I recently got back from Kenya.  I have been fortunate enough to have gone on many trips in the past but honestly, this trip was one of the best, if not THE best trip I have taken to date.  Kenya was something else. 

Maybe it was because the first alone trip I have taken in a while (if you haven’t taken a solo trip, it’s a MUST…there’s something magical about traveling alone but more on this later in a separate post!) but it really was somewhat life-changing.  Excuse the cliché!

The main reason for my trip was to volunteer with young children at a school and an orphanage in Kenya.  A lot of people have asked me why I chose Kenya.  I can’t really explain it but for some reason, I have always had an obsession with Africa, especially Kenya, so it was an obvious choice for me.

I got placed in Barnabas Children Centre in Mwembeni in Mombasa County.  Spending time with the kids there was such a humbling and heartwarming experience.  I think I received more love from the kids than I was able to give them.  A lot of people have asked me what the kids are like.  I think when people picture kids in places like Kenya, they picture what they see on TV: sad and crying.  That was also my perception before going on this trip but boy, was I wrong.  These kids were so loving, funny, cheeky, generous, genuine, resilient, smart, ambitious and the list goes on.

Sure, they do not have much and many of them come from complicated and broken families but at the end of the day, they are just…kids and each day, they make the most of their reality.  So, to take pity on them is offensive.  Of course, it’s hugely important to help and provide to the extent possible because the reality is, many kids do not have the opportunity to go to school or receive proper nutrition and lack proper care.  But what I mean is that pity is the wrong attitude.

I learned a lot and received so much love from these kids.  From day 1, they were so beyond welcoming.  It didn’t matter to them that I was a foreigner and different.  They’d hug and kiss me every chance they got (sometimes aggressively but in the most endearing way) , show off their dance moves, braid my hair, ask me to come and teach their classes, and teach me Kiswahili (one of the girls was actually quite strict and she’d yell at me if I couldn’t remember the words she’d taught me.  Haha.  Thanks to her, I’d managed to learn a full song in Kiswahili!).  I absolutely fell in love with these kids and oddly enough, with life in general.

I’ll never understand why I’ve been fortunate enough have grown up in a first world country while these kids lack so much.  But despite the circumstances, every one of them was full of joy had more love to give than a lot of people I’ve met back home.  They were so, very resilient.  What these kids taught me simply by being them was that we are all born over-comers.  Sure, shitty things happen in life…a lot!  But we all have it in us to not just endure but to maintain joy and remain hopeful through them all.  And to me, that’s so beautiful and precious.

It was very difficult to say bye to the kids.  On my last day, one of the girls that I’d become very close with acted rather distant.  She avoided me and avoided all eye contact…I wondered if I had said something to upset her or make her angry.  When I was saying bye to the rest of the kids, she was not around.  As got up to leave, she came out of nowhere and without saying anything, hugged me real hard.  That moment completely undid me!!  We both started bawling our eyes out and I realized that I had fallen more in love with the kids than I thought.  It was such a short period of time and I wish I had more time with them, but those few days have impacted me in more ways that I can explain.  My heart is so full.

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Simone completely undid me when she hugged me goodbye…then she wiped my tears away and gave me the most beautiful smile. Nakupenda sana <3

I don’t know when but I know I will see these kids again.  Until then…please stay well and healthy, my loves.  Nakupenda and asante sana for everything!!

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