Skaneateles grad serves in Kenya with Peace Corps

Anne Roth 11/25/08More articles
“We were in the middle of an eight-year drought. I was in a really dry place. We got relief food. Water was scarce. I saw old men drink water that looked like coffee.”
Patrick Wayne, in his own words, described his two-year experience as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya. After 10 weeks of training in Washington, D.C. — “they call it staging to make sure people know what they are getting into” — the 1999 Skaneateles High School graduate was one of 30 volunteers in a training group assigned to Kenya.
After arriving in the African country, each volunteer was assigned to a family, where he or she lived for 10 weeks of more training before going on to a permanent site.
“I was in Kitui, three or so hours from the capital, Nairobi,” Wayne said. “We learned about teaching public health in a small rural village, we also learned Swahili — an intensive course — and Kenyan culture.
“Everyone had a mama — we were supposed to be part of the family. The father had passed away, mama called me her son. I had a bunch of brothers — some of them lived on the compound. The compound had one big house where I stayed. There was a sitting room, three bedrooms, what they call a bafu (bathroom), where you washed. We had a well on the compound that was very convenient. There were two other smaller houses, where sons lived. There were five kids; there was also a baby, whose mother was the house girl. The house girl worked non-stop, sweeping the compound, getting water, starting the fire. She worked hard. Cooking meals takes a long time. There was also a small field, a shamba, where they grew peas, corn and kale; there were mango and avocado trees.”
Wayne’s permanent site was three hours south. “I was the first volunteer there, assigned to a small rural church — an African Inland Church (nondenominational Protestant Christian Mission). There was a dispensary. I stayed in an adjoining house. There were two doctors. The dispensary treated malaria, pre and post-natal care, distributed vitamins, gave inoculations. It was a government run facility built by Australians,” he said.
Wayne’s responsibility was to teach HIV/AIDS prevention and water sanitation. He did presentations at primary and secondary schools, with women’s groups and coached a girls soccer team, riding a bicycle between villages.
“There were many women’s groups; I talked to them about income generating activities as well as HIV/AIDS. There was a lot of confusion about condoms. Organizations come — some say they are good, some say they are bad. One person has it (HIV/AIDS) and it can spread rapidly. It is exponential, engaging in risky behavior. It was a little depressing. You had the charge to teach behavior change. Behavior change is a process; it takes time.

“I was in a really dry place,” he continued. “When I first came I had to buy water from women who walked seven miles with donkeys and seven miles back. The water was from a seasonal river. The cost was 15 shillings, similar to a quarter for 10 liters.”
He also worked on a piped water project which entailed talking with government officials. “It is a huge project — about 35 kilometers of piped water. It is not built yet. At any point there can be corruption, something could happen. It is not a success yet. I feel we made some progress,” Wayne said.
Following his Peace Corps tour and some time in the United States, Wayne returned to Kenya, where he had a contract with the Carter Center in Nairobi, working on its Guinea Worm Eradication Program.
“It is an incredibly successful program. Worms come from stagnant drinking water and grow inside the body,” he explained. “I was doing procurement and logistics. The whole program is in southern Sudan.”
He returned to the United States in late summer with plans to begin graduate school in international development and economics, hopefully at Fordham University, which has a Peace Corps fellowship.
Wayne is currently living in Syracuse. A 2003 graduate of Alfred University, he is the son of Gay and Robert Wayne of Skaneateles and grandson of the late Edith and Charles Wayne.
Before joining the Peace Corps he spent a year with AmeriCorps, working with homeless veterans.
“I always thought about the Peace Corps and after doing AmeriCorps I thought I had the skills and confidence to do a two-year commitment. The Peace Corps is great,” he said. “When Kennedy first created it I think he envisioned it to grow. I think the most important thing is the friendships you establish while you are there. It is different — your friends are Kenyan. The Peace Corps is unique. I hope more people have the opportunity to do Peace Corps.”

Patrick Wayne sits beneath a tree in Kenya with a resident of the country.

CATEGORY: General Society
TAGS: Peace Corps, Kenya, HIV, AIDS
EDITION: Skaneateles Press

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