Kenya Taught Me the Real Meaning of Happiness

By Mijal Eisen, 30

I have always loved to help others, I know it sounds cliché, but it is true. My voluntary work began when I was 10 years old and I would spend my Friday afternoons playing with orphan kids at a local orphanage in my home country.

Throughout my entire college years, my dream was to volunteer in an orphanage in Africa. That was it. I didn’t know how I would do it, I just wanted to do it. But I never did much besides browsing online through pictures and imagining the experience. I guess I was scared of actually going.

Right after my college graduation, coincidentally one of my really good friends told me she wanted to do it too. Now that I had somebody to go with I didn’t think it twice. We signed up, packed our bags and just went for it.

We thought we had expectations to where we were going…once we got there, we realized we had no clue what was about to happen, or where did we get ourselves into. We spent 5 weeks in an orphanage located in a village in Kenya.

I remember my first night, telling myself “what did I do? How am I going to survive the next 5 weeks? Everything that we take for granted in our day-to-day lives, is a luxury over there. I didn’t know I was privileged to have clean water until I lived it. We didn’t have electricity unless it was a sunny day, we didn’t have clean water unless it rained.

Our bathroom was a hole in the ground that we shared with the rest of the volunteers and the one time we were lucky to eat chicken was because of a national holiday when they would kill a rooster to celebrate with a feast (I saw that).

Field trips meant going to the local dispensary (1 hour walking) to take the kids for HIV checkups. I have to say that the questions I had my first night were easily answered after a couple of days. In just a few days, all of my personal fears disappeared and my only preoccupation was to make those kids happy while I was there.

I learned that we don’t need a field or even shoes to play soccer. And like that I got to appreciate the simple things in life that much of the developed world has forgotten about. Once you see how these kids live and how HAPPY they are, you kind of feel guilty of complaining about a rainy day at home. And believe me when I tell you, they are truly HAPPY.

I guess you have to see it to believe it.

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