Re-emerging after immersion

Twaweza staff from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda are back in their respective offices after spending a week in Central Kenya. We returned with countless stories and anecdotes to tell each other and our friends and families. From a woman who voluntarily monitored health services and ran a women’s group to an 81 year old man who counseled people to combat HIV stigma and chased chicken thieves, the most striking stories were of those phenomenal individuals who just work to get things done. Of course some stories are more personal, from picking tea to carrying water, collecting wood to harvesting coffee and trying to acclimatise to the unique Masai diet, everybody came back with tales to tell.

The idea was to get a glimpse of life as it is lived in much of rural East Africa. Although we know that we cannot draw generalisations from our experiences, immersion aims to open our eyes to the lived realities of the people whom we seek to target in our work. Some of it was sobering, there were a number of instances of Uwezo calendars being used as little more than wallpaper, and some was uplifting – the evening news was a source of discussion and debate, and information passed from person to person quickly and efficiently.

As we made our way back to the meeting point for our de-brief session, each of us came with our own ideas on our experiences and how they relate to our work. We then spent a day together swapping stories but also trying to think through what it all could mean for Twaweza and Uwezo and the work that we do. Our imaginations were collectively sparked – from leveraging the phenomenal reach and distribution network of Miraa (a hallucinogenic substance that is legal in Kenya and grown largely for export to Somalia) to engaging in local levels sports events, new ideas were plentiful. Over the coming weeks we will work to distill lessons, write reports and take on board new thinking. But for now, all of us are left with a lot of gratitude towards our hosts, who allowed us unique access to their lives, and an overwhelming sense of the magnitude of what we learned and experienced, and the work that we still need to do.

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