By: Danielle Shusterman
Today’s adventure of a day started out with a 4:50 a.m. wake-up call from the front desk, wishing me a very good morning. Every day in Kenya we’ve woken up early, but today was different from all other days. Today, Project Inspire took an internal flight to Kisumu, Kenya’s third-largest city, located on its west coast. As the prop plane approached the runway for landing, I could see mountains surrounding a city with Lake Victoria to the west.
Our first site visit took us to Joel Omino Secondary School for students ages 14-20. This is one of many schools throughout Kenya where MASHAV(Israel’s agency for international development cooperation) is actively involved in sending staff to Israel to learn about education for sustainable development (ESD). Immediately upon arriving, I noticed an Israeli flag painted on the outside of the school gate. It was clear that the school has a deep appreciation for the work Israel is doing with its partners in Kenya. We met with many ambitious students working on a variety of ESD projects, taught by staff who went to Israel through MASHAV. These projects included a bio-sand water filtration system, compost pits, an arboretum, plant towers and a green wall of plants made from recycled materials. We were also able to see 6-foot-tall tomato plants in the new greenhouse gifted by MASHAV, which utilizes drip irrigation.
The Project Inspire group was immensely impressed by the innovation and skills these students possess and the passion they have for a more sustainable future. Apart from touring the ESD projects, I observed an algebra lesson in a classroom of senior students. Although the students and I come from very different backgrounds, math is a universal language that we could both speak. At the end of the class, students had the opportunity to ask a friend and me questions about America and why we are in Kenya. It was a great opportunity to interact and learn more about one another.
We left Joel Omino School feeling inspired by the work the students are doing and impressed with the expertise Israel provides. We were fortunate to enjoy a lovely lunch along the banks of Lake Victoria before heading to our next site, the Ramogi Institute of Advanced Technology (RIAT). Similar to Joel Omino Secondary School, RIAT employs MASHAV’s training for ESD.
What stood out most for me on this visit was the collaboration between Germany, Israel and Kenya to successfully implement an aquaculture and fishery project. Starting in 2012, the three countries worked in partnership to educate professors on how to build fishery ponds, breed fish and make fish food. We viewed numerous ponds containing tilapia and catfish that graduates of MASHAV training programs in Israel taught university students to create. This project is extremely important because it aims to protect Lake Victoria’s fragile ecosystem from overfishing, decrease unemployment and poverty by creating more jobs and feed poor communities with protein-rich fish.
We returned to Nairobi after an inspiring day seeing some of Israel’s wonderful work in Kisumu and were honored to join Israeli ambassador Noah Gendler and his wife, Liron, for dinner in their lovely home. Prior to serving as ambassador to Nairobi, he served as MASHAV’s special envoy for water and food security, so he was able to speak to us in depth about Israel’s development projects. We discussed public health, the goals the ambassador has for his term and how we feel as Jews toward global responsibility.
If there is one theme that carried through this day and through the trip, it is: When we share, we inspire one another. Israel is truly dedicated to sharing its innovative ideas with the world to make it a better place for all to live.