Sustaining Solutions

Fourth year student Katie Clogg spends time with children in the Muhanda community.

Muhunda, Kenya is one of the poorest areas of the country yet one of the most densely populated. This largely agricultural community struggles daily with what the first world takes for granted – food, shelter and water – and it is an area that Trinity Western University’s Ruth Anaya knows all too well. 

Since 2004, the Assistant Professor of Cross-Cultural and Leadership Communication has annually led groups of TWU students to the impoverished community on a Travel Study. The aim is to educate students on the unique cultural environments and provide opportunities for students to assist with long-term development projects.  For these students, the opportunity to visit a world very different from their own, and work directly with the local community to enact change, is far more than a textbook or lecture can provide. For many students these travel studies are life changing.

RuthAnayaThis summer the students looked into a particular need in the community concerning children. Anjuli Evans, a recent TWU International Studies graduate who went to Kenya this summer, explains, “We found out that there were over 70 aids orphans in the Muhunda community that had fallen through the cracks. They were being taken care of by grandparents or distant relatives, but they did not have access to education or resources to live off of.”

Before arriving in Kenya, the students researched issues concerning orphans and vulnerable children, and possible solutions to improve the living conditions of the children and to support their care-givers. Upon arriving in Muhunda, they met with a local organization of women called Mawazo Women’s Group who had dedicated themselves to addressing the needs of AIDS orphans in Muhunda. “Most of these women,” Evans says, “are grandmothers of the orphans. The AIDS epidemic has wiped out the middle generation. They try to take care of the children, but they are getting older, and some of them have six or more children to care for.”

In a meeting with Trinity Western students and women from the Mawazo Women’s Group, discussion took place on how the needs of the orphans and the community might be met.  Katie Clogg, a fourth year International Studies major recalls the meeting saying, “The women became so excited when they heard that we had come to work with them and help them. At first, they talked about opening an orphanage, but we had discovered from our research that there are many other options that might aid the Muhunda community’s needs better. One of these options was a community centre that would provide education, activities, and meals, but then the children could return home to their relatives in the evening.”

The Mawazo Women’s Group, together with students and professors from TWU, came to a mutual decision that the community centre would be the best option to pursue, and they began investigating means to start the project.

Our involvement in the community reflects both their trust placed in us, and our faith in their ability to address their own needs. Our focus is to build capacity through collaboration,” Professor Anaya comments. One of Anaya’s associates, Professor Cherie Enns, who has also been doing research in international development in Kenya, applied for and received a $35,000 Research and Design grant from the International Development Research Centre for the community centre. The construction of the community centre begins November 2009.

The community centre is part of a much bigger development plan for the area,” says Anaya. Past travel studies groups have helped with other developments such as the Muhunda Water Project that now provides over 5,000 people with fresh, purified water. The project met with such success that the government of Kenya wants to implement the project in other rural areas of the country.

Anaya concludes, “The current project speaks of the promise to continue working together for positive change, and to build upon the capacity that is already there.”

Trinity Western University, in Langley, B.C., is a provincially chartered, independent Christian liberal arts and sciences university, enrolling approximately 4000 students. TWU offers 42 undergraduate majors, ranging from biotechnology, education, theatre and music, to psychology, communications and biblical studies. TWU's 16 graduate degree programs include nursing, counseling psychology, business, theology, linguistics, and leadership, and interdisciplinary degrees in English, philosophy and history. TWU holds Canada Research Chairs in Dead Sea Scroll Studies, Developmental Genetics and Disease, and Interpretation, Religion & Culture.

Last Updated: 2009-11-27
Author: Elisabeth Fallon