Kenya 2019 – Reflection by Sonja Meijer (International School of Geneva)

By Christopher Fok | 30th January, 2020
Putting in words what we experienced is virtually impossible but here are some thoughts. Asking and answering open-ended questions broadened my perspective on the purpose and impact of our trip to Kenya. Realizing that the community we visited in Maranga offered us way more than we could ever give them in books and donations. I learned the importance of a community that our society often lacks. The drive and determination to succeed in school is rooted in their day to day lives that we take for granted.  

The warmth and kindness we received from people who live completely different lives to us amazed me. The smiles and laughter that filled each and every kid really put things into perspective. Being enriched in a new culture can be emotionally tough but it allows you to grow as a person and become more aware of the world we live in. The language barrier can create confusion and miscommunications but can allow people to relate through the love of education and love for god. 

KULE started with Geoffrey who wanted to give back to a community that welcomed him as a fleeing refugee from Uganda.  

Driving past hundreds of people every day, walking to work, to school, to get safe drinking water, things that we don’t even worry about was eye-opening. Talking to girls about female hygiene can be uncomfortable as the society that they live in doesn’t empower them to talk about their bodies but rather creates taboos around them. One of the things I learned on this trip is that being uncomfortable is the best way to learn and to understand one another.  

Throughout the two weeks, we visited several primary and secondary schools that welcomed us with beautiful performances that were incredibly heart warming and uplifting, sharing with us their culture and language, proudly. Part of our project was funding and helping to build a primary school in Maranga that would give just a few more children their right to education. Being untrained construction workers we moved the dirt to give more space to build another building while the workers progressed with the roofing.  

On a more negative note, the conditions at the orphanages and Children’s homes caused us to face reality straight on. Meeting children without parents or children with parents unable to care for them made many of our hearts sink and feel grateful for the people in our life that support us. There was still joy that lightened up their faces through singing, laughing, playing and learning. Comprehending that where we are born can define our fate is terrifying. 

One moment that made a mark on me was when we visited the children’s home and this young girl, Anne who immediately attached herself to me showed me her room. Her room consisted of several bunk beds which she shared with a couple of girls. She led me to her bed where she made me sit on with her and hold hands. I could instantly feel the love she was lacking and need to share it with me.  

Being a white, privileged girl I realized that the only reason why I live the life I do is that I was born in an another part of the world. Talking on the subject of “white saviours”, our purpose in coming to Kenya was hard to determine at first, but “bringing light to darkness” as Conrad puts it was not our intention, but experiencing and soaking up a new culture, completely astray from ours, was.