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Marie Grace Giramahoro

Organization: Agroecology Hub at Manor House Agricultural Centre
Dates: 5/31/2019 to 7/29/2019
Web site:

In Marie Grace's own words

How I contributed: I interned with the Agroecology Hub (AE Hub) at Manor House Agriculture Centre. The AE Hub research and I conducted a scoping study that sought to understand challenges farmers are facing in Western Kenya and the kind of policies/practices being implemented by different actors in the agriculture field to address those challenges. During my internship, I conducted interviews with service providers in the agricultural sector to understand interventions being implemented to address the identified key challenge areas. I contributed to the documentation of the interviews in the form of written reports. My colleagues and I also developed a final report paper that analyzed the findings and suggested areas of alignment for future collaboration with the Agroecology Hub.

What I felt most challenged by: Most of the time, we conducted an interview in pairs and the team always made if you didn't speak Swahili, you are paired up with someone who does. I was faced with situations where Swahili was the only language the key informant spoke or is comfortable in. In such cases, I would feel left out and would not contribute to either leading the interview or note-taking.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed the fact that the internship wasn't based in one single location. Since our study was focused on the Western region of Kenya, we visited organizations in different counties. That was very interesting because the experience in every county was different and it didn't feel like a routine. I also enjoyed some of the recreational activities that were planned that allowed the research team to continue getting to know each other, relax, and have fun.

Would I recommend this experience? I would highly recommend the experience to other students because it not increases your understanding of the various issues hindering the agriculture sector but you also become aware of what's being done on the ground to address them. Moreover, it is an opportunity to explore Kenya, if you haven't been, and experience all it has to offer. 

Camille Bouvet-Boisclair

Organization: African Math Initiative
Dates: 21-May-2018 to 2-August-2018

In Camille's own words

How I contributed: I helped design and conduct interviews and surveys.

What I felt most challenged by: Not speaking Swahili. Often times our respondents or informants would be comfortable speaking English, but in some cases they did not, during which it was hard to be useful to the team. Also being white led to some uncomfortable situations, "Can you help me get to America?," "I know it's easier to get a visa if someone applies for you in America." Lastly the food situation was not good. It didn't make sense to be eating such an unhealthy diet (white bread and margarine for breakfast every day, ugali and kale every day for lunch and/or dinner) seeing as fresh fruits and veggies are relatively cheap in Kenya and there was a budget for decent food.

What I enjoyed most: I most enjoyed working with and getting to know my research team which consisted of Cornell and Kenyan students. I'd never been immersed in a different culture and environment to this extent.

Would I recommend this experience? Yes, it was a great learning experience.

Tommy Crocker

Organization: African Math Initiative
Dates: 21-May-2018 to 20-July-2018

In Tommy's own words

How I contributed:

What I felt most challenged by:

What I enjoyed most:

Would I recommend this experience?


Jin Sasaki

Organization: Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum
Dates: 5/29/2016 to 8/6/2016

In Jin's own words

How I contributed: We provided advice on how the farmers could potentially increase their agricultural production as well as reduce disease among their livestock.

What I felt most challenged by: The language barrier was a challenge.

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed learning about the farmers agricultural techniques.

Would I recommend this experience: It requires more planning to ensure that the host families are more adequate. Although I had a pleasant experience, there were other students that had problems with their host families.

Yordanos Girmay

Organization: Research in Western Kenya
Dates: 5/28/2016 - 8/15/2016

In Yordanos's own words

How I contributed: I completed the daily activities of key informant interviews, transcribing audio, and writing reports.  

What I felt most challenged by: There were times when we had to remember things from the past that the head researchers decided they wanted to be documented for future use. 

What I enjoyed most: I enjoy talking to the people who are affected by the problems research seeks solutions to and hearing straight from them the reasons for their hardships.  I also really enjoyed working, living, and getting to know my Kenyan colleagues

Would I recommend this experience: I absolutely and wholeheartedly recommend this research project.  This research project is not only focused on gathering the data necessary for the project but also on making sure the student researchers learn valuable skills from the research.  The students' learning is a major focus of the project.  

Seamus Murphy

Organization: Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum
Dates: 5/29/2016 to 8/5/2016

In Seamus's own words

How I contributed: Worked and lived with smallholder farmers  in Western Kenya to develop a systemic approach to identify barriers and constraints which impede productivity and developed approaches to eliminate those obstacles.

What I felt most challenged by: The language barrier

What I enjoyed most: I enjoyed the living with my Kenyan counterpart and the families.

Would I recommend this experience: I would recommend this program for other IARD students to understand the hardships and triumphs of smallholder farmers in Western Kenya.

Jade Algarin

Organization: Internationalizing the Cornell Curriculum
Dates: 5/28/2016 to7/31/2016

In Jade's own words

How I contributed: Did not complete the objective of formulating a farm system report.

What I felt most challenged by: Being considered white, being expected to lower myself to men, not being able to communicate for myself, fearing for my life because of my queerness, being rented out as a house girl, being assaulted with kerosene oil, being entirely unauthentic, being accused of being not culturally sensitive for not finding rape culture and domestic abuse amusing. Feeling like there was a lot of white savior- type activities that did not seem all that sustainable.

What I enjoyed most: Interacting with my host family, learning about the culture and history of the Teso people, plowing and weeding the family farm's plots, and discussing production constraints with my host family.

Would I recommend this experience: Yes, if major steps were made to ensure the safety of the students involved. The best way to understand the needs of the rural small holder farmer is to live with them and understand their perspective.

