Name: Colin Grisel
Hometown: Icogne, Switzerland
Experience: Marketing Agency
Duration of Stay: October 2009-August 2010 (10 months)
How did you learn about Daraja Academy?
Kirsten, my girlfriend, was hired by MS-the Danish NGO on campus. She told me about this great project with this American couple and she said I would love them. So I thought I would come and check it out.
What were your primary responsibilities as a volunteer?
Improving the communication from Kenya to US. When I arrived, I used my marketing experience to see how I could help Daraja. I thought right away I should send a monthly e-newsletter. I have also been involved with student selection (preparing questions for interviews), managed media club and assisted with tutoring.
What have you learned since being at Daraja?
I’ve learned that if you really believe in a project, anything is possible. I’ve learned a lot about dedication, seeing how people are dedicated around here. I’ve learned how to live without electricity and accepting that things might take 3 days here when in Europe that same thing would take 10 minutes.
What surprised you the most about volunteering here?
To see the entire staff’s dedication. Anyone who works on campus, works numerous jobs. It’s not just a job for them, they are so involved and really believe in the project.
What surprised you most about living in Kenya?
The contrast in wealth was even bigger than expected. I think I was prepared to see people around me who live with very little but I was very shocked that they live with even less than that. It was a big experience to observe people around Daraja, what kind of house they live in and how they survive. This was a big change from the comfortable life that I lived in.
What do you plan to do upon your return to Switzerland?
I plan to find a job again in project management. After this experience, I feel like a stronger project manager- I’m prepared now for the unexpected.
How has it been working with Americans as a Swiss?
I was working with Americans right before coming here. When I left I thought, “I don’t want to work with Americans again!”. But then I came here, and I really enjoyed working with everyone. I like Americans because they are really enthusiastic and really positive, especially Jason and Jenni. I also learned how to give hugs. I was never good at it but I’ve had 10 months of training…but I think I still prefer to shake hands.
Any piece of advice for future volunteers?
I think it is very important to come here with a precise project that you want to achieve, you will get full support from people but the best is if you could do the entire project on your own and not count on too many other things. If you have a great project that you could work independently, that’s the best way to work here. Preparation in something precise is very important.
What has been your favorite part of volunteering here? I wish I could close my eyes and wake up 10 years from now so that I could see where all of the girls will be and what amazing things they will have accomplished. What’s happening now is really exciting but the best part is what they are going to do once they graduate and leave the gates. For me, that is the point of the project- to prepare them to make a difference when they go out. So I’m really excited to see what happens because