Joost Verbart ‘ninapenda Kenya sana’
Young Expert Joost Verbart loves Kenya very much, or as he says ‘ninapenda Kenya sana’. When he was 18 years old, he went to Malindi, at the Kenyan coast, to do voluntary work for an orphanage. ‘Kenya is like my first love in the field of travelling and the first love is usually the deepest’, Joost explains. We talked to him about his renewed experiences in Kenya, now he is back in Kenya and working as local project coordinator for World Waternet in Nairobi.
During his time in Malindi, Joost lived with a Kenyan husband and wife, who became like foster parents to him. He worked at the orphanage with 23 children who became like little brothers and sisters to him. Last December, he went back to the coast and visited his foster parents and some of the children again. ‘It felt like fulfilling a long-kept promise. To me, Kenya is special due to the friends and family that I have here. Nature and people are also absolutely wonderful’, says Joost.
New challenge - Hierarchy
In Kenya, Joost works a lot with large institutions which provide services to the Kenyan people in the area of water, like drinking water or water resource protection. These large institutions have a traditional culture, where hierarchy is very important. ‘They know that I am a Young Expert with a degree in water management, but they also know that I am the “lowest” in the hierarchy of World Waternet. There are numerous people who, if I would approach them with my ideas related to some issues in the companies, would not react or respond to my ideas. I even heard a person was very mad at me after I approached this person with a lot of ideas. Whoops! So I have to be careful in the way I approach the decision makers. A normal way of operating would be for me to discuss ideas with my supervisor, who then discusses these ideas with people that are higher in hierarchy. I can then be made responsible for the actions that follow from their discussions.’, says Joost.
New Challenge - Conflicting mandates
Joost: ‘I have never heard the word “mandate” as much in my life as during the last months in Kenya. The organisations are very much focused on who has which mandate, which is all prescribed by law. An example: In a wastewater plant, you usually have wide screens where the wastewater enters the plant and narrow screens further down in the plant. This way you can first remove large objects and you remove smaller objects more downstream of the plant. In one of the treatment plants they placed the wide screens behind the narrow screens. So the narrow screens get clogged very fast and the wide screens do not have a function. However, the service provider of the treatment plant is different from the owner of the treatment plant. So, it is not within the mandate of the operator to make changes to the plant. They have raised the issue with the owner, but no action has been taken for a long time. Therefore, the issue remains present.’
YEP Global network
Joost started his YEP period in Kenya last October and could join a YEP intervision weekend in Kenya in November. ‘This boosted my contacts with other Young Experts a lot. You exchange both personal and professional experiences. For example, I have had dinner with the other Young Experts from my batch and went to the birthday party of Nadine. Those are times for fun and relaxation. Young Experts also helped me to find my professional way in Kenya. World Waternet works a lot with WRA, the organisation of Pauline and Cloy (Batch 21). They gave me background information on the organisations or gave me tips for my communication. Rueben, from my batch, fadvised me on how to make sure I have a solid internet connection in rural areas’, Joost says.
During the YEP intervision weekend in Kenya, Joost exchanges experiences with other Young Experts, active in other countries, ‘When the group of WaterWorX YEP’ers were in Kenya, I had dinner with them and organised an excursion for them to the wastewater treatment plant in Nairobi. During these times, I learned about wastewater treatment in Colombia and I could discuss some of the pending issues in Nairobi in the area of non-revenue water with a Young Expert from Rwanda. I have had some visits from Young Experts that work in other East African countries. Sharing experiences online to be more in touch with other parts of the world is not my strong side, but it is something I would like to develop!’, concludes Joost. Work in progress.