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Reflections from Kenya

By Lizz Bondarenko 

Lizz Bondarenko takes a break from building to let local children play with her hair.

This past summer I went to Kisii, Kenya, with a Global Village team from Baltimore, Md. The experience was one of the best experiences of my life thus far. I loved getting to know my team, a new culture and a new way of life. Our team leader had us write a reflection on our trip and what I wrote is below.

“How was your trip?” 
Where do I even begin to answer this question fully? What words do I use to describe such a unique and life-changing experience in a short monologue that will somehow convey all that I learned while abroad?

“Well, it was amazing-absolutely the most important and incredible experience that I’ve had up to this point in my life. We got a lot done on the house and everyone we met was so welcoming. I would go again in a heartbeat.”

That response is enough for most people. I’m glad most people even take an interest, but my trimmed-down explanation isn’t remotely close to the half of it. 

Becoming involved in service has been one of the best decisions I’ve made. Service has allowed me to channel my passion for helping others into a visible and noticeable difference that I am making in the lives of others. Service abroad has allowed me to extend my hand globally and it has taught me so much about myself and the world around me. Service abroad has allowed me to use my blessings and my privilege to reach out to those less fortunate.

My trip to Kenya was just the dose of culture and perspective that I needed. How do you describe the impact of digging the foundation of an entire house by hand or mixing cement with water that girls walked miles to retrieve? How do you put into words that strangers in a developing nation halfway around the world made you feel more at home than some of your neighbors and friends? 

Lizz’s Global Village team poses with a local Kenyan tribe.

My Habitat trip to Kenya was remarkable, inspiring, enriching, fulfilling, breathtaking and one of the most wonderful and sacred memories that I will keep. I learned about the simplicity of life, the importance of deepening relationships, the beauty in accepting people for who they are, the value in hard work, the benefit in appreciating what you have, the necessity of overcoming fear and the sheer power of a kind word and a smile from a stranger.

This trip to Kenya was indescribable and I feel so lucky to have had such an experience. I am a better person because of it.
 
Lizz Bondarenko was a team member on a GV trip to Kenya in late July 2014. She lives in Baltimore, Md.