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Student Helps Young Kenyans Express Hardships Through Publication

Arianna Pattek (SFS

Arianna Pattek (SFS'12) teaches a lesson to Kenyan children as part of a workshop focused on writing and the arts that she developed.

September 30, 2011 – After Arianna Pattek (SFS’12) spent a summer working on writing with students in southern Kenya, she wanted to find a way to make people aware of the incredible hardships the young people experienced.

That hope turned into “Till Human Voices Wake Us,” a recent manuscript for which Pattek compiled the essays of secondary school students in Kayafungo, a rural community in Kenya.

Pattek was in Kayafungo in the summer of 2010 interning for ThinkImpact, an organization devoted to community development through social innovation.

Shared Emotions

While she was there, she developed a workshop focusing on writing and the arts for local secondary school students in a village.

“I wanted to provide an outlet and an ear for personal reflection and expression,” she explains. “It is my hope that this book can add faces to a place that we mainly hear described through their crises and prove that, beneath perceived cultural differences, we all share the same fundamental human emotions.”

The Kenyan students wrote about people in their family dying of AIDS or violence, suffering from hunger and other problems as well as triumphs and interests such as dancing.

Essay Excerpts

“As I approached home, I realized that there was a total silence that had befallen the whole place…” wrote a student named Hawaa. “…My dear papa was lying down… He had been murdered… Unable to utter a word, my knees surrendered to the ground.”

But there were also positive essays, poems and other forms of writing.

“Loving is not how you forget but how you forgive, not how you listen, but how you understand, not what you see but how you feel, not how you let go but how you hold on,” wrote a student named Patra.

Engaging People

At Georgetown, Pattek has gotten involved in many kinds of community service.

“I think college is not just about what you learn in the classroom. It’s also engaging with people,” says the culture and politics major, who is also pursuing a certificate in Justice and Peace Studies.

Pattek says a lot of what she’s learned at Georgetown has been a result of helping the surrounding community.

She’s been a tutor for the DC Schools Project, teaching English as a second language to an eighth- and a 10th-grade student from a local charter school, traveled on alternative community service-oriented spring breaks and now works at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum twice a week.

“I don’t consider myself an active citizen unless I’m involved in the community around me,” says Pattek.

The Future

Pattek has applied for Teach For America and a Fulbright in Rwanda next year. She is also considering applying for the Peace Corps.

“I guess doing this book and that whole experience really made me interested in international education issues,” she says. “I’ve always been interested in education issues here, but taking it to a global level I find really interesting.”

Related Information

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