Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Life of a Fieldworker: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (or at least my anticipations of what is to come)

The history of ‘Kelly Ranck in the field’:

{ The Field: Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Chad, and other East African countries }

Thus far…

Uganda// 5 months [studied at a Ugandan University, lived with a couple of Ugandan families, traveled and studied all over Uganda]

Rwanda// 2 weeks [traveled around the country learning about the ’94 genocide and reconciliation process]

Kenya&South Sudan// 2 weeks [traveled to a variety of World Concern’s project sites and trained for my role as Communication Liaison]

The Kenya Crew

Time spent training to live in the field…

Classes, Mentoring Sessions, Events, Jobs, Projects, Trainings, etc.// 9+ months

To come…

Kenya&Chad&South Sudan&Somalia// 2+ years…

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Though the amount of time that I will be living and working in East Africa will be significantly longer than the total of my time spent there thus far, I feel that I have a fairly accurate perception of what life will be like in the field: the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Here is what I do know (the most uncomfortable/what I am most anxious about/ the most beautiful/what I am most anticipating/ and more…):

THE UGLY
Nairobi traffic, AKA Jams- Nairobi is known for their horrendous jams. Needless to say, I do not look forward to this commute:

Exposure to new diseases (to take Malaria medication for two years straight or not?… any advice?)

Living in close proximity to Kibera. Kibera is one of the largest slums in the world and is located right next to the Royal Nairobi Golf Club. Gentrification at its finest.

The reaction of my curly hair to the humidity of South Sudan. Picture two inches of frizz.

THE BAD (because I don’t believe that any of the below should be labeled as purely bad, we will also call these ‘the challenges’)

Establishing myself and becoming accustomed to a different way of life: new city, new culture, new community, new colleagues, new style, new weather patterns, new foods, new languages, new job, new traditions, new hobbies, new extracurriculars…you get the picture.

Re-evaluation of my life values. In other words, as part of living in and assimilating to a variety of East African cultures, I will be faced with the challenge of continually re-evaluating what I value most. Though this does not mean that I will be compromising core values, such as my faith, I may have to give up some of my American freedoms. As a part of learning to live cross-culturally, I will have to decide which values are worth fighting for and which I will need to compromise. Being a single, white, American female will most likely entail giving up much of my previous freedoms- walking by myself at night, running down the street, certain freedoms of speech, and traveling long distances on my own. This will take adjusting to.

– This leads into another challenge, finding my place as a female working in cultures that tend to be male-dominated, (more to come on this later).

This has nothing to do with being a female working in Africa, but this was a ‘challenging’ moment.

– According to their website (and I can vouch from experience that they speak truth), World Concern works in many countries in which the people face significant political and/or religious restrictions. In all cases, World Concern seeks out the poorest and most vulnerable. Though I am so blessed to work in such environments, this means that I will need to spend a lot of time processing, coping with, being angry about, and praying over extreme poverty and injustice. (Fun, not so fun, Fact: The average person living cross-culturally experiences 2-5 times the amount of stress of that of an inner city police officer.)

– Then there is the challenge (as well as the blessing) of support-raising. I am packed and ready to leave, but cannot move until I raise the remaining $900 of my monthly budget. I trust that God’s timing is better than mine, but the unknowns of when I will be able to begin working in the field can pose as a challenge.

THE GOOD (because I want to finish this blog on the good- and there is plenty of it!)
The opportunity to be the first to take on the role of World Concern’s Africa Communication Liaison. I am blessed to have the chance to mold, expand, and strengthen the bridge of communication between World Concern’s African beneficiaries and you in the states. I look forward to furthering World Concern’s social media and connecting more people to their various projects. Be on the lookout for World Concern Africa Facebook and Twitter pages!

Being a voice for the voiceless. What an honor. It is a humbling responsibility to serve as a voice of dignity and truth for those who often have none. I take this role very seriously- please hold me accountable to consistently portraying World Concern’s beneficiaries as the dignified, beautiful, valuable humans that they are. I cautiously enter this role recognizing that I am no greater than any beneficiary and it is not my job to ‘save’ them. Rather, it is an honor to walk alongside them- to learn from their relationship-oriented cultures and share in their lives (joys and sorrows). I do not take this role lightly.

Interviewing a loan recipient in Lietnhom, South Sudan.

– Exposure to New music. ‘nough said.(watch at your own risk)

The many new relationships I will build. From those I have met, and from what I have heard, the World Concern Africa staff members are incredible people. I am so delighted and blessed to enter into community (and thankful for the grace the staff will be showing me as I will be one of the only expatriates on staff!). I also look forward to the relationships I will build with beneficiaries, Nairobi locals, and other expatriates.

… So there ya have it! I promise to update/edit/improve upon these lists after living and working in the field for an extended period of time!

If you are interested in becoming a monthly partner, please check out this page. Excited to journey with you in being a voice for those who deserve to be heard!

 

VIP

We roll VIP.

