Kenya calling: 16-year-old Coleman answers
She’s traveled halfway across the world, organized her own month-long trip to Kenya, studied the modernization of African cultures, interned with the Damanga Coalition for Freedom and Democracy, speaks near fluent Swahili, and one day hopes to work alongside the African Union. Oh, and she’s only 16 years old.
Logan Coleman, a Charlottesville High School junior, says she's long had an interest in African culture. And although she'd been exposed to African customs and lifestyles through school, she realized early last year she wanted to experience the culture first-hand.
“For me, going to Africa has always been sort of a calling,” says Coleman, who cites Disney's The Lion King as her first exposure to Africa. Wishing to travel to the continent on her own, she began learning Swahili and saving up for a trip. During her months of research, she found an organization, the Maasai Girls Education Fund, which not only sees learning as key to ending poverty in Kenya but also became her ticket to living with a Maasai family.
“Unlike a lot of the programs I looked at, which were expensive and primarily for sightseeing, this organization," Coleman says, "helped me find a host family which would allow me to stay in one place and form relationships with people."
By traveling outside of a tour, Coleman hoped to experience the authentic culture, rather than a polished tourist-y version, in an effort to understand the degree to which the pressure to modernize is having an impact on a way of life.
“As Americans, we assume Africans want to change,” she says. “Though they really enjoyed small technology like my iPod and cell phone, modernizing goes against their cultures. Even though they’re farmers, they are incredibly self-sufficient, and it would be asking a lot of them to change.”
During her 30-day stay with the 14-member ole Lemanyi family, Coleman helped with a lot of the daily chores, herding goats and sheep as well as collecting firewood.
“Living with the Maasai as a member of the family really allowed me to get a feel for the culture and the way of life,” Coleman explains. “It became really natural in ways I never thought it could."
Like the other family members, Coleman lived in a hut consisting of dried cow-manure, mud, sticks, and grass. And although each day began around 6:50am with a diet consisting of cabbage, tea, and "every part of a goat and sheep you can imagine,” she found the environment surprisingly comfortable. She hopes to spend two months this summer in another country in east Africa.
“The experience was incredibly worthwhile,” she says. “I cannot wait to go back.”
In December, C'ville Coffee will feature photographs taken by Logan during her stay in the village of Ngurumani in Kajiado, a Rift Valley Province in Kenya.