Through his “Conflict Resolution and Outreach Project,” Steve Bii aims to establish sustainable avenues of communication between the historically antagonistic ethnic communities in the rural western Kenya town of Londiani where he grew up. The project will foster entrepreneurial ventures that cross ethnic boundaries and require collaboration between members of groups that engaged in lethal attacks against each other less than two years ago following Kenya’s disputed 2007 general election. To achieve this objective, he will put experienced, Nairobi-based community organizing NGOs together with local organizations in Londiani to develop multi-ethnic enterprises in the town. Steve noticed that Kenya’s national civil society organizations have limited connection with rural community-based organizations, and therefore their effectiveness in fostering social interaction, civil engagement and communication between rival ethnic communities in the rural areas is limited. Steve’s project will initially act as a bridge between a national NGO, the Center for Law and Research International (CLARION), and several small community-based organizations in his hometown so as to enhance their capacity to network and collaborate with each other.
Steve grew up in Londiani, a small town in rural western Kenya. He came to Oberlin, where he is now a first-year student, through the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KenSAP), which helps bright Kenyan students from disadvantaged backgrounds gain admission to top universities in the United States. Steve was raised in a home for abandoned children and orphans, and it was while working as a volunteer in that institution that he developed a passion for social justice and human rights activism. In the violence and chaos that followed Kenya’s disputed 2007 general election, Steve worked with the Red Cross Society of Kenya to assist internally displaced persons in his area, which was among the hardest hit by the post-election violence. He is currently a Bonner Scholar and enjoys offering voluntary service to the Lorain County community. He intends to major in Land Economics and Architectural Studies with a minor in Sociology. After completing his academic pursuits in the United States, he hopes to establish an architectural firm that will help relieve conditions that result from the lack of decent low-income housing in Kenya’s cities.
Composed in December 2009