By Cody Willoughby
TROY — Brukner Nature Center may offer refuge to wildlife of all sorts, but as of late, it has also offered internships to international students looking to broaden their experience in the field.
Ephrance Dishon, 25, has come from Kenya to take part in that opportunity.
Dishon, who goes by “Ephie,” hails from a village in Kenya called Kangundo, located 50 miles outside the Nairobi city center. She began her internship at Brukner on Aug. 29, completing her master’s in business administration degree in Tourism and Travel just two weeks before arriving.
“I missed my graduation, but that’s OK,” Dishon said. “The experience I’m having here made that worth it.”
Her education has been sponsored by the Mutinda Wildlife Education Center in Kangundo. The center was founded by Preston Mutinda, a former intern with Brukner Nature Center, with the assistance of the Troy Rotary Club.
“Preston got the idea for a center in Kenya while he was interning here, Dishon said. “After he went back and founded the wildlife center, he was able to sponsor three more interns to come here. I am the third. The center has offered a tremendous opportunity for my life. Without them I wouldn’t have even gone to school.”
Dishon has spent her time at Brukner doing hands-on work with animals in captivity, a new experience that she has found very valuable.
“Back home, we do not have a rehab center,” Dishon said. “It’s something I would love to see put into practice there eventually. They do great work there in spreading awareness about safety and preservation, but they aren’t equipped to save animals’ lives. The rehab service that Brukner offers is something very new to me, and it’s giving me a lot to take it back. I’m learning new things every day.”
Despite an absence of a rehabilitation unit at Mutinda Wildlife Center, Dishon mentioned that the center is not without its distinctive features.
“There are a lot of trees at Mutinda named for certain individuals,” Dishon said. “Most are named for contributors and those who have safaried with Preston Mutinda, but there is one big tree there named after the Troy Rotary. It’s there to represent the many.”
Dishon went on to note some of the differences between the United States and her homeland.
“Everyone here is very clean,” Dishon stated. “There’s no trash. I’ve never seen anyone litter. The amount of recycling amazes me. There is also a lot less traffic, and everyone here is very friendly. They’re always ready to help, and are always interested to know more about me.”
Dishon’s internship concludes Dec. 1. After her time at Brukner, she would like to pursue a PhD in Tourism Research, continue her work and development at Mutinda, and eventually start her own travel and tourism company.
“I would love to come and visit again one day, but Kenya is home,” Dishon said. “What I have learned here I hope to use there, not just to build a better village, but also a better Kenya.”
For more information, visit bruknernaturecenter.com and mutindacenter.com.