More Than Just a Trip
One cannot go to Taru Village with Kenya Keys — and remain unchanged.
I remember my first trip to Taru, and am overjoyed that Kenya Keys has a group of volunteers just now embarking on a life-changing adventure there. In helping to get the 2017 team ready for their trip, I was reminded of how much effort goes into every visit to Kenya – and into packing every suitcase!
No one ever sees the months of behind-the-scenes planning and coordination by Brent, Rinda and the Kenya staff, or the many sleepless nights they endure preparing the thousands of details involved in taking a team to the rural village of Taru. This is more than just a trip: it is the bridging of people and cultures, the strengthening of our Kenya Keys family and the connection with the students whose lives are forever changed by Kenya Keys. It is about our founders returning to a place that makes their hearts sing and reuniting with people they love, and about our interns experiencing something so meaningful and intense that words truly cannot describe. And it is about packing . . .
As I helped the team sort through boxes of books and supplies destined for Kenya, I realized that packing for Kenya Keys is an art like no other. Each bag is stuffed to the point just short of bursting – with every inch filled and every ounce carefully weighed. When we pack the suitcases for Taru, we are filling them not with just things to take, but with the love of so many people here – for people 9,000 miles away! Hundreds of reusable sanitary kits, made by loving hands in the U.S., are packed so girls will be able to stay in school; countless books that our children once loved are now on their way for Kenyan children to love, and dynamic teaching tools that have guided our knowledge will now open the minds and imaginations of students in Kenya.
Baba Brent, whose “carry on” pack weighs almost as much as his 50-pound suitcase, double-checks to see that he has every letter written by sponsors for their students – hand carrying them all to assure that none are lost in transit. These precious letters are the cornerstone of Kenya Keys, connecting students to their sponsors, and he is their faithful carrier.
Mama Rinda, who has not been to Taru for three years, packs small gifts, looking forward to renewing friendships made 12 years ago on that pivotal first trip to Kenya. She is curious, and perhaps even a bit apprehensive, about all the changes that have come to the village recently with electricity and the new railroad.
I watch as intern Missy McConkie puts the final touches on artwork created by a local school in Oregon for a school in rural Kenya, connecting children across the miles. We contemplate how she can best carry the large mural all the way to Taru. Missy has spent years opening the eyes and hearts of children in the U.S., helping them to develop compassion for the children of Africa – yet she has never been! I think of all the experiences she will have, and how her commitment will now be deepened. And I think of all the interns going to this far-away village, leaving behind the comfort of their beds, fresh drinking water and the hugs of family and their own children, to travel for more than two days to arrive at a place so extremely different and challenging.
Though they are educated, informed and ready to learn and work, nothing can prepare these interns for the profound impact that comes from living in the village and working alongside our Kenyan staff. Each day, as they look into the eyes of the children, as they laugh and cry over the realities of life in Africa and as they experience the joys of making a real difference in the lives of others, our Kenya Keys interns will realize that their hearts are fuller then ever dreamed possible!
Truly, this will be more than “just a trip” for each of them. I am grateful for the generosity of spirit and the dedication of our founders and everyone going on the 2017 Trip to Taru. We can all look forward to their stories and insights here as their journeys unfold.
Deborah Shimkus has been to Taru, Kenya twice through Kenya Keys, and has served with the Board of Directors since 2010.