You heard me. World Concern rolls VIP style. Ventilated Improved Pit latrines. And this is changing lives.

I know, many organizations, stories, ads, and campaigns have already bombarded you with their varying promotions of clean water. Buy a bottle, buy clean water for a year. Dig a well, save a village. Build a latrine, transform lives. We get numb to hearing about such causes after a while, right? But friends, don’t become numb! Clean water and hygiene are important. I saw, heard, and experienced this firsthand while training with World Concern in Kenya and South Sudan.

VIP

This may look like another picture of an African latrine, but this ain’t any old latrine- this is a VIP. And this latrine has made small, but significant steps in transforming people’s lives.

Hand washing station. Keepin’ hands clean since 2012.

Clean water and basic hygiene are concepts that we, or at least I, take for granted on the daily. From a young age, I learned to do my business in the toilet (this was rarely an option while in Africa. Thank goodness for long skirts and tall grasses. Curse the sparse, drought-ridden land of Eastern Kenya), wash my hands afterward, and drink water from a faucet- or, even better, from a purified source. My mother, teachers, mentors, and family taught me to wash my hands before I eat, wash my food, and wash my eating utensils. I have always considered this to be basic knowledge.

In the villages where World Concern works, particularly those that I visited in Kenya and South Sudan, such information is foreign. Rather than worrying about cleanliness and doing business in a porcelain pot, people worry about gathering food, building their homes, and the many cultural traditions and practices that affect their daily lives. Though they often live happy (still difficult) lives, they have never been exposed to the idea that their lives could be prolonged, and a bit less difficult, if they were to practice good hygiene.

Here is where the VIPs come in. As a part of their One Village Transformed campaign, World Concern educates communities about preventing diarrhea, cholera, and other water-borne/hygiene related diseases.

You guessed it… VIP.

World Concern trained the community of Benane, Kenya to build this beautiful VIP. They are now educated as to the basics of:

A. Using the VIP/their importance in preventing diseases

B. How to practice good hygiene in other areas of their lives.

It was invigorating to speak with the locals who had recently been educated and were proud to share what they now knew about preventing cholera – drink from a well, boil drinking water, wash before nursing, and more. And the best part- they said that this knowledge alone has already decreased the presence of disease amongst their families and friends.

Students in Benane, Kenya

Another reason I love VIPs (besides the fact that they spared me from a handful of moments of doing my business in public) is that they enable more children to attend school. Here’s how they relate: healthy children can effectively travel to and attentively engage in school. The lack of clean water is a significant factor in increasing opportunities for education.

One of many anatomy lessons on the side of the Benane school.

While in Benane, Kenya, I had the opportunity to visit this beaut of a school (anatomy lessons on every wall- who needs textbooks?).

Because World Concern has empowered locals to build a Treadle pump, more students are attending class. Instead of spending the large portion of their day walking to water sources in order to gather unsanitary water, children now have more time to attend class. I was pleasantly surprised by this small, but transforming development.

Yes, people drink from this water. [local water source in Benane, Kenya]

Here is where the Benane children used to (and,out of convenience, still do) gather their drinking, cleaning, and cooking water.

As soon as I move to Africa in November, I will be able to continue to share more stories such as these- important stories about the sustainable work of World Concern. Work that is empowering individuals, providing opportunity, and allowing people to live dignified, transformed lives.

Please consider partnering with me to share and improve the many valuable lives being transformed by becoming a monthly supporter. If only 24 people donate $50 per month, I will have reached my goal.

I look forward to checking back in with the people of Benane and getting some VIP access when I move to Africa!

 

Meet n’ Greet // John: The Father, The Mechanic, The Vocal Artist

There is still much to be told about the individuals I met while training with World Concern in Kenya and South Sudan. A few beneficiary’s stories in particular have continued to stick with me. Over the next few weeks, I plan on to do a bit of a meet-greet-and learn more about World Concern.Should be fun!

Meet John- a father of six and the unbeatable champion of the largest smile competition in Lietnhom, South Sudan. John and his family have lived in Lietnhom for over nine years. They have witnessed, and survived, a brutal civil war that ultimately led to the split of Sudan. John is now one among many founding fathers of the newest country in the world. He, along with the current residents of South Sudan, will be recorded in history as the shapers and movers of a country ready and waiting to be established and developed. South Sudan is midst a time of great potential- and with that potential comes both excitement and fear. The excitement of all that is possible, and the fear that these possibilities will not come to fruition. John is excited.

I can’t stop thinking about John. Yes, the immense smile that covers his entire face, his beautiful black skin, and his lanky six-foot-five figure make him unmistakably memorable. But what I find most memorable about John is the great sense of dignity and excitement that he exudes.

