The words “Spring break” to college students in the U.S mean a time to relax, have fun and go party in the coastline beaches of U.S and all the way to Mexico. When we heard about, Spring Break Kenya, we wanted to known more about this and asked the founder Dr. Esther Ngumbi some questions on: what Spring Break Kenya is all about, the role of education in Kenya development and her advice to a Kenyan voter preparing to vote 2013 with the goal that the decision of who they vote for will lead to a better life in Kenya for them.
What is Spring Break Kenya?
Spring Break Kenya is an organization that aims at community Integration through the linking of the students in the Institutions of Higher Learning with the rural communities of the Republic of Kenya in order to build partnerships and develop young Kenyans with the spirit of community service. It gives young University students an opportunity to join camp activities aimed at initiating community outreach projects and promoting a culture of development through cooperation between University students and the rural communities of Kenya. Among other objectives of Spring Break Kenya is; to edify, equip and empower the youth with social, practical and inspirational knowledge and understanding of their surroundings to achieve desired transformation, to provide information and tools that address the needs of rural communities in Kenya, and foster greater collaborative efforts amongst like-minded organizations to encourage a global identity of community leadership among students and the rural communities impacted by the camps.
What motivated you to start Spring Break Kenya?
The horn of Africa famine was at its peak and media was flooded with many heart wrenching pictures. These pictures prompted me to think how we could engage our young African University students beginning with Kenya in crafting more sustainable solutions towards ending hunger. Thank fully, social media has all the channels to communicate thoughts with friends. This is part of an original email send to the current Spring Break Kenya Managing Director after a face book chart on our Young Thinkers Kenya page.
Thank you for your contribution in Young Thinkers Forum. We really appreciate. As a result of your comment this morning, an idea quickly flashed into my mind of organizing a week long “Spring Break” kinda of thing where Kenyan University students and other college attending students can volunteer in a week in those areas affected by hunger and kind of carry a project e.g. digging a dam for the areas affected and helping plant the gardens of those really affected in an effort to contribute to meaningful and sustainable solutions..and showing that young people are interested in offering kind of more permanent solutions rather than donations..
We are in the brain storming phase and we would like to all think together and come up with something.”
The rest is History.
In the recent concluded Diaspora Conference you noted that you come from Kwale County. How much did your growing in Kwale shape the person you are today?
Growing up in Kwale County totally shaped me into the person who I am today. My parents and the community instilled in me the right values; values that have given me the strength to reach for the stars, and persevere against challenges, however daunting they seem. Such values include; hard work, persistence, determination, optimism, community service, responsibility, compassion, kindness, and appreciation of every little blessing I have had in my life.
You have already attained your PhD degree. What role do you see education playing in Kenya development and future?
Education will empower Kenyan citizens with the right knowledge, tools and skills needed to contribute to sustainable economic growth rates, and social development. Education will also continue to be a powerful weapon against poverty. The Kenyan Government should continually strive to improve its education standards so that it provides its citizens with a globally competitive education that will allow Kenyan’s to take advantage of opportunities both locally and globally. Additionally, special emphasis should be put in promoting Science, Technology, and Innovation. Continued accelerated growth of Kenya will depend on our Nations ability to harness Science and Technology for development. I simply see education as a gateway to many doors.
Your story of how you sub-divided the books to other passengers so you could get the books to Kenya was very inspirational. What type of books were they? Did some of the passengers refuse? And where are the books now?
They were general knowledge books, magazines, inspiring stories of young people who are making headways in their careers, articles etc. anything that would set the curiosity of the young Kenyan minds up; anything that would inspire someone to rise up and discover their talents and then run with them; anything that would make a young mind reawaken their dreams to reach their stars, and I mean ANYTHING). To get my collection, I visited several Auburn University departments including Alabama Cooperative Extension System, Women in Science and Engineering, and Graduate School. Yes, some passengers refused and stared at me like I was a crazy passenger. I shared the books with several Primary and High schools in my community. For the love of our Young Kenyans, I am prepared to do everything and anything and do it until it comes to a sweet end! I hope that some of the Kenyan students who got the materials make use of them! It is my dream to have a public library; a place where I can have all categories of books. Through books, I want people especially young Kenyan students to be inspired so that they reach their stars!
As you attended the Kenya Diaspora Conference with the theme, “Shaping the Destiny of Kenya,” Do you think the conference did that?
Yes. Every panel did it’s best to share its vision on the role Kenyan’s in the Diaspora can play so as to help move our beloved nation-Kenya into becoming a more prosperous nation.
What role do you see Spring Break Kenya shaping the destiny of Kenya 2013 – 2017 and how do you intend to participate?
Spring Break Kenya will continue to shape the destiny of Kenya by fostering community development through an active approach that engages young university students and professionals, community, industry, government organizations, NGO’s and Universities in “Creating the Change they Want to See”. We will also continue to coordinate and promote the fundamental values of community, public service, responsibility and compassion.
If someone living in Kenya asked you who should I vote for 2013 so I can have a better life what would you tell them?
I would tell them to look at the candidate’s track record. What issues do they care about/stand for/ fight for/ have fought for in the past? What have they done to uplift the common man from poverty? What have they done to ensure that every Kenyan has access to food, water, employment, education and many other basic human rights? What is the candidate’s Character? What about his leadership style and integrity?