Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Students gives campus a Kenyan experience

By Courtney Westlake



A tiny, one-room hut with a cot sat in the lobby of the Public Affairs Center on Wednesday, giving passerby a glimpse into the lives of people living in the slums in Kenya, Africa.

The hut was part of an all-day exhibit set up by members of Jump for Joel, an organization started by UIS student Shana Stine after she volunteered for a month at a Kenyan orphanage called the Gathiga Children's Hope Home in July 2007. In July 2008, she returned again with five additional UIS students to work at the orphanage.

"This is an exhibit from our trip to Kenya this past July," Stine said. "We're coming and showing videos and pictures, and we have a model shanty up, which is something you would see in the slum areas for housing."

The exhibit was in coordination with National Hunger and Homelessness Week this week. Members of Jump for Joel had seen a local church do a similar demonstration and liked the idea of setting up a model of a Kenyan shanty to raise awareness of global poverty.

"So we thought we'd combine it with the gallery of photos that Shana had done last year," said Lindsey Lasley, who accompanied Stine to Kenya this past summer. "As we see people walk in the door, they stop and wonder why this hut is placed in the middle of lobby. Then they have been reading the signs that explain what is going on."

Stine said she hopes the display will help to create an understanding that poverty is a real issue, not simply a collection of statistics.

"There really are kids that are hungry in this world," she said. "And the pictures - the kids are absolutely beautiful. A lot of times when we talk about Africa, we talk about just poverty, but their joy is something you don't always see here in the U.S. They're so happy, so we wanted to show that."

The Kenyan experience is also hoped to raise awareness about Jump for Joel. The group passed out information about the various ways students, staff and faculty can get involved with the effort.

"We are a group of students here at UIS and at Lincoln Land who think we don't have to be apathetic. Our generation sometimes gets a bad rap for being indifferent and unconcerned, so this is our way of helping the kids who we met," Stine said. "We're not just taking a trip; we're following up on that with action."

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