Zuri Watoto Wote

For the Students: Some Facts to Know about Kenya

Posted in Uncategorized by Lynn Ouellette on 01/25/2013

 

Location of Kenya in Africa

Location of Kenya in Africa

So that you will know a little bit more about where we will be traveling to do this volunteer work in Kenya, I decided to post an entry about the country of Kenya and its people. Kenya is located in the Eastern part of Africa and in the part of the continent referred to as Sub Saharan since it is below the Sahara Desert. As you can see, part of the country is on the coast by the Indian Ocean and the country itself lies on the Equator. Although there are rainy and dry seasons, most of the time the temperature in Kenya is similar to warmest part of our summer. Nairobi, the capital city, is the largest city in East Africa and the orphanage where we will volunteering is located just outside of Nairobi in Karen. In the movie “Out of Africa” Karen Blixen moved to Kenya in 1913, to have a coffee plantation and befriend the local Kikuyu tribe; she later became a famous writer including her writing of the book which became the movie by the same title. The town of Karen is named after her.

Kenya has more than 70 different ethnic communities or tribes and 80 different dialects. Although the official language of the country is English, the national language is Swahili. Because there are so many different communities in the country the national motto is “Harambee” which is Swahili for “Let’s all pull together.” It’s likely that you are familiar with some other Swahili words if you have ever seen the Disney movie “The Lion King”. A number of swahili words were used in that movie, like “Simba” meaning “lion”, “Rafiki” meaning “friend”, and “Hakuna matata” which means “no worries.” Children are taught English in school, but most are able to speak Swahili or another tribal language. The most well-known of the Kenyan tribes are the Maasai, a nomadic tribe whose cattle are highly valued. They are striking to see because they are tall, lean and dress in red “shuka” (blankets) with elaborate beads and braided hair. We support a local Maasai community by bringing donations to their school such as supplies for their hot lunch program and school supplies, doing projects with their children, and buying beaded jewelry, belts and other items that are hand-made by the women.

Most of the Kenyan people are  poor in comparison to Americans and many Kenyan people are extremely poor and therefore had difficulty having enough food to eat or are not able to stay healthy. The U.S. does try to help countries like Kenya and other poor countries in Africa by sending aid, but it is a small amount in comparison to the amount that is needed to take care of everyone who doesn’t have enough to eat or is sick.

Our earliest ancestors, Homo erectus, which evolved eventually into Homa sapiens, first inhabited the area around Lake Turkana in Kenya where their fossils were first discovered by the Leaky family. You may have heard of a place called the Great Rift Valley, which is over 3000 miles wide and runs through several countries in Africa including Kenya and is the place where the first human skull was found. It is also very beautiful landscape.

Great Rift Valley

Great Rift Valley

Music, with both dancing and singing, are an important part of the Kenyan culture not just for entertainment, but more importantly for ceremony and ritual. Soccer is a national pastime and the most popular sport from children to adults. However, Kenyan’s middle and long distance runners are amongst the best in the world. Most of Kenya’s top long distance runners come from one tribe, the Kalenjin, and they have been responsible for winning many gold medals for Kenya in the last decade.

One of the things that for which Kenya is most famous  is its national parks and reserves where wildlife can roam free. It is there where people are able to go on safari (Swahili word for journey) to see the animals in their usual habitat. Some of the animals that one might expect to see include:

The Maasai Mara is a national reserve that is very famous because between July and  October each year over two million animals migrate from the Serengeti National Park in Tanzania to the greener pastures of the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The migration has to cross the Mara River in the Maasai Mara where crocodiles will prey on them. This is one of the highlights as the animals try to cross the Mara River alive.

Kenya is a very beautiful country with friendly and welcoming people who are very appreciative of volunteers who come and offer help or donations. To say thank you they often sing and dance and often share generously what they do have to show their appreciation.

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