Updated: Feb 25, 2020
For a long time, I've been wanting to do a mission trip to Africa, preferably in public health. My 2010 vision board has photos and writings of what it would be like and the impact I would make. I am happy to say that I've finally accomplished that goal but I am not done yet! I found that as I grew older, I also grew a lot more skeptical of the programs advertised for volunteerism and I eventually, decided on the Peace Corps. A 2 year-program where you move to an underdeveloped country and completely immerse yourself in the culture while developing your craft. However, there was another plan for me. I connected with a company called GIVE Volunteers. This program was created to bring clean water, education, permaculture, jobs, and sustainable infrastructure to Kairo Village in Kiwengwa.
When I first arrived in Kairo, Kiwengwa I was amazed by the depth of the connection GIVE had with the community. I immediately felt at home and more connected to the reason why I was there. The schedule consisted of education and construction of the school's classrooms (tutoring rooms). The volunteers had the option of doing one or the other in the morning and afternoon. My schedule was as followed by 8 am-11 am Education - 12-1 Swahili - 1-2 pm Lunch 2-5 pm Construction.
On my first day, to my surprise, I had a class full of men. More specifically, men who identified as "Masai" tribe; ranging from ages 5-47. They were so warm and inviting, eager to learn. Although the schools built are publicly regulated by the government, the English classes we were teaching are not required. The students voluntarily made the decision to come to class every day to improve their English. That was one aspect that really stood out to me, in the US education is usually taken for granted. Partially because of the decrease in mobility education has provided over the years and by US statistics, men are also less likely to pursue secondary education. In the United States, men have become a minority of enrolled students in high school, undergraduate, and graduate school. Nevertheless, their commitment and dedication to learning really inspired me. My favorite part of teaching was the equal give and take of the community. While I taught, I also learned Swahili simultaneously. It was a very enriching experience and I was happy to see all of my students scored 85% or higher on the final test. For construction, I worked on permaculture, priming and painting walls, windows, and chalkboards. The school is mostly developed, however, there is a need for tutoring classes and offices for employees. We helped build those rooms for two weeks and completed it with the help of the locals. That was something else that really stood out, locals contributing free labor to infrastructure that is going to help their community.
This "volunteerism" trip really opened my eyes to the impact you can bring to a community through consistency and exposure. The lack of options and education in underdeveloped communities can make a person easily assume there is no desire. However, GIVE has highlighted the complete opposite of that perspective. The program has changed many lives through implementing this education system and teaching community English. Residents are able to get hired by local businesses, communicate to tourists, and do better in school (all classes are taught in English). A seemingly short two weeks has completely changed lives for them...and for me. Through inspiring conversations, education, sustainable infrastructure, permaculture, and human connection. I've come to know, that no matter how different we may seem we are all one and sometimes success, just as healing, is only a matter of opportunity.