Project & Research Lead
Whenever the question “what does actually have transformative impact?” arises, education is often the answer. We are embedded in a neoliberal, capitalistic, globalized system. Money as we know it rules the world and dictates the lives of the majority of people. Scarcity is advertised as a necessary evil while the planet is abundant in its offerings. People are being valued and judged according to their certificates and pay-checks, while quality of life is distributed accordingly.
And then we walk with the so called poor into the wilderness and any of those supposed labels or affiliations seem even more artificial, purposefully constructed by the western imperial culture and the need (of the ego) for power and hierarchical differentiation. The obviousness of this topic was presented with an equal intensity as the environment itself. The Rift Valley, where humanity came into existence, has a very strong and deep energy. The feeling of connectedness to pure, raw, real life is ubiquitous. In this environment it seems even more ridiculous (and often frighteningly dystopian) where the world seems to be headed.
As designers we have heard the call for “change by design instead of disaster“ repeatedly in the recent past. However, moving in an academic ivory tower or echo chamber within our social networks, we often lack the connectedness needed to see on a systemic or holisitc level.
What does this ultimately mean? We have to step out of our micro or macro cultural contexts, our comfort zones, belief systems and yet so easily adopted truths, and stand in other peoples shoes. With our workshop and visit in Kenya we tried this, dared to experiment, worked with uncertainty and stepped into a context of the unknown – and were rewarded. With laughter, joy, enthusiasm, new friends, an amazing culture of the heart and much, much more.
One of my favourite stories from our time in Kenya was told by our guide Danson Nkumum, a Masai who grew up in the Rift Valley. He literally ran to school every day. 22 km in the morning and 22 km back in the evening, without receiving food during the day. He did this every day. For years. He never thought of giving up because he was deeply convinced that only education can help him move beyond. Imagine this man‘s dedication. He is a pioneer who proved that it is worth running: he completed his masters degree in geology and is now supporting children within and beyond his own community to go to school and learn.
I truly believe in a not-so- utopian future where education helps us drop judgement and categories. Where we finally embrace the fact that humanity is connected and therefore only thrives in connection and on eye level. Where we support each other in growing and evolving into those human beings we are capable of becoming, once we respect and love ourselves as much as anybody else.