Hundreds of people gathered to watch a soccer game in Kenya, Africa. It’s a close game although
there are only about five local teenage boys playing against eight LMU college students. Both
teams are playing their hearts out but just as the sun sets, the teenage boys do some amazing
legwork and land the ball in the net. It’s their second victory against the LMU students.
“I will always remember the smiles on their faces as we were running up and down the field,”
said Naaji Lozan, a junior finance major at LMU. “It was pure joy playing with them and
highlighted the value of unity.”
The boys they are playing soccer against live in a safe home at a refugee camp. They cannot
leave the premises because they are considered at high risk, either because they have a target
on their back from an ongoing family feud or because their family members have tried selling
them as soldiers. So, for now the boys live together in a small cabin with very few daily visitors.
The LMU students traveled to Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya, Africa last May as part of Campus
Ministry’s Ignacio Companions (IC) trip to serve in the community for two weeks.
Joshua Mayfield, the campus minister who oversees the IC program, was deeply impacted by IC
tips to Jamaica, Tanzania, and Ecuador that he attended as a student at LMU. “IC trips focus on
students fully entering a different culture. We are with people, the way they sleep, the way they
live, so our approach is to fully immerse ourselves in a community,” said Mayfield. “And from
there, we believe that it’s the breeding ground of finding God in everything; in the people that
we meet, and in the communities we serve.”
On this trip, IC partnered with Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) at the camp to visit several schools
and listen to the stories of those who traveled hundreds of miles to pursue a better life. The
students also sat down with parents of children with special needs to learn firsthand about daily
life at the camp.
“The mother I spoke with was alone with her five children,” said junior entrepreneurship major
Andrea Payre Madrigal. “Her husband was killed on their journey here. She didn’t understand
why we would want to travel to Kenya from Los Angeles to hear her story. It’s a mutual growing
and just listening to each other. Service isn’t an act. It’s more of like community building. It’s
more about learning from each other.”
After a week with JRS the students traveled to Makueni County to work with Decent Living, an
organization dedicated to creating farming practices that bring people out of poverty. The
students did a homestay with Peter Kimeu Ngui, the founder and director of Decent Living.
Ngui has extensive experience in sustainable development, organic farming techniques, and
community building. He has built organic farms that grow Hass avocados and bamboo that
directly benefit local people. “One of my great objectives is that students will be able to
appreciate that the people in Africa are not needy, that they have a dream, a way in which they
want to live their lives. It’s only because of limited opportunities that they are not able to get to
live out their dreams.” The students participated in hands-on farming and visited with locals,
many of whom are living in poverty and with HIV. They also finished each day with deep
reflections, prayers, and conversations about what they experienced.
Senior marketing major, Ethan Chan believes the daily reflections were the core aspect of the IC
trip. “I think discussing our faith every night has allowed us to become more aware of our
experiences, our privilege, our opportunities, said Chan. “And this has in turn allowed us to
discover how to best combat injustice in the world, as well as improve our open mindedness and
like some sort of curiosity towards the difficulties that people are facing in Kenya.”
IC Kenya was challenging on the soul. It’s impossible to see such levels of poverty and suffering
and not grapple with social injustices that exist in the world. But Mayfield believes that is
ultimately the goal. “It really is a catalyst to ‘break’ someone’s heart in a way where they can see
the pain in the world, but also see the grace and the love,” said Mayfield. “And I hope that this
experience changes students and their life trajectory to be persons with and for others with a
greater understanding that our human dignity is linked and that we are one in the same –
children of God.”
Since the students have returned from Kenya, they continue to process their Kenya experience.
They continue to meet with the youth from the village of Nunguni in Makueni County with the
goal of encouraging one another to inspire leadership and the promotion of human dignity.
To see a video of IC Kenya click here.