By Denisha Gingles, a member of the SkillCorps Kenya October 2017 team
When I initially joined SkillCorps I was excited to use my professional skills, combined with my love of travel, community, culture, and lastly my love of volunteerism. Their website describes SkillCorps as an organization that trains teachers to work with children diagnosed with autism globally. Consequent to reading their mission, I thought this movement was perfect, “I train and supervise people everyday with my chosen career path as a Board Certified and Licensed Behavior Analyst!” The mission seemed to be a literal translation of my job duties-except it is global and for an even greater cause, expanding access. Upon my arrival, I saw that the Global Autism Project is not exactly who they say they are. Because of this deceit, I was not truly prepared to embark on my journey to train the staff at Kaizora.
Did the organization lie?
To say that Global Autism Project is solely an organization that trains teachers across seas to become experts in their communities, would be a lie.
The organization is so much more than that!
I wasn’t aware that I would take away as much as I have on this trip, but I write with gratitude and a full heart.
From my trip I learned Global Autism Project is an organization:
That allows professional growth, strengthened from the relationship created with international partners. I came to this trip believing I would impart all the knowledge I have learned in past 10 years regarding behavior analysis. What I actually encountered were 26 children and nearly 20 staff members who would help me to expand my professional skills.
That fosters an environment of communal growth for volunteers; moving past ethnocentrism and anglo american indoctrination. During my time in Kenya, the culture of Kenyans was continually preserved. Asking what their needs are before inserting Western American values. We continued to use the Socratic method, gaining a better understanding of how the local community best needs our help. Sometimes we don’t stop to think who created certain information, and regurgitate without assessing the relationship between those receiving and giving. Here, we were forced to stop and think about the information we wanted to present and listen intently to their desires, before actually producing our own opinions and viewpoints.
That encourages internal growth by looking within and working on the internal weaknesses of self. During orientation, we talked about what we wanted to become on this journey. Many people said a leader, confident; I simply, but intentionally, said “better.” I left it open for a reason, hoping that the journey would guide my progress–and it did. I am leaving Kenya a better clinician, a better supervisor, a better person. I am leaving inspired to create more change within my community back in the United States. I am happy that this trip helped add to my existing perspective on the importance of culturally relevant practices, regardless of any field. I am also grateful to have taken this journey with the ones I traveled with. From my group leader to my team members, we all collectively brought different experiences together in an attempt to make a difference in this world. With passion, fervor, and a spirit to be “better” we all are able to say we helped to advance the movement and the lives of those we met. And surely in return, we are able to say those we met helped advance our movements and our missions.
Asante Sana Global Autism Project and Asante Sana Kenya!