Lecturer at ID2, UdK
When I was invited by Susanne to join The Love School Project as a mentor I intuitively said ‘yes‘ without knowing which direction and dimension the project would take. The framework was set, the contacts were made and the idea to support the school with raising money for the purchase of land was there. But on the other hand there was a myriad of questions and missing knowledge about each others worlds. The communication possibilities were limited and financial support was not in prospect.
How is life in a slum of Nairobi really lived? What does it mean to live without running water, electricity and waste removal? What does a slum school look like, how does teaching work there and what do the kids do after school? What tools and materials are available and what skills exist that we aren’t even aware of? How can we enter this world and what can design actually do in this context?
For students in the third semester it was a big enough challenge to develop one‘s own design project on the one hand and simultaneously become a mentor for a project with school kids in Nairobi on the other. All communication went through one smartphone in the hands of Antony, our partner on site. Slowly – sometimes chaotically – but in constant development, initial abstract ideas became more sophisticated and the will to take the next step and actually travel to Kenya began to grow. One student after the other took the decision and tapped private reserves to make this possible.
From my perspective this step was the key issue of the project. Getting to know each other, working and living together, pushed the whole project into a dimension that nobody dreamt of before. The devotion of all participants was immense. Antony, our key to everything in Nairobi, was available 24 hours a day, be it for organizing materials or for a spontaneous doctor’s visit in the middle of the night. The students surpassed themselves. Everybody found his or her individual and responsible role in the project. The kids with their curiosity and a zest for life were unbeatable in terms of energy and could not have been a better inspiration.
As an initiator, Susanne brought together people that didn’t know each other but were all willing to set out on an exciting endeavor driven by openness, daring and good will. I think I can speak for everyone that we somehow got infected by a similar vision. A vision of what is possible if you dare to step out of your comfort zone and do the first steps without exactly knowing where they will lead. Borders and barriers were broken, empowerment took place in all directions, and I am sure that for many of us the project was just the beginning of a long lasting relation.