Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
Why did you choose the KSP?
I studied in the fall of 1986 in Denmark. There, I became interested in development, because the Danes are big on development issues. At St. Lawrence I had been taking development classes and really enjoyed them. One of my professors pushed me toward Kenya when I returned. Loved it! Never left in the end, graduated, married and we moved to South Africa and Zimbabwe and stayed until 2006.
What was it about your KSP experience that inspired or compelled you to stay involved with Africa?
The KSP forces you out of your comfort zone. You either find a path that makes sense in Africa or another which the KSP will beautifully support. I was the former. I was pushed hard in Kenya. I was asked hard questions, and I was allowed to find my way. I was exposed to water issues, which have become my core focus, and so I was hooked.
Do you have a memorable story to share from your KSP?
The story is fairly simple and it is why I do what I do. It's windy and hot. Dry heat. The sand blows and seems to find every bit of exposed skin, stinging. I am speaking with women and children who, with their camels, form a caravan moving from one side of the Chalbi Desert to the other. The sun has been up for a while but these women clearly started their journey in the cool of the night. We are all sweating, and the camels are agitated, as they always seem to be. The camels are loaded with precious water. The water will last for a short time, and I know that these women will make this trek again, and soon. It's 1987, I'm 21 and outraged. And it keeps me up at night. People can't change the world, change their community or even go to school if they are in muddy holes collecting water, walking back and forth with 80 pounds of water on their heads. Back and forth, all day long.
So I dedicated my life to water and sanitation. My journey took me from Africa in the late 1980s back to the U.S. in 2006 when I joined Water for People.