Research Grant Sends Undergrad to Kenya

Office of Undergraduate Research – University of Rochester student Theresa Kurtz ’12, spent the first month of her summer vacation traveling abroad to Kenya, Africa through funding provided by a Research and Innovation Grant, awarded to her upon admission to the University.

For four weeks, Kurtz lived with a host family in an apartment outside of one of the largest slums in Africa, Kibera. In Kibera, she delivered food to sick families and taught science at a small school. She also teamed up with a few Canadian students to help a local chief and pastor to find families in need. With assistance from local guides, the group was able to go into the homes of people and learn how these families live and support themselves in Kibera. “The families were eager to share their stories and enormously grateful for our aid,” Kurtz said.

When she wasn’t trudging through the alleys of Kibera, Kurtz taught science to grades 3, 5, and 6 at Damside School. “At first the students were ambivalent towards me and my unfamiliar teaching style,” she said, “But–with the help of candies and educational games–they started seeking me out in the schoolyard and begging me to come teach them science.”

Kurtz, who is a double major in math and neuroscience, said that she will never forget the talented students that she met in Kibera and is hoping to support Damside School in the near future.  “Though I study math and neuroscience at UR, the grant gave me the chance to research the educational system and lifestyle of citizens in Kenya from an anthropologic perspective,” she explained. “I am thankful for the insight I’ve received from my excursion, and I hope to make a bigger impact in this society now that I have been exposed to the problems and wonders of Kibera.”

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Article and photos courtesy of Theresa Kurtz