The Light of Collaboration

Since Marafiki came into existence, collaboration has been a core value of our work. It is the commitment of working with a community to assist them in finding solutions to their problems in order to make progress toward their own identified goals. During COVID, the work Marafiki was doing in Muliro village and surrounding communities continued to thrive, primarily because the community had ownership of the work we had started together.

Hockett and Muhanji (2017) describe the principles of collaboration as noted in their book, Lessons from Cross-cultural Collaboration: How Cultural Humility Informed and Shaped the Work of an American and a Kenyan: “True collaboration effectively combines the components of relationship building; being quick to listen and slow to speak; and challenging our biases and assumptions. These components together promote a co-learning mode of working with others. A collaborative or co-learning approach takes into consideration the needs, opinions, ideas, background, culture, and experiences of the other person or groups….Cultural humility, paired with collaboration, weaves together the ideas and perspectives of all parties involved without any one side dominating or taking control of the process, thus honoring the diversity of the other” (pp.19-20).

One key part of our collaboration in Kenya has been with health education in schools. While we have been combining education and health for a number of years, we re-evaluated our work during the COVID pause to re-evaluate the objectives of our work and shift the focus of our efforts. Together with our Kenyan partners, we decided to focus on health education in schools with the nursing students from George Fox University delivering practical and lifelong health lessons to students. Collaborating with our partners was once again integral in meeting the needs of the various communities.

Another example of collaboration came from the Musembe primary teachers themselves. While meeting with the teachers from Musembe school to hear their challenges and successes at the school, the teachers shared the story of a boy who had just finished grade 8, but no funds were available for him to attend a good high school. The teachers identified this student as smart, with great potential, but the family’s extreme poverty was limiting any chance for further education. The teachers met together to come to a solution. As they explained, they all believed and agreed the boy needed to go to high school. As an entire team, they pooled their resources and all contributed to pay the boy’s school fees and commit to the fees for the four years of high school! As one teacher summarized: “we agreed that we as a teachers’ group could do what Marafiki has been modeling for us with the scholarship program, and assist this boy ourselves.”

What a remarkable example from this group of teachers and the school community in actively demonstrating the principles of collaboration and cultural humility! An example of the Light of Collaboration!