Educator takes lesson from Kenyans
Katie Kirsch with Latifah, a student at Wings of Life in Kibera, Kenya. Latifah will be in class 5 next year and she would like to be a teacher when she grows up. | PROVIDED
Updated: February 11, 2013 6:01AM
WINNETKA — Instead of spending her Thanksgiving at home, North Shore Country Day School Academic Integrator Katie Kirsch was receiving thanks from students during a volunteer trip across the world.
As part of a team affiliated with Be Free Revolution, Kirsch spent 10 days in Nairobi, Kenya to volunteer with the young school children of Africa.
“I had heard about the organization because it was founded by my cousin’s sister-in-law,” Kirsch said. “One of the things that appealed to me is they form partnerships with the same schools in Africa and visit those schools each trip. They build solid relationships.”
Those in the Kenyan community craft handmade products like fabric goods and jewelry, which are then sold by Be Free Revolution to provide money for counseling victims of rape and violence and to supply local mentors for children in need.
“Their model really spoke to me on several levels,” Kirsch said. “(Particularly) the education piece and empowering local women in the community. I had always wanted to do a trip of that nature and be involved in some type of service.”
After leaving Nov. 15 and embarking on the 40-hour trip to Kenya, Kirsch got right to work helping students and teachers in the local schools.
She also spent time speaking with and mentoring groups of young female students, educating them about making good choices in regards to their bodies, friends and schoolwork.
“We did a lot of team building games, developed self-confidence and prepared them for one of their state exams,” Kirsch said.
In addition to volunteering with the teenagers, Kirsch’s team organized a field day for a school in nearby Kibera. The entire student body was able to ride a bus out of the slums to spend the day visiting a local park.
“They had never been out of the slum or on a school bus,” Kirsch said. “Many had never been at a wide-open space where they could run and many had never even seen grass.”
At the field, the students played games familiar to American playgrounds, including “duck, duck, goose,” “red rover” and “freeze tag.”
In the weeks after returning, Kirsch was able to reflect on her trip and share her experiences with the North Shore Country Day School community.
“I went into it expecting it to be different, but it was really quite humbling to see them learning and enjoy learning with so little,” Kirsch said. “Kids are excited and feel so lucky to attend school. They don’t have running water or electricity, some of the kids don’t have pencils and they fashion their notebook from scraps of paper, but they are excited every day to go to school and learn.”