Watoto Wote Wazuri

KEST and the Magical Magnetism of Shared Volunteerism

Posted in AIDS Orphans, Giving back, Kenya, Nyumbani by Lynn Ouellette on 12/31/2011

Volunteers from 2010 KEST Adult trip

We are off to Kenya in 19 days! I know that this time will fly by as I try to prepare to leave my office and home and gather up everything I need to be on my way. It’s time to direct some more concentrated attention on donations to be gathered, things needed for projects to be done while there,  and eventually the overwhelming task of packing (I hate to pack even on a small scale and this is quite something else!)

I have been thinking about how exciting it is to return to Kenya and Nyumbani having been there before and how I am looking forward to seeing  people again. I have just learned from Lloydie that we will have two more travelers, Lynne and Walter, joining our group so its wonderful to have a larger group. I have found myself immersed in thought about how this experience  really gives me much more than I give in volunteering, how my endorphin levels soar every time I talk about the trip (I have actually been told that my face lights up) and how for weeks after I returned last time I couldn’t talk about the trip without getting teary or choked up because I was so deeply moved by the whole experience. I recently came across some medical literature about volunteerism and how volunteering actually increases the life span, at least in elders in whom it’s been best studied. But I think it must be true for others too because there is something about giving to others in need that just lifts you up and fills you up, and shifts your perspective to what’s important, like nothing else can. And the relationships that you make with other people when you share that experience of working for a common cause with all the joy, and the heartache too– those are lifelong bonds.

So this brings me to KEST, Kenya Educational and Service Trips (www.K-E-S-T.com). I can’t imagine going to Kenya in any other way than through KEST (and with you, Lloydie).  KEST is a small operation started by one woman, Lloydie Zaiser, with a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, dedication, and love for the AIDS orphans of Kenya. It is still a tiny operation, yet I just received the annual report tucked in a holiday card (made by the women of Kibera paper of course) and have learned more about how KEST is expanding its mission beyond the Nyumbani Programs to two different sites, launching a number of new programs and increasing the number of volunteer trips to Kenya each year (I scanned the report so I could include it below in this post). This one little organization has done amazing things by bringing to Kenya  so many volunteers and hundreds of duffels of donations and finding education sponsors for Nyumbani children and so much more….. I think this has a lot to do with the infectious enthusiasm and love of the mission that Lloydie brings to it as well as the incredible spirit of the Kenyan people that you get to soak up while you are there. But it also reflects the way that the totality of the experience profoundly binds you to each other and to the cause –what I referred to as the magical magnetism of shared volunteerism. Having been on one volunteer trip with KEST, you can’t just do one, you are now a KEST lifer!  Your heart will call you back again to the children and the people and the country, to all of it.  And if there are moments when you might not listening, you’ll get emails from Lloydie that will give you updates about the children that will pull at your heartstrings, or remind you of the touching moments in Kenya  (or tease you about how it will be 8o degrees and sunny there in February when its snowy and cold in Maine.)

Lloydie, Mercy and the shoshos at Nyumbani Village

Lloydie playing finger games with the children at Nyumbani Village

So it gives me peace of mind and a very sweet feeling to look forward to this travel to Kenya and to Nyumbani and all of the other places we will visit and to know that I start out 2012 with all of my own blessings well in perspective and my intentions pointed in a very worthy direction.

“Never doubt that a small group of  thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead


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