Sagalla: A Home Away From Home
Report From International Intern, Emma Korien
The last few weeks of my internship have been just like every other week here in Sagalla: exciting and eventful! After the adrenaline rush of the collaring week we got right back into the groove of beehive fences and night work. That week was particularly exciting as we had some special visitors, Cliff Evans came all the way from the UK to visit Kileva Primary School and our research center. We were also joined by many of Cliff’s friends and family, as well as Godwin Kilele, who co-founded Kileva with Cliff.
Over the course of my internship I have been able to really engage with the students and teachers at Kileva, so it was really wonderful to meet the people who make these students’ education possible. This was also an excuse for me to talk about all of our recent projects with the school, from our exciting World Wildlife Day activities to the involvement of Kileva’s student garden club in the permaculture garden.
Before Cliff’s arrival I had anticipated the school’s excitement, but I could never have predicted just how much energy and enthusiasm flooded the students, teachers and the entire community during the week of his visit. Starting on Monday the entire school, parents and staff included, threw a huge birthday party for Paul, one of the visitors and donors to the school. The party was complete with dancing, cake, and about 50 rounds of “happy birthday” sung in both English and Kiswahili. There was also an award ceremony recognizing the students who scored well on their exams. Two of Grace’s (our house keeper in camp) sons received awards, watching Grace walk away dancing in celbration with the certificates was a highlight for me. I was filled with pride when some of our class 8 students received medals and certificates. Even from just teaching them one day a week I have come to learn how smart and hardworking they are, so it is great to see their efforts paying off.
The excitement continued throughout the week. On Thursday the Kileva students had their big sports festival, playing other local teams in volleyball, handball, and football. I think I actually lost my voice cheering when the girl’s football team won their match 3-0, qualifying them for the next round of games! Teacher George is also the football coach at Kileva and it was moving to see how much this whole day meant to him.
Perhaps it was all this commotion and excitement that inspired our next big event at camp: Chapati Cook Off 2016. It all started when Josephine agreed to teach us how to make chapatis. But of course what would a cooking lesson be without a little Iron Chef style competition? First Josephine taught us how to make chapatis, from preparing and rolling the dough to cooking up to 15 chapatis at one time on a Jika grill. Once we had all learned the skills, it was time for each intern to make their own small batch of chapatis to be tasted and judged by none other than Nzumu and Josephine. Winner gets the most honorable title of chapatti champion! In the end Nzumu and Josephine were too nice to call a definite winner, but I’m pretty sure I was the secret favorite. Though no one could compare to Josephine, Chapatti Queen.
When we weren’t eating chapatis or cheering on our little sports stars, we were busy checking camera traps, monitoring farmer’s beehive fences and adding super boxes to beehives for night work. My personal project for over the past 10 weeks was to write a short profile of every farmer to be put on the Elephants and Bees website. I cannot think of a better job than sitting down with each farmer for a nice chat and a cup of tea. It was really fascinating to learn about all the different jobs and roles of each of our farmers. For example, I found out from talking to one of our most successful farmers, Charity, that she also works as a community health worker. So in addition to farming and taking care of her children and grandchildren, Charity is responsible for the wellbeing of 38 households in Mwakoma. I have nothing but complete admiration for Charity and her whole family!
As my internship is coming to an end, I have been reflecting upon the incredible journey I have taken since day one when I arrived in Nairobi. Ten weeks is not a long time in the grand scheme of things, but given the amount I have learned and grown as a person since starting my internship in January I feel like I have been living in Kenya for years. For one thing, I have gained some incredible skills that I am eager to take with me in my future endeavors as a conservationist. I will leave Kenya knowing how to trace and identify an elephant movements through foot prints and dung samples, analyze camera trap photos to identify individual crop raiding elephants, construct a beehive fence complete with shades and dummy hives, and the daily tasks of a beekeeper, from harvesting to processing and selling honey.
These achievements alone are reason enough to look back at my internship and be proud of everything I’ve learned and accomplished. But what I value about my experience even more than my new learnt conservation skills is the incredible bond I have developed with the Sagalla community. I feel so welcomed by the people I have engaged with in the Mwakoma and Mwambiti communities, it truly does feel like this is my second home. Which means, of course, that I simply must come back again soon.