to observe and participate in so much of CBM’s operations in Germany, Belgium and Kenya these past few months. Not only have I gained a profound understanding of how a development organization engages with the complex topics surrounding deafness and disability on a global scale, but I have also been keenly impressed with CBM’s sincere, heartfelt drive to encourage people with disabilities to become empowered and vital leaders in any and all parts of the world.
Anais Keenon, an alumni of USICD’s Youth in Development program, is a passionate disability rights advocate that specializes in communications and international development. She will soon graduate in May 2014 with a Masters’ degree in International Development from Gallaudet University, currently the world’s only university for the Deaf.