I took a trip to Nairobi, Kenya in May 2018, along with a group of Honors College and College of Business students. It turned out to be so different from my expectations. We had a group of fourteen students, accompanied by chaperones, travel to Limuru (about an hour from Nairobi). The organization EDUAFRICA paired us with the CARE for AIDS program. Through that program, we were paired with an entrepreneur who was HIV positive. Before this trip, I did not realize how common HIV is in third world countries. Our objective was to observe their daily routine at their business, identify the problems, and offer solutions to help make their business more sustainable using the Design Thinking method. Meeting Esther influenced me in ways I cannot even express. She manages Shaz Hotel (restaurants are called hotels in Kenya), named after her granddaughter. She makes the best chapati in Kenya, guaranteed. She’s been in business for 4 months now and is killing it! She is one of most dedicated, hardworking people I know. The way that she pursues her dream despite the challenges she faces daily is inspiring. Her life motto is “Avoid stress, eat healthy, and try to be happy always.” After getting to know the atmosphere of her work environment, our team suggested a few adjustments to make her hotel more sustainable. We presented our prototypes to the organization we worked with in order to get the funding approved. Esther is one of the kindest people I have ever met and puts her customers first. The strength and faith she has daily gives me hope for the future. She is a ray of positivity despite all of the struggles she has faced. I am looking forward to hearing all about what she’s accomplished!
During this trip I was constantly examining and questioning the situations we were in. Eventually I came to realize that we ALL have something to learn from one another. One of my favorite things about Kenya was the sense of community. Everyone genuinely cared about one another. If your neighbor needed help that you could offer, you would do it for free just because. Through a business standpoint, in Kenyan businesses, money did not matter like it does in America. For instance, instead of saving for something you would need to make things more efficient, why would you worry about something you cannot afford right now and stress? We really struggled with that, seeing most of the problems required saving money. I realized that Americans in business are very individualistic and competitive, while in Kenya there is competition, but they do not see the market that way.
I am so thankful for the experience there. I’ve learned so much about foreign culture, the benefits of innovation, and sustainability through this trip. The whole experience was eye opening in ways that cannot be expressed through words in an essay.
Emily Wilson is majoring in Marketing. She participated in a faculty-led trip to Kenya through the College of Business and Honors College in May, 2018. Emily had the following to say about her time abroad, “I’ve learned that there are cultural barriers everywhere; don’t be oblivious, but rather embrace and recognize them. We have so much to learn from each other.”
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