Check out the canvas I painted inspired by the acacia trees and zebras I saw on my Maasai Mara safari. Such a gorgeous landscape!
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*
My vaccinations are up to date, my passport is current, and my bag is almost packed. I’m feeling invincible and ready to immerse myself in the culture of the Masai Mara on a Me to We volunteer adventure.
I will be building schools, hauling water, planting trees, and meeting incredible people in Kenya, Africa. My heart is so full and pounds with excitement every time I daydream about this world wind adventure. Africa has always been a place near to my heart. In high school I organized many 30 Hour Famines, hoping to make a positive impact on the lives of youth in Africa. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to fly around the world to learn from these resilient people in person.
I am so excited to see what the beauty of Africa has in store for me.
While in Africa I will be spending most of my time in a rural area of the Masai Mara. We are encouraged to pack as lightly as possible. Many bloggers like to share “what’s in my bag?” (Snunk Boy, A Beautiful Mess, Justina Blakeney, Bycelina). Packing for Kenya is much more interesting and challenging than packing for everyday life. The below photo includes everything I’m taking to Africa except shoes, undergarments, pyjamas, and jackets. The most luxurious item I am bringing is my Tarte mascara!
The most interesting items I am bringing are medicinal: Ultrathon insect repellent, grapefruit seed extract, Homeocan jet lag, and melatonin. The most important item I am bringing is my camera. And I guess things I need to enter and survive Africa: my passport, Malaria pills, and record of immunizations.
It’s Saturday morning and I should be at zumba. I’m not because my zumba class is canceled, forever. This makes me sad but gives me the opportunity to work on my blog and listen to one of my all time favourite podcasts, The JV Club. Not as physically stimulating at zumba, but an equally productive way to spend a Saturday morning.
In April I started (and completed) a painting of my brother and I kayaking on the Caribbean Sea. Inspired by my mom’s photo (above) I pulled out my paints and captured this moment of sibling love. This may be one of the best things I’ve created – I’m so happy with this painting!
This handmade card from my dear friend Deanne makes me equally happy. I may have mentioned, more than once, how much I loved my trip to the Dominican and how I loved my time by the ocean. I can only presume this sweet card was created after sharing my travels with Deanne . This is one of the prettiest handmade cards I have received (sorry mom). Such a nice surprise!
p.s. – Deanne, the timing of your card couldn’t have been better. Thanks so much friend.
On a wall of my childhood bedroom is a framed description of the meaning and origin of my name. This description states, “a fondness for the ocean will emerge”. For this particular Brianna, this is an understatement. I love water, especially the warm, emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea. In high school I was a lifeguard. In a past life, I must have been a mermaid.
This February my wonderful parents took my brother and I on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic. It was amazing, my favourite part was spending time near, in, or on the ocean. I’ve been missing sunshine and turquoise waves, constantly daydreaming about warm waters and warmer beaches.
My mom took some fantastic photos of my brother and I kayaking along the coast. These photos are the inspiration of an ocean hued painting I started working on last weekend.
Inspired by my mom’s photos and Pantone’s 2010 Colour of the Year I decided to pull out my brushes and attempt to capture the waves of the Caribbean Sea on canvas.
I’m not sure what the final product will look like – but I’m excited to turn idle daydreaming into something creative. I started out using an old credit card to spread paint around an old canvas (top images) and layered blues and greens on top of my original painting (bottom images). I’m not sure if I’ll try to replicate my mom’s photos or do something more abstract. Either way – it is nice to be painting again.
It is January – the month to set goals and personal expectations for the upcoming year. After much consideration I have created a solid list of 2013 Action Items.
Take driving lessons, practice driving, and drive home to visit my family at least once this year. Contrary to popular belief I do have my driver’s license, I just don’t use it. I would like that to change.
Surprise Elysse, Alisha, Vanessa and Deanne with a simple and thoughtful gift that is unrelated to their birthday or any holiday. Looking forward to this!
Invest in my education. I miss school. I miss learning. I would like to take a class and learn a new artistic skill or improve on my marketing and communication techniques. I want to be challenged (by more than work and timelines).
Enjoy more live entertainment. I love the arts. I never regret going to a show or gallery. I need to take time out of my schedule to enjoy and support Saskatoon’s amazing arts and culture scene.
Smile and laugh more. The best compliment of 2012 was when my friend Vanessa told me she loves my smile and laugh. This is one of the kindest things anyone has said to me. I would like this happy trend to continue.
Love my friends. I surround myself with people who I admire and respect. My friends are incredible. I want to create some unforgettable memories with the wonderful women in my life this year.
Find a mentor. Since I moved to Saskatoon I have been craving the guidance and opinion of a successful female communications/marketing professional. I would like to find that special person this year.
Embrace adventure. This summer I am going on a Free The Children/Me to We volunteer trip to Africa. I am ecstatic! This will be a life changing, unforgettable experience. I know this will be the highlight of my year.
Good luck with your goals for 2013! I hope these resolutions from the To Resolve Project provide you with a little bit of visual encouragement.
Grab coffee or beer by Gerren Lamson
Make shit awe-some by Richard Perez
See the world by Trevor Rogers
Stay curious by Eliza Cerdeiros