SFU international studies student James Haga (left) did impact assessment work in western Kenya.

Working toward peace in Kenya

February 20, 2008

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With many of his friends uprooted from their homes in Kenya, SFU international studies student James Haga is trying to find ways to help them.

A member of the Kenya Peace and Solidarity Committee, Haga is working with the office of international development in Continuing Studies to hold an international conference (jointly funded by SFU and CIDA) to examine the role of the diaspora, the media and the international community in effecting meaningful change in Kenya. The conference will take place on March 14, 6:00–9:00 pm at the Vancouver campus.

Haga spent most of last year in Kakamega in western Kenya doing impact assessment work through a CIDA-funded internship with the African Canadian Continuing Education Society (ACCES). He returned home last July before the violence that erupted after January’s election this year.

“I became a bit of a political junky when I was there,” he admits. “The differences in political leaning were quite evident. There are people who support politicians based on regionalism, and then there are those mostly younger people who want a government for all citizens.”

Haga’s work with ACCES saw him helping to further the organization’s mandate of supporting people in western Kenya through education. When his job placement ended, he travelled the region for about a month, including four days in northern Uganda where he spoke with displaced people living in refugee camps supported by the United Nations.

Since the January election, Haga has been in constant contact with his buddies in Africa. “Some of my friends had to evacuate their families to Uganda,” he said. “Others have lost relatives, and another’s sister was recently shot in the leg by an arrow.”

After earning an associate of arts degree from Capilano College in 2006, Haga enrolled in SFU’s bachelor of international studies program last year, taking a minor in dialogue. “This program is about making a difference in the world,” says Haga, who sees his future in international development, contributing to positive social change.

“I want to go outside of my comfort zone, learn new skills, and travel to other countries — hopefully I’ll get to return to Africa again,” he says. “I fell in love with the African way of life and it’s one of the places in the world where I feel that I can be most effective.”

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