Counseling in Kenya
by Douglas Ribeiro, Assistant Professor of Psychology
First, let me start at the end.
Twelve graduate psychology students and I went to Kisumu, Kenya, to assess the mental health needs of Ring Road Day School. We came back changed. No one in the group could exactly describe it; nonetheless, at the end of this adventure, each one of us testified to not being the same anymore.
Our trip to Kisumu was born from a desire to use the remarkable counseling skills our trainees were gaining at Lipscomb for the benefit of the world. We were sure that our students could be a blessing to those in need, while also joining in healing relationships across different cultures and backgrounds. Thus, a partnership between Lipscomb University’s Psychology and Counseling Department, Office of Global Learning, and Lipscomb Missions was born.
Students committed to taking two classes that would prepare them for counseling individuals and families from different cultures and at the same time serve a ministry that is experiencing the blessings and challenges of fast growth. Our goal was to assess the mental health needs at the school and develop a plan for future collaboration. As one student put it, “Since our feet hit the tarmac, we have been working non-stop on our mission to serve the children and staff of Ring Road Day School.”
My wife Vanessa, and trip co-leader, wrote it best regarding the dedication of this team:
I am proud of this team. This is our sixth day in Kenya and I can see how we have become more aware of the cultural dynamics at play and how they have worked hard to be in step with it. It is easy to take in what you see at face value. In spite of the fact we are thousands of physical and cultural miles away from Nashville, we have been working hard and have been able to listen, pick up on, and respect some of the dynamics not readily apparent to most Western visitors. Because of this, a unique relationship with the staff at Ring Road has begun to emerge. Are we completely aware of or fully cognizant of all the dynamics at play? Absolutely not, but I have observed barriers being crossed that are usually intact with other guests. Crossing these barriers in this way does not mean disrespecting but building a more cognizant and reality-respecting relationship. I believe this experience surpasses didactic learning. Because of this, I can see how this team will have more awareness and a greater ability to partner and connect with those they go on to help in the future. The staff at Ring Road Orphan Day School graciously accommodated our team and was patient with our struggles to understand.
I second Vanessa in being proud of this team. As they pointed in our last formal meeting, something deep within them had changed. On our last meeting I shared with them that I believe a seed was planted deep within them. I encouraged them to nurture this seed and allow it to freely grow within their hearts. I believe that marvelous and wonderful fruits will come from the seeds planted during this trip to Kenya. I’m convinced that this seed will grow, strengthening the development of counselors who are eager to be used by God to comfort those in pain.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.” - Mathew 13:31-32