By Dr Sanneta Myrie, Miss Jamaica World 2015
21 March 2016
It was a long day of traveling. We arrived at the airport in Addis Abba at one o’clock in the morning and waited to board our flight to Nairobi, Kenya at 4:30 a.m. In Nairobi, it would be another three hours of a layover before we headed to our final destination: Kisumu. The flight was lasted only 45 minutes and flew over a gorgeous stretch of mountains and plains below.
When we arrived at our hotel, our first order of business was to get some much need rest in order to be fresh for our first day with the students of the Senator Obama Kogelo Secondary School.
We got up at 6am and got prepared for breakfast at 7:30am, where we met with the Shashamane Kenya Team in Kisumu to go over the day’s plan. We then headed to a local bookstore to pick up scholastic supplies for the students. It took us two and a half hours drive to the school named in honor of the 44th president of the United States of America.
The students were on their first morning break when we pulled up to the school. They were buzzing with excitement as we made our way through the compound to the Principal’s office. The Principal, Vice Principal, and other members of staff, graciously welcomed us, giving thanks for bringing the rain to Kogelo. The night we arrived was the first time they had rain in over two months.
We had a brief meeting to discuss the school’s priority of needs for the academic year. Following our meeting, we were given a tour of the facilities, all of which were in need of improvement, especially the building currently serving as dormitory for final year students. This facilitated them working throughout the day to finish their schoolwork. You could see on their faces the joy they derived from being in school, and also the desperate plea for help to improve their facilities, and by extension, their education.
We then met with small groups of students in the graduating class. Each member of the team gave insight into their life and their professional goals, how they would work towards making their dreams a reality. Our hope was to inspire them to push through their adversities and dare to reach for their brightest dreams. Each student from each groups shared their aspirations toward becoming engineers, lawyers, professors, and doctors. It was inspiring to see each of them stand, filled with hope, as they shared their dreams.
After our session, we distributed the school supplies we brought and we joyfully took a couple photos to capture the memories.
To end our day in Kogelo, we made a visit to the home of Nana Sarah Obama, President Obama’s grandmother, who is the matriarch of the school. We found her sitting in bright yellow, with a kind and welcoming smile, gesturing to us to come forward. We sat with her for a while as she shared with us her story. She supported the school for years and offered scholarships to countless children. After our talk, she then invited us to visit the graveside of President Obama’s father, Barack Hussein Obama Senior, and his grandfather. I could not suppress the emotion that gripped me as I witnessed such humble roots belonging to one of the most historic figures of my generation.
We gave our thanks to Sarah Obama for welcoming us into her home before embarking on our four-hour drive to the border between Kenya and Uganda, where we would commence the final leg of the Africa service tour.