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International Microfinance Intern Discovers a Surprising Link between Funerals and Poverty in Western Kenya

A Microfinance Intern, Working through CrossContinental.org, Recently Journeyed to East Africa and Reports a Concerning Trend Regarding Traditional Funerals that Push Families into Even Greater Hardship.

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Cross-Continental Solutions recently sent microfinance intern, Angela Adamson, to Kenya as a part of her master’s degree program at the University of Victoria. She encountered unexpected causes of financial distress among rural families. Microfinance projects abroad provide valuable information to poverty stricken communities so that they can acquire additional funding for their sustainable development projects. Angela expresses her happiness with this unique experience in the attached video, but also reports disturbing fiscal mismanagement when it comes to traditional funerals in Kenya.

According to the World Health Organization, the probability of dying between the age of 15 and 60 years old in Kenya is 34.6% for males and 29.4% for females while the probability of dying under the age of five is 7.3% (WHO, 2013).  In the USA, by comparison, the probability of dying between the age of 15 and 60 years old is 13.1% for males and 7.7% for females while the probability of dying under the age of five is 0.7% (WHO, 2013). Kenyans are nearly four times more likely to die before the age of 60 than Americans. This unfortunate reality, coupled with poor family planning, leads to a tragic cycle where large families get pushed further and further into destitution by extravagant funeral expenses.

When Angela Adamson attended her first funeral in Kenya, she found that Kenyan home owners often bury the dead in their back yards, while those who do not have a home are buried in the cemetery. Burying the dead can take up to a month, as families wait for all members, even those abroad, to attend.

During her two month microfinance internship, Angela was aware of five deaths and attended two funerals just within the small village. She noticed that not only do traditional funerals create a financial burden among families, they also impact the economy. Depending on the family’s social status, the cost of a funeral can range anywhere from $300 USD to more than $15,000 USD. In a country where the average person makes less than $1.30 USD per day, funeral costs can sometimes bankrupt a family. Some families even slaughter their livestock in order to feed the community. This lavish feast  impoverishes families further, as they no longer have animal products to eat or sell. In addition, Kenyans often take up to a month off work to mourn a loved one, which slows down production and reduces individual income. Thus, the high mortality rate and uncontrolled birth rate among Kenyan families lead to a vicious cycle of ever increasing poverty that drives the mortality rate even further.

This surprising relationship may never have been discovered had it not been for Angela’s choice to do an international internship, to fulfill the requirements of her master’s program. Angela states, “My two month microfinance internship through Cross-Continental Solutions went by fast. The work I did abroad was both enjoyable and rewarding. I made a good contribution by providing valuable information to local community groups so they could acquire future funds for their sustainable development projects.”

Angela was happy to step out of her comfort zone and broaden her learning potential. Through facilitating and public speaking, she gained confidence and improved her communication skills. Living with a host family was also a great way to immerse herself in the culture.

She also learned an important life lesson from the local people. “Even though the people in Africa have unfortunate living standards, they are the nicest and accepting people I have come across in my life. I found that the local people are happy individuals whom rarely complain about their situation.”

To encourage more participants to join volunteer abroad and intern abroad programs, Angela comments, “Not only do the people lack capital, they also lack information. So there continues to be a need for international volunteers and interns from all walks of life. I hope to participate again in making a difference in the global community through Cross-Continental Solutions in the near future.”

Access free resources or plan a life-changing trip at http://www.CrossContinental.org.

About Cross-Continental Solutions:

Cross-Continental Solutions provides flexible yet affordable intern abroad, volunteer abroad, cultural immersion, language study, and gap year programs. International internships can even be taken for university credit. By living and working side by side with local people, participants gain an exceptional cross-cultural experience and the opportunity to make a difference. Covering a wide range of needs, opportunities are available in areas such as: Teaching, Healthcare, HIV work, Care-giving, Orphanage Work, Wildlife, Agriculture, Environmental Protection, Community Development, Business Coaching, Microfinance, Marketing, Journalism, Photography, Tourism, and more. Programs are available at many locations around the world, including Africa, Asia, and Latin America.