Alexa Boldt spent the last six months of 2013 helping charitable organizations in Kenya communicate with their supporters and the public, then helping middle school students speak without saying a word.
A communications and media student at California Lutheran University, Boldt traveled to Kenya on an adventure that was part mission, part study abroad. She is a 2010 graduate of The Dalles Wahtonka High School.
“My plan was to do this mission, then study,” she said.
Her mission aligned closely with her future career interests.
“It could change, but as of now, I’m hoping to work in the media or communications department of an international organization — one that has a great humanitarian cause and needs media to reach people and donors,” she said.
During her Kenya stay, Boldt worked on behalf of a trio of such organizations:
• Dare to Dream, which provides microloans for business training;
• Capstone Ministries, which works with street children;
• Suba Environmental Education of Kenya (SEEK), which offers environmental education for the schools in the area and creates demonstration gardens.
She found the mission opportunity through a connection with the founder of Dare to Dream.
The Kenyan population includes 47 tribes. The common languages among the tribes are English and Kiswahili. Boldt had hoped being immersed in the culture would help her gain fluency in the Kiswahili language.
Instead, she spent her first three-and-a-half months with the Luo tribe, native to western Kenya, which prefers to speak and preserve its own language. So, instead, she learned a bit of Luo and a bit of Kiswahili.
“Fortunately, they speak very good English,” she said. Boldt also wanted a long exposure to the Kenyans and their culture.
“What I find so valuable about staying in a foreign place for an extended period of time is that the strange things about the culture subside and you start to understand more of the nuances,” she said. “I also became better at communicating and in that way could learn even more.”
In addition to learning more about the Kenyan culture, she learned more about aid organizations, too.
“Some of the most successful aid organization that I encountered were started and run by Kenyans,” she said. “They know the culture … Some people get the perception about foreign aid that you have to come in and help.”
Sometimes benevolent aims yield the opposite effect. Boldt used the example of a company that sends shoes to African countries.
“They give them for free because the children don’t have shoes,” she said. But the countries already have secondhand stores and even shoe manufacturers and the influx of free shoes can deplete the already suffering businesses.
“It can seem like a good thing, but it doesn’t help the development of the area to be more self-reliant,” Boldt said.
Personally, Boldt said she is reluctant to give material things, but is happy to provide education and kindness.
On Sept. 1, Boldt started the study abroad portion, which required an extended communication project.