Baylor groups head to Kenya

By Sanmai Gbandi

The Community Development and Women’s Leadership Teams have a common goal: to help the people of Kenya.

This summer the two groups will go to Nairobi, Kenya, for a two-week-long mission trip in order to serve the community and work with the locals to improve their quality of life.

Both groups will arrive in Nairobi on May 19 and work there and in the surrounding areas until June 2. They each have a different subset of issues to focus on.

The Community Leadership team, which has nine members including two faculty leaders, will help serve people who are in poverty and work with children and teachers at local elementary schools.

They will also provide supplies for women who have been affected by HIV/AIDS.

Astrid Beltran, coordinator for Greek Life, is one of the faculty leaders for the team. She said they are having a drive until the end of April in order to accumulate enough donated supplies to take with them.

“One of the orphanages we are visiting is in need of school supplies, and one clinic we are visiting of women that are affected with HIV and AIDS need hair supplies,” Beltran said.

The Women’s Leadership team will focus mainly on empowering the women in the community.

Melanie Smith, international students relations coordinator and faculty adviser for the Women’s Leadership team said the mission trip was started six years ago, with the goal to help the women of Kenya be empowered in light of newly appointed rights.

“Until now, the women in Kenya have kind of been just the ones who stay at home and do the cleaning and the washing and carry the water,” Smith said. “Now the government has rewritten a constitution that has basically empowered them to vote and not be mutilated and to have power.”

The group will visit some churches and non-governmental organizations.

As the students go to all of these places, they will teach a leadership curriculum to the women there. It will include everything from different leadership styles to how to have self-confidence.

The students going on this trip have met regularly throughout the semester with their faculty advisers in order to work on the presentations they are required to give once they arrive in Kenya.

The Women’s Leadership group will also be making more strides in an ongoing project they began at an orphanage three years ago called St. Kizito Learning Center.

The school, with about 115 students and 10 teachers, has no electricity, very limited access to running water and dirt floors.

“It’s a faith-based school, and we have been raising money through the three teams that have gone the last three years to support them,” Smith said.

Although the teams will only be in Kenya for a brief two-week period, they have both been preparing for this trip for the entire year.

Preparations include recruiting team members, training, preparing presentations, and fundraising.

“We’re just wanting our students to give back to the community, and to help them with what they have,” Beltran said.

Although it is too late to sign up to go on the trip this summer, those who have been on the trip before encourage others to consider going next summer.

League City senior, Meagan Volquardsen, went on the trip with the Women’s Leadership Team last year and is going again in the summer.

She said the trip was a transforming experience that helped her figure out what she loved to do and could do the same for others.

“This is the type of trip that if you’re unsure about what you’re good at, if you’re not sure about what you are really passionate about, if you’re not sure where exactly you feel like you fit in life, go on this trip,” Volquardsen said.