GHNI Kenya Trip Reflection
Posted April 11, 2017
By: Jade Sacker
Perhaps when you think of December, your mind recalls a spirited season of bells and song, pine trees stretched to your ceiling, stung with silver ornaments, the ground outside your window concealed by softly glistening white snow. My mind however, will drift elsewhere. I think I will forever remember the Christmas season with a sense of nostalgia, not for the anticipation of gifts and the fun of sleds and skates, but for the hot African sun, the memory of that first gust of humid air that greeted me as I stepped out of the Nairobi airport, and the excitement of the opportunity to fulfill a greater purpose through my project with the Global Hope Network International.
I had the once in a lifetime opportunity to shoot stills alongside an all-star documentary crew that would be hard at work over the next few weeks visiting many of GHNI's villages in Isiolo, Kenya. Our dedicated crew consisted of acclaimed, Peabody award winning news anchor Mary Jo West, highly experienced filmmaker Aaron Noll, the incredibly talented and precocious William Willer, and a veteran GHNI volunteer with inspiring insight, Jack
In Isiolo, I witnessed first hand the cycles of poverty, urban and rural, perpetuated by limited access to education, a government that enabled corruption, a depleted job market, infertile soil, and hostility between tribes provoked by competition for their land's scarce resources. I encountered men whose inability to support theirfamilies provoked vices used to ease their pain and hunger, such as ubiquitous alcoholism. From the wisdom of the strong and powerful women of the villages we visited, I learned that the only way to transcend poverty is through education, and with the help of opportunities for the acquisition of skills for women who may otherwise become victims of sexual slavery. They explained to us how families needed to instill in their children it's value. Through their mission of giving people the tools and resources to empower themselves, GHNI was helping make education more accessible and secondary school feasible for many.
I have often been asked what would compel me to spend months away from home as a teenager, and now that I am working full time as a photojournalist, how I find the motivation to live a nomadic life, often doing fieldwork in rural areas for weeks at a time without the modern amenities we take for granted. To those I say it is because of how easy it is for those in developed countries to feel disassociated from the adversity experienced by those where a lack of essential resources and education perpetuates poverty, and where desperation leads to the abnegation of human rights. I learned how important exposure is for truly conceiving and communicating the hardship so many people in this world face, and I believe in the power of visual exposure for galvanizing support that has the power to change lives.
I vividly remember one day, early in our journey, when our van rolled through the vast African Bush to visit a local orphanage. From a sea of smiling and singing children-joyful against all the odds- a twelve-year-old boy named Kip stumbled to greet , us. He could barely walk, much less talk or eat. He was emaciated, gaunt, expressionless. He was suffering from AIDs, the only tangible thing his parents passed on to him being this devastating illness. It was then that we learned the public hospitals of Isiolo had all been shut down as the doctors were protesting unfair wages. The hospitals had been closed for months, so there was no medical care available to Kip. There were no doctors, and to his family at the orphanage, his fate had been written. We immediately took him to a private hospital; saw that he was admitt and that his care was provided for by GHNI. His prognosis after a week of in-patient treatment was optimistic.
But what if we hadn't made it to the orphanage that day? What would happen to all the children we were never able to meet, suffering from this voracious illness, without a chance of medical treatment? What of the communities who have yet to experience GHNI's grace and unconditional compassion?
Upon reflection, what I found the most moving was how the Global Hope Network does not impose on the villages where they work, but creates sustainable change by helping people help themselves. There was a sense of empowerment and hope in all of the villages we visited, and perhaps to me the most inspiring aspect of my time there was knowing that these wonderful people's lives had irrevocably changed for the better, and they will continue to find fulfillment even after they have graduated the TCD program. I greatly look forward to remaining a proud supporter of GHNI's work, and following closely as they expand their programs and touch more and more people's lives. I will forever cherish my memories of Isiolo and hold onto everything I learned in those all too fleeting weeks. Although there were dangers and hardships along the way, I look back through my photos of Isiolo knowing stories that feel the most challenging and elusive are often the ones most needing to be told.