Archive for the ‘Past Volunteers’ Category

“In order to find yourself you must first loose yourself in the service of others.”
-Mahatma Gandhi

As Gandhi emphasized, service to others is a crucial part of personal growth, which I am in complete agreement, as I have experienced such in my life. There is nothing in life that brings me greater joy than helping others. Serving others completes me, it is part of who I am, it defines me, as it is through the people that I understand the meaning of a living faith, and God’s abundant love.

I eagerly began my journey on Saturday July 19. After 27+ hours of traveling, I arrived at Jomo Kenyatta Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. Once the plane landed, I was flooded with a mix of emotions: excitement that the experience was about to begin, fear that I would not find my coordinator waiting for me at the gate, and disbelief that after months of planning, the day had finally arrived. As I de-boarded the plane, it struck me, what was I thinking, coming to such a place alone? No turning back now! After a stress free clearance through customs and the quick claim of my luggage, I walked out into a sea of people and within seconds, spotted my lovely name on a piece of cardboard, held by my coordinator at Global Crossroads. The first few days of orientation were a blur, as the shock of being in a country that was literally the extreme opposite of mine, began to sink in. It was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. My brain was on overload trying to take it all in and process the fact that this devastation was reality for the people of Kenya.

I finally arrived at my project on Tuesday July 22nd. The drive to the project was spent in silence, as a thousand thoughts danced through my mind, painting unclear images of what it would be like at the orphanage. As soon as I stepped out of the car, I was greeted by the Home Supervisors and the Director with open arms and a very warm welcome. The Director of Saint Monica Children’s Home (SMCH) is Father Augustine Kariuki, a Catholic priest. The first thing I noticed about Kenyans is that they are very hospitable, often tending to you even without request.

The director gave me some background info on Saint Monica Children’s Home, thus equipping me with an important sense of knowledge that was necessary to gradually acclimate me to their lifestyle. I stayed in the volunteer room at the orphanage where my accommodations included a toilet, electricity and hot water-all rare commodities in Kenya. A typical day at SMCH is as follows: the girls wake at 5am and prepare themselves for school. Since the girls are spread out among six different schools, they leave at between 6 and 7am. Each girl has to walk 2 to 4 miles just to get to school because they do not have funds to provide transportation. School lasts until 4 or 5pm, in which they return to the orphanage to complete their daily tasks of hand-washing their clothing, preparing meals, and cleaning their dormitories. They are extremely hard working and focused on their mission of teamwork. Every night after chores they gather in the common room for song, rosary, and prayer–it is here where I was able to witness their true love and devotion to God. Dinner is eaten at 7:30, followed by study tables from 8-10pm.

When I arrived, all of the girls were at school. As 4pm approached, the butterflies in my stomach began to increase with anticipation of our first meeting. The first girl I met, I will never forget. She was five-year-old Alice, the youngest girl at St. Monica’s. She walked through the gate, right up to me and shook my hand. The whole time she had a vibrant toothless grin spread across her face. It was then that I truly felt the power of God’s plans and knew that I would not return home unaffected. That evening the staff and girls welcomed me with song and prayer, making me feel so loved and appreciated; I was finally home! Spending time with the girls enabled me to understand the depths of their true love for life, as well as the endless joy and compassion for everyone—it was unlike anything I have ever witnessed and it was the most precious gift that they could ever have given me. My main service was to help the girls with their studies at night. I went on this trip with the mindset that this would be how to help in an obvious way. Yet I soon realized that what was really important was being able to share my talents and expressing my love, care and interest for each precious girl. I made it a priority to not only get to know each of them by name, but to give each girl my individual attention and love, while learning about them and their country. It was because of this that I was able to create such a strong bond with all of Saint Monica’s and I have no doubt in my mind that I will continue to nurture and maintain a long lasting friendship and love for ALL of them. Apart from my time spent at the orphanage, the director made it his priority to fully immerse me in the beauty of Kenya and its culture, constantly making sure I tried a full variety of Kenyan food and understood the cultural history and different tribes of Kenya through a trip to the Bomas of Kenya. I also experienced the beauty, grace, and nature of the African animals through the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, as well as a weekend Safari Trip to the Masai Mara Reserve; a full tour of Kenya’s largest and busiest city, Nairobi; and visits and tours of each of the different schools attended by the orphans. All of these experiences in addition to my work at the orphanage created in me, a sense of belonging and understanding.

