Twiga Ochieng (aka Luke Butcher)
Nyaje, marafiki zangu?
From the language to the people to the places, it’s hard for me to believe how quickly my daily life has changed since returning from Kenya. I’ll briefly recall some of what made my experience so memorable.
To start, working in Nairobi provided me work experience that I believe will be crucial to the next steps I take in my career in development. In the head office I significantly improved my data skills, from learning to code surveys in SurveyCTO to analyzing data for reports to stakeholders. In addition, being in Nairobi provided access to high-level conversations regarding research methodology at different stages of various projects, including the early stages of a digital loan for small retailers, the launch of rainfall insurance for maize farmers, and the midline for a dairy farmer mobile service. Acquiring sufficient data, randomizing, and managing the relationships with different stakeholders are not simple processes, but my understanding deepened on a daily basis.
Another highlight of my summer was the time I spent in Siaya county, a rural area in Western Kenya, for the launch of the rainfall insurance study. Focused on the evaluation of digital rainfall insurance, the fieldwork provided me ample opportunities to collaborate with enumerators, as well as help identify and rectify issues in data collection. Having read about Randomized Control Trials but never supported one prior to this summer, I became aware of how carefully questions need to phrased in order to limit bias. Furthermore, I began to think about the interpersonal challenges at play. Telling team members working hard in the field that they need to change something isn’t always easy.
The learning I experienced, however, was not limited to these spheres of work. It was in the social interactions and relationships I built with Kenyans that I began to appreciate the challenges facing the country, as well as find a sense of community. For example, when I would ask Kenyans about what they wished were different, their answers almost universally centered around political rather than social issues (e.g., election processes rather than the rights of certain groups). Their comments provided insights into what was important in the public consciousness. Furthermore, thanks to the language lessons provided by gui2de, I was able to instantly establish connections with Kenyans. Speaking Swahili, one of the most straightforward languages I have ever explored, was undoubtedly the most important component of my social experience in Kenya, leading to many friendships, plenty of laughter, and so much love. To provide an example, I spent my last night in Kenya eating dinner with a Kenyan family in Nairobi that I had met on a safari. They enjoyed speaking Swahili so much with me that they invited me into into their home a week later, showing genuine hospitality. Furthermore, I received a nickname from my Kenyan friends that always prompted smiles: Twiga Ochieng. Twiga means giraffe, while Ochieng is a common middle name among the Luo tribe meaning “born when the sun shines.”
This summer was unforgettable, to say the least, and I’m grateful for everyone who made it possible.