This blog post is written by Arrive volunteer, Julia Barrett.
Four weeks ago I made my first ever journey to Kenya. It was not the first time I had travelled alone, or been to a developing country, but it was the first time I was doing anything like this. My previous travels had either been accompanied, or to countries with all of the comforts of Western development.
I planned my summer in Kenya for nearly a year. My older sister, Joanna, had volunteered with Arrive in Kisii in 2014, and has since become a member the Advisory Board. Consequently, my family has grown to know Arrive quite well over the years, and as a result, I felt that I had a decent idea of what I was in for.
But despite my excitement and yearlong preparations, I was intensely nervous leading up to the trip. Fortunately, my nerves were quickly put to ease. At Arrive, I was received with incredibly thoughtful and caring guidance. While I had mentally prepped myself to face considerable culture shock, such kindness and guidance made my first several days more of an adjustment than a shock.
As I write this on my final day, I can confidently say that although my first days with Arrive didn’t include any serious culture shock, the change I feel after these few weeks truly is shocking. Looking back, I think that my time with Arrive had a subtle but exceedingly profound impact on me as a person, and how I look at the world.
Along the way, I don’t think I really noticed how each new experience made its own subtle mark. I didn’t appreciate the accumulation. But four weeks of experiences, relationships, and challenges have collected like one hundred hammer strikes – individually, each had a minor impact, but together they created something entirely new. My time with Arrive was like that; each challenge and triumph discreetly made its mark.
Now as I sit in the volunteer house on my last night, I feel very fortunate to have had this time with Arrive, the kids, and the community. There is no way to replicate this kind of experience. Though I spent a relatively short time with Arrive, it was enough to foster real connections and begin a sense of immersion. I got so much more out of my time because I was able to transition from being a visitor and observer, to a friend and member of the community. For me, the window of one month was enough to develop this feeling, but the process is different for every person.
As I leave, I know that there are 15 new volunteers on their way next week. I even joked with some of the kids as we were saying goodbye that soon there would be so many wasungus (“white people” in Kiswahili) here, that they would quickly forget about one. This may very well be true for these kids, but I know that there is simply no way that I will ever forget this experience, or these kids.
At the risk of sounding too corny, I know that this time has changed me as a person, and I could not recommend a more worthwhile way to spend four weeks.