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Wearing three hats at a USA Work Camp

Back in May 2022, MaryJoy Karanja, Ashley Namachanja and Mbaire Mbui, got a hold of information about a Summit Educational Programme through the Mentoring Office. Curious about what the opportunity holds, the three inquired for more information, which later resulted in a meeting with the Dean of Students who explained more about the programme and what was expected of them. Thereafter, they met the Director of Summit Educational Programme, Mr. Matt Smyczek, who formally expounded on the camp and facilitated the travel arrangements. After a rigorous application process, the trio finally packed their bags on the 18th of June and left for Milwaukee, Wisconsin.



A home away from home

Summit Educational Programme runs a Summer Camp for girls who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The camp had girls from 4th to 8th grade who were divided into two main groups: ages 8-10 and 11-13. Advisor. Teacher. Coach. Three hats that they wore during their stay there. Each of them was attached to a team of about 10 girls aged 10-13 years. Advising involved getting to know each girl on a more personal level to help them set goals, become better friends, and broaden their vision. As teachers, they taught English/Reading, Mathematics, and Character Development. Character is more like Life Skills- which helps teach the students virtues. Every afternoon, they supervised the students and engaged in sports. Being an advisor, coach and teacher involved much more than the above; it stretched to a parental role. Ashley, Mbaire, and MaryJoy had to account for the girls every day. This meant that they had to check in on them, ensure they were not on their phones during class time, and follow up on their reading. The Summit’s amazing reading strategy encouraged the kids to read more. The strategy was called ‘Read-a-thon’, a reading marathon. At the end of the seven weeks of camp, the kids went for a trip to an amusement park called Six Flags. To qualify to go, they had to read 500 pages. If they read more, they earned $0.1 for every extra page. This was incentive enough to read more because who does not want money? Often, they would have gatherings where they would celebrate, create memories, meet new people and share a good laugh. If not for good vibes, many would come to taste Namachanja’s cooking! She prepared delicious Kenya meals like chapati, samosas, mandazis and chicken curry.

Born to impact

Ashley: There is something quite fulfilling about making an impact in someone's life, no matter how small. One of my campers, Sofia, who was extremely friendly and brilliant, hugged me at the end of camp and took a photo with me. It was extremely touching and it gave me a feeling I cannot adequately capture in words. Other than that, I think being bold and open to new experiences is something everyone should do once in a while.

Mbaire: The experience was amazing! Being a mentor to the girls was an honor. At first it was difficult, but I was challenged to be patient and understanding as engaging with them would be easier with time. Also, I learned that each child is special and unique in their beautiful way.

MaryJoy: A lot of lessons are to be carried home, but what struck me the most is that it takes quite the effort and time to learn the ways of children. As Mbaire mentioned, patience does the trick. Soon, we became friends and it was easier to converse with the girls. The entire experience only reiterated to me how important it is to make time to build relationships with those around us. Our trip was a success because of the amazing people we met and the connections we made.


Life as tourists

Wednesdays, well every day, but Wednesday specifically our favorite day. Field days, we called it. As the world is ours to explore, we toured numerous attraction sites, museums, and cities; interacting with new cultures, gaining knowledge and experience. We got a golden opportunity to visit the Milwaukee Public Museum in Milwaukee. A trove of treasure. Its robust and majestic art left us in awe as we were attracted to the artifacts, sculptures and rock engravings of great value. We could not help ourselves but strike poses on aesthetic spaces. We toured some of the most entertaining and culturally unique cities in the United States such as New York, Washington, and Chicago. Not to mention, the stroll we took on the Lakefront of Lake Michigan watching the roaring waves travel from far places only to lose their existence when they hit the shores. Meeting amazing people was one of our most memorable highlights.
A big part of why our trip was successful and enjoyable is because we were received so warmly. Sometimes the cultural shock was evident, but we managed to pull through. This ranged from the new food (particularly took a liking to beef burgers), the Sunday masses which were beautifully serene, the driving, etc. It was all worth it.

This article was written by Jemmy Kamau (Intern, Communications Office)