From a Pangea Network Board Member
In October, I volunteered to assist The Pangea Network with their reproductive health training program in the southeastern part of Kenya. While there, we visited a new cooperative in the midst of business skills development training in Nairobi. To say the experience overall was “eye-opening” is a massive understatement.
As a board member of the organization and a longtime donor and supporter, I felt that I knew all about the work The Pangea Network was doing in Kenya. It’s true, I was very familiar with our programs and our work, but what absolutely blew me away was how shockingly hard doing the actual work is and how unbelievably hard all involved have to work to be there in the first place.
By hard, I mean in getting to our reproductive training in Wasini, we had to ship training supplies via city bus to Mombasa. Then, we had to hop on a small prop plane to Mombasa, and upon arrival pick up our training supplies at a city bus station (they had been broken into, with some items stolen), hire a driver, cross Kilindini Port via ferry (where we witnessed authorities shooting overhead at a thief who jumped off the ferry to escape), drive five hours south to Shimoni, and hire a rowboat captain to take us (two times per day) to Wasini Island, where we hiked for 25 minutes (to the training facility and back) with training supplies on our backs and in our bags.
In Nairobi, we drove all around the most impoverished, reeking, trash-filled streets I have ever been on searching for our training facility – an abandoned warehouse-type building that overlooked a marketplace of sorts where the women in our cooperative worked before our training and long into the night following our training.
And upon arrival to both the island and the warehouse, we were greeted with the warmest smiles, the kindest hearts, and the most determined eyes I have ever seen.
And what comes of all this hard work? An education. An opportunity. A chance to transform their lives and the lives of many others.
Witnessing this drove what felt like an electric shock into my heart and my soul. And it was intensified by experiencing firsthand the overwhelming love, generosity, brilliance, energy, and determination of our fearless staff and leadership.
Collins patiently drove us night and day with a smile from ear to ear each time. Dorothy housed us and spoiled us with the kind of hospitality that can’t be learned; rather it’s rooted deeply in someone’s spirit and passed from generation to generation. Sonya poured her heart into every meal and kindly shared her room with Julie and me. Hyline and Ingrid taught and trained every day with great charisma, passion, and expertise using whatever tool necessary and in any environment available. And Nicole was the quiet force whose grace, selflessness, and bold determination miraculously make it all happen despite it being so darn hard.
As I write this, I am reminded of Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “Tell me and I’ll forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn.” Before my trip to Kenya, I knew the programs and the work from an academic standpoint. Now I know the programs and the work through the lives that our work transforms and that is an education I will never forget.