Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Today I was trying to do this dang entrance for the Oprah contest (which literally I think I might actually have a shot at...I know it's funny, but only 81 people have entered as of today and there are only 4 days left of the competition! I ree-heally want to win.) and so I was going back through some of the essays I have written. 

I found one that brought back a lot of memories of my trip and the HUGE impact it made on me as a 16 year old. People always tease me, especially when I got home, because I was such a fanatic when I about everything; talked about it all the time, how I ate, what I threw away, how I slept, material possessions etc. Even the other day my mom said, "Come on Chels, we can laugh about it now, it was kind of funny!" But the fact is that changes a person, ESPECIALLY a 16 year old. It was a ton to take in as a young girl because not only did I just see difficult things and then go back to my hotel room, but I lived without running water and spotty electricity in the slums for six weeks with the people.  Essentially I learned what is like to live that life and I knew what I had waiting for me at can't know that kind of weight held on me. 

Soooo, everyone can tease me all the want about being fanatical, but it changes you. I have since learned Kenya has their set of problems and we have ours and me being fanatical is not going to take that away...but it still changed me. It has propelled my life to become a life-long humanitarian and do all that I can to help here in our own country or abroad. Essentially I plan to get a degree just so I can work in the non-profit world and hopefully dedicate my life to that work. I just love it so much!

Anyway, when I was not loaded on Topamax having strokes and such, I wrote clearly hahah. Here is an essay I wrote on my feelings of my experiences there. I miss it so much....

* August 20, 2005 at 10 PM, I waited anxiously for the flight to take off. I was so excited to be able to go to Kenya, and had dreamed of it my whole life. With our luggage stuffed full of supplies and clothing, I could not wait to meet all of the people, especially the children. After an extremely long flight with many stops we finally landed in Nairobi, Kenya. I could hardly control myself, trying to take in everything. The sights, the smells, and the people…I was actually living my life long dream.

We gathered our luggage, and our dear friends were there to pick us up. They handed me the schedule of the many projects and places we would be working, telling us that many people were anxious to meet us. We piled into the van and started our drive  to my new home. I watched out the window looking at everything that surrounded me. For most of the drive there were endless fields and small villages, but as soon as we got into the city it was almost too much to take in. Tears filled my eyes as I looked outside seeing the most poverty I had ever witnessed. I had always been aware that there were places like this, but seeing it on TV was nothing like actually being there. I saw children on their own, small shacks made out of anything and everything. It broke my heart to know that people lived like this. This huge culture shock and seeing how impoverished these people were was so difficult for me. I felt so guilty that I lived the way that I did, and that I had ever complained. It was so hard for me to understand why I had been blessed with so much “stuff”, and they had so little.

The first day was hard, but the second was even more difficult then I could even imagine. As I walked into Upako Orphanage, my heart sank as I saw how many orphans there were. These kids had absolutely nothing; no family, no money, no education, no health care, and no one to love them. As I looked into their eyes I saw children who were not children. They were kids who had to grow up so fast, learning how to live on their own, and how to survive on the rough streets. As I stood up to introduce myself, I choked on my words and tears filled my eyes. As soon as I started to cry, one little girl came up and wrapped her arms around my waist, and at that point I could not hold my emotions in. It was all so new, and it was so difficult to compare my life with theirs. I was extremely guilt stricken, and I wished at that point that every material possession I ever had I could give away. I looked at the world around me at the point, feeling so small and insignificant. There were so many people who were suffering and poor, and I would never be able to even make a dent in these people’s lives in the short six weeks I was there.

After that day quickly my attitude changed. I started to not see the poverty, but simply the people and their amazing lives. As I played with the children, I finally saw the hopelessness in their eyes fade away…they were being kids. There was one little girl that followed me around endlessly that was about three years old. She had no shoes and her little toes were freezing. I picked her up, wrapped my jacket around her and rocked her. She was asleep in literally five minutes. Her older sister, with tears in her eyes hugged me and said, “Thank you so much Sista Chelsea. I am the only one who has ever held my sister and told her I love her. You don’t know how much it means to have someone else care for her.” Tears ran down my cheek. I finally realized why I was there and the impact one person can make. Mother Teresa’s quote ran through my head, “The hunger for love and appreciation in this world is much greater than the hunger for bread”.

As the weeks ran on I realized that no amount of money, clothing, or food, would ever mean as much as the words ‘I love you’. That the greatest impact I could ever make in the world was to tell each person those words and sincerely put my interest in them. Each disabled child, each person dying with AIDS, each drug addict, each single mother trying to survive with their family was different, special, and deserved to hear the words ‘I love you’.  I realized that the materialistic things were not what I was blessed with, but blessed with love, opportunity, and education. These were the true things that my life was so full of. The hardest day of my life was having to look at those children that I had grown such a special love for, and tell them good bye. I looked at their tears streaming down their cheeks as I tried to hold back mine as much as possible, I told them how much I would miss them, and how special and unique each one of them is. I hugged and kissed every single one of those children before I left and told them how much I loved them. From that moment on I knew how I could essentially “change the world”, it was through those simple words and caring for each and every person in Kenya, and at home.

More later :)


Kallie said...

Chels- Your awesome!! I LOVE to hear humanitarian stories, It is a dream of mine to be able to go on a trip like this!! Whatever contest you are entering -I hope you win! You deserve it!!