On Friday, students from KGSA in Kenya and The New LIFE school in New York were able to skype in the classroom. It is hard to explain how powerful this cross cultural moment was. KGSA is far from being able to afford fast internet or top of the line computers. So the connection was slow, and there was a delay. But students on both sides of the Skype call were patient and persistent with each other.
We started by talking about what a morning is like. One student from Kibera spoke of getting up at 4am to get her siblings ready for school before the long walk in. She is the first born, and her parents’ death left them orphans. Students from The New LIFE School spoke of riding the subway to school, which earned sighs of amazement on the Kenya end. It was so much fun to see my co-worker, Marc Herstein’s face on the computer screen from continents away. He did an amazing job of facilitating the conversation.
My favorite part was watching the students on both ends laugh as they realize similarities in culture. One student held up a Nokia phone that plays music, resembling an iPhone. Both groups laughed talking about Twilight, and if they prefer Team Edward or Team Jacob. The girls in Kenya love music artists like Chris Brown and Beyonce, or TV personalities like Tyra Banks. Students on both ends dream of similar career goals. We learned that although life in New York and Kibera are very different, there are parts of being a teenager that are universal.
When the Skype call ended, the girls in Kenya were beaming. “They are so nice!” one exclaimed. “Can we be their friends?” It was one of my favorite moments in being in Kenya, connecting the great kids of The New LIFE School to the great kids in Kibera. Both groups are daily overcoming struggles in society to build a life and gain an education. I can see this being the beginning of a beautiful partnership and cross-cultural friendships full of learning.