Joanna Barrett

Organization: Arrive in Kenya
Dates: 6/1/2014 to 8/11/2014

In Joanna's own words

How I contributed: Arrive rescues street-children and other orphans from around Kenya and provides them with a home, helps them through painful withdrawals from drug and alcohol addicts (from their time on the street), enrolls them in school, and provides them with every opportunity for happiness and success. During my time in Keumbu I lived at the orphanage, helping with everyday operations, getting to know the kids, teaching in the school, serving as a friend during a difficult transition for some of the children, and getting to know current street children, taking them to doctors, and making sure that they were fed.

What I felt most challenged by: Adjustment to cultural differences and language barriers

What I enjoyed most: The children, the culture, and the environment

Would I recommend this experience: I would 100% recommend this program/experience to other students. During my time there I wasn't treated as a volunteer or a visiting student, I was welcome into the big crazy Kenyan family that is the Keumbu Rehema Children's Home and Keumbu itself. I was forced to adapt to an entirely different language and culture, but in an environment that was supportive and conducive to that adjustment. It was an incredible, hands-on experience in which you were able to see the effects of your work every day. It was an entirely rewarding and fulfilling experience.

Abram Mellinger

Organization: Rafiki Africa
Dates: 30-May-12 - 26-Jul-12

In Abram's own words

How I contributed: I felt I provided knowledge and encouragement in many cases. The most valuable contribution I hoped to offer was my time and sweat working beside my brothers and sisters in Kenya. I was trying to show them that knowledge or tools I was sharing was something I wanted to figure out with them not just tell them what to do to fix there problems. I strived to encourage them to grasp their own problems and search for solutions that make sense to them in their own context.

What I felt most challenged by: The most trying aspect of my trip was actually the complete immersion which I enjoyed so much. More specifically it was the isolation which I felt. Sometimes there were times when I needed to process certain things but I had no one to talk to. It was not because the people whom I stayed with did not have proficient English (or me proficient Luo), but rather that an invisible barrier of understanding or perspective prevented me from comfortably venting or discussing what was happening around me. I tend to be a more introverted person, but I tend to process things vocally and dislike journaling.

What I enjoyed most: I thoroughly enjoyed the complete submersion into the local community in Western Kenya. After a few weeks eating sleeping and working alongside the community without any other 'westerners' around I slowly felt like I was accepted into the common trust of the people. Seeing and experiencing what other people live with and the sharing of culture is very exciting for me and I enjoy learning different ways of life and views of the world. Some of the locals even took the time to teach me some of the local dialect which fascinated me and has grown my appreciation for different languages.

Would I recommend this experience: It is the best way to learn more about yourself and what you are about. It is an eye-opening experience to leave your home and culture and see what living can be in a different context. It gives you the ability to see what you like and dislike about your own heritage and how you can live, think, and work differently than what social norms pressure you to do in your own culture. Besides seeing other places in the world it also teaches you to be adaptable and patient which will help you down the road in practically any situation.

Ivi Demi

Organization: International Livestock Research Institute
Dates: 1-Jun-11 - 30-Jul-11

In Ivi's own words

How I contributed: I was able to contribute to the mission of the organization by working not only in an office capacity, but also in the field as well, allowing me an opportunity to actually see our research at work. It's an incredibly unique experience to be able to see your calculated analysis and preparation come to fruition in the field.

What I felt most challenged by: One personal challenge I dealt with during my experience was in not having any knowledge of local customs and practices in the region of East Africa. I faced this challenge in the best way I knew how: by talking to and meeting as many people as I could throughout my time in Nairobi and Kenya. I never let a single day go to waste. Whenever I was not working, I was asking co-workers if they wanted to go out into the city and surrounding areas or doing some exploring of my own, meeting the locals at cafes and eateries. The best way to learn about a new culture is simply to talk to as many people as possible, which I think I was very successful at.

What I enjoyed most: The thing I enjoyed most about my international experience was the great friends I made during my time at the research institute. They were the first people to approach me during my first day of work at ILRI and they stuck by me for the entire process. Not only did their camaraderie make working at ILRI that much more enjoyable, but it allowed me to really get a glimpse of what the Kenyan lifestyle was all about. They all took time out of their schedules to drive me around Nairobi and the surrounding areas, showing me the sites, and providing me with a taste of the local culture. We had some amazing times together, especially with our experiences working in the field in Marsabit, and I will never forget their incredible kindness and youthful spirits.

Would I recommend this experience: I would definitely recommend my program to any student interested in working with research at a non-governmental organization. The ILRI staff are incredibly helpful and will allow you to tailor your internship experience to what you are specifically interested in. It was by far one of the best experiences of my life.

Andy Mellinger

Organization: Rafiki Africa Foundation
Dates: 31-May-11 - 28-Jul-11

In Andy's own words

How I contributed: They say I did. One of the specific things mentioned early on was that when I was around everybody (the local employees) worked. Some of the workers told the leaders they never saw a white person dig like that before and it made them uncomfortable. The womens group also found they are very fond of goat milk which they previously thought was disgusting but had never tried. (I deal with that at our market stand at home too.)

What I felt most challenged by: A personal challenge for me was loneliness at the very beginning and very end of my stay.

What I enjoyed most: Meeting so many interesting people and seeing the woman's group go from not caring to being fairly motivated.

Would I recommend this experience: the leaders of this NGO are local and the organization was not even an NGO until recently but has been operating for years. It is a family compound where many of the children are involved in the local community development. It is a whole different experience when the leaders can bridge the culture gap. This was a tremendous advantage for anyone new to the area.