What is your fondest memory from your time volunteering abroad with IVHQ?
Waking up to the sound of the children singing as the sun was rising. It was beautiful. I expected orphans and abandoned children to be depressed and sickly but the Queens and Kings of Neemaland are always happy. Singing and dancing is a regular daily activity. They start and end the day singing because it makes them feel good and it’s their way of expressing gratitude for life.
Why should you be the IVHQ Volunteer of the Year?
My volunteer experience was in 2007 but during those three weeks something changed me in a profound way; so powerfully that my volunteer experience has just extended itself into everything that I am and everything I do every day. I left Kenya feeling more alive with a fire burning inside me to continue working with the Queens and Kings and the community they live in. It awakened me to my life purpose and every minute since I first stepped foot at Neemaland has been devoted to empowering the children and the community they live in. IVHQ provides an opportunity for people to connect with others through service. The connection I made because of IVHQ has become my life’s work. I'm extremely grateful and so happy to be living this incredible life.
What benefits will the award money have for your designated project?
Extraordinary benefits! We will expand our empowerment program in Kabiria—the community where Neemaland Queens & Kings home resides. At Right 2 Thrive we believe in empowering the entire community: men, women, and children—as individuals, as families, as one big community. We have seen how the simple act of telling people it is their basic human right to thrive in this world makes them feel worthy of a better life. And that sense of self-worth combined with the tools and resources necessary to achieve their goals emboldens the human spirit and changes the world for the better. Specifically, we will use the award money to implement two programs that are very important to us and on our 2013 wish list.
- We will install gutters and catch basins all around Neemaland so they can harvest more water. The water will then be treated so they can use it for washing clothes & shoes, watering their greenhouse, and cleaning the property. Estimated cost is $900 USD.
- We will purchase computers and build a solar powered hub where we can begin teaching them. For the older children especially, these skills are necessary before they go to university. Estimated cost: $3,700.
What is your long-term vision for this project?
Right 2 Thrive's goal is to teach Neemaland to be a self-sustaining organization. We hope to achieve this in the next 3-4 years. But we will stay permanently connected to them by continuing our Empowerment Programs at the Children's Home and throughout the community of Kabiria where they reside. We plan to build a community center in Kabiria with classrooms for our Empowerment Program. This will allow us to increase the number and types of classes we offer. Right now we're offering Basic and Advanced English, Personal Empowerment, Sports & Life Skills, and Handcrafts (jewelry and handbag design). We will have a football field and basketball, netball, and volleyball courts for recreational play. We also intend to build a playground for the young children and start local sports leagues to build community interaction and keep kids off the streets and out of trouble. We believe a community center and recreational facility will help us achieve our goal of making Kabiria a self-sustaining (income generating and thriving) community.