When post election violence occurred, I was fifteen back in my home in southern California concerned with AP tests and the upcoming school dances. I understand very little of the implications of the ethnic tensions that underlie the violence or the effect that the violence would have and continue to have on the social fabric of Kenyan society. I knew enough to get into contact with my friend who lived in Nairobi but after learning that he was safe, I was at a loss as to what else I could do. Flash forward three years and I was moving away from home studying International Peace and Conflict Resolution at American University in Washington D.C. studying ethno political conflict and genocide, focusing on Africa, and learning Kiswahili.
Last semester I took the opportunity to study abroad in Kenya through my university and was recommended Sisi ni Amani Kenya (SNA-K) as an organization to consider interning with. From the very beginning, I recognized SNA-K as an organization straight out of my development class discussions. It was an organization that had involvement from the Western world but relied on the ideas and leadership potential of local Kenyans who knew the language, culture, people and what would work and not work.
The concept of SMS technology appealed to me as a teenager who has grown up in the cell phone era- what better way to reach a wide array of people poorly connected but through texting- and for such a good cause as peace and civic education? From what I saw from my time in Kenya, the usage of SMS technology is an integral part of society and more effective than posters or fliers and can be accessed at any time on little notice, day or night, unlike soccer games or theatre productions.
One of the most admirable qualities of SNA-K is their emphasis on local leadership- not regional and not national. Each community is different- with its own culture and way of life and SNAK respects and empowers these communities to reach their full potential and take ownership of the well being of their community. I found from my time in Kasarani and Narok that each leadership team preferred to approach their work with different styles and chose to rely on different aspects of peace and civic education as their respective community necessitated.
I highly value the time that I spent interning with Sisi ni Amani- Kenya and even though I have returned to the states, I am hoping to stay active with the work of SNA-K and help in whatever way I can.