Regis professor visits Kenyan refugee camp

A forgotten place. That is how Karen Smaldone Cordova describes the Kakuma refugee camp. Located deep in the Kenyan desert, the isolated and impoverished settlement is home to more than 100,000 people who have fled wars and oppression.

Kakuma does not get many visitors. But Smaldone Cordova, a communications professor in the College for Professional Studies, has traveled a long way to meet her students. For the past two years, she’s been teaching them online as part of the Jesuit Commons: Higher Education at the Margins, a global partnership of Jesuit-affiliated groups dedicated to bringing education and opportunity to refugees. 

Smaldone Cordova has been involved with the initiative from the outset, volunteering to teach classes and develop curriculum. Her strong belief in the program, connection to students and commitment to pushing herself outside her comfort zone, made the decision to visit the camp easy. She was deeply moved by what she witnessed.

“This program has brought hope and opportunity to these students and to the community in general,” she said. “These are highly motivated individuals who take their studies very seriously. They crave an opportunity to better themselves and want to use their education to make an impact.” 

Smaldone Cordova’s summer 2013 visit was only a taste of her students’ lives, but the trip certainly reaffirmed her commitment to the work she is doing with Jesuit Commons. And her experience of the camp and its people will not be one she soon forgets.

Step outside your comfort zone and serve those at the margins of society.