Four weeks ago, I knew almost nothing about Kenya, its culture, or its people. As I sit and reflect on my time here so far, I realize how truly shocked I am every day. No one could have prepared me for everything I’ve seen, done, smelled, and experienced. On our first day in Kenya all of the participants clamored with confusion and excitement as we drove through the cities, pointing out every difference from back home. The roads have no lanes, they drive on the opposite side of the road, piles of burning trash are never out of sight, and a bus full of white people is quite a spectacle. Although the differences may seem minute and insignificant, we were all awed at them the whole way to our new, month-long home. No amount of informational meetings could have prepared me for this.
We visited students’ homes on the following days. Immediately, I felt extremely grateful for everything I have. As I walked through the compound, the smell of dirty standing water, burning garbage, and waste overwhelmed me. Eight or nine students sat shoulder to shoulder in a living room filled with two couches, a bunk bed for the children, and no extra space. The mother’s room was separated from the living room by just a curtain. There was no kitchen or bathroom inside this house. One outdoor bathroom is shared by thirty families in the compound. The women filled the paths - gathering clean water from the communal spout or doing laundry by hand. The whole day was very emotional and eye-opening for everyone. I came to tears multiple times thinking about all of the luxuries I take for granted on a daily basis at home. No one could have prepared me for this experience or the sense of guilt I would feel.
Every day at the school is a learning experience as well. Working to improve a developing country, even on a very small scale, is much more complicated than one might anticipate. Honestly, I often find myself frustrated with the limited resources, exhausted from the work, or slightly discouraged by cultural barriers. No one could have prepared me for the obstacles we would face. The CHI Academy has been greatly improved in the past few weeks, and all the participants are proud of the work we’ve done so far. Although it hasn’t been easy, it has been extremely rewarding. Our various projects are not only beautifying and improving the school, but also inspiring students and staff to continue these methods and systems once we leave.
No one could have prepared me for the impact this trip would have on my life and so many others.
If you know a high school student who is interested in applying for our 2018 Summer Abroad program, please click here. Applications open August 1, 2017.
If you would like to contribute to our Summer Abroad scholarship fund, click here.