I was standing in a dusty classroom, surrounded by children sitting at their wooden desks. We had spent two weeks in these classrooms, seeing children use broken pencils, or using their fingers to draw imaginatively in the air while learning the alphabet because of inadequate supplies.
It was here, on the last day in Kenya as we were handing out glossy pencils, stacks of notebooks, and a few coloured pencils to each students that I understood “charity”, and the feeling sunk deep to my core. A day I will never forget.
I had learned the terms of charity and social justice in one of my classes, after the test I forgot it, and I just looked up the terms on google previous to the interview for this global citizen trip I participated in.
It was in Kenya that this term became embedded in myself, I think because it is attached to an experience that caused such an intense, raw, and gripping feeling. After our time of long, exhausting days painting classrooms, building shelves, playing with the children, handing out a bunch of material items and leaving just felt like a slap to the face. When explaining the situation to others, my thought process was, It sucks just unloading off a plane, working, but not finishing, and saying well that’s all we can do so here is a bunch of things that will last you a couple of weeks and leaving. I know we weren’t going to make a dramatic difference in two weeks, but it was a heart throbbing feeling to walk away from something I felt was unfinished and just leave them with items that is a short term solution. It showed me how meaningful it is to just avoid short- cuts in helping people and search for more impactful ways to help and find the root cause and work at improving that.
In the big picture this will be an ongoing search, figuring out how I can be useful in society trying to implement a change. For now it has made me greatly aware in my personal life. Before I would just make cards for people to celebrate their victories and support them during losses. Which I thought was good, but I didn’t go out of my way if it didn’t involve me, because I had more tasks relevant to my life and personal benefit. Now I intentionally look for ways to support them more, whether its travelling to a pride parade, or making a sign and supporting a friend in a competition.
I am definitely not changing lives, but constantly working to try and figure out how to make a difference.