Lives change within the walls of our nonprofit partner, The Maisha Project. Their mission is to “bring hope to the hopeless, and light to the darkness, by transforming lives and empowering communities by providing lasting solutions to address poverty, hunger, disease, and under-education.” Beatrice Williamson, founder of The Maisha Project, often says “education is the key to success”, and the residents of the small village of Kisumu, Kenya are starting to understand why.
My name is Lauren, and I work for Backpacks with a Purpose (B-WAP), and I had the opportunity to live in Kisumu for a summer with The Maisha Project.
While I was there, I had the overwhelming pleasure of watching hundreds of kids receive their very own B-WAP backpack. To them, this was not just a backpack, but a flicker of hope. It was a sign that someone cares for them and wants them to succeed. Many children wake up before the sun rises to begin chores and take care of their siblings. For these children, the backpack had a purpose; it was an encouragement to make the three hour long walk to school. The cycle of poverty and lack of education is being broken by a backpack. The cycle that seems unfixable to some can become a thing of the past. Education opens doors that nothing else can in Kenya.
We often asked the kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. Most weren’t even aware of the vast amount of career options available and would respond with doctor, teacher, pilot, or engineer. Elizabeth is sassy, unique, and bold. She holds a huge part of my heart because she’s my sponsor child. So, of course, she said she would like to become a model when she grows up. When she asked me what I did, I wasn’t sure how to respond. I told her, “I sell backpacks, but it’s more than just backpacks. I like to help people figure out what they are good at and how they can make a difference.” A couple weeks later, I heard someone ask her again, but her answer was different this time, “I want to help people. I want to make a difference.”
In that moment, I found my purpose.