History of the Peace Corps in Kenya
From Peace Corps Wiki
The Peace Corps program in Kenya began soon after the country gained its independence in 1963, and it is one of the largest programs in Africa. The first group of 37 Peace Corps Volunteers arrived in Kenya on December 31, 1964. Since early 1965, the Peace Corps has been assisting the government of Kenya in meeting its development needs by providing skilled Volunteers in the areas of economic development, education, and public health.
To contribute to Kenya’s economic development, the Peace Corps focuses on activities that support creation of employment and income-generating opportunities. The country’s focus on gender equality creates a need to expand girls’ access to and retention in secondary schools. Also, the government of Kenya stresses the importance of providing education to children with special needs so that they can be fully contributing members of society. Public health continues to face challenges in both water-borne and infectious diseases, especially HIV/AIDS, and environmental health hazards. The Peace Corps/Kenya program enjoys strong support from government officials at national and district levels.
History and Future of Peace Corps Programming in Kenya
The Peace Corps’ support for Kenya’s development focuses on capacity building in the three priority areas mentioned above and supports Kenya’s goal of industrialization by 2020.
The country program addresses the reduction of poverty, educational needs of diverse populations, the impact of environmental degradation on health, and improvement of the life expectancy of Kenyans. Across all sectors, Peace Corps/Kenya targets women and youth as the most vulnerable in Kenyan society, and integrates HIV/AIDS education in all projects. Peace Corps/Kenya has redesigned the education project to focus on HIV/AIDS.
Peace Corps/Kenya’s education project places Volunteer teachers in both government and public secondary schools. Volunteers teach biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics and they work with their Kenyan colleagues to develop innovative teaching techniques in resource-poor environments.
In addition, the Peace Corps participates in Kenya’s deaf education program.
The Peace Corps’ Deaf Education Program now operates as a part of Kenya’s Special Education curricula that was kicked off in 1995 to cater to the people with disabilities in Kenya. The program remains the only Peace Corps program in that specifically focuses on the Deaf, however there are Peace Corps Volunteers worldwide who are working with hearing impaired populations.
The Program provides Volunteer teachers in schools for the Deaf to work with children to develop basic life skills and proficiency in Kenyan Sign Language. At the time of the program’s development, the educational use of sign language was very minimal and communication with the Deaf was limited. Since its inception, the Deaf Education Program has grown and Volunteers are earning respect for their significant contributions in improving education and raising community and parental awareness for the needs of Deaf children and adults alike.
One major contribution of the Peace Corps' work in Deaf education was their recognition of Kenyan Sign Language (KSL). Volunteers worked closely with Deaf Kenyan adults who were fluent users of KSL to create a digital dictionary of KSL. To learn more visit the Peace Corps’ interactive website on Kenyan Sign Language: http://www.peacecorps.gov/index.cfm?shell=learn.whatlike.interactivefeatures.ksl.
Kenyan and Volunteer educators work together to help create a future where students, both hearing and deaf, have the skills, knowledge, and attitudes to serve as productive members and future leaders of their communities, families, and workforce, and where communities are committed to accepting and taking care of all their members. Peace Corps/ Kenya’s education project’s goals reflect the multifaceted roles of Volunteers as teachers, colleagues, community members, and development workers.
Peace Corps/Kenya’s public health project partners with the Ministry of Health, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and community-based organizations. Volunteers work at the grassroots level with front-line extensionists as counterparts.
The three-pronged public health project addresses water and sanitation, HIV/AIDS prevention, and environmental education. Working with their Ministry of Health counterparts, Volunteers focus on facilitating communities’ efforts in these areas. These activities include hygiene education and home and community sanitation improvements to prevent waterborne diseases; HIV/AIDS education to reduce the incidence of HIV/AIDS among youth and women; and environmental education awareness for natural resource conservation, prevention of environmental degradation, and improvement of health. Volunteer activities include strengthening preventive health through changing attitudes and behaviors in the communities where they live and work and by building the capacity of local agencies to continue this work.
Today, Kenya is on the brink of losing entire generations of trained workers and years of painstaking investment in human resource development to HIV/AIDS. As many as 700 Kenyans die every day from the pandemic. In response to the impact of HIV/AIDS, Peace Corps/Kenya launched a Crisis Corps program to provide shorter-term, targeted interventions that strengthen the government and NGOs’ capacity in prevention and care. The project also focuses on cross-sectoral interventions to assist communities affected by HIV/AIDS.
The AIDS pandemic strikes across all social strata in many Peace Corps countries. The loss of teachers has crippled education systems, while illness and disability drains family income and forces governments and donors to redirect limited resources from other priorities. The fear and uncertainty AIDS causes has led to increased domestic violence and stigmatizing of people living with HIV/AIDS, isolating them from friends and family and cutting them off from economic opportunities.
As a Peace Corps Volunteer, you will confront these issues on a very personal level. It is important to be aware of the high emotional toll that disease, death, and violence can have on Volunteers. As you strive to integrate into your community, you will develop relationships with local people who might die during your service. Because of the AIDS pandemic, some Volunteers will be regularly meeting with HIV-positive people and working with training staff, office staff, and host family members living with AIDS. Volunteers need to prepare themselves to embrace these relationships in a sensitive and positive manner. Likewise, malaria and malnutrition, motor vehicle accidents and other unintentional injuries, domestic violence and corporal punishment are problems a Volunteer may confront. You will need to anticipate these situations and utilize supportive resources available throughout your training and service to maintain your own emotional strength so that you can continue to be of service to your community.
Small-Enterprise Development/Information Communication Technology (SED/ICT)
Since launching the SED/ICT project in 1992, Volunteers in this sector have worked with their Kenyan counterparts to address opportunities and challenges faced by entrepreneurs in the small business sector. These problems include low levels of business skills (e.g., record-keeping, costing, pricing, etc.) and limited access to credit and markets. With increased challenges posed by slowed economic growth, Peace Corps Volunteers work closely with stakeholders to address broader national concerns like poverty alleviation, employment creation, and capacity-building. The technical skills provided by Volunteers include promoting income-generating activities, strengthening business management and marketing linkages, operating credit plans, enhancing basic computer literacy, and using information technology in various aspects of health and education.
Targeted groups served by small-enterprise development Volunteers include women’s groups, self-help and jua kali (artisan) groups, community-based organizations, selected NGOs, and technical institutes. As a result of Peace Corps intervention, many Kenyan, especially women and youth (who are the most vulnerable economically), have improved their skills, increased their income, and obtained employment. The demand for the services of small-enterprise development Volunteers continues to grow.