Saturday, July 23, 2011

East Africa Day 70 (Fri July 22): Friends of Friends

I walked back over to the Educational Advising Center this morning for the regularly scheduled 9am Info Session.

(Recap from previous post - EAC is part of the US Embassy. EAC helps Kenyan students apply to USA universities. When I was in the EAC earlier this week I learned that the EAC offers an Info Session each Friday at 9am, to provide drop-in guests with more information about the EAC and it's programs.)

photo: Welcome to the EAC office!

The session was led by Dr. Mari Nelson, an American who runs the EAC. The group of interested persons who joined me for the info session included two young Kenyan women who have already been accepted to US universities and are now preparing for their visa interviews at the US Embassy, a young woman and her mom, a Kenyan university student hoping to transfer to the USA, and a few other Kenyans who didn't ask Dr. Nelson any questions, so I'm not sure of their circumstances. We watched a video from circa mid-90's produced by the EAC that broadly discussed how to apply to US universities, and a little bit about what to expect once you arrive on campus. Following the video, Dr. Nelson led the audience through the US university application details, and the student visa application process.

I learned that applicants must demonstrate that they or their sponsors have the financial resources to support the student through not just their first year of university, but sufficient funds to care for the student should they become ill while at school, etc. This is proven to both the universities and the US embassy by submitting an official 6-12 month history of your bank account, showing all deposits and withdrawls. The persons who review your transaction and balance history will be able to use the information enclosed to predict if the person will have sufficient funds to pay for the students' entire US education and incidentals like medical emergencies. I learned that 72% of Kenyan students have reported that they did not receive any sort of financial aid from a US institution. We are talking about some serious funds! Dr. Nelsen reminded the students that even practically speaking, they must have sufficient funds to cover their entire US education, at the time that they depart Kenya for the US. It is not possible to work and/or save enough money during your first year of school to pay for your remaining years. She had such great things to say to those who attended the 9am Info Session - I'm so glad I was there, scribbling lots of notes!

After the session I got to talk with Dr. Nelson about my research and to ask her for some guidance. She was very helpful and encouraging. I then stopped by to catch up with Sennane, who let me know that a University of Nairobi student came to speak with her just the other day about his interest in transferring to Lehigh to study architecture. I gave her my email address, to be passed along to the student, with the caveat that I have absolutely nothing to do with the Admissions process:)

I walked out of the EAC office a little after 12noon, feeling empowered and good about my research prospects. From there I headed to Nakumatt Lifestyle to meet up with two of Sharon's Kenyan friends who live in Nairobi, Paul and John. The three of them met while Sharon was a Franciscan Missionary in the region. Paul and John became friends while working for Youth Alive, a Catholic charity that empowers community members to educate and facilitate discussions in communities all over Kenya about HIV/AIDS, livelihood education, etc that empower youth. John still works for Youth Alive, but Paul now works in the web design and IT field. We brainstormed the best way to keep secondary school alumni engaged with their schools' networks, and how to develop a second-hand clothing re-sale business that could empower and employ Kenyan youth. They then walked me over to the bus stop in front of the Central Post Office, where I snapped this photo of John and Paul for Sharon, before we parted ways.

I then headed over to the Yaya Centre (a mall) to meet up with a Kenya Kiva Fellow Richard, who I met through Michele, a Uganda Kiva Fellow. Richard and I walked over to Habesha, an Ethiopian restaurant, stopping off along the way at the central office for one of the two microfinance institutions that Richard works with, called SMEP. It was so cool to get to view the office building from the outside! I also had a great time talking with Richard over dinner about his fellowship, how he decided to do it, his future plans (MBA program at Northwestern's Kellogg School of Management), and world travels. I learned so much about Kiva, too. The food was great, too - though I found myself missing Moya, my favorite San Francisco Ethiopian restaurant:) After dinner we snapped some photos, before parting ways. Richard is headed to Tanzania in the AM to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Jealous!

When I got back to the apartment, I completed my application to volunteer at SOCAP11, which will be held in San Francisco again this fall. From the SOCAP website: SOCAP is the largest interdisciplinary gathering of people working at the intersection of money and meaning. Investors, social entrepreneurs, social ventures, government leaders, academics and other innovators worldwide come to SOCAP conferences to collaborate and evolve a market that moves money towards impact. My friends Allie and Mediha volunteered at SOCAP10 (last year). I created this video as part of my SOCAP11 volunteer application. I was answering the question: "Send us a video of yourself to give us a better sense of who you are!" It's a good summary of what I've been up to this summer, and why.

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