Nyumbani Village welcomed its newest Princeton in Africa(PiAf) fellow Shan Nagar earlier this summer. Shan is the seventh PiAf fellow to work in the Village. He follows Kara Poppe, who completed her year in June. Shan will serve as the Village’s volunteer coordinator and sustainability fellow for the next year until July 2017. Read more to learn all about Shan and his work in Nyumbani Village!
Name: Shan Nagar
Hometown: Durham, North Carolina
College/University: Bowdoin College
College major: Biology; minor in Music
Interests/hobbies: Kayaking, hiking, reading, singing
Date of Arrival in Village: July 25th, 2016
Had you ever traveled or lived in an African country prior to this year?
Yes! In the Fall of 2014, I spent a semester in north-central Tanzania as part of a Wildlife Management Field Study Course through the School for Field Studies. It was an extraordinary experience, full of time spent surrounded by incredible wildlife, and camping in places like Tarangire National Park and the Serengeti.
Why did you decide to do Princeton in Africa?
After spending 3 months in Tanzania in 2014, I knew that I wanted to return to East Africa. My long-term career goals are in the field of conservation and environmental management, but I also wanted to have some experience of working with aspects of sustainability that are more human-focused. The idea of being able to work for an organization that deals with sustainable development really appealed to me, and PiAf offered many such positions, just like this one!
What were you most looking forward to before your arrival?
I have been fortunate to travel to several different places around the world, and my favorite part about visiting somewhere new is finding a way to become a part of a community there. Before coming to Nyumbani, I was very excited to be able to spend a full year immersing myself in a close-knit community setting, all while having the ability to work on projects that directly benefitted the people I was living and interacting with on a daily basis.
What were your first thoughts upon arriving in the Village?
I am blown away by the intricacy of all of the different programs and systems that are in place here. The schools, medical resources, and community/family support structures for all 1000 children and the 100 grandparents are incredibly impressive just on the surface level. But as soon as you look a little deeper, the level of interconnectedness between all of these programs, and the organization required to make everything work is astounding. It is very humbling to be able to work in a place where everybody is so passionate and motivated about the work that is being done here.
What projects have you been working on in Nyumbani?
So far, the first 7 weeks of my Fellowship have been full of coordinating groups of volunteers. We have had over 50 volunteers in the Village since I first arrived, and August was completely hectic! But the volunteers have been doing great work, organizing events like Nyumbani’s Got Talent, a Fashion Show, and a Nyumbani Master Chef competition. Now that the July/August influx of volunteers has subsided somewhat, my time is becoming more focused on Rainwater Harvesting, and preparing for the rains in late October/early November. This week and last week we cleaned all of the Rainwater Tanks, and now we need to finish up the maintenance of the rainwater structures before the end of next month. This past week Wyclif, who works in Sustainability, has been helping convert the unused greenhouse next to the Guest House into a functional kitchen garden. I am very excited about this project, as it will be a great way for volunteers to help grow some delicious fresh produce!
What is your favorite thing(s) about the Village so far?
This may be an unusual answer, but my favorite part of every day in the Village is the period between the end of work at 5 and when it gets dark around 7. The heat of the day always subsides right around this time, and the Village seems to come alive with children playing or returning home, and staff members gathering to catch up after work. In the Guest House, volunteers and staff members congregate to chat about their day and have some chai. Everything starts to turn orange from the setting sun, then you start to hear children singing and drumming coming from a few different clusters. It’s such an incredibly peaceful time of the day, and I’ve come to really love it!
What are you looking forward to this year?
I’m finding that one of the huge advantages to working in a community-based organization like Nyumbani is that you can directly see the results of the projects that you help with. I am really excited that for all of the projects that I am involved with this year, I will be able to experience firsthand the impacts they have on life in the Village.
What are you looking to accomplish in the coming year?
From my first several weeks in the Village, and from my conversations with Joseph, the new water technician, I can see that the biggest issue that the Village faces is misuse and waste of water. I am hoping that by working with Joseph and other people in the Village, we can start to really change the attitude on water use. Nyumbani is a literal oasis in terms of water availability compared to surrounding communities, but it is important not to let ourselves take this for granted. We have been brainstorming different strategies from education programs about water use for children and grandparents, to the installation of water meters to more closely monitor water use. By using a collection of different strategies, I hope that we can make a real difference in terms of how water is consumed in the Village.
Thank you Shan for sharing with us and we wish you luck in the remainder of your fellowship year!