Editors note: This article first appeared in The Register Guard
University of Oregon student Seela Sankei drew rapt attention from her audience of local children as she carefully tied a long loop of thread taut around the ankles of two young volunteers. Once the string was secure, she quickly jumped in and out of the loop as she explained the game that she played as a child in Kenya.
During Sunday’s Family Fun event at the Eugene Public Library downtown, Sankei spent her afternoon playing other string games and drumming for the children.
“(This is) how I grew up as a child,” she said.
Sankei, 29, is a University of Oregon senior from Nairobi, studying general social science with a focus on globalization, policy and environment.
She grew up in Kenya, belonging to the Maasai tribe, in a family of six raised by a single mother. Her mother left when Sankei was a child, and she was adopted by her aunt and uncle.
Sankei attended boarding school until 12th grade and in 2011 she began her studies at the University of Oregon, where her uncle and adoptive father studied in the 1980s. Both he and Sankei were sponsored by the International Cultural Service Program, or ICSP, a scholarship that brings students from all over the world to the UO to be “ambassadors of their own country,” Sankei said.
Back in Kenya, Sankei used to work with organizations like FAWE, Forum for African Women Educationalists.
“I used to help rescue girls from forced marriages because we have a lot of gender issues in my country,” Sankei said. “Because we are a very tribal country, we have a lot of traditions and taboos that define us, and so women suffer the most.”
Read the rest of the story at The Register Guard.