On July 18, three taxi cab vans pulled away from the HSRA building with eight students and two staff members headed toward MSP International Airport. Some students were smiling. A few students were nervous. But, all the students were excited. The HSRA group of 10 was eager to board a plane for a ten-day trip to Odienya, Kenya, where they would help villagers build a maternity clinic.
For some students it was the first time they were traveling outside Minnesota. For most, it was the first time traveling out of the U.S, and for others, it was the first time flying in an airplane.
The Kenya trip was made possible through a grant from the Global Citizens Network (GCN), obtained by Maureen Foss, HSRA teacher and athletic coordinator.
For one year leading up to the trip, HSRA students held spaghetti dinners, sold tickets to Minnesota Timberwolves games, and worked to earn money to take the trip.
The students, Foss, and Tony Simmons, HSRA executive director, landed in Amsterdam, Holland for a layover on July 19. They spent the night in a hotel before arriving in Nairobi, Kenya where they met their GCN team leader, Maria Price Detherage. From Nairobi, the group took an eight-hour bus trip across Kenya to the village of Odienya, “Ground Zero” for the remainder of trip. Once in Odienya, the group was greeted by their hosts, Tom and Carol, and shown their new living quarters.
The next day, the HSRA group visited the Kochola Dispensary where they would help build a much needed maternity clinic. With no public transportation, the soon-to-be constructed clinic would be very important to the villagers because there is no other such clinic around.
“Being a part of this project and seeing how this will really impact the community and save lives of mothers and babies made us all realize the long-lasting impact our work experience would have,” said Foss.
For the next 10 days, the group helped build the clinic; visited several village schools; traveled to Lake Victoria; shopped at the market in Rongo; observed pottery-making; visited a jaggery to learn how sugar cane is crystalized; and played with the village children.
In the village schools where Kenyan children attend, uniforms are required. The students are proud to sport their school uniforms, even though the uniforms they wear are often dirty, ripped, and passed down from their older siblings.
HSRA students were amazed to see the love and appreciation the Kenyan students had for their tattered school clothes and one-room school houses with dirt floors. Seeing the gratitude the Kenyan children had for the opportunity to get an education jolted many of the HSRA students, causing them to have a newfound appreciation for their own education.
“Wow, a lot of times we don’t go to school if we’re late or can’t decide what to wear,” said one HSRA student. The HSRA students got a new perspective on the importance of school and the privilege of getting an education.
HSRA will continue its relationship with the Kenyan schools as HSRA formally designates the chain of schools they visited as official, international “sister schools.”
After spending 10 days in the village of Odienya, The HSRA group left Kenya on a Friday morning at 6:00a.m., to return to the U.S. A few of the HRSA group members were excited to get back to warm showers and modern toilets. On Saturday, the group made a stop at the Memorial Garden to bow their heads in honor of the 1998 Embassy bombing victims.
However, nothing could be more meaningful to the HSRA students and adults who traveled to the Motherland than knowing that the clinic they helped build will have a long, lasting impact on their new, lifelong Kenyan friends.