Feb 23, 2014
5 more sleeps….
I spent quite a bit of time considering the best way to plan for this trip. How do I prepare my kids for an experience that might change their lives forever? We started with a globe, some maps, a few little videos, reading Robin Wiszowaty’s memoir: My Masai Life, but can anything really prepare them for what we are about to experience?
When my husband Aubrey and I went to Africa 14 years ago, we travelled with a tent and our gear on our backs. We spent two months in Zimbabwe, travelling a bit, but mostly we volunteered with Veahavta, the Jewish Humanitarian and Relief Commitee, at a rural hospital and school. Following that, we spent one month backpacking through Ethiopia. We then started in Kenya on an overland truck, travelling for four weeks through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana.
I will never forget the things we saw during those five months. We witnessed so much pain, sickness, poverty, and corruption, but also so much beauty, warmth, caring and joy. We had some truly scary experiences, but we also were on the receiving end of some wonderful acts of kindness that we will always remember. Africa was full of contradictions for me. When I returned back to Canada, I felt as though my own skin didn’t quite fit me anymore. I honestly feel there are still some parts of that trip, even after all these years, I never really emotionally unpacked.
And now we are returning to Kenya with 4 kids in tow, plus the bonus of one of their grandmothers and a close family friend on a very different type of trip. We will be met at the airport and escorted from one destination to the next. We will never worry about our next bed or safe place to set up our tent. This time, there will be no uncertainty where our next meal will come from, we will not be in danger of getting beaten up or mugged, and that is exactly how we would like it. This trip, we will not take the same type of risks as in the past, now that we have precious travel companions.
Seven years ago, in honour of our third son’s first birthday, we decided to start a family project. Our goal was to build a classroom in Kenya through Free the Children. Every time the boys got their allowance, they put some money aside for the school. At their birthday parties, from about age 5 or 6, the boys asked for donations instead of birthday presents from their friends. They could still make a small birthday list and would usually have it filled by family members. Teacher gifts were in the form of donations, and we would also make a donation to Free the Children at the end of each year. After 6 years, we reached our goal to build a classroom outfitted with supplies, a latrine and a teacher.
With that goal reached, we moved to the next pillar in the adopt-a-village model. We found out that our classroom would be built in a community called Osenetoi, in Kenya. We then started to work towards the Clean Water Pillar. Last year, 3 of the boys participated in Me to We’s vow of silence campaign. For 24 hours they did not speak, to draw attention to the plight of children in poverty all over the world, and got sponsors to help provide clean water in our adopted community. By the end of the year, we were able to accomplish this goal as well. Now we have started to raise money for the Health Clinic, and our time has come to visit our community, now that our youngest is old enough. Four and a half years is old enough for such an adventure, isn’t it?
Most people think we are crazy to take our kids on this adventure. Two of our boys will celebrate their eighth and tenth birthdays in Kenya. Our eldest is twelve, and our youngest is just four and a half (don’t forget the half). I wonder how this will impact their view of the world. Will it make a difference? Or, will they just roll with it, as kids are known to do. Will this be different, or just another experience, rolled in with Disney’s Animal Kingdom, or our yearly trip to California to visit our family?
My hope is that they will see that our everyday life is not what every child experiences. I hope they will see that the world is a huge, beautiful, complex place, just waiting for them to explore. But most of all, I want them to understand, even just a little bit, that we are all responsible for one another, and that our circumstances in life are just an accident of geography. If we are blessed with resources, it is our duty to share. I want them to know they can make a difference if they really want to. They just have to find a place to start.
Stay tuned for our next installment from Amsterdam. We will be spending three days there to help acclimatize the kids to the new time zone.
For more information on Osenetoi, and Free the Children visit:
If you are interested in contributing to the Health Clinic in Osenetoi, please visit our Family Fundraising Page at:
posted by Koren