I first learned about KPMG’s relationship with Free The Children in November 2011 when I was conducting interview research for my current position of Senior Marketing Coordinator with KPMG in Saskatoon. I promised myself I would go on a Free The Children trip to Kenya if I was hired. I received an offer letter from KPMG in late December and 18 months later I found myself volunteering in the beautiful Maasai Mara with Free The Children and KPMG team members from across Canada.
My Kenyan volunteer adventure was truly an indescribable experience. I don’t believe people simply go on a Free The Children trip; they are called to join a Free The Children adventure and take part in something much bigger than themselves. In Kenya I experienced firsthand Free The Children’s mission in action. I saw young people achieving their full potential as agents of change. I met Kenya’s future leaders, community builders, politicians, teachers, doctors, entrepreneurs, journalists, and famers.
Upon returning to Canada after my whirlwind adventure friends and family had a million questions: what did you do, who did you meet, where did you sleep, what did you eat, were there lots of mosquitoes, did you get sick, what animals did you see, did you cry? Every day Free The Children coordinated amazing experiences from dawn to dusk. With so many questions and so many incredible stories to share, where do I begin?
A dear friend asked me what my biggest take away was from my adventure. Without a doubt my most memorable and powerful experiences were spending time learning about community from the youth at Kisaruni All Girls Secondary School and Salabwek Primary School. The youth at both schools were so inspiring; they were so eloquent, confident, and community oriented. I’ve never been more impressed by a collective group of teenagers. At both schools youth performed traditional song and dance for our KPMG team. After the performances we spent time visiting with these young adults learning about their childhoods in Kenya and sharing what life is like in Canada. Luckily the children learn Swahili and English in school and we communicated effortlessly. These intimate conversations were so touching. It was so inspiring (and heartbreaking) to learn how hard the children work to attend school, achieve good grades, and build a better life for the future. I know at 13 years old I would not have been comfortable talking to a stranger from the other side of the world about my post secondary plans and what I wanted to do when I grew up.
More impressive than these youth’s confidence and determination to have a good education is their sense of community. Community is an essential part of life in the Maasai Mara. Kisaruni Secondary School describes community beautifully. Community is “a place where each individual experiences the family feel, is responsible to others and the environment, is heard, is appreciated, takes care of each other no matter what and where we are all peacemakers”.
While visiting Kisaruni I sat down and had tea with two students, Naomi and Masi, who shared what life is like at their all girls’ boarding school. These young women explained how they set aside time each day to help their peers struggling with classes, take turns leading their student representative councils, and that no one is every left behind. If one person fails, everyone fails. These girls gave the impression that there is no competition at Kisaruni for valedictorian, most valuable player, or lead singer. Everyone is a leader and a member of the community who has something valuable to contribute. This sense of selflessness was so incredibly refreshing, especially in comparison to North America’s focus on competition and success.
My biggest learning from my Free The Children adventure is to value community, be more selfless, and take care of those around me. A valuable lesson learned from youth who are wise beyond their years.
*All the views expressed on my blog are my own*