Like many of the people of South Sudan, John has spent the majority of his life providing an income for his family with little to no job or skill training. He has scarcely managed to feed all six children knowing only basic motorbike skills. John now walks with dignity and oozes joy out of every pore of his body. He has been given what every human being deserves- the opportunity to provide for oneself and their family. I have never worried, not even for a split second, that I may never be equipped with basic skills to provide for myself. Of course, I have wondered if my skills will ever be ‘cool enough’ or ‘valuable enough’ or ‘worthy of praise’. I may spend time worrying that I will spend my life working as a nanny or an assistant (no offense to those who are currently in such positions- I am currently working both of these jobs and find them honorable and valuable). But, I have never been at a place of understanding the dignity and pride that comes with empowerment. Empowerment to move past daily survival . This is a blessing, but not a blessing I deserve more than any other living, breathing, talking, relational, God-created being.

John fixing a bike. Look at that smile!

John and his trainee.

Because of World Concern’s job training program, John is now a mechanic- and a fabulous one at that. He runs a little shop in Lietnhom’s main market and is even training others in order that they, too, can provide for themselves. John told me that he is so happy with World Concern and thankful for the opportunity they have given him. Because of the training, his life has transformed from working to surive to working to pay for his children’s education. John’s dream is to open his own mechanic shop. With that smile, I have no doubt he’ll do it.

John is one of the many beneficiaries that World Concern is working to empower with job training. I am so excited to meet people like John and see the positive outcome of such empowerment- living with dignity and joy- joy that comes from being able to provide for oneself, not live off of relief and day-to-day survival.

Interviewing John. [Not sure why the Dinka people, who are rather tall, build such short huts.]

If you would like to share with me in telling more of these incredible stories, creating more awareness about the work of World Concern and furthering World Concern’s projects, please consider becoming a monthly partner.

I need to raise the remainder of my budget before November.If only 24 people donate $50 a month, this goal will be reached!

And, as if the guy weren’t lovable enough, he can sing! [note, this is only half of the song. another note, man dancing with hammer behind John’s head]

Check it:

Seattle Transient

What does it mean to feel settled? Throughout my post-college/ early to mid-20s, this is a word that I have heard many a time. Friends and colleagues wrestle through the unknowns of life after college and often find themselves tired of moving, transitioning, and searching. They long to feel settled in their homes, families, relationships, and jobs. Often, I wonder if I will ever feel fully settled. It seems to be that every time I finally feel comfortable or settled in one aspect of my life, another is on the rocks.

set·tle (v. set·tledset·tlingset·tles)
1. To put into order; arrange or fix definitely as desired. 2. To put firmly into a desired position or place; establish.3. a. To establish as a resident or residents: settled her family in Ohio. b. To establish residence in; colonize: Pioneers settled the West. c. To establish in a residence, business, or profession. 4. To restore calmness or comfort to.

 

The ol’ humble abode.

The remnants of the burnt-orange basement I called home for two years.

I am officially moved out of the burnt orange Greenlake basement that I have called home, and learned to love dearly, for the past two years. My life is “organized” in bins, boxes, suitcases, and trunks. Everything I own now fits in my car (I say this with great pride- I got rid of over 2/3rds of my possessions!). I feel light, free, and ready to take on a new chapter. I also feel entirely unsettled. Though I am packed and ready to go, I am not yet leaving.

This month, I head out to Colorado for a three week cross-cultural training. The training is designed for those preparing to live overseas and develops skills and mechanisms to help one integrate into living and working in a new culture. Having somewhere to live for three weeks couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.

Upon my return from Colorado, the last of my Communication Liaison training, I am not entirely sure where I will live or when I will be leaving for Africa. I do know that I am eager and ready to move to begin my work as World Concern’s Communication Liaison. Yet, in order to do so, I need to raise the last 1/3 of my monthly budget. I believe and trust that God’s timing is perfect, beautiful, and way better than mine, yet, I feel unsettled not knowing when I will move.

Despite my current discomforts, I’m pretty sure I wasn’t called to live a settled life. And, I’m guessing [just a totally wild guess], that working in Africa for two years will be anything but settled.

Here’s my take on settling- yes, comfort is something that every human craves, and being settled brings comfort, but God straight up tells us that we are not called to a life of comfort. If our time is spent in search of feeling settled, we are bound to miss out on the many beautiful challenges and opportunities that concide with stepping out of our comfort zones.

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-26)
“God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.” – Francis Chan

 

I will be uncomfortable the next few months as I take on the role of ‘Seattle transient’, but I pray that I remain patient, trusting that my budget will come through, and continuing to pursue getting to Africa by the end of October.

After spending time training in the field, I am evermore ready and excited to begin. My passion and commitment to the incredible, transformative work of World Concern has only grown, and I am ready to tell the stories of beneficiaries to you in the states- as well as all over the world. 

Thank you for supporting and praying for me as I have worked to get to this point of preparation- I would not have made it without you. I am eager to leave, I just need the rest of my monthly budget to come through- about $1200 more per month, less than 1/3rd of the total.

Would you please consider giving $10 // $20 // even $50 a month to help me reach this goal by October?

I look forward to partnering with you and telling you about all that I learn in Colorado when I return!