Q&A with Izzy Gordon
This June, SEGL graduates have a unique opportunity to join Izzy Gordon (Summer 2019) in Kenya to help her realize her Social Venture Project.
Her idea? To bring SEGL’s ethics and leadership curriculum to the village of Koru, Kenya. What can our curriculum contribute to this remarkable community? What can Koru teach SEGL teachers, students, and graduates? We caught up with Izzy recently to learn more about the upcoming trip, her interest and connection to the region, and how SEGL graduates can find out more.
Q: What was your Social Venture Project and how does this trip to Kenya for SEGL Graduates relate?
IG: My Social Venture Project (SVP) is called “OCI Connect Kenya.” Its goal is to create a hands-on ethics and leadership learning opportunity for both SEGLettes and young people in the village of Koru, Kenya.
Over the past eight years, I have been a part of Ouko Community Initiatives (OCI), an organization in Kenya that my family helped to co-found. Its mission is to “transform communities to transform the future.” Most of our work happens in the community of Koru, Kenya, a village in the western part of the country. OCI focuses on sustainable development in education, innovation and technology, nutrition, leadership development, and ethics.
Recently, I helped create and teach an innovation curriculum that we created to 60 girls that focused on self-empowerment, learning how to ask questions, gaining comfort in trying new things, and problem solving. These are also important skills necessary to engage in ethical decision-making.
[Editor’s note: you can see a few photos of Izzy at OCI on this page: teaching her innovation curriculum, helping students with a self-standing tower project, and sitting in the winner of the recycled materials chair competition.]
When I attended SEGL’s London program last summer I knew immediately that I wanted to bring its ethics and leadership curriculum to OCI. That’s why I’m planning this trip. My hope is that SEGL graduates will put into practice the skills and curriculum we learned at SEGL, creating a meaningful cross-cultural exchange with local children and adults in Koru.
Participants will also be physically immersing themselves in a case study of ethics and leadership in Kenya. By doing this I hope that we can not only internalize our SEGL experience, but also help to shape future generations of ethical leaders around the world. I imagine that all of us will be challenged to think in new ways about ethics and leadership and that our different cultures and experiences will take our learning to a new level!
Q: Who can attend and what will this trip entail?
IG: I hope this trip to Kenya will be the first of many visits by the SEGL community! This June, all of us will travel to work with Ouko Community Initiatives in the village of Koru, which is in the western part of Kenya, about an hour east of Lake Victoria. I have traveled and worked in Koru three times, and each visit has been an incredible life experience.
This summer’s trip is a pilot program to explore bringing SEGL’s curriculum more permanently to Koru’s schools (grades 3 and up). SEGL grads making this trip will be asked to use the knowledge they gain on this trip to advise SEGL and OCI on developing curriculum for future trips. This trip is offered to a maximum of ten SEGL graduates, from any semester. This is not a SEGL-operated trip, meaning that it is independent from SEGL and there will not be SEGL faculty in attendance. Instead, SEGL will be actively advising us, and OCI, on curriculum development. This means we will get an inside look at how SEGL designs its ethics and leadership curriculum. I believe that this opportunity to engage in creating and teaching curriculum will be as meaningful and life-changing as being a student at SEGL was for all of us.
This year’s trip will occur in mid-June for approximately ten days. We will stay on a large “compound” owned by the Kenyan family that co-founded OCI with my family. The houses where we will stay have running water and electricity and are located near the schools and the library where we will work. I love staying on this compound, waking up to roosters crowing, gathering in the living room to eat our meals and brainstorm ideas for our next day in the classrooms, and playing soccer in the yard surrounded by rolling hills. All of our delicious meals are eaten on the compound and are prepared by my mom and a local chef trained in food safety. Bottled water is available at all times and is used for cooking and drinking, and mosquito nets and fans are located in every room.
We will spend most of our time at two of the local schools working with about 950 students and 20 teachers. With help from fellow SEGLettes and guidance from SEGL, I hope to incorporate and share some signature SEGL activities. I’m particularly excited about the unique discussion points (eg. privilege, bias, etc.) that are bound to arise as we lead these activities in this community that is so different from our own. While this is not an “academic” trip, my belief is that being in this environment will open people’s eyes and foster interesting discussion.
The travel costs will be confirmed once we know the number of participants interested. Travel costs will include room, all of our meals, and in-country transportation. A limited amount of financial aid may be available for this trip. The OCI team and I will help coordinate all travel plans.
Q: If SEGLettes are interested, what are their next steps?
IG: Welcome! If this project speaks to you, please fill out our Google form [linked here] by Monday, February 10. Should interest levels exceed our capacity to house students in Kenya there may be a more formal follow up application process. (Please note that submitting the form does not guarantee you a spot on the trip.) You can also email me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.