Ingrid Jasso: una Mexicana en Queen’s University Belfast

I am currently on placement with an NGO camping close to the Samburu National Reserve in Kenya along with volunteers from all over the world.

While studying my Undergraduate degree in my home country of Mexico, I completed my placement in an office environment – which I soon realised wasn’t for me. Having previous experience of working with the indigenous communities in Mexico, I knew I wanted to use this placement opportunity to undertake a life changing experience. I have a background in Anthropology and a keen interest in Sustainable Agriculture.

The NGO I’m with in Kenya is a new camp which was just set up last year. I start work at 6am until 12pm when we stop to prepare food for the camp as the midday sun is just so hot. We then work again from around 3pm to 5pm, which is exhausting but so enjoyable.

For my project, I’m working on planting and farming Moringa trees. Moringa trees have many health benefits including boosting the immune system in HIV positive individuals. Once fully grown, the leaves are eaten in salads, soups and sauces and can help increase breast milk in nursing mothers. The planting is going well and I’ve already have the first sprouts! It has helped a lot that the rainy season already started and the rain water is working better for the plants. To help the trees, I have been running experiments with different variables: watering schedule, regular or filtered water (the water here is so salty) different manure and types of soil.  I've been running this experiment on my own, as I don't have any guidance. They allow me to try everything i want, so I started planting vegetables in between the seeds...hopefully this will help with the growing process.

Aside from my project, I’ve also started participating in community training. I’ve visited a number of schools and nurseries where we have planted trees and I’ve taken talks with the kids and teachers. I’m taking part in lots of the community social activities including playing soccer with the kids and helping out at church on Sundays. I’ve kind of become a local celebrity!

A few weekends ago, I was invited to another Samburu community which was a 2 hour walk from here. This was a very shocking experience, where I lived the life of a Samburu woman for two days... something I will never forget.

Last weekend was AMAZING! I am really lucky to have been in the right place at the right time. I witnessed a ceremony that only happens every 12 to 14 years, the graduation of the warriors called "Moran". They received the blessing of the elders which allows them to marry. The men leave behind their warrior status, their peculiar dressing, and now they became junior elders, who will help the next generation of young men to become warriors after being circumcised (this ceremony will take place in 2020).

I am enjoying the placement so much, I'm learning a lot and I especially enjoy the project work and working with the nurseries and the community here.

Ingrid  Briano Jasso

Queen's University Belfast