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This summer I was fortunate enough to travel to Limuru, Kenya with Freedom Global, a nonprofit I interned for in Durham, NC. Freedom Global’s mission is to alleviate poverty in Kenya through businesses, education and discipleship. They are built on a sustainable business model that protects the dignity of the people they serve by not keeping them dependent on foreign donations. All the profits go to sustaining and growing the secondary school for girls, and any donations are used to grow the businesses and make them more profitable, which allows them to employ more adults in the community and improve the girls’ school and education.

Throughout my internship, I spoke with staff in Kenya about the businesses and school, hearing stories and sharing those with our organization’s audience in the U.S. This summer, I got to talk to these people face to face, meet their families and see the work they do up close. I got to plant corn alongside Kelvin at the Freedom Global farm and hear about how the organization has changed his life and the lives of the other employees he works with. I got to hear about their daily struggles and their triumphs.

I got to sit with the students at Uhuru Academy and hear about their lives. Eleanor told me what classes she loves and hates and confirmed that Kenyan high school students would rather watch a movie than do homework, too. Mercy told me about her plans for their week-long break from school. I got to listen to Kezia’s favorite songs and talk about who our favorite singers are. I got to go to the market with Hope, and she held my hand so I wouldn’t get lost in the crowds.

Beth took me to her family’s small but tidy home, where her parents told us about their anxieties about the Kenyan presidential election, which occurred in early August. Ten years ago, an election led to widespread tribal violence across Kenya, which displaced thousands of people and left many with nothing. They explained the complexities and nuances of what happened, and how they prayed it would not happen again this year. I got to hear about Kenya’s politics and culture, but more so, I got to experience it first hand by spending time with these welcoming, kind people.

These moments were the best part of the experience, and really, the best part of my whole internship. Getting to know the people who I had spent time learning about from afar was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in my life. The country was beautiful, the food was delicious and the experiences were once in a lifetime, but the people were truly what made the trip what it was for me. The conversations remain with me, and I’m sure they will still be with me years later. I want to thank you the Global Studies department for allowing me to have these incredible moments.