“Is this where I’m meant to be?”
Now that’s a story worth sharing.
I'm guessing many of us have asked ourselves that question a few times. But one of those times for me changed my trajectory significantly. As a matter of fact, it's how LRobInspires came to be.
Searching for our purpose – one’s own personal story – is one of those things that we always evaluate. For me, the questions “Is this where I’m meant to be?” and “is this what I want my story to be about?” both came up rather strongly when I was on a “mission-like” group trip in Kenya. An experience that drove home the desire to change the work I was doing, put focus on where I could have more of an impact, and feel more purpose in my world.
LRobInspires is a Brand and Marketing firm committed to amplifying messages that deserve to be heard. It began as a result of this unique experience in Kenya. As I unravel my journey to inspiring others, I’m hoping it provides a real-life example of the power of storytelling.
Storytelling has been around since before the written word. It has evolved, morphed, and become ingrained in our lives. It’s everywhere. Some stories have traveled the world, some come from fairytales that transcend many cultures and languages. Some are moral stories that kids everywhere roll their eyes at. And some simply share an experience one will never forget. All stories evoke emotion, some a reaction, and some make you reflect a bit differently than you would’ve expected.
Stories can happen in words but can also be shared through imagery, video, or even song. The important thing is you want your story to connect. To make some sort of impact. And take your audience on the journey with you. So here it goes. Come with me to Kenya.
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
The journey you are about to embark on will be meaningful to you in many ways and for years to come. There will be profound experiences that change you immediately, altering the way you see yourself and the world. There will be a myriad of subtle influences that come and go in your mind as the years pass, gently affecting the choices you make in life.
Crooked Trails‘ Founder, Chris Mackay sent that letter to a group of us that decided to raise funds for a Kenya Soccer Program. Their mission is to support tourism-focused economic development projects in local communities around the world. Chris probably wrote that paragraph having witnessed people like us go through life-altering journeys on many of the trips her team coordinated. But for me, the accuracy of what she wrote, 4 years later, is simply astonishing.
February 2019…Our plane lands in Nairobi – the capital and largest city of Kenya.
Where are we headed?
One night to catch our breath and then we were on the road leaving the city for a 3-hour drive to a remote Maasai Village and our new hosts. The very first stop was our reason for coming. The private school in the small Village gave us a close-up view of a very different life. The classroom was full of students of all ages sharing benches against long wooden tables. At recess, we were engrossed by young children waiting to touch our light, long hair; it’s texture so different from their own. The older girls stood bold, arms crossed, protective of their territory. The boys had their own competition going in the hot red sand, leaping over a stick and raising it higher and higher with each successful launch and land.
The images below all give you a feeling of being there. Click on them to fully absorb the moment and emotions!
The joy, amidst the lack of typical comforts we are used to, was a surprise to each of us. Yes, it was a private school but so far from the “private school” life we were used to in the United States. School uniforms were worn and ripped. Sleeping quarters were 4 girls to a small two-person bunk–while the boys were lying on wires due to a lack of mattresses. Little girls with American names: Joy, Happiness, and Grace, truly expressed the beauty they were named after. Happiness borrows a hat and follows our girls everywhere; singing, laughing, and enjoying each moment of our visit. Yet some children were so shy they would stand in silence, far away from the others. Capturing a young boy’s desire for separation while disciplined by teachers for not participating. Every moment a new story emerged. The desire to know each one intimately was real but the digging for each one was not appropriate.
Their eyes often tell their own story.
The children who could not afford this private school were curious onlookers. They surrounded the “soccer” field we were building: raking the dirt field, painting the goalposts, and pushing wheelbarrows of crushed rocks to create a covered enclosure to shade players from the hot African sun. There kids are not allowed to partake. They clearly have the desire to play a part but instead, stand under the shade of trees and behind the line of students who are excited by the upcoming soccer training and games.
I approached the young girl you see here. She’s not only shy but looks to the boys to make all the decisions. The boy beelow, with a circle branded under his eye (a common mark representing a third eye believed to attract flies away from the actual eye) remains serious and leads his own little pack of village boys all flocked together by the pitch.
The Game that Connects All
The soccer field is marked. Goal posts have been painted. The foundation for the bench and covered area is set. It’s time to play soccer! Oh, the fun in training girls who really hadn’t played much soccer but had a true desire to learn and play. And, the competition and teamwork that broke the language barriers. My favorite moment was when my son took off his cleats and gave them to a boy playing left foot bare and right foot in a worn leather sandal. The smiles on both boys’ faces were priceless.
Our Maasai warrior gives us the sign that it’s time to go back to camp. He leads us back through the bush and through the nearby village. The riverbed is vast yet completely dry. We pass women and children carrying big yellow water tanks on their shoulders. It’s miles back to their homes but they make this trek almost every day. Our little school friends walk us out as far as they are allowed, and we wave goodbye. Clay huts and rickety shanties made of tin roofing and wood and clay huts mark our trail away from the school. Our uphill trek continues in silence as we contemplate the richness of this day and all it shared with us.
Yes, there were Animals. Lots of them. Up close and personal.
There is another side to this journey. The one most people are expecting to see in Africa. The animals; the spectacular landscape: there is nothing like it in America. Seeing these animals with all of the land around them, watching playful zebras, lions on the hunt, circling vultures, and hyenas rolling an ostrich egg fervently hoping it will crack as it is too big for their jaws. We witnessed a mother lion disciplining her cubs. We saw elephants up close – a little too close for my liking, and giraffes in all their grandeur.
It Started with a Dream
I remember when a friend posted about her son having a dream to create a soccer field in a country where kids didn’t have one to play on. The opportunity came up to make it happen and she asked who wants to come to take part in making a dream come true. Typically, I wouldn’t have reacted. I would’ve just thought to myself how cool it would be to do it. This time, I picked up the phone and called my husband who instantly said, “let’s do it!” and there we were: fundraising, packing, and joining a group for two awesome weeks of making a difference in an impoverished foreign country.
This story as you can see is rich in imagery. The photos (thank you KBR) add so much to the story. The faces young and old are so expressive. You can see the joy, the pain, and the strength of each character. You also witness the beauty, commanding enormity, and reckless abandonment of animals in their natural habitat. This is only a piece of an amazing experience. When I returned home, I was changed. I knew I needed to do something more for this planet…for the global battles we’re fighting to offer every child an education, to provide clean water, to protect animals’ and human rights. There was so much I wanted to be a part of so I could make a difference. This was clearly what I was meant to do next.