I was hesitant to go and had no idea what to expect, but ever since I have been back home, I am eager to return to the place that flipped my perspective about life.
QUARTER-FINALIST 2015 FTF TEEN TRAVEL WRITING SCHOLARSHIP
In June 2015, I journeyed to the foreign, poverty-stricken nation of Kenya for a mission trip. I did not fear the events of my travels as much as many of my family members and friends did, but I was still worried about being in unfamiliar situations and the culture shock that could accompany them. The part of my trip that impacted me the most was, surprisingly, the part that I was most concerned about. About halfway into the two-week trip, my team had the opportunity to visit an African orphanage in the city of Nakuru and play with the kids there for a few hours. I knew before we arrived that seeing little kids in such a sad reality would probably upset me. They did end up breaking my heart but not at all in the way I had predicted.
I could sense their joy the moment they came running onto that dirt playground toward only a couple toys that were simply lying on the ground. We could tell that the children always kept themselves occupied and enjoyed their free time running around, jumping, and hula hooping outside. They wanted my friends and I to be included in all of the games they played. We could not communicate very well with them, because they did not know much English, if any. However, the smiles that we exchanged with these kids, that we pitied, were more than enough to feel a connection.
These little souls have nothing more than a place to sleep and a couple outfits each, but they get more out of life than any wealthy person in America does. We gave each of the kids a stuffed doll, just so they could have something of their own to keep. I have never been that excited, nor seen any other child as excited to receive a gift. Some of the kids threw them in the air, others held them tight, others looked at them with the widest smile upon their faces. In the community and family I grew up in, it would not be rare for a newborn baby to get over ten dolls similar to this from acquaintances of his or her parents. When I was younger, my room was so filled with toys that my mom would have to take the initiative and force a clean-out with every new season. Now, as a teenager, my closet is full of clothes and I still continue to ask for more. I have been guilty of taking most of my material possessions for granted.
After seeing all of those little kids light up when they realized they got to keep their doll, I had to question myself; have I been allowing each and every new material object get in the way of getting the most out of my life? My experiences in Africa taught me to open my eyes to the world around me, more than ever before. I learned so much more about life from the little kids that had next to nothing than I have ever learned throughout my formal education. Travel has the ability to teach us things that no classroom ever can.
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