This is my second time in Kenya and I must say that this trip outshines the year before tenfold. Last year I had no idea what to expect other than what I had heard from my son. I had never been to another country and was thankful for the opportunity. I was one of five chaperones in charge of seventeen high school students and I was extremely excited to visit a place I had dreamt of going to since I was fourteen years old. My son had gone for the first time while in university and twice more since. I had resigned myself to the fact that his journey would be as close as I would ever get to my dream.
When he asked if I wanted to be a chaperone in 2017 I jumped at the chance. I imagined tropical jungles, hot humid air and wild animals everywhere. You know, just like a Tarzan movie. I read a book by Shirley MacClaine and her experience hiking Mt. Kenya and living with the Massai when I was fourteen and besides Ms. MacClaine’s book and Saturday afternoon Tarzan movies, my knowledge of Kenya was nil.
What struck me at first was the widespread poverty. I met families that were subsisting on virtually nothing and trying their best to take care of their children. I also saw that these families realized that education is a gift unlike in our country where it is taken for granted. Many mothers even place education ahead of food and shelter. Where we may stand in our kitchens, staring at our refrigerator full of food and wonder what we’re going to eat, for many Kenyans it’s not what to eat but if we’ll eat. They know that for their children to raise themselves above the oppression of poverty, education is a must.
So here it is 2018 and I am back again. I came back knowing what to expect and full of energy, excited to share this beautiful country with a new group of young people. I was scared last year and hesitant to immerse myself in the differences that I encountered. We work at CHI Academy every day and the smiles and love that welcome us each morning make every day a sunny day. The students this year have worked so hard on projects at the school, brightening the learning environment for the children as well as teaching children games and lessons.
I am so sad that our time here is almost up and I am already counting the days until I return. Kenya has once again grabbed my heart and I am happy to let her have it.
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