Maasai Warriors for Change | ME to WE Volunteer Trip to Kenya
I am aiming for this article to depict the sheer inspiration, humility, and gratitude that my cousin and her group of friendly warriors embodied as I listened to their stories and perspectives of this trip. I truly hope I can accurately portrait the lessons, love, and wisdom they acquired during their 16-day adventure with ME to WE, in the isolated community of Maasai Mara, about a 6-hr bus ride from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
I took a spontaneous trip to the city, to meet my cousin upon her return from the recent trip. She was definitely jet lagged after traveling 38-hours from Maasai Mara to Nairobi, Nairobi to Europe (with a 3-hr layover) and from Europe back to YYZ in the heart of Toronto, Canada. Nevertheless, she didn’t hesitate to let me interview her, as I was curious about who she was with, what she had done, what lessons she had learned, and the overall experiences she endured during her trip to the safari.
What I learned, and what she conveyed was magical.
To begin this post, I will give you a background of what (and, who) ME to WE really is, what this trip was intended for, a glimpse of what their days and nights looked like, and the ever-inspiring list of lessons learned during one of the most labor-intensive, eye-opening experiences of my cousin’s life.
Prior to this trip, Kayla and I had previously fundraised for the WE Charity (formerly known as Free the Children.) We spent most of our elementary and high school years, informing ourselves of their mission statement and finding unique and creative ways to fundraise as our mini contribution to their cause. It was only recently, when Kayla embarked on a fully-immersive trip with ME to WE that we finally understood the extent of their day-to-day purpose.
Founded by brothers, Marc and Craig Kielburger, and intended to offer leadership training and volunteer trips to developing countries, ME to WE (from Kayla’s words) is a “Non-Profit Organization that helps you, from your own social standing, break through cultural barriers to really help others (who are) in need.”
She was gathered by a group of 17 other children and two staff members, everyone being under the age of 25, to build a classroom and undergo a set of workshops and activities as their contribution to the community of Lugumek.
Rated 500 out of 10 on the scale of labor-intensity according to Kayla, they spent most of their days living the lifestyle of the children and adults of the Maasai. They dug the foundation of a classroom and spent about three hours per day building the blocks of what will one day be a learning place for students of Mara.
As every day passed, they integrated themselves more and more into the routine of the community; doing daily tasks such as the quarter-mile Water Walk, Beading Bracelets with the Maasai women, Visiting the community Hospital where there is only One doctor for every 1200 patients, and visiting the local markets where they were surprised by special guest Craig Kielburger.
When I asked Kayla what the craziest, scariest, and most inspiring experiences of her trip were, she answered one of the questions with the day she met a 15-year-old wife and mother, who was married off to a 35-year-old man due to a lack of resources to support the family.
The harsh reality in most developing countries is that there is often too little to feed every mouth, and the result of such scarcity is to sell or marry-off one of your children to receive money or supplies to keep up with demand.
Though there were several different experiences that would shape you in a matter of moments, one of the greatest lessons the group learned was when they had to buy food for one week with only 750 schillings (approximately $7.50USD.) This was a lesson that taught gratitude for even the most limited riches of life, and that food and resources are not to be taken for granted. Kayla found that, in spite of the extreme physical and mental conditions, the food tasted more authentic and was far more appreciated when you had to fight for it all day. She was humbled by the gratitude of those who’s survival needs were met in the most basic form; she learned to appreciate life in its primitive state.
Other examples of living life with the essentials was their daily fight with the weather, in which days were scorching hot and nights were freezing cold; their single bucket showers, where you had to strategize how you would clean yourself entirely with only one, open-close, bucket of water, and how you could surprisingly entertain yourself without technology and only a few friends, the sunset, sticks, and cards.
Experiences like this would surely teach you to appreciate the nitty-gritty aspects of life.
One night, around midnight, after a very long day of work, the group was woken up abruptly by the Maasai Warrior. Thinking something bad had happened and that their physical safety was at risk, the group was delightedly surprised (or, not really) by the warrior’s waking call…. To show them a “BAHD.” Yes, a bird.
I found this to be one of the most enlightening (and humorous) lessons that the warrior taught this group of children. Sometimes, it’s about waking up, no matter how tired you are, to appreciate the rare sight of a bird flying by. This truly depicted the most primal and fulfilling experiences, as I believe this warrior can appreciate ALL of life’s natural abundance, no matter what form it comes in.
On a deeper level, the children were taught a lesson by life, itself, when their bus broke down in the middle of a midnight rain storm. Sometimes, life has its own way of teaching you things, especially when events don’t go according to plan. I was inspired by the courage and diligence that this group of children embodied while walking miles back to their base in the open safari, in the pouring midnight rain, and without anything to ensure their physical safety. These are the experiences that stretch far beyond the itinerary, and the experiences that stretch you far beyond your current Self.
So, when I asked Kayla if the last two weeks would impact her for a lifetime, I was humbled by her honest response.
“Eventually, the hype will die off. I’ll go back to my ways, and still want the things that I want. But, this time, I won’t take them for granted.
You can still care about all the material possessions you desire, but I will never forget the humility and real gratitude that comes with meeting my survival needs and helping others meet theirs.
I might go back to being on my phone, but I will never forget to do my part, help those that I can, and stop to appreciate the simple things in life, like food on the table, a beautiful sunset, good friends, and the present moment.
I realized that language and location are not barriers that keep you from making new friends. You can fly across the globe, spend time in places and with people you would have never met otherwise, then go home and forget most of it. But, what really stays with you eternally is the memories, the soul, and the lessons you learned.
I realized that people in these developing countries are no different than we are. They still like to do their hair, wear nice clothes, and live their life. But, if there is one thing I truly learned, it was to appreciate anything that comes our way, good or bad. From tonight’s meal, to a bracelet that I bought, to walking in the rain or sipping fresh water. From the sunrise in the morning, to seeing animals in their natural habitat and then on my plate, slaughtered by a man no older than I am; I didn’t understand how much really goes into these things until I lived it for myself…
And, I lived it for myself.”
So, if this story inspired you in even the slightest way; if it moved you enough to try an experience of this magnitude for yourself, or simply make your own contribution to the whole, below you can find some of the details you need to choose what you decide.
Kayla needed about $7000 for the entire, 16-day trip, including immunizations, flight and trip costs, Visas, necessary clothing, biodegradable toiletries, and other spending costs. She fundraised about a third of the trip via a kind, giving community on Go Fund Me, and the rest she paid herself and with the help of family and friends.
There are similar experiences, locations, and trips organized by ME to WE, in countries such as Ecuador, India, Kenya, Tasmania, Ethiopia, Haiti, and others. If you would like the details and information necessary to organize or book your own volunteer trip, please check out the links I shared below.
I was so humbled and inspired by this story that I hope to organize trips like this for the entire Butterfly Effect community. If you would be interested in fundraising, taking part, or organizing an event like this, please drop a comment below and let me know what countries or experiences sound interesting to you.