A Summer with SHOFCO: The Sequel

We are very lucky to have a SI '12 participant, Lily Samuel, coming back to assist us with this year's Summer Institute. Lily was a wonderful volunteer last year, spending a lot of her time at KSG with the Third grade class. She has also become a leader at SHOFCO-Oberlin, Oberlin College's Shining Hope for Communities College Chapter (check out their mid-semester update that they shared with us this year). She will be blogging about her return trip to Kibera, and we'll be sharing her personal thoughts here. Thank you so much, Lily, for your massive contributions to SHOFCO in Kenya and in the US! We can't wait for you to come back to the Kibera School for Girls!

I'm happy to announce the first ever blog post of Lily G. Samuel, rising senior at Oberlin College, Oberlin, Ohio, USA. I first began working with Shining Hope For Communities (SHOFCO) my sophomore year when Sarah Feigelson, a close friend of mine, came back from Kenya filled with excitement about a program with which she had worked.  She hoped to start a chapter at Oberlin. I didn't quite understand the organization, but the keywords EDUCATION, WOMEN'S EMPOWERMENT, and KENYA certainly got my attention. My family  is what you would call unique. I am the youngest of four biological siblings, with five younger siblings adopted from Ethiopia and Bulgaria. My family's composition and my own visits to impoverished communities in Bulgaria and Ethiopia have inspired my interest in working with underprivileged children, but until Sarah came along spouting acronyms like SWEP, KSG, and SHOFCO, I had not found an outlet. BOOM. I was hooked. I joined Sarah in the launch of SHOFCOberlin. Over the last couple years, we have worked incredibly hard to get our name out on campus, hosting fundraisers, movie screenings, and speakers.

 SHOFCOberlin 2012-2013

SHOFCOberlin 2012-2013

Last summer, Sophie Mortner (another Oberlin student and this upcoming year's co-chair) and I volunteered for the SHOFCO Summer Institute. It was one of the most rewarding, life-changing, informative experiences I've ever had. Yeah, it was that good. Painfully early mornings, exhausting days with the girls, and evening lesson-planning when all you can think about is sleep brought the volunteer teachers—American and Kenyan, closer together. We stayed up late playing games and reviewing the day’s most adorable moments: Rhoda followed Kenny around all day, Melissa was wearing her awesome hat/scarf again, Stacey wouldn't wake up from her nap, Eunice created her own version of Splat, Bang, and so on. We marveled at the children’s unparalleled ability to bring joy to every corner of the school. Giggles emanated throughout the hallways, and we all smiled when the girls announced things like, “My favorite color is color purple.” “My favorite color is color blue.” The girls are brilliant, striving to be pilots, doctors, teachers. Working with them inspired me to work harder for SHOFCO this past year, because they deserve all the success and happiness in the world. 

 Melissa in her awesome hat-thing. I actually got one recently, I was so obsessed with it

Melissa in her awesome hat-thing. I actually got one recently, I was so obsessed with it

Leaving the girls at the end of last summer was painful, and I cried hard. When would I see these beautiful girls again? I pictured that the next time I would see Joyce, a third grader, would be 50 years from now, on TV, accepting a Nobel Prize.

           Then BOOM, SHOFCO struck again.

I, Lily G. Samuel, get to return to Kibera to see all the girls I have missed so dearly and have worked so hard for. I AM SO EXCITED I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MYSELF. I  wait impatiently for the day I begin catching the planes to travel halfway around the world to see them; I day-dream about walking through the red doors of the school again, seeing the girls again, seeing the finished playground. They'll be older. The off-the-wall Pre-K’ers may have settled down (a little). The 3rd graders I taught will have grown into 4th-graders. 

 Summer Institute's Third grade crew.

Summer Institute's Third grade crew.

All I'm saying now is: I'm not promising I won't cry the second I see them again. 

And don't even get me started about the SHOFCO Youth—local teenage volunteers. The wonderful, hilarious, down-to-earth SHOFCO Youth  enriched our adventure last year, showing us their dance and theater performances, allowing us to join in on a Community Clean-Up. They joined us on hikes and we went to dinners together. Working with the Youth helped us better understand the community we had entered. I know this year's volunteers will benefit hugely from working closely with the Youth.

I leave in nine days and yes, I have made a construction paper link-chain that counts down the days til I go and until that day comes, I'll just look at pictures, watch videos, and endlessly leaf through the love letters the girls gave me. 

[Are you an undergraduate student interested in participating in the 2014 Summer Institute program? Great! Send an email to Nathan at nathan@shininghopeforcommunities.org and we'll notify you with important information and deadlines as next Summer approaches!]