Jessie Kennedy hopes to embark on the ultimate field trip, one that will expose her to an utterly foreign way of life while opening her eyes further to the power of positive change.
But to do this, the Eagle River Secondary Grade 9 student will need some help herself.
Kennedy has been selected to take part in a Me to We trip to Kenya.
Me to We is an agent of social change. It operates in conjunction with its charitable partner, Free the Children, to “free children from poverty and exploitation, and to free young people from the notion that they are powerless to affect positive change in the world.”
Kennedy’s journey will begin on March 16, 2013, when she flies with Me to We to Nairobi, Kenya. Over the next 11 days, she will travel to the Me to We camp on the outskirts of the Maasai Mara wildlife reserve. There she will learn about the local geography and environment. She will also receive a cultural education, that includes visiting local villages of the Maasai and Kipsigis people, while learning to speak Swahili.
“It will definitely change my perspective on everything and I’ll learn about myself as an activist, and I can put that to use around the community when I come back,” says Kennedy.
But not all of Kennedy’s education will be cerebral. She and her fellow Me to We guests will help with the construction of a local school and a water system.
To be a part of this rare opportunity, Kennedy needs to raise $5,000 by December. The Sicamous Lions Club have already helped Kennedy with a $500 payment to guarantee her spot on the trip. Now the Lions will be working with Kennedy on other fundraisers throughout the year to get her on her way.
“We’ll see if we can’t get most of it for her, or a big portion of it for her, and then let her work on the rest, because it’s a lot of money,” says Lions Club president Betty Powell, who notes her grandson also experienced a similar adventure with Me to We.
The first fundraiser is slated for Wednesday, April 21. It will be a spaghetti supper and silent auction at Eagle River Secondary.
Kennedy says she had humanitarian leanings in the past, but it was seeing Me to We motivational speaker Spencer West that opened her eyes to what she has to offer.
“I couldn’t fathom the idea that he was doing what he does and he has no legs,” says Kennedy. “So I felt that I could do it too. That’s what really sparked my interest in everything. And I went to more Me to We days in Vancouver, and me and Spencer have become pretty good friends for the most part.”
West says for any student considering an international trip, with Me to We or another organization, the decision should be personal and one that should be made by the youth and their family. West says he first had the opportunity to travel to Kenya with Me to We in 2008. Not only was this the first time he had seen poverty firsthand, but it was on this trip that he discovered what he was meant to do in his life.
“I’m not saying international travel like this is for everyone, but a trip such as one that is offered through Me to We, gives youth the opportunity to interact with the local community, working on various development projects with them, as well as learning firsthand about a new culture,” West explained to the News. “It also engages them in hands-on leadership training and skill-building workshops, helping to equip them with the tools and knowledge they need to give back to their own communities once they return home.”
And Kennedy fully expects to return from her journey a different person.
“I will have a better appreciation of what we have and what we take for granted…,” says Kennedy “I hope to learn how to help those who need help, no matter where they live or what they need. I hope I come back a better person with a better understanding of how to give to others.”
Kennedy says she’s been asked a few times, “Why not just start in Canada.” Her response is that she already has. She says she’s been working against homelessness, abuse and other social concerns since her first Me to We experience in 2009, referring to the Me to We Day youth conference held annually in Vancouver.
If she isn’t able to raise the money, Kennedy says she’d be pretty heartbroken, but would pull herself out of it and do what she can for the betterment of her own community. But she’s hoping the community will get behind her.
“I think that the community would maybe want to get behind a youth who is finally opening her eyes and recognizing the kind of world we live in, and taking the initiative of seeing these changes, and doing what she can to see these changes made,” says Kennedy. “Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live.”