During my winter break in 2010 I was lucky enough to visit Mombasa, Kenya. I was excited to explore a different continent that I had never set foot on. We got on the plane in Zürich, Switzerland and set off on our seven-day trip to Africa.
I was never nervous, to be honest, but also very eager, a similar feeling I get when I join a new basketball or soccer team or about to move to a different country and experience different cultures.
We got off the plane in Africa and I was shocked. There was not much thought put into what I should expect when I got off the plane, but it definitely wasn’t what I saw. Perhaps I was relying on the African stereotypes of the country, where it is made up of vast savanna with wildlife roaming the great plains. In some cases this is true, however what I witness driving in a taxi to our hotel was very much different to my expectations. It was actually quite sad the living conditions that these people were forced to live in. Shacks after shacks lined the unpaved dirt street that bare feet walked upon.
But that wasn’t the most striking thing about the situation. It was the fact that everyone was so calm, as if they were used to this type of situation. Everyone was working together because they knew that there were no emergency services coming. This was just an inspiring scene that showed me how much working together with people can help tremendously, and even save lives.
Further down the road everything had changed. People were smiling, even though their clothes were falling off of them and their feet were full of dirt and cuts. Malnourished children were playing in the busy streets, and mothers struggled to find food to feed their children for dinner. Yet everyone was happy. It was a different world.
The Gracias Foundation is my way to indirectly help the men on the side of the road flip that bus upright and save the children who are trapped under it. I am excited to get the opportunity to teach computer skills or educational games, and introducing recycling projects, and planting trees or vegetables to the children. I am ready to start making a difference and helping people who are wanting so desperately to have a successful future.
This trip is a great opportunity to work with children who are not as fortunate as I am and help them keep their smiles on their faces, because that is was I love most about Africa and that is what has and always will inspire me.