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Witnessing the reality behind the reports - Visit to Africa

Witnessing the reality behind the reports - Visit to Africa

Published: September 22, 2010

Group photo of AFSC meeting with Quaker partners and organizations at Friends International Center in Nairobi.

Photo: AFSC / Enoch Opuka

The AFSC-Africa program was excited to host Arlene Kelly, Clerk of the Board of AFSC for 10 days. Her visit included time with the AFSC staff and partners in five countries and community members in areas where AFSC works. 

In Nairobi, her first stop, Arlene met with representatives of local organizations partnering with AFSC’s Somalia Peace Program.  AFSC-Somalia works with local Somali organizations to accompany, enable, nurture, and mentor these organizations to effectively respond to conflicts in Somalia.  Arlene expressed appreciation for this approach. The partners and Arlene also reflected on the role of traditional leadership in conflict resolution. Partners noted that clan leaders and religious leaders have played a key role in facilitating various peace initiatives and that we should continue to build on strong and existing Somali capacities.

In the afternoon Arlene visited with Quaker (Friends Church) partners. The Alternatives to Violence Project (AVP) Trust-Kenya, an organization founded by Quakers and now inter-religious, partners with AFSC in refugee camps for Somalis in northeastern Kenya. Trainings in the camp have gathered together young community members, many who have never seen a peaceful Somalia. Inspired by their individual transformation through the workshops on peace and non-violence, the Somali youth are leading efforts to have Alternatives to Violence Project manuals translated into Somali so they can begin to train and reach their older Somali family members and communities. The new groups of trained youth facilitators hope to carry on the positive impact the program has illuminated in their lives. 

In the meeting with Friends, Arlene also heard about and commended the tremendous peace work that Kenyan Quakers are doing both in Kenya and more widely in Africa - providing food, temporary shelter, and clothing and have undertaking reconciliation initiatives. Much of the work in Kenya focused on Internally Displaced Persons and came in the wake of the post-election violence experienced following the 2007 Kenyan Presidential election. This service and witness builds on years of Friends’ experience throughout east and central Africa in post-conflict rehabilitation and reconciliation. The AFSC-Africa Regional Director emphasized that the work on healing, forgiveness and reconciliation is important and that we should continue to link ourselves and offer our insights to other initiatives and partnerships. AFSC will continue to support efforts through regional dialogue meetings and exchange visits amongst peace practitioners around the continent.   

Arlene expressed great appreciation saying, “it is a blessing to hear that AFSC and Quakers in Kenya are working together to do such meaningful work.”

Arlene, who has served on the AFSC Board since the early 1980s, noted that the current trip to Africa is a wonderful opportunity to build on her early experiences as a Quaker workcamper in post-war Europe and her involvement with the Friends International Center in Ramallah.  Seeing the work of AFSC and their partners is a very special experience, not only because it brings to life the work we have known primarily through reports, but also because it reaffirms for us that we are not alone in our labor.  Arlene understands that amidst challenges AFSC and Friends, despite their small capacity, add to an aggregate of efforts to build the better world we envision.

In October, AFSC-Africa staff will come together from across the continent to articulate the Quaker values that become AFSC work and actions for social justice, peace and humanitarian service. 


The meeting was held during the first stop of Arlene Kelly's 10 day trip to visit AFSC programs in Kenya, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Burundi. The meeting included Friends leaders and Change Agents for Peace International (CAPI), Quaker Peace Network (QPN), Healing and Rebuilding Our Communities (HROC), Alternative to Violence Project (AVP) Kenya Trust, and Turning the Tide, a program of British Friends’ Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW)