Monday, September 8th, 2014...12:27 pm

DPMI Kenya – Reflections from Abroad

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– Blog contributed by Maritza Munzon, MPA/IEM ‘15 

I was in Kenya a total of two months; at the time it felt longer, maybe because it’s a slower pace of life in Kisumu, or maybe because compared to a year at MIIS anything else seems to go at a snail’s pace. Whichever the case, slow was nice and much needed. Now looking back it seems like it all went by in a blur, I can’t believe how much I saw and experienced in two short months, while still having time to cook, read for fun and watch the World Cup every night! The DPMI training was intense of course, but nothing short of what is to be expected from a MIIS workshop, except that it was longer (10 days). This meant 8 hours a day of group work, charting, mapping, learning new tools and immediately applying them. We mostly failed at implementing the tools properly, but a great deal was learned from correcting our mistakes. I can now say that I am no expert at program design, but I know how to tackle the task of designing a program.

maritza obama grandparentsOur guide/mentor/program liaison, Rose Waringa, is a multitasking superwomen, she did a great job of taking care of us in and out of Kisumu. On the weekends we were taken to explore the local sites, it was great to get out of Kisumu and leave the books behind for a bit. There is LOTS of natural beauty near town and I feel fortunate to have taken a walk through Kakamega Forest, taken a boat ride on the biggest lake in the world (Lake Victoria) and visited President Obama’s paternal grandmother! Never thought I’d get to do any of it, let alone the last part!

After the training ended, three of us remained with the Omega Foundation to do an internship. In the first two weeks, we were briefed on some of the organization’s policies as well as the government policies they work around. The education policies and child protection policies were of particular interest to me, given that I focused the internship around primary education. In addition to focusing on an area of interest of our choice, we all had a chance to participate in educational workshops sponsored by the Omega Foundation. These workshops are typically designed around improving livelihood, health and education in Kisumu County. I was fortunate enough to  attended workshops on the following subjects: training health care professionals in family planning methods, training sex workers (female and male) in ‘Income generating activities’ or small business ventures, as well as reproductive health for children in primary 5-8. Attending these workshops opened my eyes to the spectrum of projects the Omega Foundation takes on and how they are impacting vulnerable communities and individuals in Kisumu County.

After getting a sense of what The Omega Foundation does I decided to focus the remainder of my stay on trying to get our DPMI project off the ground. I was part of the education team, which focused on designing a program that would motivate parents to involve themselves in helping their children succeed in school. This was a large program that involved parent-teacher meetings, social marketing campaign, and parent workshops to mentions a few things. I wanted to see how an organization tackles starting such a task, but naturally Omega’s priority was on its current running programs and not on starting something new. I was encouraged to begin work on our DPMI program but I was lost, I had no ideas where to start.

One afternoon when I attended a meeting with the new director of Kunya Primary School, Rose and I realized that this could be a good location to run a pilot of our DPMI program. The Omega Foundation already had a relationship with the school and the director mentioned having issues with parent involvement and with increasing student test scores. I asked Rose if I could go in to the school and asked questions, I wanted to get a sense of what was going on, to help me better operationalize the pilot. Needless to say my simple question turned into a big yes and I ended up designing three surveys for the organization; one for parents, one for teachers and one for students. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and were unable to conduct the surveys or run the pilot program because the school year ended. I quickly realized that six weeks is a short time to design and implement a program. I am glad to report, however, that after presenting my work to The Omega Foundation they were pleased with surveys and mentioned using them at multiple school and multiple grade levels in the future. I do plan to stay in contact with the organization to see how our DPMI programs are implemented and how they turned out. The beauty of this whole experience was knowing that what I was working on had the potential of being put into practice someday, and I sincerely hope they are able to somehow benefit from that work.

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