Watipa in Kenya: Discussing politics and Italian food

FullSizeRenderIn March 2017, Watipa hosted a meeting of the Kenyan scholars. In December 2016, 5 young Kenyans received inaugural Watipa scholarships. For the meeting in Nairobi, two of the scholars, Julia Omondi and Zingiri Amos Mwamlamba, were able to travel to Nairobi to meet Lucy Stackpool-Moore for dinner.

All three are outsiders to Nairobi, and at first glance, the trio did not appear to have much in common. Julia lives in Kisumu, the capital city of Western Kenya. Julia is studying a Bachelor in Counselling Psychology. Amos lives in Mombasa, at the Eastern coast of Kenya, and is studying a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering at the Technical University of Mombasa. Zingiri lost his father in 2014, and since then his mother has been doing her best to support Zingiri and his three siblings to complete their education. Lucy lives in London in the UK, originally from Australia, and was in Nairobi working with the IPPF Africa Regional Office to rollout a new Quality of Care self-assessment tool.

Having not been to an Italian restaurant before, both Julia and Zingiri were a little apprehensive about the menu. The restaurant had been chosen as somewhere that they could all find and get to relatively easily. Any fears were allayed, as the food was delicious and conversation insightful.

Among the wonders of Kenya is the fresh thick mango juice that is readily available in the right seasons. Before the first sips of juice had been swallowed, the lively conversation rapidly unfolded. Amos and Julia spoke of their families, and their experiences with their studies this year. In Kenya there has been an ongoing strike of university lecturers, so most students have found themselves at home without much to do or to learn until the dispute has been resolved. Julia described how even lecturers who wanted to give their classes were in fact banned and the students sent home, to support the strike.

We spoke of politics as well, and heard about the different candidates and parties for the upcoming election in Kenya. Even though Amos and Julia are from very different parts of the country, it seems that in fact their districts had some common ground in terms of polling preferences at this early stage.

We also discovered, unsurprisingly, that we share a passion for community development. Zingiri is in his third year of a five-year degree. He volunteers and teaches at his local schools when he is back home during university holidays. Julia said that she had wanted to serve her community ever since finishing school. She wants to inspire other girls in her own community to continue their education and avoid getting married too early. She said, “community development is a career path I have chosen and it is gradually becoming more of a lifestyle. One finds empowerment in empowering others.” Julia was flying the following day to Namibia, having been invited as a youth advocate to speak about HIV prevention and community engagement at a Wilton Park event on building a stronger HIV prevention movement in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Before we knew it the evening had flown by, and it was a special moment for the three of us to meet and share ideas in person – as well as the communication we have through electronic means. We missed the other Watipa scholars from Kenya – Rose, Boru and Noor – and we hope to all be able to meet another time in the future. There is nothing quite like the sound of laughter and the taste of mango juice in person to really make and feel connections.

Lucy, Julia and Zingiri

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