Sam Waithira ’24 Brings Service and Leadership from Davidson to Kenya

Sam Waithira ’24

Bonner Scholar Sam Waithira ’24 embraces the unknown and the unfamiliar – something he’s learned to do often during his four years at Davidson College.

Waithira will graduate Sunday with a degree in economics, but he has a jump start on applying those lessons in the world.  

Waithira returned to his hometown of Nairobi, Kenya, last summer to help implement sustainable agriculture and provide food for Hosanna Children’s Home, a community organization that provides shelter and support for local children. He attended grade school with children from Hosanna and remembers his classmates pooling money and resources for the home. When he received a Davis Projects for Peace grant through the college, Hosanna immediately came to mind. 

He arrived back home with little farming experience and a plan to build a greenhouse or garden. After consulting the leadership team at Hosanna, they decided on something different — a pig farm that would support the home for years to come. 

“I didn’t know anything about pig farming beforehand,” Waithira said. “Davidson taught me how to think and learn, so going in, I never felt afraid of not knowing. I knew I’d have a team and a community to lean on and learn with.”

They began with just two pregnant sows and 24 piglets, working with local farmers to build six pigsties. Waithira enjoyed being part of a team where everyone had a different role, tackling everything from finding contacts to securing building materials to developing strategies. As the farm grew, a large part of the work focused on community education. Waithira wanted the project to be both sustainable and easily replicable, empowering leaders at Hosanna, farmers, and community members to continue the work after he left.

Sam in Ghana

Waithira in Ghana

Waithira in Singapore

Waithira in Singapore

Back in the U.S., he spent his senior year involved in a variety of service projects and new experiences. Through the Bonner Scholars Program, he worked with the Davidson Community Foundation to secure funding and write grants for affordable housing units and critical housing repairs in West Davidson. 

This spring, Waithira and two other Bonner Scholars also planted a community garden in town, building vertical trellises to grow tomatoes and other produce for the Ada Jenkins Center. 

With support from the Alvarez Access Fund and the Alvarez Guarantee Fund, he’s also studied abroad in Ghana, London and Singapore, taken online classes in economics and design and attended Harvard’s annual Africa Business Conference two years in a row.

Strength in Community

In four years at Davidson, Waithira has found his community in every corner of campus. 

His international student friends help him feel less alone and far from home. His economics advisor, Professor Clark Ross, provides valuable mentorship and career advice. His favorite custodian, Martha Howland,  waves from across the lawn, stopping to catch up each time she sees him. His host family plugs him into the larger Davidson community — they’ve watched him grow and introduced him to his favorite American holiday, Thanksgiving. 

“Davidson’s greatest strength lies in the people who make it up,” he said. “Now that I’m about to leave, I’m realizing how much that means to me.” 

Like most international students, Waithira decided on Davidson before he ever set foot on campus. Everything he knew came from his admission counselors and from an older high school friend who had attended Davidson a few years prior. 

“There’s a lot of settling and learning you have to do as an international student,” he said. “You don’t have everything you need, and you don’t know how to navigate the world right away. When I was learning about Davidson, the word ‘community’ came up over and over again. That culture of community and having specific resources for international students made Davidson a very attractive option for me.”

Following the admission counselors who brought him to Davidson, Waithira began working as a tour guide the summer after his first year. He’s now an International Admission Ambassador, working to support international student prospects like himself. 

“I’ve had the chance to see the admission process from the inside,” he said. “For me, it’s all about making students feel like they know Davidson before they ever get here, whether that’s through info sessions, maintaining correspondence, or sharing my own experiences.”

After graduation, he’ll work at a major consulting firm in Dallas, Texas, where he’ll explore multiple sectors, including healthcare and agriculture, from a business perspective.

“Davidson has prepared me to approach everything with a multidisciplinary lens,” he said. “I’m ready to see how I can apply that to my job and to my life after college.”