When I look back on my life, I want to see that I helped others, and that I used my time and talents for more than just myself. I want to know that I lived out my God-given purpose on Earth. So though I love what I do, and I have blessed to travel to many exciting places, I want to make an impact. I want to use my passion for photography to make a difference in the lives of others. This is what led myself and my dear friend, Jessica, to Kenya. We both wanted to go somewhere to serve not just vacation. Jessica is in marketing, and I do photography. Together we traveled to Kenya to partner with Ekenywa-a charity organization that focuses on bringing a brighter future to the kids of Kenya. They provide access to clean and sustainable water, food, scholarships, creative arts, bathrooms, hand washing stations, and education on hygiene and sanitation! We came to document and tell their story through photography and videography. We were able to see first hand the impact they made on the communities. Where once the kids and their families had to walk miles to a dirty river for water, they now have a water kiosk where they can receive clean and safe water to drink and cook with. Where once they had diseases associated with water contamination, they can now thrive because of access to clean water. Ekenywa has been life changing organization for these kids and for their families, and the impact is huge! The gratitude that the students, teachers, and community members have towards Ekenywa touched my heart.
We were connected with Ekenywa because I had known one of the founders of the organization, Elsie Mbugua-an amazing and talented woman who is doing revolutionary work in energy! Elsie grew up in Kenya, and always had a heart to give back to the community she came from. She saw the need and knew she needed to make a difference. Elsie, together with her childhood friend, Ashley Gasperi and her husband Chris Gasperi, are the heart and soul of Ekenywa. Ashley and Chris have a background in nursing and hospital administration, they would come to Kenya to do medical clinics and find that the children and people would have worms from the water contamination. They would treat them only to come back again and find that the same problem awaited them. They decided that they needed to go to the source which was the need for clean and sustainable drinking water. Thus through the vision of these three, Ekenywa was born, and Elsie, Ashley, and Chris are doing amazing work in the schools and communities in Kenya!
This is my second time to Kenya, and both times I have been struck by the joy that the kids and people have. Even in humble circumstances and hard times, they choose to find the joy. They may not have much in as far as material possessions, but their hearts overflow with love! So many times when we see stories from Africa it depicts very sad images of children starving, people dying, and a desert wasteland. And while the needs in Africa are very real, so is the joy among so many of the people. I wanted to focus on that Africa that I have experienced, one with laughter, joy, singing, and dancing. What we need to remember is that these kids are still kids who take pleasure in playing soccer, singing songs, and dancing. The parents work hard to sell food or handmade articles and jewelry to provide for their families. Life may be hard for many of them, but they do not give up. And beside that, they actually choose to find ways to thrive! I am humbled by seeing their joy and love, and they way they choose to overcome!
Featured above is the water borough that pumps clean and sustainable water to the school and to the water kiosk used by the surrounding community. Featured below is the kids able to use the hand washing stations at the school which helps stop the spread of diseases and promotes sanitation and hygiene.
Above is one of the community members selling the mangos to provide for her family. She comes out every day to sell her mangos in her booth. She also brought us into her home, let us interview her, and eat some of her mangos! She is with her best friend, and the two of them are inseparable. Before the water kiosk came to the school across the street from her, she used to walk four times a day for water. Once in the morning for herself and her family, and once in the morning for her friend who injured her leg and could not walk very well. She did the same in the evening. Now, accessing water is so much easier, and because it is purified, they do not have to worry about contamination and disease!
While in Kenya I had the blessing of meeting Beth, a girl I have been my sponsoring for the last 6 years! I started sponsoring her through Christian Mission Fellowship International after my first trip to Kenya so I was unable to meet her until this trip. She was 7 years old when I started and just turned 13! She loves soccer and wants to be a pilot when she grows up. It was amazing being able to meet her in person, and see the amazing young woman she is becoming!
While in Kenya, Elsie (in the center of the photos below) invited Jessica and I to a dinner event she was hosting in Nairobi to meet some of the movers and shakers of the community . One of the partners of Ekenywa is Pinch of Colour which is a waterless based makeup line. Part of their proceeds goes to Ekenywa and helping children get access to clean water! In the picture on the left below, Elsie is with the Pinch of Color founder Linda and her husband Gentian. On the right is Elsie with Jessica and I!
World Water Day was on March 22nd and we were able to document this amazing event. They estimated about 1200 people showed up! The children did performances of poems, singing, and dancing for all of us, and they were able to enjoy crafts such as face painting, skits, a jump house, soccer, and arts and crafts! Ekenywa put on the event to celebrate World Water Day with the community. They provided all the supplies, food, water, juice for everyone who came, as well as new trees to plant to help bring shade to the school. It was an absolutely incredible event! Jessica and I were able to plant a tree with some of the kids at the end as well! It is a beautiful imagery of how when we “plant” things in this world by helping others, giving, serving, and loving that those will grow and flourish!
Jessica and my time in Kenya was blessed all the way through. We made so many new friends, got to be with an organization that is really changing lives, and experience the joy and love from those in these communities. I loved every second I was there, and I am so glad God opened up this opportunity for us to go! Ekenywa is doing amazing things, and if you would like to be a part of the life and hope they are giving to these communities please go to their website where you can donate or share their story!
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” -Matthew 25:35-40