Yes, the UR YellowJackets are going to Africa! But wait, Africa is made up of over 50 countries, so specifically they are going to Kenya — the land where President Barack Obama traces his roots. Kenya has East Africa’s largest economy and is a crucial trade route into the rest of Africa.
However, when most people think of Kenya, the first place that comes to their mind is Nairobi — otherwise known as the “New York of East Africa,” with the many skyscrapers, five-star hotels, fancy cars and key administrative buildings like the state house and parliament buildings, among other key historical monuments. In my opinion, Nairobi is a misrepresentation of the rest of Kenya — the Kenya that is in the hinterlands, or reserves, as called by the British colonialists.
Maseno has been my hometown for 19 years, even though I think it’s called a city only because of the presence of one of Kenya’s eight originally accredited universities. Maseno is located right on the equator in Western Kenya, and stands less than a mile away from the Nyanza and Western Province’s border. The area is one of the poorest in Kenya, with interrupted electricity supply and very few houses that have piped water. For those with running water, it is unreliable, and the area also records very low school attendance.
But the most heartbreaking aspect of the region is the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS cases, which have consequently led to many orphaned children, older children sacrificing their education to take care of younger ones and girls getting married off at very tender ages to find refuge in other families — but, in most cases, they end up in worse conditions. With this in mind, I am excited about the YellowJackets’ visit to my hometown to sing with these children — something that will, without any doubt, be of great positive influence to the region.
Just thinking about their trip, I can almost see the faces of smiling children as they skip to school early in the morning, singing along with songs that will keep ringing in their heads. I can see more schools from the region embracing the music, and maybe there will even be some who will discover their singing talents in the process, and decide to be career artists, instead of losing hope in life. Another important aspect of the YellowJacket’s visit is that it may encourage more students to decide to compete in Kenya’s annual music festival, which, from my experience, has many benefits — including developing self-confidence and special treats, such as (depending on how one places in their category) the opportunity to attend a reception at Kenya’s state house with the president — something everyone in the competition craves.
I am proud to be going home this summer to help host the YellowJackets, who will be flying UR’s flag up high. The chickens are getting ready to rest in peace in their stomachs! Temperatures in Maseno are already rising, and there are high expectations for the group — the ball is in their court. With the UR community behind them, I know they will score when they strike. Just as Kenya’s ambassador welcomed them, I also welcome them in Swahili, “Karibu Yellowjackets!” This is an experience you will live to remember.
Achudi is a member of
the class of 2014.