Everyone has their own definition of success and strives to discover the true essence of life in their own unique ways. Some people perceive success through the lens of their careers, while others envision it as the profound impact they leave on others' lives. For some, the ultimate aspiration is to earn prestigious titles like professor, doctor, or CEO, while others seek to etch their legacy by bringing positive transformation to the world through meaningful connections with individuals. I found myself living this very dream, a dream of preaching the gospel of hope, through two interconnected institutions, Tufts University, my beloved academic home, and Cross World Africa, a non-profit organization dedicated to changing lives and uplifting families in Kenya. I interned with Cross World Africa in the summer of 2023 where I had the most fulfilling holiday of my life.
While the expanse of our globe may seem vast, and the distance between Tufts and Kenya spans roughly 11,000 kilometers, the marvels of modern technology have effectively shrunk this geographical divide. I embarked on a 19-hour journey from Tufts to Kenya, a trip that marked the commencement of my internship with Cross World Africa. A significant portion of my internship involved traveling to facilitate CWA's impactful projects, which were mainly based in key regions: Nairobi, the Rift Valley, and Kisumu in Western Kenya.
One of the indelible moments from my time in Kenya was the unforgettable soccer tournament we organized in the heart of the Kenyan Rift Valley for middle schoolers. This four-day sporting extravaganza unfolded in Iten, renowned as the "Home of Champions" and the very place where the world-famous champion, Sir Eliud Kipchoge, proudly hails from. Throughout those four exhilarating days, I donned my white sweatpants emblazoned with "TUFTS" in bold capital letters, paired with the distinctive Cross World Africa red T-shirt bearing the inspiring slogan "Making Hope A Reality." Bursting with enthusiasm and excitement, I eagerly ventured onto the field, even attempting to utter a few Kalenjin words like "Koongoi," which means "thank you" in the local language. But what was the driving force behind organizing a soccer tournament in this remarkable place?
The 2007-2008 post-election violence in Kenya was a tragic period in the country's history, and the Kenyan-Rift Valley region was one of the areas heavily affected. The violence was fueled by a combination of ethnic and political tensions. The presidential election held in December 2007 was contested between Mwai Kibaki, a Kikuyu, and Raila Odinga, a Luo. Kikuiyus and Luos are one of the many Kenyan tribes. The election results were disputed, leading to allegations of election fraud. After the disputed election results were announced, violence erupted in various parts of Kenya, and Rift Valley was not spared. This region is ethnically diverse, with communities such as the Kikuyu, Luo, Kalenjin just to name a few. These tribes speak totally different languages—there are 43 tribes with more than 150 ethnicities. Many homes, farms, and businesses were looted, burned, and destroyed during the violence. This resulted in significant property damage and economic losses for affected individuals and communities. Thousands of people were killed, and many more were injured.
In the aftermath of these tragic events, recovery and development became daunting challenges for the affected regions, including the Rift Valley. And even though the fights were over, there still exist internal struggles and terrible fights between the Kalenjins and their neighboring communities. Language differences and the toxic legacy of tribalism continue to fuel these internal struggles. It is precisely because of these enduring challenges that Cross World Africa has taken an active role in intervention and conflict resolution. One crucial approach is bridging the gaps between these communities and fostering understanding. A key strategy involves connecting communities and nurturing friendships from an early age. This was the whole point of holding the tournament as part of their transformational projects.
I recall speaking to the media about why we held the tournament and whether it was truly beneficial, and aside from discussing peace and togetherness in the region, I shared my thoughts on boredom. The youth had time to develop their abilities, and more importantly, this kept them away from drug and substance abuse, which is one of the leading causes of youth crime in societies around the world.
As I reflect on the wonderful moments of my time abroad in the summer, all I see is a world of possibilities in which transformation is possible via the building of alliances between institutions and individuals, thanks to Tufts University and Cross World Africa.