Have you ever been apart of that cliché moment of “at the right place, at the right time”? If so, then you will truly understand how this project came to life. To kick start this journey, I had a dream. I had always dreamed of going to Kenya. I wanted to go to the Maasai Mara on a wild African safari. I wanted to be a part of something bigger than myself, but most of all I wanted to help the people of Kenya. I can’t pinpoint why I have always been drawn there, but I guess one could say that it was my calling. During the summer of 2012, my mother Ronda, friends Jasmine and Nick, and I set forth on what turned out to be one of the biggest life-changing events we will ever experience. We originally planned a 4-week journey to volunteer in Nairobi, not knowing what we would really be getting ourselves involved in; all we knew is that we wanted to help.
Shortly after arriving, the idea of opening a center for people with developmental disabilities was tossed around. At this moment my mother and I looked at each other and smiled. We smiled because we knew that we could make this idea come to life. Back home, my family runs a day program for adults with developmental disabilities, so this population (those with intellectual disabilities) is our life. With plans for a small foundation jotted down on a piece of paper and tasks assigned to each one of us, we set out to the streets of Kibera to see exactly what we would be getting ourselves into. After interviewing 30 local families, we came to a conclusion to pick 6 individuals who we thought needed the most aid and had, thus far, not received any help. With the belief that as human beings we are all beautifully created equally, we saw the importance of giving some of these individuals a chance at life. Together, we were determined to not stop until these goals were achieved.
Now with a concrete goal in mind, we decided that what these 6 individuals needed was a center to learn and to grow and eventually help integrate them into the community. For an easier understanding, we will call it a school. A name was next on the check-off list. After putting all of our heads together, we decided on New Beginnings - Maisha Iko Sawa. The name New Beginnings was chosen to represent a new beginning in each of our students’ lives and their families and Maisha Iko Sawa, which means “Life is Good” in Swahili (the language of Kenya), to fuse in the Kenyan native tongue and to remind us all that life is good. The next mission was to find a teacher. After interviewing a few candidates, a teacher was selected. Last but not least, all we needed was to find a facility. With the help of our Kibera friends Jack, Dan, and James, we were able to locate a building to rent. It needed some major TLC, but we made it happen. On opening day, we had a beautiful surprise when the town’s government official came to officially open the school and to give us his thanks and welcome us into the community of Kibera.