Mount Kilimanjaro this morning! It was the first time that the clouds were completely clear so I was able to see the whole mountain. Every morning this is the view that I have from my grandparents’ property. Quite beautiful :)
Today we went to the football (soccer) games in town to network and promote the Kimana School of Leadership and Professional Studies (the college my grandparents founded) and the “Gear for Goals” project. The experience of stepping on to a field of thousands of Africans whom had never seen a white person before was surreal. Literally, a swarm of children crowded around our car and as I stepped out and there was barely room in front of me to walk. I made the joke that now I know what it feels like to be a celebrity! Words really can’t describe the experience, but it was something that will stick with me forever. I have never had so many little eyes on me at once. Honestly, it was pretty intimidating! After about 20 minutes, it settled down, but I still had a band of followers behind me. I spent the afternoon dancing with them and answering their curiosities. Again, they were in awe of my hair, tugging at it and asking me if it was real. They also wanted to feel my skin. You see, to many of them, “mzungos” (white people) are like magic. I’ve started to get used to this wondrous attention, but I must say at times it’s overwhelming.
While at the fields, I ran in to Lillian again! I am so grateful that I got to see her today because after I said goodbye yesterday I didn’t think I would see her again. We greeted each other with a hug and she informed me that she had won all four of her track races this morning and would be competing in the championship round later. I could see it in her eyes how proud she was of these accomplishments. We chatted a bit and I found out more about her life. She is one of seven children and lives with her older brother. Her parents live too far from the school, so instead she has to live with her brother. She is currently in 7th grade and after 8th grade she will have to stop going to school because her family won’t be able to afford to send her to high school. This broke my heart to hear because I know what this means for her future. She will be sold off in to an arranged marriage, get pregnant, and begin her life as a mother, all around the age of 15 or 16. I asked her though, what her dream was. She informed me that she would like to become a pilot one day. If her family had the money, she would like to continue on to high school and eventually college. Lillian is at the top of her class and I can tell she is a determined, hard-working individual. She is so charismatic and I believe that if she had the opportunity, she would do something wonderful in life. She really captured my heart. After we left, I spent the rest of the day thinking of ways to raise money to send her to high school. If I could raise $1,500 that would be enough to get her through all four years of high school. After that, my grandmother would consider financially supporting her attendance at the Kimana School of Leadership and Professional Studies (KSLPS) college. I am determined to make this happen. I was able to get Lillian’s brother’s phone number so that I can contact her next week to meet up. I would like for her to come visit the college so that she can have an idea of what is possible in her future. Additionally, I think that through talking with some of the women here at the college Lillian will see that her goals are in fact achievable. In the meantime, I’m going to continue brainstorming ways that I can support her continuing on to high school. I truly believe she is deserving of it and will reach her goals if given the opportunity.
This evening, I attended a debate between the students at KSLPS. The motion they were debating was “Early marriage is better than late marriage”. Although I intended only to sit in and watch, when I arrived they coerced me in to participating and before I knew it I was one of the listed speakers. I advocated for the opposing argument, stating that I believe late marriage is better for a multitude of reasons. This debate is very relevant to their culture because it’s common that a girl will be married before she has even reached adulthood. I enjoyed being a part of the discussion and gained some perspective on their belief systems.