Saying goodbye is never easy, regardless of what language you speak or what culture you belong to. It is the end of term three which marks the end of the school year and soon Jayna and I will be leaving Daraja.
Somehow I find that I’m struggling to find the words to reassure the girls that it’s not goodbye, but just see you later. My words evidently lack confidence and the girls see this transparency responding with a wavering “really?” I want to pledge to them that we will return, but I have realized that in this world of change there are no guarantees.
Daraja Academy has been our home for three months. Our lifestyle here is a harsh contrast to that in the states, yet it feels so familiar and “normal.” This morning as I filled our large plastic tub with potable drinking water from a large barrel in the dining hall I realized that soon I would be able to turn on the kitchen sink and drink directly from the tap. Luxuries like clean water, electricity, refrigeration — the list goes on — will soon be at my fingertips, yet I will miss the simplicity of life in Kenya. Simplicity defined as the need for very little in order to live a happy life.
It is truly hard to comprehend that our time in Kenya is drawing to a close. This banda has become our sanctuary, these girls our family and these 60 acres our playground. Daraja means bridge and although I understand the metaphor behind this name I can’t help but wish it was literally that easy.
How reassuring it would be to have the ability to travel from our home in Wenatchee to our home in Kenya whenever we had the urge to pop in for tea or when a powerful craving for Ugali and greens is irresistible. Unfortunately in a little over a week those 9,000 miles will create a physical distance and over time the sounds and scents of Africa will slowly begin to fade in our memories.
This week has been a true testament to the power of time and the importance of dedicating it to young people. When making the decision to volunteer at Daraja I knew that I wanted to commit to at least an entire term not just a week or two. I am so glad that decision was made as I have seen our relationship with the girls grow and mature.
As the girls prepared to leave I was showered with letters, stories, art work and words of praise regarding our presence. I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.” Often we have no idea what an impact we have made on another life until it is brought to our attention.
To recognize our efforts to inspire and motivate these impressionable yet driven and determined teenage girls was evidently not in vain is exhilarating. Jayna and I were rewarded tenfold with the warm embrace of dozens of girls and the pleas that we stay just a little longer.
Unfortunately, the inevitable is upon us and we are obligated to say goodbye as life in the states is beckoning for us to return. Despite this reality our minds and hearts will forever be etched by the beauty, warmth and genuine embrace of all that is Kenya.
Wenatchee native Jane Davis and her daughter Jayna spent the fall in Kenya, where Jane taught at a girl’s school. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.