It had been almost four years since my last trip to Kenya, and I was struck by all that had changed and all that had stayed the same. The students I had grown to love are all grown up and off to high school, but the laughter and joy of each new face was familiar and comforting. I didn't know it when I walked off the plane, but I needed our students to remind me of the richness of our shared human experience.
Human beings have a way of making everything about themselves. For decades, the social critics have described this phenomenon (in America) as rugged individualism. It means that we tend to experience, interpret and draw conclusions from an individual perspective. It also means our capacity to empathize and act on behalf of others is often truncated. Our behavior is sadly driven by the question -- how does this benefit or threaten me?
When I reflect on the past few years, I can freely say, with a warm smile that speaks volumes, what a transformation I have experienced since I began working with Crossing Thresholds. Through the mentorship program, I have developed the skills of generosity and public speaking.
My work has been to direct the mentorship program. Crossing Thresholds finds mentors in the US, pairs them with students in Kibera, and hosts video calls between mentors and sponsored students. Mentors meet their mentees through these calls at a minimum of three times a year. On these calls, we may do virtual home visits, tours of a school, or even a visit to a sports game.
I have taken students to the Kenyan National Music Festivals before, but the 2022 music festival held in Kisumu at Arya Primary school was special. It was a magical moment for the students, the schools, and for me. This was the first time the Center of Hope (COH) school was participating in the National festivals and the students were so thrilled to feature in a major competition as it was a new experience they had not gone through before.
There are a few special people who seem to stand in an intersection of goodness, eloquence, perseverance, and authenticity. To be sure, the world needs more of them.
I met a guy like this in the fall of 2021 when I decided, for some unknown reason, to walk into a little church that I had driven by on my way to work for over twenty years. The ‘guy’ leading the service was a man named Carter Via.