Life-Changing Surprise

February 15, 2018 12:32 pm Published by

I can still remember the time in junior high where the continent of Africa was placed on my heart, and I can now look back and see how everything in my life has slowly shifted to it being a huge focus. From small things like embracing my naturally curly hair with Senegalese twist and colorful head wraps to larger things like studying International Development in undergrad and trying to learn French (which is spoken in many West African nations), I fell in love with her many countries and wide-variety of beautiful cultures and people.

One of my biggest dreams was to visit somewhere in Africa. Though multiple opportunities to visit the continent ultimately resulted in disappointment, I persisted. I was determined and though I didn’t know how or where to, I knew that one day I would make it there.

Once I found the internship with Mainsprings in the fall of 2016, I felt closer to my dreams. I was working with an organization that helps communities and families out of poverty in lasting ways that truly make a difference. I’m so blessed to be a small part in all of this. When the internship turned into a job at the end of 2016 , I got the opportunity that I had so been longing for. This past fall I found myself on a plane headed to Tanzania. It felt unreal.

Tanzania was absolutely beautiful and to my surprise, everything was so green. Though the media tends to depict all of Africa as one huge dry land, Tanzania was unlike any place I’ve ever seen. From the tall and wide mango trees, tropical-looking flowers, and vegetation growing on the Mainsprings campus to the artistically rocky terrain and Lake Victoria, Tanzania was indescribably beautiful.

And the people were just as charming. They had warm welcomes and greeting of “habari” and “hakuna matata” accompanied with joyful smiles that you could tell weren’t just for show.  Everyone made me feel welcomed, especially those on campus. From the staff members who showed me around or tried to teach me basic Swahili phrases; to the students at Joseph and Mary Schools, bubbling with curiosity, always waving, smiling, or hugging you until you can barely stand; to the girls living on the campus with their laughs, smiles, hugs, songs, and love for doing hair—you ALL have etched a spot on my heart that I will forever hold dear.

Upon my arrival back home, someone asked me if this long-awaited trip was “life-changing”.  I can’t quite remember my response to the question, but as I’ve had time to reflect on my trip, my honest answer would be no. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful and amazing trip, and for a bit I felt terrible and guilty that my answer was no. I questioned myself because of it. I had this once in a lifetime chance for some, but did I not make the most of it? This was my dream, the moment I’d waited so long for, but when I finally had it grasped in my hands, did I miss something from holding onto it so tight?

The more I pondered, I soon realized this: Though this trip may not have been life-changing for me, I was able to see how this organization, Mainsprings, has changed the lives of countless others.

Mainsprings isn’t an organization that gets peoples hopes high and leave them dry and worse than before. It’s an organization that focuses on sustainability, targets the needs it sees, and then grows to become a part of their family. At Mainsprings, students who once didn’t have the place or space to learn and grow now have the opportunity to be skillfully equipped with the knowledge they need to succeed in life. Struggling economies have turned into thriving ones in the villages Mainsprings works with, offering farmers lessons on permaculture and sustainability. Villagers no longer have to travel miles to see a doctor because Mainsprings saw the need, tackled it by providing a clinic, and are reaching to perfect it by bringing health awareness to the people who may have never known about such. Young girls who once were in abusive living situations or on the street abandoned now have a safe place to call home, where their imaginations can run wild and they have the opportunities to be anyone they want to be in life. This and more is what Mainsprings does. It’s changing the course of entire communities, and personally seeing all of this has fueled my passion for what I do.

So, if someone were to ask me again if my trip to Tanzania was life-changing, my answer would be, “No, but Mainsprings is.”

Guest Blogger Katelyn J. is Mainsprings’ Development Assistant in the U.S. office. 

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This post was written by Mainsprings