February 9, 2016

Be kind. Smile. Be open. Listen. Be honest. Share

Today was less emotionally draining, but no less intense, than yesterday. My heart and mind are constantly being pushed and pulled into configurations that render them unrecognisable. One second I am filled with an urgency of hope and optimism that feels euphoric, and the next I’m left gutted by the impossibility of the road ahead. To talk with, not only the girls at Daraja, but the teachers and parents and students from UWCSEA about our shared experiences, is a feat of great intensity.

I watched a group of our kids weed an organic farm. Smiling and sweating, intent on their purpose. Baking under the relentless Africa sun, lathered in sun screen- some laughing and cracking jokes, while others were lost in their private reveries.

I listened to a group of Kenyan girls learn about and discuss the structure of British colonial rule in Kenya and Eastern Africa. I marvelled at how they tried to make sense of a system that was so archaic and cruel, a system that still impacts their lives in such real ways.

I observed a group of young people from Spain, Japan, The Netherlands, China, England and Kenya contemplate the best strategies for conflict resolution in a WISH class. (Women of Integrity, Strength and Hope). They shared their ideas in small groups and shared back as a whole.

I was interviewed by a young girl for her Media Club newsletter about my thoughts on how to stop corruption and whether or not students should be given more access to technology. Her poise and passion left me inspired by the power of a brilliant and determined mind.

How do we allow our world to function without the input of so many talented and amazing people? Where could we go if we gave everyone a chance to determine the kind of world we want to live in?

I ate lunch and dinner tending to relationships I planted last year. Adding another layer of trust and understanding with each meal and conversation.

I watched Claire pull herself out of the hole she was thrown into after she sat in on a few rounds of student selection interviews. She was shell shocked by the power of giving some girls a chance, but at the same time she was destroyed by the reality of saying no to so many others.

I ate Ugali. I took a ten minute power nap. I listened to our group compliment each other as we all shyly looked away, empowered by what was being said.

It really is so much more simple than we make it out to be. Empower people by loving them and telling them why you love them. Listen to them. Encourage them. Trust them and allow yourself the vulnerability to be trusted by them.

Be kind. Smile. Be open. Listen. Be honest. Share

However, simple these ideas seem to be, it is important to remember that they take time. Relationships are not built in seconds, but in years. And no amount of asking a person to tell you their story is going to connect you any faster.

We are never one story. We are never defined by our traumas or our resilience. We are a web of stories that often intersect more that we realise.

So yeah, today was less emotionally draining, but no less intense.

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