Today was a day full of passion—passion for the future leaders of Kenya.
We started our day at the Hospital Hill Primary School in the Westlands sub-county of Nairobi. We were warmly welcomed by students, faculty and parents of Hospital Hill, a public multiracial school for over 1,800 students. I was highly impressed by the hula-hooping dance performance to “Cha Cha Slide” that started out our morning. Not only could the children hula hoop consistently for the full song, but they were even able to show us “how low they could go” without dropping their hoops.
I enjoyed returning to my summer camp days when we were invited to join in with the children, who taught members of our group who could keep up (not many) a new hula-hoop dance. We then formed circles for Project Inspire to teach the children an Israeli dance. The students were so enthusiastic, running over to hold our hands and eager to find out what we’d be doing. The students quickly caught on to the dance moves and words, singing along by the end of the song. Seeing the excitement and smiles on these children’s faces when they were getting ready to perform for and dance with us was really heartwarming.
After our morning workout was finished, we learned about the many projects being completed at this impressive school. Lydia Matu, the principal of the school, had the pleasure of spending five weeks in Israel in 2015, learning about education for sustainable development (ESD). Ms. Matu brought back her newly gained knowledge to share with the community. As she stated, “Education that is not shared is irrelevant.” From her passion for her students and ESD, many projects have since been created that have led Hospital Hill to be an exemplary school in Nairobi.
ESD has been infused into the core curriculum, providing students with skills to become passionate global citizens. We learned about their many forms of agriculture that provide fruits, vegetables and herbs for use in their hot lunches and sold to the community. We were able to see the creativity these students have by creating pencil holders and vases out of newspaper and plastic bottles. Not only do these life skills brighten their future, but as they explained, it is a way for the children to relieve stress outside of the classroom.
We then made our way to the Karen Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), where we met the most compassionate woman, Anne Wanjiku Wado, who founded it in 2015. Anne has traveled to Israel three times and has used her passion for Kenya to train 150 young men in agricultural techniques to enhance food security and employment. Together with Yuval Orr, the chairman of KIST, they are able to send students to Israel to learn about the different techniques, such as irrigation infrastructure and entrepreneurship.
To end our day, we had the pleasure of meeting with Annette from IsraAID. IsraAID is an NGO founded in 2001 that supports populations affected by conflict, natural disasters and displacement. This organization is currently working in 16 different countries and with 42 organizations around the world, using a community-driven model. IsraAID has been working in Kenya since 2007, providing emergency relief teams to those fleeing violence and famine. Currently they focus on child protection for those living in the Kakuma and Kalubay camps, which have a population of over 180,000 refugees, primarily from South Sudan. IsraAID wants to show these children they can have a purposeful future by opening child-friendly centers that provide psychosocial support and engagement.
Lyda, Anne and Annette all spoke with passion for the future leaders of Kenya. All three inspiring women see potential in the youth of Kenya. Their determination and hard work are evident in the work being done and shows me that you just need an idea and the passion to learn to create a beautiful future.
Lexi Knopf is originally from Needham and recently earned her master’s of occupational therapy from Temple University in Philadelphia. Lexi is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where she was active in Hillel programming and spent a semester in Australia. She spent a gap year before college on the Young Judaea Year Course in Israel. A former New England region president of BBYO, Lexi looks forward to getting involved in the local Jewish community.