When Bow Island teen, Adrianna Hansen applied to win a trip through volunteer organization, Developing World Connections, she had no idea just how much of a life-changing experience the journey would be for her.
After learning she had won the trip to a developing country, last fall, Hansen first considered going to Guatemala, but that trip conflicted with her studies, so Kenya, Swaziland, and Rwanda were her next choices. Ultimately, it was Kenya where she would travel to help build a school in Maai Mahui, a small village a couple hours from Nairobi. The village also has one of the highest populations of HIV/AIDS in all of Kenya.
“It was the trip that changed my life,” said Hansen, who described in detail highlights of her journey and her many unique experiences along the way.
“On the first day, we were thrown into the Kenyan culture right away when we saw a fundraiser for a soccer team. About a year or two ago, players approached a coach about starting a team and they all chose to abstain from drugs, sex, and alcohol. They ended up beating all other 15 teams and wen to the Districts, but they needed to raise money for uniforms and traveling expenses,” said Hansen, telling how fundraising works a little differently than it does in Canada.
Their pastor then got up, made a donation and told the people, “I have this many shillings. Now, I want you to show how much you appreciate me.”
Hansen traveled with a group of young people from all over the globe on her trip with Developing World Connections and she was the only Christian amongst them, but despite the geographical and religious disparity amongst them, they were all quite alike.
“It is amazing how similar our lives are even though we were from all over the world,” she said.
At a religious service that Hansen said was more like a Christian service than what the locals believed it was, she was asked to give a few words to the people in attendance.
“There is not a lot of Christianity, but this service was very much like one. There was praise and worship, but with a lot of singing and dancing. A sermon was given by the Pastor and I was asked to say a few words. I don’t know if I felt closer to God as I did just then,” she said.
Hansen met one girl through their host organization, Comfort the Children, whom she befriended even though there was a complete language barrier between the two.
“Her whole family had been killed in the conflict in the Congo and there, the orphans are shunned. It is not like here where they are taken care of,” said Hansen, who added the girl could only speak a dialect of Congo.
The group traveled to the CTC headquarters where all the young residents had physical or mental disabilities.
“They, too, would be shunned in their communities,” she said.
“I had a little buddy there who was blind, mute, and had spinal problems. It was the highlight of my day to make him smile,” she said.
The building of the school presented challenges for the group, but they were all willing to overcome any barrier to build the school for the young people in Maai Mahui.
Tools were scarce when they were constructing the school and Hansen said at one point, when a measuring tape was needed to measure planks, a member of the group was used.
“He was six-foot, seven-inches, so we laid him down and estimated how long seven feet was from there,” said Hansen.
Returning home after her 10 days in Kenya had Hansen viewing life in a slightly different way than she did prior to embarking on her journey.
“My perspectives have changed a lot and it was hard coming back. Before, things in my life seemed so unimportant. The trip left me with lots of questions, but somewhere there are the answers and maybe someday, I will find them,” she said.