By Ceire McGinley
Having known Father Patrick Devine on a personal level for some years now, I was delighted when he accepted my request to experience the work of Shalom in the field.
I have grown up just outside of London and I was educated at the University of Manchester where I completed my Undergraduate degree in Chemical Engineering and a Masters in Chemical Engineering with Business Management. I then received a post- graduate degree from Arizona State University in Biomimicry. My experience within an NGO led me to see the value of solving human challenges through an integrated systems approach, working with multi-ethnic teams, and I wanted to experience this in a developing country in a discipline unfamiliar to me- Shalom came to mind as the perfect fit.
I came to Nairobi with no knowledge of Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation, believing that I understood the scope of Shalom’s work…it turns out I was very wrong.
This month I was given the opportunity to travel to Nakuru County where Shalom was giving an Election Preparedness Workshop with local communities. On arrival, Sister Margaret and the workshop participants of mixed ethnicities from different communities were all extremely welcoming and inclusive. Shalom had put a lot of logistical preparation into the organizing of this workshop. The dynamics in the room were different to what I had expected when talking about such a sensitive matter 6 months prior to the Kenyan election. All participants eagerly listened to Shalom’s empowerment and to each other, and readily got involved with role-plays, group discussions and interviews. Hearing about the deep-rooted conflicts present in other areas of Kenya, it was clear to me that the collaborative dynamics so clearly pronounced between these inter- ethnic communities was down to the Shalom team’s dedication to this area over the past two years, as well as the participants’ willingness to learn, and their passion to share this information using the skills that Shalom had equipped them with.
It has become evident to me that Shalom is improving lives through reading the early warning signals of conflict between inter-ethnic communities, teaching the communities how to overcome these disputes, and empowering the people; whilst equipping them with the skills needed to sustain peace.
Alongside the workshop we also visited an inter-ethnic secondary school supported by Shalom within this community, where our team was welcomed by eager students and teachers to set up a Peace Club. This partnership highlighted the economic and social benefits that Shalom brings to current and future Kenyan communities, through linking peace building and developmental activities, by enhancing the knowledge, skills and values of the younger generation.
I look forward to being a part of Shalom UK after experiencing the reach and depth that Shalom’s work has on the inter-ethnic communities living within Kenya.