In a few weeks, my wife and I will travel from our Oregon home to Meru, Kenya, where I will be a visiting faculty member at Kenya Methodist University (KeMU) during the September trimester. A clergy friend who has been taking volunteer groups to Kenya for several years made a suggestion to my spouse, Joan, that, “Brooke ought to volunteer at the Methodist University in Meru.”
That suggestion initiated a series of web searches, emails, late night phone calls, and finally an invitation from the chair of the counseling program to have me come. The emailed comment—“We’d love to have you be here”—turned in to a series of emails discussing when, how long, and doing what. So now, I know that I have two courses to teach.We have both had required shots, we have taken preventive medications, lists have been made, passports and entry visas are in order, airline tickets [long flight!] are in the drawer, suitcases are ready to be filled to airline standards, newspapers are scheduled to be cancelled, mail forwarding and cable cancellation has been taken care of, and we keep asking ourselves, “What have we forgotten to do”?
There is a more serious issue to deal with other than the logistics of a four-month stay in an unfamiliar land. During my active years as a counselor educator, I was concerned when I would see educators in other countries emulate or copy western models of counselor preparation and counselor function without making those education programs and the resulting professionals who emerged from them be as culturally compatible as possible. I experienced counselor educators in other countries who were in such awe of the CACREP standards that they wouldn’t take time to look in their own country’s traditions, values, practices, and knowledge to design a program which would be most appropriate and effective in their own land.
So having agreed to go to Kenya and assist the counselor education faculty, I tossed a question to a group of my colleagues. I posted a question on the email list serve of ACA past presidents: “What does an old white guy with a western orientation have to bring to the counseling program and the counseling students in a Kenyan university”?
The responses were what I would expect from that group. Some told me to listen and learn more than teach. Some told me to just be myself. Some told me to find ways to assist students to explore the cultural underpinnings of relationships which are the same across the world. I had one suggestion that I should try to bring the best that we know and try to match it with the best I could find. I liked the suggestion that I should “be myself.” It was also suggested that I find a way to have students explore storytelling and the arts as therapeutic devices. They were all good suggestions and all will make me think in the months to come.
So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately, trying to answer my own question about what an old white guy with a western orientation can do.
Then last week, I received the syllabi which have been used in the two classes I’ll be teaching. It probably won’t surprise any blog followers, that I’ve worked through two-thirds of the text on human growth and development and have yet to find a reference, an illustration, a writer, a study, a maxim, a concept, or a principle which has not been framed on a Euro-centric population.
I’m open to suggestion. I plan to bring forth concepts and ask students to describe how they do or don’t fit their own experience as individuals, as members of a family, as persons in a community or of an identified cultural group. I’m going to have to get creative. If you have an idea you’d like to pass along, please respond to this blog. I’ll let you know what I find and what the students do as the months rush by. I’ll try to bring experience and ideas to this blog. I’ll listen (read) the ideas you bring.
There will be more from a counselor educator in Kenya.
Brooke Collison is professor emeritus of counselor education and a former president of the American Counseling Association. He will be a visiting professor at Kenya Methodist University in Meru, Kenya during the September trimester. Joan Collison will be a volunteer with children in a social service agency during their four-month stay in Kenya.