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UNE students plant seeds of environmental stewardship in Kenya

Students in Kenya wear uniforms donated by the UNE soccer program
Students in Kenya wear uniforms donated by the UNE soccer program

August 06, 2019

Football for the Environment mixes sports with environmental awareness
Football for the Environment mixes sports with environmental awareness

Several UNE students in the travel course, Environment, Health, and Community Development in East Africa, recently returned from a rewarding trip to Kenya where they helped raise awareness of environmental stewardship among local primary and secondary school students.

“In the classroom we learned what goes on politically, environmentally and developmentally in Kenya,” explained Seth Semmelrock, B.S. ’19 (Business Administration). “At the end of the semester, we went to Kenya and really put that learning and experience to work in the country.”

The Nyando Development Community Center for Environmental Conservation (NYADEC) is one of four Kenyan nonprofit organizations with which UNE partners. The organization runs a program with local schools called Football for the Environment. Organizers use football, commonly known as soccer in the U.S., to raise awareness of environmental issues, inspire children to plant trees and help heal the land from severe erosion.

“We play in a soccer game with the students, but at the same time, throughout the day, we plant trees, learn about the environment and encourage the students to be a part of environmental development and stewardship throughout their lives,” said Semmelrock.

The UNE soccer program gets involved in the program by donating team uniforms and equipment. In 2016, the team held a fundraising sale that raised more than $1,400 for NYADEC.

“We are most grateful to UNE for the generous and fantastic donations to our schools,” stated Peter Nyabua, chief executive officer of NYADEC. “They will go a long way to keep our partnership and collaboration far and wide. I have received very encouraging messages of thanks and happiness from the principals and head teachers of the schools that participated.”

The UNE students also made presentations on environmental and social issues affecting communities in the U.S. during an all-day symposium on environmental sustainability.

The South Rift Association of Land Owners, the Safe Water and Aids Project, and the Kakamega Environmental Education Programme are the other organizations UNE partners with while in Kenya.

Students, including Semmelrock, stayed in the homes of Kenyan families.

“The entire time we were there, we were treated like friends and family,” he stated.

The recent trip marked the fifth time UNE students have traveled to Kenya. Richard Peterson, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Environmental Studies, created the course in 2009.  Fifty-seven students have now taken it.


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