Jan 202013

Author: Mary Willson

“Mountains cannot meet, but people can,” said secondary school student Isaya in a letter to the Alternative Winter Break trip group he left Samburu, Kenya to travel to school, where he is proudly the only student from a pastoral community.

Although the annual December to January SliCe organized trip brings students and faculty to a rural village community in Kenya to work with students and women through service projects, the impact created through connections, relationships and inspirations triumph all foreseen objectives. Trip members return to their former lives looking at the world through changed eyes and changed hearts stronger than the paint they smeared or lesson they taught.

School walls got fresh baby blue and cream coats, holes for posts were dug, and school playgrounds became revamped. Teaching plans came out and the projects we planned became fulfilled, but when looking back at two weeks of Africa adventures, our projects giving back to their community doesn’t compare to what they gave back to us.

The goal for going, the way we could help a community, became so mutually minute compared to the personal change felt through the experience of human connection. The group of twelve students and three faculty members spent only two weeks in Samburu, with the villages of Unity and Emoja, yet by the ending days, tears were shed on both ends and the reality of leaving the community felt more like years of friendship being distanced. Personally, I was not expecting to make so many close connections with such a far away place. The women in the villages showed such open arms and personal giving through their upbeat and positive portrayals of caring for us individually. The young children trusted us, showed us compassion in quiet and sweet ways of playing and holding. The older students let us form friendships and didn’t see us as anything different. The language barrier was beautiful because it brought out the raw human condition of the two cultures making connections based on acceptance. Through this, I felt humbled, realizing that although a group of well-off college students can enter an improvised country, we can’t begin to give back the powerful compassion we were shown.  No meetings, vaccines, or health appointment visits could have prepared any of the group for that reality.

Coming back to the realities of a hustling college town life creates self-confliction of what is important in the seems of a valued life. While in Kenya, our group listened to each other contently, supported our internal feelings, and didn’t look at phones or computers for social simulation: it was right in front of us. This has caused me to rethink the way I treat my relationships, the way I value myself and the way I value life. The raw lessons of love taught in Samburu will stick with me through the bustling college life, and the honest compassion will flood the relationships in my life as I try to give back. The trip for all twelve CSU students taught lessons. Personal on all levels, and relevant on every level, getting out of the normal grind and spending time in Kenya taught us more than we could have imagined, and was an amazing experience we will bring onto campus.

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