This summer, I got the amazing opportunity to travel to Kenya for a 3.5 week service trip through Global Encounters Kenya, an international program for Ismaili Muslim youth. We started this journey staying at the beautiful campus of the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya.
We were a group of about 65 students from around 22 different countries. Each of us got split up into 5 different service sites--all of which were early childhood development and elementary schools. My service site was Unity Primary School, a private k-8 elementary school with only around 300 students. Before coming, I was unsure about what type of work we would be doing, but I knew that any project we did would be sustainable and would provide some sort of support or enhancement to the community we were working in. Yearly tuition for each student at this school was about 9000ksh ($90) which most of the students could not afford. Several students pay whatever they can, often times being nothing.
During my time here, I was so surprised to see that the students we were working with were so extremely passionate and talented in activities like art, dance, and football. I was surprised to see how genuinely happy these kids were despite their living and school situation (many did not have parents and were living in the slums). I was surprised to see how proud they were of their country. And, I was surprised to see that the head teachers of several of the schools we visited were women.
At Unity Primary, we took advantage of the student's passions and helped them create clubs at their school where they could showcase their talents. We worked with the students and teachers for the 6 days we were there to implement 5 clubs: Drama, Public Speaking, Art, Football, and Dance. We taught the oldest students how to run a club, elected presidents and vice presidents, and conducted activities with the students. Giving these students a sustainable way to be able to practice their skills and do the things they love was our overall goal at Unity and I'm proud to say that I feel we achieved it.
While in Mombasa, we also got a chance to visit some local markets. While walking down the aisles of handwoven totes and meticulously beaded earrings I was blown away by how creative and hardworking these men and women were.
After our time in Mombasa, we went on a 2-day Safari at the Kilaguni Serena Safari Lodge located in the center of Tsavo West National Park. The hotel has stunning views right over the water hole and the Chyulu Hills. The Serena hotels are admired for their sustainable, eco-friendly efforts: Each hotel has been specifically placed where the greatest impact is anticipated. The Serena hotels strive to create economic opportunity, community outreach, and environmental conservation and improvement. The company has instilled a dynamic ecological-policy focusing on actions and projects related to climate change, water and energy conservation, air emissions, reducing and recycling waste, conserving biodiversity, restoring natural habitats and respect of local tradition, culture and heritage. Each room was also equipped with eco-friendly amenities!
Following the Safari we travelled to Nairobi, a more fast-paced city than Mombasa. In Nairobi, we were exposed to several unique opportunities like being able to visit the Aga Khan University Hospital and learn about the astonishing work they do in the community, as well as visiting Frigoken, a sustainable farming company.
All in all, I was completely taken away by the beauty, passion, creativity, and hope in Kenya. Even more so, I was so happy seeing the several sustainable, eco-friendly initiatives being made.