From Madison to Maua
A recent Drew grad aims to build a science lab in Kenya
Mark Stratton has 10 months to go as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching biology and chemistry at a secondary school in the hills outside Maua, Kenya. But he already knows the end will be bittersweet.
No more walking to work every morning, greeting the knots of small children who run toward him calling, “Mr. Mark, Mr. Mark,” or Mwalimu, the Swahili word for teacher. No more helping with activities after school. No more twilight evenings outside his home in Kiengu, a nearby village. “Every day brings new challenges and great opportunities,” says Stratton C’10. “I’ll be happy to have accomplished it, but sad to leave.”
Another goal he hopes to accomplish is raising enough money to outfit his school’s new science lab. The Kaurine Day School, founded in 2007, ran out of money before it could install gas and water lines, benches or work stations. Having a fully functioning lab would boost students’ chances of getting accepted into college, Stratton says. “I keep thinking, ‘Oh man, I have only 10 months left to raise the money,’” he says.
It was at Drew that Stratton fell in love with sub-Saharan Africa. In 2008 he traveled to Cameroon to study microfinance with math professor Kathleen Madden, a former Peace Corps volunteer. “That ignited the fire,” Stratton says. In 2009 he co-founded Drew’s Uganda Initiative, which sent students to build classrooms in the East African country. Until then, Stratton, a biological anthropology major, had planned to become a doctor. Two trips to Uganda changed that. “Being there just felt right,” he says. “I knew I wanted to come back.”
Now Stratton imagines a career in public health. “Or maybe medical anthropology. It’s a combination of culture and health care, and that’s what I like,” he says. “You can’t just come into a culture and say, ‘What you’re doing is wrong.’ You have to understand the culture, gain people’s trust, and then say, ‘This is a way to prevent malaria.’”—Mary Jo Patterson