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Kenya, a country in Africa, not an Africa country.

Isabele, from Brasile.

When I started to prepare to the trip, I had just quit my job for an elite school in my town, where I worked for two years. While I worked there, during the pandemic, I felt I was not doing enough for humanity, so I started to do small volunteer jobs in my town, following COVID-19 protocols. When I quit, I was in the last semester of College and I was sure I didn’t want to start working in my field just after undergraduate.

Since then, I started to talk more often to Vaudete Bueno, who invited me to work with her for Sociedade Movimento dos Focolares, and I decided to apply my knowledge doing volunteer work abroad. My expectations about the country could not be measured, because talking about Africa was talking about stigmas and social expectations that I avoided research and deepen. My goals during the entire trip were dedicate myself, love, respect and fight until the end, following my favorite quote by Chiara Lubich: “fino alla fine”.

When I arrived there, I was welcome by Maurizio, who took me to a tour in Nairobi and let me rest before taking me to my first job place. I remember very well of his words when we were in downtown, that reminded me of Sao Paulo downtown: “You might now realize, but it will be here where you are going to understand the consequences of capitalism”. At first, I thought it would not be like that because I am from Brazil, where we see inequality everywhere. Instead, at the end of the trip I told him I agree, Kenya taught me the economic differences make even your body language change.

I was very curious every time I was talking to somebody, immigrant or Kenyan, every time I felt I was in a safe place for dialogue, I tried to deepen even more about the culture, the local language. I was not afraid nor surprised about the reports, I felt enthusiasm or empathy that made my stomach hurt, and these feelings together made me understand that I could not change the world alone, and this impotence made me happy and even more opened to work in group.

People always want to know about the world outside their country, and this make me very happy, but, at the same time, I was impressed how disinformed they are about other countries. I heard many times that I was economically privileged because I am white, even if I live in Brazil. I tried to explain the situation of my country, but they said that all white people from non-African countries are rich.

On my first month, I worked for an organization in which I met lots of workers, I was very well welcome and I could participate on all the works they did at the institution. On the second month, when a group of boys who were rescued arrived, I felt the organization underwhelmed me, my volunteer colleague and our values and ideals. It was all very scarce and I was about to give up and change the work place. After talking a lot and ask for changes, because the timetable was to heavy and the conditions were precarious, we could align our expectations with the organization.

On the second and third organizations where I lived, I was very tired because of the three months I was there, and I felt I was doing what we planned during the MilONGa preparation, I was in peace and prepared for more.

A very beautiful experience I lived there was mu relationship with all the kids, since the boys that were rescued in Familia Ya Ufariji, who were teenagers, until the kids from the two kindergartens I worked for. I had conversations with the teenagers that changed my life, and I hope theirs too. I had moments of recreation and education with the kids and I realized how much my creativity made them committed in the process and physic-psychology development.

Due to cultural differences, it was difficult to me understand the way workers treated the rescued boys, in a little violent way instead of listening to them. I tried to talk to some of them to say that it made me feel bad, but they did not understand. Besides, I could have positive conversations with the kids and other workers to soften this behavior.

I learnt the social reality can change a lot the behavior of a person, since their way to organize the finances, to study a subject, to serve the food on a plate, and it is shown in the body language. Noticing their behavior, I kept the idea of letting my habits in order to embrace the one that was my home now, to make nobody feel uncomfortable.

This experience changed my life, made me a stronger person, made me fall in love with a country and a continent that now I fiercely defend if I hear any jokes. I always remember I lived in Kenya, in the east of African continent, so people can understand that Africa is a huge, beautiful and rich continent. It changed my life in a way that I can’t imagine me being happy in a place like my old job, in a city in which everybody pretend that life outside doesn’t have suffering.

Now I love even more the diversity of my country, I don’t want to be the person who is always criticizing the difficulties of the world, but a person who is active in the change and union of new bodies can make the world better. I feel I was on the right place, on the right time for six months of my life, but I developed a spiritual relationship with God I know I will feel when making His will, and I know I was doing that. I take with me the love of everybody I met and this perspective and thirst of the world that amplify even more.

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