JP counselor volunteers in Kenya slums

July 6, 2012
By

Mark Blogier is not spending his summer break from Boston Latin relaxing. The guidance counselor and social worker is spending six weeks in the slums around Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, working to improve the lives of African teenagers.

“The reality is, I don’t know exactly what I’m doing until I get there,” he told the Gazette in an interview last week. “I think it’s going to be a real adventure. I’m looking forward to it, even though I don’t know what to expect.”

The Jamaica Plain resident signed up for the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) program after hearing about it on National Public Radio (NPR). Following the Jewish tenet of tikkun olam—“repairing the world”—he signed up to spend his summer in Africa, helping to develop workshops and protocols for helping troubled teenage girls.

“How do you repair the world when you’re leading your life and working? This is an opportunity to do that,” Blogier said. “I’m fortunate in that I do have the time instead of just laying out on a beach somewhere. I think this will be a lot more meaningful.”

Though AJWS programs usually require a three-month commitment, Blogier was able to negotiate a six-week trip.
“They were very flexible because of my school vacation,” he explained. “Some people do a year, but [AJWS] also has different programs for shorter periods.”

Blogier is spending a week in training in neighboring Uganda before heading to Kenya next week. His work in Nairobi will likely focus on self-empowerment, sexual health and HIV awareness.

“I suspect I’ll learn a whole lot,” Blogier said. “I’ll probably learn more than I have to offer.”

AJWS focuses on human rights and poverty in the developing world, economic justice, natural resource rights and women’s rights, among other initiatives, Blogier said.

“They focus on helping oppressed people no matter their racial or ethnic status,” he added. “I think this organization is pretty amazing.”

Blogier will be blogging about his summer at volunteeringinkenya.wordpress.com.