Immersed in a new culture and a different way of life, Francesca Demma, Wyatt Miller and Amanda Richer were selected to work on a two-week internship opportunity in Kenya with Humber College’s International Development Institute (IDI) to help tell the story of the KEFEP international development project.
Students applied to work as a film crew over the summer and were led by Humber’s Senior Program Officer for IDI and the project coordinator, Jennifer Cleary and Bachelor of Film and Media Production professor Susan Murray, who helped to produce the project.
Humber heads the five-year capacity building initiative, which is based in Western Kenya, along Lake Victoria. The project is a partnership with three Kenyan National Polytechnics — Kisumu Polytechnic, Kisii Polytechnic and Sigalagala Polytechnic, along with other Canadian institutions to develop new competency-based education and training (CBET) programs in mechanical engineering, renewable energy, and building technology. Funded by the Government of Canada through Global Affairs Canada in collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Education, the project is developing programs to help increase employment and economic development opportunities for technical and vocational students in Kenya.
In preparation for the trip, the students prepared shooting schedules, equipment lists and met with Cleary regularly to ensure the film was executed properly, while also learning about international development and the Kenyan culture beforehand.
“Real life experiences have a way of shaping you in unimaginable ways,” says Richer. “Having the opportunity to work in a foreign country with a new team allowed me to build on my abilities as a filmmaker.”
The students’ day started at 6:45 a.m. led by a full day on campuses filming, while also talking with Kenyan students, learning about their programs and understanding what it’s like to learn and live as a student in Kenya. The students described their experiences as eye-opening and say it encouraged them to think and work outside of their comfort zone.
At their visit to Sigalagala Polytechnic, they were shadowed by four media students studying Journalism and Mass Media program. This gave Humber’s film crew the opportunity to learn community stories while also working with faculty in the polytechnic institutions to capture life as a student and resident of Kenya.
Richer adds, “as much as they were learning from us, we were learning from them.”
The documentary will show and educate viewers about the value of applied learning in the classroom and how the Canadian and Kenyan institutions work together to improve teaching and learning practices, solve environmental issues and address gender diversity and gender issues on campuses.
“I never realized how lucky we are to have applied learning in our Canadian curriculums,” says Demma. “Applied learning is uncommon in Kenya and to see the impact it has had within two short weeks is groundbreaking. Students would ask me questions and the most rewarding part was having girls say to me I have inspired them because they thought being on camera was only a man’s job.”
Demma reflects on the fact that in a class of 100 students they only had access to a few cameras to practice media and film training. However, despite their technical barriers, they remained motivated and ambitious.
“Kenya humbled me,” says Demma. “I learned no matter the equipment you have, no matter the resources, it is up to you to take your passion and work at it.”
Despite living on opposite sides of the world and experiencing different traditions and ways of life, the students realized they share many commonalities far greater than their passion for media and film.
“Throughout our stay, we were reminded the importance of seeing and knowing each other. From the time taken to make sure introductions were thorough, to the genuine concern they had about our accommodations, the importance of connecting is highly valued,” says Richer.
Earlier this year Humber’s IDI hosted senior management and faculty from the two Kenya institutions for a benchmarking and training visit at Humber. It was the first visit to Canada for many and an opportunity to experience Canadian indigenous culture and food while learning about the Canadian education system.
The purpose of the KEFEP program is to help equip Kenyan youth with the skills and qualifications required to compete in the country’s workforce, and to support the country’s vision of transforming to an industrialized middle-income country by 2030.
The students will continue to work on the project for the next six months and the documentary will be featured on IDI’s website and during International Education Week in November.
Photographs provided by Jennifer Cleary and Susan Murray