Kenyan Exchange Student in Cali

My name is Katya and I am a half Spanish, half American college student, currently at NYU. Last summer I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel to Kenya and live there for a month with a Maasai family. 
Their small village, Ilnarooj,  is just a few miles from NGong in the Rift Valley region and I spent the four weeks I was there learning their customs and culture; how they cook, clean, heard livestock, make beads, communicate as well as teaching and mentoring at two local schools and a Safe House for Girls. It was an amazing experience, and despite the difference and humility of the lifestyle there in comparison to the fast paced New York on that I’m used to, I felt very at home. However, there are certain elements to the lifestyle there that are limiting and I felt like many of the people I was surrounded by, especially the young students at the schools were missing out on a global awareness and exposure that is so prominent in western society.

During my stay there, I was adopted into the Sakuda household and I am now trying to extend the opportunity of studying abroad to one of the young boys who I seamlessly became as close to as family. His name is Solomon. He is the oldest son of five and started in the seventh grade this past fall. Solomon’s parents William and Emily treated me like their daughter during my stay there. They are both extremely hard working and do what they do in order to send their children to school- a privilege not every child gets in their community. William owns many cattle and directs several crop farms in neighboring towns. Emily works for a non-profit called “Me to We”, and wakes up at 4am to hike to the main road where a bus takes her and fellow workers to their offices. She doesn’t return home until 9-10pm. With both parents working, Solomon is largely the caretaker of his younger siblings. After walking an hour to and from school, un and down hills and valleys, he helps the little ones with their school work, helps bring the cattle back from grazing and then begins to make dinner- a task that usually takes several hours between setting up the fire, keeping it going and letting the food slowly cook. After his brothers and sister are asleep, he begins his homework.

Solomon is very studious and has a curiosity and love for learning that shines through his soft spoken, calm personality. He was adamant that I should learn Maasai and he would give me vocabulary quizzes and exercises while we would cook or hike together. He would ask me questions about where I came from; what did my family cook on? Did my father own cattle?

Close to the end of my stay, I approached William and Emily about the idea of trying to get Solomon to study for a semester in San Diego, CA, living with my parents while attending the local middle school Albert Einstein Academies. They were both enthusiastic about the idea. It is rare that people in Kenya ever have the opportunity to leave their village, let alone the country. In the past few months my family and I have spoken to the school and the staff there was also very supportive of our plan.

We are now in the last crucial months of logistics, waiting for his Visa to clear, passport to arrive, plane ticket to be bought, etc. However, like so many things, these all cost money. William and Emily are fundraising locally within their community and William is also getting ready to sell several cows. Their nephew Jonathan with whom I lived with during my stay has also reached out to friends at a church group in the UK who are helping fundraise as well.

I wanted to extend the fundraiser out to friends, family and anyone who is in the position to help support Solomon’s student exchange trip. While my family will help cover the cost of living once he arrives in the USA, airfare and Visa/travel insurance expenses are the greatest limitation at the moment.

Growing up in an international household, traveling and learning about different cultures have always been so important to me. I can only hope to help extend the opportunities that I have been given and offer up the hospitality of my household to a family that did the same to me.  Thank you so much in advance. This is something that really means a lot to me and to Solomon and his family.


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Katya MG 
San Diego, CA
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