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Davis United World College Scholars


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Working for Grassroots Development in Africa

“Hardship teaches you a lot,” says Rachel Ochako (Kenya, UWC South East Asia, Middlebury ’11), who was orphaned at age 13 in Kenya. “You learn that the only way out is to achieve as much as you can. Since UWC, I have been constantly drawn to ‘opening doors’ for others.”

Rachel has pursued a career in community development, and she is currently deputy director of international programs at Africare, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that focuses on village-based development. Her work specializes in health, agriculture and food security, women’s empowerment, and humanitarian assistance.

Community development work is complex, she notes, and requires as much listening as thought and action. “The UWC community exposed me to diversity — in physical appearance, but also in thoughts, approaches, experiences — and taught me to keep an open mind. This has been very important in my career.

“I don’t always have the solutions,” she says, “and sometimes you simply can’t meet all the needs of a community. But increasing access to food for people during the dry season or convincing pregnant mothers to get health checkups and reducing infant mortality — those are the rewards.”

As her career develops, Rachel hopes to share her development skills and experience with other young professionals in Africa, so that people may learn from her work and improve lives in their own communities.