The Kenya Immersion Project is a novel project initiated by School of Education academics from the University of Notre Dame Australia (UNDA), Sydney campus. The project is dedicated to social justice and service learning, achieved by immersing students in a community that has experienced terrible hardships in the past decade in order for them to share their skills and abilities with the local community.
Outside the city of Nakuru, Kenya lies the Pipeline Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camp, home to approximately 1000 families who were victims of the internecine violence which stemmed from the 2007 Kenyan general elections.
Following those elections, Cassandra Treadwell, CEO of the NGO So They Can: started a school – the Aberdare Ranges Primary School; opened a children’s home - the Holding Hands Children’s Home; and opened a clinic, for those worst affected by the violence.
In August 2010, only months after opening the school, Ms Treadwell gave a guest lecture at the university, which galvanised Tim, Julie and Sean into action. Three months later they held a fundraising event through the Notre Dame community to build a new classroom for the school, which became the catalyst for the nearly 150 University of Notre Dame Australia Education and Medicine students and staff who have since been part of the Kenya Immersion Project. Trips have taken place in 2011, 2012 and 2013 and 2014.
Every aspect of this project is built around influencing, motivating and inspiring students to develop a truly global approach to their future professional work. This is a project that recognizes the independence and capabilities of our students who are involved in each part of the planning, implementation and sustainability of the project. Students are encouraged to become reflective practitioners, critical thinkers and problem solvers in the world beyond the lecture theatre. One of the main aims for the team is to provide an authentic learning experience which is respectful of and responsive to the needs of this highly marginalised and largely ignored community.
Students are expected to be involved in all aspects of the trip. An important component of the trip is enabling our students to tap into their skills and abilities and developing their confidence to make a difference in the world. This is an extremely sensitively thought out and ever evolving project which is having a lasting impact on many lives both in Australia and Kenya.