A Trip to Kenya: Keeping Students Inspired Through Art, Creativity, Love and Laughter
Jambo! This summer I took my first, and certainly not my last, trip to eastern Africa. For two weeks, I found myself immersed in the culture of Mombasa, Kenya, a coastal city where the Indian Ocean meets its beautiful and pristine white sand beaches. From train rides through the wildlife safari to attending church service and visiting four primary schools, I was captivated and in complete awe of the beauty and struggle of its people in a country with a population of approximately the states of California, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island combined.
My partnership with the Tyrica and Robert Duckett HOPE Foundation www.trdhope.org
and the Mombasa Relief Initiative www.mombasarelief.org gave me an opportunity to meet with teachers and school administrators to discover the needs of the students and share my artistic ideas and execute a mural on a wall in one of the schoolyards. As we prepare for our kids to return to school here in the U.S. and their long list of supplies and materials including Chromebooks, laptops, glue sticks, scientific calculators, pocket dictionaries and student planners, many of the Kenyan students' lists of supplies were fairly simple - story books, pencils, scissors and shoes. After reviewing their lists and speaking with their teachers it was very clear that the students were completely invested in learning and less concerned about high-tech gadgets and gizmos. Honestly, many of them have never been exposed to such devices. They were simply at school to listen and learn.
In addition to meeting with teachers, administrators and students, our group hosted a workshop for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade girls. The purpose of the workshop was to teach them about and share our stories of self-love, self-worth and strategies for success in the classroom and in life. The workshop also included a sip and paint party (they sipped juice) and tons of give-a-way treats. My personal goal was to share my love for art and creativity with each girl but it turns out they shared their love for life with me and left me completely speechless and in tears of joy.
In a country where over one-third of the population lives below poverty, the joy of the students, their pleasant attitudes and their jubilant songs and laughter would tell a different story. Each child brought a spirit of hope and promise to each moment I shared with them which made for an experience that will be forever in my heart. It certainly goes without saying sharing your time, talent and treasure is important but what you receive in return, the communal love, new friendships and sheer happiness is immeasurable.