Kelly Borman: June Brigade

Photo taken by Chas Wiederhold

This June, I had the opportunity of a lifetime to travel to Tanzania, Africa with Village Life Outreach Project (Village Life), a Cincinnati based non-profit organization.  Village Life strives to unite communities to promote life, health and education within three remote and impoverished villages in rural East Africa.  Village Life accomplishes their mission through annual Outreach Brigades every June and October.  These Brigades offer local leaders and students the chance to collaborate on projects that alleviate suffering, and several members even have the chance travel to Tanzania to further research, implement  or educate villagers on their projects.

I, along with sixteen other University of Cincinnati students, was fortunate to have the opportunity to join Village Life on this year’s June Brigade.  I first learned about Village Life through a Humanitarian Design Honors Seminar which ended in this two-week trip to Africa.  Through this course, we researched African history and culture, foreign aid and international development, as well as humanitarian aspects of design thinking and solutions for those in poverty.  Each student was required to propose one project to implement while in Tanzania to continue Village Life’s mission and improve the lives of the villagers.

Photo taken by Chas Wiederhold

Photo taken by Chas Wiederhold

As the only business student in the class, my project focused less on construction and medical projects, and instead focused on the administrative side of the organization.  In Tanzania, my role was to get a better understanding of the accounting procedures in place for the organization and document all my conversations.  The goal of this project was to improve the accounting processes when possible and help Village Life prepare substantial financial statements for future years.  This was a great project to work on for me because it combined my academic discipline with my passion for service and global humanitarian efforts.  The second half of my proposal is an ongoing project to develop a relationship between Village Life and UC’s College of Business.  Village Life has expressed great interest in working with the College of Business.  They would love to have more business students participating in projects, research and helping with the operational, marketing and finance side of the organization.  Currently, Village Life is working towards increasing visibility and awareness and expanding into the College of Business is a great opportunity for both Village Life and the students.

Though this trip was a great opportunity for me to use some of my accounting knowledge, it was also a learning opportunity in several other ways.  The course I took leading up to the trip was great preparation for understanding the culture, current aid efforts in Africa and what to expect while there, however, there were still many surprises.

The first surprise, no matter how many pictures I have seen of Africa, no image will ever do these beautiful countries justice.  The landscapes in both Tanzania and Kenya are breathtaking and I wish everyone had the opportunity to see the unbelievable stretch of the Great Rift Valley as well as the enormous beauty of Lake Victoria.  Second, I learned that African people are the most compassionate people I have ever met.  The villagers in Tanzania work unbelievably hard every single day and are truly committed to creating better lives for future generations.  The people there may not have all the resources we have in the U.S., but they still get all their work done day in and day out, and they do it all with a huge smile on their faces. I have never met more welcoming and genuinely happy people than those in rural Tanzania.  Third, I learned a lot about how to approach humanitarian projects in a different country.  Specifically with my accounting project, I learned that I was there to help contribute to an organization through partnership and collaboration.  Village Life is not an organization that tells African people what they should be doing to improve their lives (and in my case, accounting processes) they are an organization that collaborates with villagers and together pinpoint problems and develop sustainable solutions as a community.  Service and corporate responsibility has been a developing interest of mine throughout my time at UC, and I have taken away great lessons from this trip that I hope to bring to the Cincinnati community upon graduation.

Of course, since this was a trip to Africa, we went on a two-day Safari in Kenya to end the trip.  This was yet another unforgettable experience of a lifetime.  I saw elephants, giraffes, zebras, hippos, alligators, rhinos, cheetahs, warthogs, and lions all within feet of our van!  It was absolutely amazing to see these animals in the wild and closer than I normally see them at the zoo.  The whole experience was very surreal because it was so different from how we view African animals in the U.S.  Though it was extremely touristy, and vastly different from the rest of the trip, I feel it was the perfect ending to my African excursion and I would (and plan on) go back again someday.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Kelly Borman: June Brigade”
  1. Valencia says:

    Jambo Kelly!

    Great post! You really captured so many of the amazing aspects of your experience! I’m happy to hear you are enthusiastic about sharing your area of expertise (business and accounting)!

    Asante!

    Valencia

  2. Donna says:

    Sounds like you had a wonderful and productive experience in TZ. You and your fellow brigade members are part of the “next generation” of partners and supporters of Village Life who can take this wonderful organization to the next level! — Donna

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