Reflection on my visit to the U.S. July 16, 2012  by      

by CFK Staff Member, Ben Haggai

Before I boarded a plane to take me from Nairobi to the U.S.A, the furthest I had ever travelled was 1600 km during a college trip from Eldoret to Tsavo National Park. The opportunity to travel to the U.S. gave me a new experience, travelling over 100,000 km and soaring 35,000 feet above the ground. It was a long and interesting journey where I had to be stationary in a seated position for 19-20hrs, apart from the connection at London’s Heathrow Airport.

For me, I approached the trip with a strong conviction to have an open mind in order to explore all the opportunities that came throughout the trip. Among many experiences, I was honored to be a part of a panel discussion at the prestigious Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC, to meet with our partners at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, NC, and talk with the founder of Rubberbanditz about social entrepreneurship and fitness in Durham,NC. I attended a Population Action meeting on family planning and was pleased to reunite with a friend I met three years ago in Kibera, a visit which reminded me of our walk and chat during his visit. I met with representatives from Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA), made presentations to their staff and partners, and enjoyed a lunch break walk with staff members during a visit to their NYC office. Participating in advocacy and informing people about CFKs work from a grassroots perspective was fascinating and challenging. I was also surprised to learn how hard it is to get an appointment with a Congressperson or staff member, since my hosts arranged for four meetings at US government offices including a Legislative Aides, Staff Director to the Ranking Member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights, and a Representative of the State Department’s Kenya Desk. Each of these visits helped me understand the essence of democracy and right to access elected and other government officials.

After days of high profile meetings in DC and NYC, I travelled to CFK’s headquarters in Chapel Hill, NC. It was nice to see the zeal and leadership nurtured in young kids at the Bouncing Bulldogs jump rope training center with their dedicated Coach Fredrick. Another encouraging aspect was the interactions with three of Carolina for Kibera’s board members, Beth-Ann, Estaban and Amon, where I learned that their involvement is a personal decision to help support individuals far away from home, while they all personally are focused individuals with great ambitions. In general, I found the American people to be hospitable and accommodating. I had an opportunity to meet people that I never thought I’d meet – from current and prospective donors to partners and former CFK volunteers. I even had the pleasure of being and hosted by former CFK Intern Chelsea Whittle and CFK Executive Director CFK Leann Bankoski.

My trip ended with the airplane touching down on home ground at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport on 21st June, 2012, after two weeks of time well spent and resources well invested.

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