Submitted by Guest on Fri, 2012-08-31 16:58
- GUEST BLOG FROM JIM MCDERMOTT -
My visit to Maai Mahiu with CTC TRIBE Team was a life-changing and unbelievably heart-warming experience. I fell in love with Kenya. Having been involved with much of the CTC team planning the 2nd Street Soundcheck festival this year, I was expecting big things when I visited Kenya and I was not disappointed at all. In fact, the scope of what CTC is doing in Maai Mahiu (and the Maasai) far exceeded anything I imagined.
My journey to Africa really began this March when Jeremiah and Charles visited Austin. I loved these guys from the very start, and told them at our first lunch that I would be going to Kenya in the summer. Though I faced many hurdles to actually get there, and honestly almost even canceled my trip, God was on my side and paved a path for me to make good on my word to Jeremiah and Charles. I arrived in Nairobi on the 27th of July and was in Maai Mahiu shortly after. Within 24 hours my heart was on fire for this place. When I heard the phrase 'holistic approach' used to describe what CTC was up to, I wasn't sure how fully encompassing the program was actually going to be; so many NGO's use that phrase to represent any approach that just tackles more than one issue. After witnessing how CTC addresses education, waste management, health, community and the environment simultaneously, I realized why this organization truly deserves to use the term holistic!
In my time in Maai Mahiu, I visited the home of a Malaika Mum (meaning "Angel" in Swahili), planted trees and flowers as part of the environmental program, cleaned up trash in the streets as part of the waste management program, and spent amazing time with children in all three of CTC's classrooms (representing different stages of progress for the Malaika kids with special needs). Every single day was packed with activities, and there are more stories than I could ever begin to write about. The most special experience for me was definitely spending time with Beatrice and Miriam of the Malaika Mum's program. What CTC is doing to provide work for these mothers, who truly are angels, fills my heart to the brim. We spent hours together, but in only the first 20 minutes I had already felt as though these women had known me me entire life. We laughed together like crazy (even about some things not appropriate for this blog!), shared sandwiches as tea generously offered by Beatrice, and Miriam prayed for us all. The experience that day was so incredible for me, that I went back to visit them each day afterwards just to be around them; I began to crave their positive energy and spirit; they are so joyful and so thankful and it's contagious.
In fact, one of the big takeaways for me from this trip, was the realization that here in America, from every direction we are constantly shown what we don’t have and seemingly should; the job we don’t have, the relationship we don’t have, the car or house we don’t have, etc. So it is not surprising to me that the measure of happiness that my new friends in Kenya have is greater than what we experience at home. We have so much and yet constantly NEED more; they have so little and yet WANT for little more. But it's not about having more things, it's about needing the right things. While over there I began to understand true wealth, and more importantly the real struggles worth spending time on; the struggles that CTC address every single day there. I met a Maasai grandmother that takes care of 13 orphaned children, and who’s only desire was a $250 roof over the head of her family (one which CTC was able to provide). Outside of this desire, she and her family seemed extremely happy and so grateful that in addition to the house, CTC has provided her a way to generate income for her family by making handmade bracelets that will be sold in the US through a new partnership CTC has struck with Whole Foods Market & Allegro Coffee. Pretty amazing work to see.
At dinner in Nairobi on the eve of our departure to Maai Mahiu, I met a couple of awesome women who run an organization called Mama Hope. They are great friends with Zane (as seems to be the case with everyone in Kenya), and I bring them up because they coined an expression about Africa that I think perfectly captures a big mission of CTC: "Stop the pity. Unlock the potential." An Africa journey for an American who has never been there is too often represented in our culture as an experience of sad emotions, pity even. The people of Maai Mahiu turn this representation on it's head. They are happy, full of love and life, and taught me some incredible lessons. I believe I saw more joy and genuine gratitude in a day at CTC than I see in months at home. Their hearts are on fire for life! They face challenges that are unfathomable for many of us, it's true, but with such grace and gratitude. They live their lives for each other, and not for themselves (UBUNTU - "I am because we are") which turns our culture upside down in so many ways.
My friends in Maai Mahiu are so full of potential to do more and more for the world, and they are doing it – and CTC is an enabler beyond my wildest imagination. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this trip. It is beyond what I can express, and I have a huge desire to take this experience home with me in a sustainable manner. I get so easily wrapped up in what my life represents at home; family, making money and feeling successful. It is crazy how I can already feel my heart being pulled in another direction though, and for this I have the whole CTC team to thank, both here and in Kenya. I cannot wait to do more for this organization and spend more time with everyone there.
Saying goodbye to Beatrice and Miriam on my last day was not easy for me. They meant the world to me on my trip and I still think about them every day because we became so close in such a short time. When giving our final hugs, Miriam asked me how soon I would be back, and not unlike with Jeremiah and Charles, I promised them I would be back to see them in Maai Mahiu again very soon. This is a promise I intend to keep.
Jim McDermott, TRIBE Team 2012