I suppose on the edge of a last adventure. I’ve seen parts of scenery before; they are worn and majestic, discolored and vibrant, broken experience in a fresh breath of perspective. Where was it though? It’s hard to place the pieces; overwhelmed by the new horizon, the chance for change and the ability that I could be completely and utterly mistaken.
But let’s bring it back to level ground and I’ll introduce myself. My name is Kevin Kempe and I am a fourth year Development Studies major and African Studies minor at the University of Calgary. I have the privilege of being part of the Calgary Serves team heading to New Orleans this month and look forward being able to document and share some of the amazing experiences I am sure our team will have. This is my second Calgary Serves project, the first of which was Homelessness at Home, a week long service-learning project in the downtown core of Calgary that investigated the experiences and circumstances of homelessness in Calgary and outlined some of the complex nature of interpersonal relationships and resource access.
Service-learning and community engagement have become a huge part of my university experience. Dare I say that they have come to define it; the people, the places, the perspectives and the constant challenging, of myself and of others. There is an incredible wealth of resources available to students to participate in extra-curriculars that are not conventionally curricular. Opportunities like Calgary Serves are just the beginning of what university life can entail. It has engaged me in opportunities to pick bottles on the streets of downtown Calgary (Calgary Serves); to study on the coast of South Africa (CISSA); to visit the majestic Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe; to conducting food security research in Ghana (SFD); to mentor a peer from China (International Mentorship Program); to attend the Canadian Conference on Student Leadership (CCSL); to coordinate a team of passionate students through Meal Exchange; and to grow physically through club sports, all while studying what I love and learning to succeed as an effective leader.
It can be difficult to manage a balance between selfishness and selflessness. My passions were discovered in Africa and I have a keen interest in returning as soon as possible, but every time I go, I return to a feeling of wanting to learn and discover more about “home”. Coming back to Calgary this time has really challenged my perceptions on the degrees to which we separate and isolate the so-called First and Third Worlds. These distinctions are so arbitrarily constructed that it can be difficult to manage what constitutes or differentiates one from the other. Does the classification need to exist solely on a national scale, or are parts of Northern Canada and New Orleans equivalent to the Third World in terms of access to safe and secure food, education, and social justice? That is what I am hoping to explore, contextually, by drawing on my related experiences abroad and at home to better understand the situation and circumstances that might be found in New Orleans.
I am so excited for this trip; the amazing partners and projects we will be a part of, and the incredible team that I am so fortunate to be able to experience this with. “N’awlins” is a chance for change; a chance to grow individually, as a member of the university, as part of a community, and as a global citizen.