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LOVE Takes Manhattan to Kenya

Julie Bies ’13 with two CDC children

“It’s such a solid Lasallian trip.”

That’s how Christopher Shemanski ’11 described his visit to twin schools in Kenya with Manhattan College in January 2011. “It really opens your eyes to the larger world that we live in and the Lasallian family that we have,” Shemanski said.

Ten students and two staff members visited Kenya as part of the Lasallian Outreach Volunteer Experience, or LOVE, through Campus Ministry and Social Action. They visited twin schools including Mwangaza College in Nakuru, Rongai Agricultural and Technical Secondary School in Rongai, and Child Discovery Centre in Nakuru. They also visited Christ the Teacher Institute of Education (CTIE) in Nairobi, which is not a twin school but is Lasallian.

This was the second trip to Kenya for Shemanski and Jenn Edwards, Coordinator of Campus Ministry and Social Action. They took part in the first LOVE trip to twin schools, which was exploratory.

They mostly stayed with Brothers at De La Salle Centre, which gave them a chance to learn about the Brothers and their work in Kenya. At one point, the Brothers hosted a party and invited the Americans. “It was really an amazing Lasallian family moment to really witness the Kenyans and Americans coming together and having this little party and celebration all in the name of De La Salle,” said Edwards.

Chris and JosbotThey spent a majority of their time during twin school visits at CDC, which is where Shemanski experienced the most memorable part of the trip. He reunited with Josbot, a student with whom he had developed a special friendship on his first visit. Josbot had prayed that his American friend would return. “It was really humbling, but also challenging because now I felt like I had these big shoes to fill,” Shemanski said.

Aside from spending personal time with students at CDC, they attended Mass together, and shared stories, songs, dances, and poems. They also played soccer and volleyball.

Edwards was touched by hearing the students’ stories and how attending CDC gives them a new family and a new life. “It’s amazing to hear where these kids have come from and where they are now,” she said. “To hear stories that their parents maybe just couldn’t take care of them. They just didn’t have enough money. They were out on the streets. Maybe their parents passed away.”

Manhattan and CTIE students

The group visited CTIE twice where they heard about the CTIE Lasallian program, which is similar to Manhattan’s Lasallian Collegians. For Shemanski, it marked another reunion. “I had met two of the students last year,” he said. “So to see them and see their development and they’re nearing graduation. It was very cool to bridge the gap between us and see how we’re just so similar.”

CTIE students exposed the Manhattan visitors to life in Nairobi off campus by showing them where they live in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums. As the students study to become teachers, they have hope education can help rescue their families from that life.

MikeThe group also took time to experience Kenya outside of Lasallian schools. They visited an orphanage for children who have HIV, and learned about AIDS relief and a peace-building project Catholic Relief Services sponsors. They also visited a cultural center with traditional African dances and villages, and took a day safari to Lake Nakuru National Park.

Throughout their time in Kenya, the Manhattan group experienced great hospitality, which is something Edwards will always remember. “The people of Kenya–the Brothers, the people we met, the kids, everyone–are just such warm, open, amazing people,” she said.

The trips are not only a chance to build relationships; they are also an opportunity to see how CTIE and CDC used the money Manhattan donated. CDC used it to help build the new girls’ dorm. The College plans to take a trip to Kenya each year to maintain the connection.