Meg is a senior at Harpeth Hall.
What did you do this Winterim?
This Winterim, I traveled to Kenya for two weeks. I was accompanied by six other juniors and seniors, as well as two members of the Harpeth Hall faculty. We spent the first week in Lwala, a rural village on the western edge of Kenya. Since 2011, Harpeth Hall has been a partner of the Lwala Community Alliance, a non-profit organization based in Nashville that works with Kenyans to improve the local healthcare and education systems. On this trip, we witnessed first-hand the incredible teamwork that is taking place in Lwala. We met several staff members of the alliance, each of whom explained the widespread impacts of their programs. Not only did we learn about these impacts, we saw them with our very own eyes. We met girls who were able to return to school after teenage pregnancy, and mothers who were able to deliver their babies safely in a hospital. It is one thing to hear someone talk in an assembly about a rural village on the other side of the world, but it is another thing to experience it yourself. It was incredible.
The second week, we traveled to Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. There, we fulfilled our duties as tourists -- we went on a safari in the Nairobi National Park and visited a giraffe center. We also visited an elephant sanctuary, where we met two baby elephants that we adopted prior to the trip.
My trip was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. How many people can say that they spent a week in a rural Kenyan village? I made connections with people in Lwala that will always stick with me. In addition, I was able to witness the life-saving change that the Lwala Community Alliance is creating every day. It is rare that a non-profit organization like Lwala works so well, and I had the privilege of seeing it in action.
What was your favorite part about your Winterim experience?
My favorite part of my Winterim experience was being fully immersed in the Lwala community. I had never before experienced such a welcoming culture. When we walked down the road, every person we passed would stop to shake our hands and say hello. They were so kind to us, and they each made an effort to get to know us personally. I was taken aback by their immediate adoption of us as part of the Lwala family. In addition, the staff members of Lwala Community Alliance took advantage of every opportunity for us to learn more about the community. I was so grateful for their dedication to making our trip the best it could be.
What was the most challenging aspect of your Winterim experience?
The most challenging aspect of my time in Kenya was acclimating to a new environment. While we were in Lwala, roosters woke us up every morning, and we slept inside mosquito nets every night. We were often confronted with a language barrier, as many of the adults in Lwala have limited English skills and mainly speak a local dialect called Dholuo. However, these challenges taught me how to be more adaptable in a foreign culture, and by the end, I appreciated all aspects of life in Lwala.
What would you say to a girl who is considering coming to Harpeth Hall?
I would say, “Don’t pass up this opportunity.” With the opportunity of coming to Harpeth Hall comes countless more opportunities in the future. Students here get the chance to experience new cultures and make new friends halfway across the globe. We get to call one hundred other girls our sisters. We get to try acting for the first time or play a championship game in our favorite sport. We get to learn from teachers who truly want to know us personally so they can guide us both in academics and in life. If you take this opportunity, you will be part of a community that helps you grow.