It’s so hard to believe that my trip to Hekima Place has already come and gone so quickly. Since returning, I’ve had the much needed time to reflect upon the people that I met, the things I did, and the lessons I learned during my trip to Kiserian, Kenya. Belle Biase, Divya Jain and I, all proud SfW members, made the journey together for 3 weeks in May with three other students. We were excited to meet our SfW pen pals and to continue setting the foundation for what we hope will be a long term partnership between SfW and Hekima. We knew that our trip to this home for girls in Kiserian, Kenya would be influential, but weren’t quite sure what “influential” would look like. Even with my excitement and anticipation, I can honestly say that this trip exceeded all of my greatest expectations, which were set extremely high to begin with.
From the moment we first met the Hekima girls, we were instantly greeted with hugs and smiling faces. Before they had any idea who we were, the girls were sprinting off the bus to excitedly tell us their names, all while gifting us with loving hugs. I think that our time in Kenya can be best represented by these warm hugs we were showered with daily; Hekima welcomed us with open arms and we spent our time there trying to return the favor.
Our days were spent doing various tasks to help out however we could; painting, cooking, cleaning, you name it. My personal favorite task though, was doing homework when the girls finally got home from school. We got a glimpse into their school life and got to help them with English, math, and social studies homework… we unfortunately couldn’t help too much with Kiswahili. It was the moments after they finished their work that were major highlights of the trip for me. They would sing Despacito, try to teach us Kiswahili, show us the letters they had received and saved, and asked to see pictures of our friends and families, who they lovingly referred to as looking “smart.” These moments right before bedtime were what brought me closest to the girls, and often made me forget just how far from home we were.
When the girls weren’t at school we had to try to keep up with all of their energy. Whether we were playing soccer, going for a hike, braiding hair or sharing a meal, they never seemed to get tired. As a result, each of our days were so full, especially on the weekends when we had all day to have fun and be young and silly together. Sometimes it was easy to forget the girls’ troubling pasts because of their constant smiles. The beautiful thing about Hekima is that it’s a place where they can simply focus on school, faith, and friendship while having the opportunity to just be kids again. Though we didn’t learn the specific stories that contributed to each of their pasts, their smiles and energy were a reminder that our role did not have to do with their past, but was instead to be a part of their present and future.
We also had the pleasure of working with and learning from the staff, who took on this incredible task of contributing to the girls’ futures every single day. Each “Mum” and “Uncle” gave me their own unique bits of daily wisdom that I know I will carry with me for a long, long time. Having the chance to talk to both the current and previous executive directors provided me with a much greater understanding for international philanthropy and alternative career paths as well.
Traveling to Hekima Place helped me to grow as a person, but also pushed me to further consider how I can develop professionally to do something that truly matters in this world.
Getting to learn about, laugh with, and love these girls was a true blessing and a privilege. What I expected to find in Kiserian was a meaningful service opportunity. It didn’t take long to realize though, that what I had really discovered was a second family, all the way in a corner of the world called Hekima Place.