Video of Trip (YouTube)
Q: First off, who went on this trip, and who was the trip with?
A: Twelve people were on the trip, including three other student-athletes from Michigan: Lexi Dannemiller (volleyball), Sophie Høegh (water polo) and Katie Hazelrigg (water polo). There was someone from North Carolina, someone from Lehigh and someone from Illinois, too. We went with Student-Athletes Leading Social Change (SALSC). They partnered with this group called Me To We, which is based out of Toronto. They are the ones who organize and plan the whole trip. Me To We also partners with certain groups in the country itself. In this instance, they partnered with Free The Children.
Q: Where did the group spend most of its time?
A: We spent 10 days in the Maasai Mara in Kenya, specifically in the Ngosuani village. I flew from Chicago to Istanbul, Turkey, which took about 10 hours, then got on a seven-hour flight to Nairobi. It took another seven or eight hours to get to the Maasai Mara.
Q: What was the purpose of the trip?
A: We went to help build a school. When we got there, it was already three or four brick layers done. The idea of these Me To We groups is for them to each come in for a week at a time and continue where the previous one left off. So we did another three to four layers, leaving just about two layers and roof left to be completed. This particular building was smaller compared to what they have already. Free The Children made a pact with the government in that it will supply one teacher per classroom. This was the first building we were doing.
Q: What other activities did you do while there?
A: Each day was something else. We went on a full-day safari. We got to do a water walk with the mommas, and see their homes. We went on a medicine and tool walk with the Maasai warrior guide that was with us all week. We were able to experience what the Kenyans would eat for a typical day. We got a lesson in Swahili. We got to hear from our warrior guide about his upbringing, and how to become a warrior. We got to see the market where they bought all their stuff from. In addition to all that, we had planned activities with our group, activities that focused on leadership, and simulation-type things.
Q: How fulfilling was this trip?
A: Oh my gosh, it gave me smiles in my insides. That's the best way to explain it. I've been so used to the American way of living, and to see how different it is, to see a whole different culture was incredible. The last day we were there, we had closing ceremonies. We were able to play with the kids of the school. We were out in a field, just a plain field and nothing else. To see their big smiles, that was fulfilling. We brought jump ropes and a beach ball, and they were on cloud nine. They played soccer. They braided my hair. Just the simplest things. It was totally different but very eye-opening and life-changing.
Q: Did you feel like altering your lifestyle after this trip?
A: Yes. You're very aware coming back, especially how you use things you normally take for granted. They don't have the luxury of doing simple things, like taking two showers or leaving the water running. We have those things. It's hard to say, 'I'm not going to use my iPhone,' but you become aware of the little things. It definitely makes an impact whether you think it does or not.
Q: Would you recommend this trip to others?
A: In a heartbeat, absolutely. We're actually trying to get Mock Rock to be a beneficiary, and for this trip to continue. We want other schools to fundraise enough so it can be a whole group that goes. It was great to get to know other student-athletes, and a real bonding experience during the week. It was a trip I'll never forget.