What Kibera Taught Me: A UNC ROTC Student’s Experience in Kenya

Written by Alex Underwood

Jambo! My name is Alex Underwood, and I am a sophomore at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Studying biology on my path to becoming an Army doctor, I figured my summer would be spent in some random hospital. But I was happily surprised when I received the opportunity from Project Go, a nationwide program open to all qualified ROTC students offering fully funded opportunities in critical language education, overseas study, and cross-cultural experience, to travel to East Africa. So, the summer after my freshman year I packed my bags and flew to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania for the James Madison University East Africa Field School with CFK Africa board member and JMU professor, Jennifer Coffman.

After a month of studying Swahili and traveling through Kenya and Tanzania, including Zanzibar, I and thirty fellow students arrived in Kibera. We were led to CFK Africa headquarters and welcomed with open arms. We split into groups and received tours of Kibera and CFK Africa facilities from members of the CFK Africa team.

Myself and fellow Project Go students on the roof of CFK Africa Headquarters.

Tabitha Medical Clinic

First, we traveled to the Tabitha Medical Clinic. As a pre-medical student, I was most excited for this stop of the tour. Stepping inside, the clinic was crowded with patients waiting for treatment. They were sat in a comfortably sized waiting room with clinic staff available to offer help when needed. Walking through the clinic, we saw rooms full of clinic staff working diligently with patients to cure various ailments. We were informed about their affordable vaccine clinic and their room for free cervical cancer screening. While in the clinic, I noticed a high level of mutual respect between Kibera’s citizens and the medical staff present.

Myself and fellow Project Go students before leaving CFK Africa headquarters to go on our tour of Kibera.

Tabitha Maternity Home

As we stepped into the Tabitha Maternity Home, a feeling of peace settled over us. Within this center, there are multiple birthing rooms with all the equipment necessary to protect babies and their mothers from complications. After being shown the birthing space, we were led to the post-natal care rooms. In these rooms, the mothers were able to relax and focus on their baby for a couple of days before going home. While viewing the post-natal section of the centre, we saw a mother and her child being supported by the clinic staff.

The Youth Friendly Center

After dropping by the Tabitha Maternity Home, we were blessed to interact with CFK Africa employees as well as local youth from Kibera at The Youth Friendly Center. Within the center, youth from Kibera are given the opportunity to access necessities such as birth control and counseling for a low cost. The Youth Friendly Center also offers job-readiness trainings, such as computer and information technology classes to the youth of Kibera.


We ended our visit back at CFK Africa’s headquarters with a greater understanding of the good that CFK Africa is doing in the community of Kibera and the impact they are making on the lives of those who live there. This visit changed my outlook on life. I believe that in my future military and medical career, I will never overlook any opportunities to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

Following CFK Africa’s example, I want to change the world we live in. I am lucky to have the privilege of access to the experiences and education that will allow me to make a difference in someone’s life. I realized from this experience how many opportunities we take for granted growing up in the United States. One of the co-founders of CFK Africa, Rye Barcott, once wrote “Talent is universal, Opportunity is not.” Throughout my time in Kibera, I truly began to understand this ideology.

In Kibera so much talent exists, however, some citizens will never receive an opportunity to utilize it. CFK Africa is offering opportunities to these gifted people, enabling them to use their skills to benefit their futures. I believe that if CFK Africa’s mission only affects one person’s life it would be worth all the funding, teamwork, and time I witnessed taking place in Kibera. I look forward to taking what I learned during my time in Kibera and bringing it with me as I continue to learn how I will make a difference in this world.

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