Four years ago while an Ebola scare blanketed western Africa, I was in the process of trying to get a student trip to Kenya. The Daraja Global Concern group at my school was in its second year, and I was eager to find a way to take as many kids from Singapore to Kenya as I could. I knew that Paris was closer to Western Africa than Kenya was to the disease, but parents didn’t seem to understand this geography. Additionally, the high cost of the trip, the fact that it was the first time it had ever been offered, and because the GC itself was little known, made recruiting very difficult. In the end, after weeks of stress, ups and downs many conversations with kids and parents, the trip was on the verge of being cancelled. We just didn’t have the numbers to make it viable.
We needed a miracle.
We were lucky to get four. Their names are Paula, Shruti, Georgina and Jenn. These four amazing women, educators and friends, decided to take a chance and pay their own way to go. We took five kids, a mom and five teachers. And just like that the trip was launched.
And earlier tonight, I finished packing for our fourth trip. Since that first trip, every year the numbers have increased. We have taken the entire Psillides family, more parents and more kids. This year we are maxed out at nineteen participants, including a teacher, and a mom and two kids from Dover. We are able to afford to take three official teachers, Martin and Sarah, and I am super excited to be taking four G7 kids from my cohort. I cannot wait to see their growth on this trip.
I have written at length about this campus and the magic of the Kenyan landscape. I have waxed poetic about the power of meeting these girls. But honestly, the best part for me is watching the young people from UWC South East Asia realise that everything they ever thought about Africa is false. I love watching them take in the pace and smells and interactions with the people on the Daraja Academy campus. I love watching our kids run from the geese and milk the cows. Plant the cabbage and sort the beans.
And to be perfectly honest and selfish, I love returning to my room, the one I have stayed in on every trip, dating back to the first time I went with Kaia years ago. I love watch the red dust gather between my toes and watching the stars drape the sky every night on my way to bed. I love the porridge and the beans and the ice cold Stoney when the weather's hot. I love catching up with Ruth and Chris and Stephen and Charles. I love sitting on the Jason’s porch and reminiscing and future planning. Basking in the notion that we did it. We arrived. This is the world we imagined when we were young and stupid and full of mistakes. We knew even as teenagers that we were meant for this world that we have created.
In closing, I was scrolling through Twitter tonight, slowly becoming enraged by military parades and sexual assault and racism, and like most nights I was feeling helpless and ineffectual, but then I remembered that in a short time I would be in Kenya, with students from a school dedicate to peace.
I remembered that the weapons I have chosen to fight the forces of greed and ignorance and injustice are at Daraja. What better force that these young women to create a world that is the opposite of everything I hate about the current forces in power in the US and beyond?
The work we do, however, small and seemingly disconnected, the work of connecting people from different classes and genders and races, is the work that will bring down the forces of hatred. The love we plant and foster and share through committed, authentic and sustainable relationships with communities that mirror our values, is what will save us all.
There is no need to feel helpless. We cannot change the entire world on our own, but we can dedicate our time, energy and money to small communities around the world. This friendship building will teach us everything we need to know to fight the forces of greed and oppression.
Find your people and spend your life committed to hearing their voices and doing your part.
See you soon Daraja. I’ve missed you.