In August 2003, I had the amazing opportunity to travel to Kenya as part of a Cultural Orientation Trainer's Exchange.
On this trip, I was hosted by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) in Washington, DC and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). All refugees receive cultural orientation (CO) training about life in American prior to their departure which includes information on American lifestyles, refugee experiences, employment, school, and other topics. The exchange experience was an opportunity to understand and establish some connections with the organizations doing this important work
Prior to the trip, I interviewed a number of former refugee clients about their memories of the cultural orientation (CO) which they received prior to coming to America. These interviews allowed me to gain a better understanding of what the refugee clients gain from their experience and actually find useful in America, information which I was later able to share with overseas staff.
While in Kenya, I visited refugee-serving organizations in Nairobi learning more about the work of cultural orientation for those entering the US refugee program. I both observed and participated in the classes which the refugees were receiving. I was very impressed with the staff in Nairobi and their ability to communicate about the realities of the refugee experience in America to their students. IOM has had many years of experience in cultural orientation throughout the world and thus has created a very specific curriculum and methodology for their classes.
During this trip, I also had the chance to spend several days at the Kakuma refugee camp in the northern part of Kenya. It was an amazing chance to see the life and conditions of refugees caught between one life and next. The scale of the entire camp makes the sheer management and coordination between all the agencies there quite impressive. I was able to make a number of observations about the lives and experiences of refugees in the camp which I can use in my own work to make comparisons between their known world and the new aspects of life they encounter in America.
My report about this CO exchange experience (including photographs) can be found here. I have also put together an informal photolog of my experiences in Kenya on my photos page. Links to it can be found at davidredd.com.
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