By Sheena McMullen
I have recently had the privilege of joining Shalom in a voluntary capacity and when I got the opportunity to attend one of the workshops on Early Warning Systems, I jumped at the chance.
I am originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, educated at Queens’ University in International Studies and Politics and then at Coventry University for my Masters in Peace and Reconciliation Studies. I have lived in the Horn of Africa since 2009 and recently relocated to Nairobi with my family. With this background, I am all too familiar with the damage created by conflict and yet, equally familiar with the benefits of working for sustainable peace. Therefore, it was my pleasure to witness the team from Shalom training and equipping members of the community from Kibera, a large slum in the heart of Nairobi.
I was greatly encouraged to see representatives from different sections of the community: old and young, Muslim and Christian, male and female, the highly educated and unschooled, all with a valued seat at the table. Furthermore, there was an obvious rapport between these representatives and the team from Shalom, which is so important in setting a foundation and creating a safe space for discussing difficult issues. Their levels of interaction and participation in the workshop showed their keenness to learn as well as contribute.
Finally, it was also heartening to see how difficult theoretical concepts largely articulated in English literature and academia, were broken down into the community’s most easily understood language: Kiswahili. The credit for this has to go to SCCRR’s dedicated staff whose own efforts in growing and learning are reaping benefits far beyond themselves.
As I write, there are two other teams delivering workshops in the Northern regions of Kenya, going to places that very few other organisations are either willing or able to reach. Meanwhile, back in the office, other members of the team continue to expand the capacities of Shalom in research, reflect on lessons learnt from the field and prepare for more workshops. It has been a privilege to get involved with this organisation and I am excited to see how it continues to grow and contribute to the vital task of creating sustainable peace in Eastern Africa as a whole.