Student volunteer group builds home for Kenyan family

April 11, 2014

Image of UW-L students from Kenya Make a Difference stand in front of a house they helped build for a family in need in Kenya.

UW-L students from Kenya Make a Difference stand in front of a house they helped build for a family in need in Kenya. The family, pictured with the student group, was previously living in a home that was falling apart.

By UW-L Student Bree Levine

A UW-L student volunteer group traveled to Africa in January to make a difference in the world.

Kenya Make a Difference is a student-run volunteer group that plans fundraisers, item drives and a volunteer trip every year to help those less fortunate in Kenya. Student leader Kali Schreiner explains that the trip is a combination of cultural experiences and tourism, but the biggest aspect is volunteering.

Schreiner describes the experience as one of the most rewarding things she has ever done.

“We think we go on volunteer trips solely to help others, but in my opinion, it is the people there who really help us,” she says. “They help us figure out who we are, what we are meant to do and what truly matters in life.”

This year the largest project was constructing a home for a family that the Kenyan community deemed the most in need. However, the student group debated whether building a home for this particular family was the right thing to do. The family of nine was living in a one-room house with no windows, holes in the walls and a roof that was falling apart. However, the reason it was not kept up was because both parents were alcoholics and were not able to maintain jobs.

The group decided to take a chance and build the family a new house. Once they got to Kenya, they knew they had done the right thing.

“We learned that neither of the parents had taken a drink since the moment they were notified that we were building them a house,” says Schreiner. “They were so grateful and expressed how we completely changed their lives. I knew at that moment that the executive team couldn’t have chosen a better service project.”

The students were able to provide them with a two-room home with a window, an aluminum roof and a solid door — luxuries many families in the area cannot afford.

Kenya Make a Difference also funded and helped add cement to a dirt floor at the local elementary school. They accomplished several other smaller projects, including planting trees and distributing donated goods to local schools.

The group was able to experience many aspects of the Kenyan culture as well, including a traditional Kenyan birthday celebration when Schreiner turned 22 years old in the country. The celebration included slaughtering a goat within the complex were the students were staying.

The team also visited some tourism spots, including hiking the Menengai Crater, visiting Hell’s Gate National Park and going on a three-day safari on the Maasai Mara, which allowed them to get up-close and personal with African animals.

Schreiner encourages any student who is interested in studying abroad and has a passion for helping others to participate in future Kenya trips. For more information, visit Kenya Make a Difference’s website or contact Schreiner at schreine.kali@uwlax.edu.