Wednesday, June 13, 2012
ACCT International: Mbita
Thursday, May 31, we made a trip to Mbita, a town on Rusinga island in the northern bay of Lake Victoria. Though there is a causeway that connects the main land to the island by bridge, we opted for the ferry, as it meant we did not have to drive all the way around the lake.
Dr. T has a friend who runs an NGO called The Village Experience. My understanding at the time was that this was a voluntourism operation that takes people to various places around the world, one of which is Mbita, and that we were going to see their operations. I am not so clear on that now.
When we first arrived, Jackton (our contact), took us to a local primary school that was partially funded by The Village Experience. This was when the group got to experience what some of them coined "poverty tourism." We were divided into groups and taken to each classroom in turn where the students stopped their studies to sing a song to us. We then "helped" serve lunch.
With Dr. T and Andrew washing kids hands and other students serving up the heaping portions of rice and beans.
The whole experience made me very uncomfortable.
After visiting the school, we went to our guesthouse, The Mbita Tourist Hotel. I was under the impression that the guesthouse was also affiliated with The Village Experience. However, that turned out to be another confusion. We did learn it was owned by a host family one student would be staying with during the six-week internship. We had lunch at the guesthouse, which had a lovely view.
Afterwards, most of the students, Dr. T, and Peg left with Jackton to see the widows' homes and handicrafts. I believe that The Village Experience clients can come to Mbita and build homes for widows as one of the voluntourism projects. The Village Experience web site isn't working for me here in Kenya, so I am not sure on this. When I arranged our logistics with Jackton over the phone, he had told me that groups typically build one of the houses as a project and the cost is $350 USD for each house. It is also possible that the handicrafts the widows make are sold in The Village Experience store, which is like a Global Gifts. However, a search of the store's merchandise doesn't reveal anything from Mbita. There are several items from Kenya, but I am not sure where they are made.
Cale and I did not go with the rest of the group so we could relax by the shore and enjoy our anniversary. I was also supposed to help Dr. W monitor a K300 exam that was taking place back at IUB. However, the internet connection was to slow to really load anything. The TA for the class said that everything was going fine.
After dinner that night, Jackton and other members of his organization shared a powerpoint presentation. That was when I learned that Jackton was not part of The Village Experience. By the end of the presentation, it seemed clear that they were all members of a local CBO (community-based organization) that works with the kids and the widows. Interestingly enough, a lot of the presentation was about empowering women, though there was no indication there were any women in the leadership of this CBO. There were four or five representatives from the organization at the presentation, all men. When the presentation was over, I was still not sure what the name of Jackton's organization was or its relationship to The Village Experience. I was left a little confused.
The next day we were up early to catch the ferry back to the mainland and make our way to Mama Sarah Obama's.
More Mbita pictures here.