Kenya is a beautiful country with rich cultural roots and a strong history.  Unfortunately HIV/AIDS is rampantly spreading, leaving children orphaned as a result and thus affecting the already devastatingly poor economy. Despite the daily struggles and hardships, the people of Kenya are truly an inspiration. Even though they have nothing—their faith in God is so strong. I have NEVER in my life, experienced such dedication to God and to faith. For the Kenyans, their faith is a way of life and because of this they find happiness in simplicity and therefore can live without fear because their faith pursues above all else.

Amazing is an understatement when describing this experience. It was powerful, life-changing, and eye-opening. During the three short weeks that I was in Kenya, so much growth occurred within me. It gave me a greater appreciation and knowledge of a new culture; I learned a lot about myself, and most importantly the impact it had on my faith is indescribable. I was blessed with an amazing opportunity to see life without the material evils of the world, thus faith becomes of the utmost importance. As Americans, we may be rich in material wealth, having everything readily available to us, but Kenyans have the extreme richness of their faith, making everything else seem so unimportant, truly an inspiration for all.

This experience is just the beginning. Before going to Kenya I pictured that this trip would do just what Gandhi predicted; I would find myself. And that I did, but in ways I never in my wildest dreams could have imagined. God led me to Kenya, and little did I know how intense the power of His calling would be. SMCO houses orphans who have lost everything they ever knew, their family, their few possessions, and what it feels like to be loved and cared for. If it were not for the love and grace of God working through a dedicated staff, they would have remained that way, possibly not even made it out alive. Everyday is a constant struggle for them, as they are unsure of how they will get their next meal, let alone, how they will be able to afford the constant medical costs as the girls fall ill rather frequently. To top it off, all 31 girls are in school, which entails a whole other realm of expenses, as it is essential to be educated in order to have a future. I was blessed to be part of such an incredible experience, in which I now have the opportunity to fight for these girls. To use my talents to reach out around the globe, informing, captivating and encouraging people like you to be a part of this fight. Little IS Much for these girls.

For more information on how you can contribute please contact me at: presar18@uwgb.edu Through God’s love and prayers we can be the answer to Saint Monica Children’s Home prayers.

Read Full Post »

Saint Monica children’s home Living for a month with the amazing girls at Saint Monica’s taught me many things which I carried with me when I returned to Ireland. What was the most difficult aspect for me to view was how much work they had to do every day. There was no comparison with the life of a child in the Western World; a life where being a child is valued, indulged, nurtured and even spoiled. Things like Coco Puffs for breakfast, shopping trips to the mall, a day in the park, sleep overs with movies and popcorn, Playstations, shiny bikes, and the simple act of getting a story before bed with a hug and kiss before being tucked in. These girls have so little; so little love from adults, so little comforts, so little security and promise of a solid and reliable future where education and a job is an unquestionable right to life.

But these girls were full of love, smiles, laughter.

They were keen to share their culture, language and treated us as family. As I got to know them, their stories, and their fears, their tears came out and I understood a small bit of who they were and where they came from. It moved me to want to help them to have hope for their futures. One month with them was not enough and so I will be returning to St. Monica’s in June where we look forward to many bed time stories and 365 days worth of their smiles and laughter!

You can contact Samantha at huntdesign at gmail dot com

Read Full Post »

When I left my two boys, 17 and 19, in the care of my brother Digger and traveled to Kenya with my sister-n-law, I had no idea how touched I would be by the beautiful girls of St. Monica Children’s Home.

Saint Monica Children’s HomeWhen the gates opened, we could see girls playing in the dirt courtyard, heads popping out of doors and around corners, and every face had a smile on it. They were as excited to see us for the first time as we were to see them. All the girls were gathered to welcome us, singing us songs joyfully. These girls were truly special. We knew it right from the start. Within minutes of our welcome concert, Rocky and I were surrounded with girls wanting our attention and wanting our love.

They stole our hearts and will forever have our love.

The girls taught me so much while I was there. They taught me about being grateful for what I have, in finding joy wherever I am and they taught me about love. All the girls are my daughters now. I wish I could have stayed in Kenya and continued to hug them, guide them, and protect them. I will do what I can from here to make sure they have everything they need and God willing will be able to go back to Kenya to be with them again so I can hug them, guide them, and protect them.

Either way, I will always love them.

Read Full Post »