One of the most influential experiences I had during my time in Kenya was visiting the Child Discovery Centre (CDC). Being delegated the position of education coordinator was something I truly was looking forward to and working on since the start.
Arriving at the CDC, I tried my best to not have any expectations. I knew it would be unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Upon arrival, we unloaded the van with all the donations we had carefully selected to bring for the children, including some gifts for the staff. As we tag-teamed the donations amid a brewing storm, the adrenaline and anticipation I had for the day had only increased. Walking through heavy rain, we got a quick tour of the amenities provided for the children. Along the way, we heard stories and asked questions about the lives and past of these children.
Finally, it was time to meet the students. We entered an open room filled with plastic chairs full of smiling faces. As we waited for two of our team members to set up the presentation we had prepared, the kids eagerly turned all their chairs around and we all started chatting. I’ve never felt more welcomed. We asked them about themselves: what their favorite subject was, what sports they like to play, what are their dreams, etc.
When it came time for our presentation it was incredible to see how excited they were to learn a little about Syracuse University and us. Knowing the privilege we had, I was hesitant and curious as to how they would react to viewing our University. To them, it was more a display of hope and dreams, which made me happy. The children thanked us for our visit with some presentations of their own, presentations that opened our eyes and touched our hearts.
As we wrapped up the day, one which I had hoped would never end, they asked us if one or two of us could give an encouraging speech to leave the children with. Professor Elizabeth Wimer elected one of my team members, Noah, to give a speech. His speech left a lot of us very emotional and inspired. I loved hearing what advice he had as he focused on talking about following your dreams.
Then, to my surprise, professor Wimer asked the kids to choose any one of the other team members to give a second, final speech. For whatever reason, the kids wanted to hear from me. Why me? I didn’t know. Being put on the spot I panicked a little but told myself to just speak from the heart. I decided to talk about perspective and how far it can get you in life. I tied it back to what Noah said about dreams. You can’t chase your dreams without the right perspective.
Perspective is what directs you through the hard times and keeps you going. It allows you to look at things in a new light. These children have faced things I’ll never have to deal with, nor will I ever understand. Getting chosen by them to give them words of encouragement was the best feeling. I finished the speech feeling proud. Not only did I get the privilege of leaving kids with encouragement, but I gained so much inspiration from them.
It’s ironic, giving a speech on perspective when that had been the most eye-opening experience I had ever had. I left the CDC with a new perspective. No number of words could do justice to what I experienced that day with the children. I’m blessed to have had that amazing opportunity.