By Sarah Kirk

Alums in the Slums

An Egyptian slum is not typically a summer destination for college students or recent college graduates. But the slums of Cairo, Egypt, are exactly where you will find InterVarsity alumnus Kevin Ness as an InterVarsity Global Urban Trek volunteer. 

Life in the Slums

Kevin first went to Cairo in 2007 as an InterVarsity student from Portland State University on a Global Urban Trek. While in Cairo, Kevin and his team worked with Sudanese refugees as teachers’ aids in community schools.  “Sudanese refugees are considered outcasts in Cairo and are not allowed to attend public schools.  So it’s only through schools formed and funded by people within the Sudanese community where children can get an education,” says Kevin.  Each summer, InterVarsity students partner with these schools and help with sports, art, drama, English, and music classes. 

While working in the Sudanese community, Kevin’s eyes were opened to the realities of poverty in our world. One of the things Kevin realized was that “God is not a God who encourages hoarding of resources or knowledge.  We need to learn how to give away what we’ve been given – it’s about giving, not receiving.”

Kevin now says that “there is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about living and working in a slum community.  My entire worldview was challenged, and I have become much more conscious of any decision I make.  For example, after being on the Trek, having a cell phone seemed superfluous.  So I got rid of it, and I am now able to use that money to help others.

Combating Complacency

After leaving Portland University, Kevin began volunteering his time as a Global Urban Trek director, leading teams of students back into the slums of Cairo. When asked why he is willing to take time away from his retail job at Best Buy for six weeks so he can live in the slums with college students, Kevin says, “I love showing students how awesome slum ministry can be.  Slum ministry is primarily about us learning to be present with people.  And that’s why I like directing the Global Urban Trek. I want to teach students how to live incarnationally in today’s world.” 

Despite the joy of showing college students God’s heart for the poor, it’s not easy for Kevin to head back into the slums year after year.  This past year, one of the bigger challenges Kevin faced was learning to remain sensitive to the hurt around him.  Kevin says, “You have to fight complacency, even in the slums.  I’ve found that each year I go back to Cairo, I’m not as shocked or moved by poverty as I was when a student.  I’m learning that I can become jaded even in the poorest of poor places in our world, and I need God to continue softening my heart.”

With each trip to Cairo, Kevin continues to grow in his desire for seeing God’s kingdom advance in underprivileged communities.  Kevin is currently continuing his education and is in the process of discerning where and in what capacity God wants him to serve long.  Regardless of where God sends him, Kevin knows he will always be involved in Africa and the Global Urban Trek in some way, since that is where his heart is.

Alumni Involvement Matters

InterVarsity alumni play an important role in making InterVarsity missions projects like the Global Urban Trek to Cairo a reality. This past year more than ten InterVarsity alumni volunteered their time on a Global Project or Trek.

“Without InterVarsity Alumni volunteers, we would not be able to serve the number of InterVarsity students interested in Global Projects and the Global Urban Treks,” says Helyn Luisi-Mills, InterVarsity’s national Global Project and Urban Trek coordinator. “Volunteers make these projects possible.”

For alumni who are interested in volunteering on Trek, Kevin offers words of encouragement:  “If you are thinking of volunteering with the Global Urban Trek, give it everything that you have and don’t hold back.”

For more informationabout the InterVarsity Global Urban Trek or how to volunteer, go to or contact the Global Project Department.