Kenya 2011 team blogger: Heather

Heather Gibbs was on our 2 week trip to Kenya in June 2011. Here are her thoughts and reflections on how this experience affected her life.

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If there’s one cliché that’s been branded into my heart and mind during my college experience, it’s been that “If you give a man a fish, you’ll feed him for a day… but if you teach a man to fish you’ll feed him for a lifetime.” Heading to Kenya, I knew I was going to be visiting four organizations that work to empower people in this way, and I was excited to see how my $7 a month fit in to it all.

The last of the four projects that we visited was New Dawn Education Centre (Emily wrote about New Dawn here). The first day we visited New Dawn, we were given the opportunity to sit in on some of the classes that students were in. Somehow I ended up in the Form 2 (sophomore) level Chemistry class. After I finished my own high school chemistry class, I had literally burned all of my notes and swore to never take another chemistry class in my life. So as I walked in the class, I went straight to the very back of the classroom, thinking I could talk to the students in the back of the class about something else or at least nod off for the 50 minutes. I sat down next to a boy who introduced himself to me and told me his name was Jamal.

Much to my dismay, Jamal’s favorite class is chemistry. As the teacher provided the class with problems to work on in class and then go through, Jamal took it upon himself to become my personal teacher. He diligently went through every step with me, and I tried my hardest to pretend like I remotely cared about the subject. Somewhere in between me finally convincing him that I understood it and Jamal fielding questions and checking the work of all of the other students around him, he told me that since I helped him be able to go to school he wanted me to get something out of being there too. That’s why he wanted to make sure I learned something in his chemistry class.

New Dawn is a single institution that has completely transformed the community around it. As a social work student hoping to someday work in the fight against poverty, this alone was enough to inspire me. But as I spent more time with the students and faculty at New Dawn and thought back on my experiences the week before at Emmanuel Vocational Tech School, the HEKO project, and the Kitui Orphan Project as well, I realized that Jamal making sure everyone around him was able to utilize his gift for chemistry was much more than just him being helpful.

There is a sense of culture within each of the projects we visited in Kenya that when they are blessed, they thank God for it and then they give back twice as much as they received. What I learned was that at the Mocha Club projects, when you give a Kenyan a fish they share it with their neighbor; and when you teach a Kenyan to fish, they teach their neighbor… so if you give it a little time, you’ll feed their whole village.

If that isn’t the best use of $7 a month in the world, I’m not sure what is.

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