Vidhi has done quite a bit of traveling in her life already! She was born in Gujarat, India and came to the United States when she was just 5 years old. After 8 countries and so many unforgettable experiences, Kenya tops her list at # 1! She has visited Peru, Colombia, Mexico, Jamaica, Iceland, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. “I really cherish my time at those places, but I have a special longing for Kenya because of how oddly familiar it felt to me. There isn’t a day that has gone by where I haven’t thought about my time teaching the kids at my placement” she says.
We asked her what made her decide on Kenya
“I grew up watching many documentaries on African animals, culture and lifestyle with my Grandpa because we were both fascinated with Africa. As my 25th birthday was coming up, I was having a quarter life crisis. I did not want to spend another birthday partying with my friends and needed to do something just for myself to figure out my greater purpose in life. I chose Kenya….it felt right.”
Vidhi was placed in a center for teaching, The Pillars of Hope. Even though she came to Kenya to serve and make a difference where she could, she ended up walking away with many lessons from the community she lived in. She says, “I learned many life lessons from the kids I was there to teach. I learned humility and how to be grateful. I learned how incredibly easy we have it in my home country and how much we take for granted. Toilets, running water, and education. Despite some of the challenges in the community, I saw how positive and enthusiastic everyone was. I didn’t pity them, I was jealous of their pure happiness. When I came home, I looked at everything differently. No more wasting food. No more 20 minute showers. No more complaining about it being Monday. The kids taught me that I should be thankful for what I have. It made me eager to learn even more.”
Returning to the United States eager to learn more was the driving force to finishing a piece of her own education. Since returning home, she earned her Teaching English as a Second Language certificate. Congratulations Vidhi! She says “one of the challenges in the classroom that I noticed was English.” In Kenya, the primary schools teach the students English, but it can be a challenge for some. The older students have already had many years of English under their belt so it was much easier to communicate and play games, but the younger kids sometimes struggled because they are in their first years of learning what is often a third language. The children in Kenya learn their mother tongue (family tribal language), then pick up Swahili which is the official language of Kenya, and then….. learn English in school. Vidhi identifies with these children that struggle in English. At 5 years old, she moved to what was a foreign country to her at the time and she knows what it is like to be challenged by language. She plans to continue her travels and help teach English to others.
We asked her about what it felt like stepping off the plane in this place called Kenya
“The local NVS team was amazing. I was extremely nervous traveling to Africa on my own, but after an hour, I felt comfortable & confident. They are welcoming and make you feel like you’re at home. My family and friends were worried about my safety, but what I told them is exactly what I would tell someone that is on the fence about volunteering in Kenya. No place is safer than another. Anything can happen to you at anytime in the comfort of your hometown in your home country. There’s more to life than the bubble we’re raised in, and Kenya is a fantastic place to break that bubble!”