Bekah’s Journey: Nairobi

28 01 2010

Arts in NairobiRebekah Wilcox hasn’t spent her first year in the Arts in Transformation Program just sitting around… While others stuffed their faces on Thanksgiving, she was trekking the slums of Nairobi, living out the hope-building power of the arts. Here is her account of the journey, before, during, and after her travel. Won’t you come along for the experience?

Before the Journey…
For a long time, art has been an important and necessary part of my life. My mother encouraged me in visual art, and both my parents instilled in me a love and appreciation for music and theater. Learning to use the gifts and passions in my life to help other people is my favorite part of the Arts in Transformation Program. I am excited to be leaving for Kenya in a few days as part of the Diaspora of Hope through BuildaBridge International. I think it is incredible that, in my first year in the program, I am already traveling abroad and implementing what I have learned in the program. It is my hope that I will be able to use my art to provide opportunities for hope and spread blessings to children throughout the world.

During the Journey…
Today was another incredible day of class. The students are learning the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou and making up movements to go with it. We gave our students an assignment to tell us a struggle they had and then follow it with the words, “And still I rise.”One small boy got up in front of the class and said, “Last night I looked for dinner, but didn’t get any. I went to bed hungry, but still I rise!” We found out later that the boy hadn’t eaten since we gave him lunch the day before, so Dorette and Said (Teaching Artists) took him outside the classroom and gave him some food.The boy came back to class very excited and active and thanked Dorette several times. When we read the students’ journals we found that several talked about going without food and not being able to study. I told Brenda, one of the local teachers, that although some children in the US go to bed hungry, most actually overeat and would not be able to relate to the feeling of hunger at all.

After the Journey…

Three days after I returned from Mathare Valley, I was standing in the grocery store, just watching people. The carts were loaded, mostly with junk, and most of the people I saw were clearly well fed. I thought about the children in Mathare Valley. I wondered how they might react to this scene that was so familiar to me. The amount of food, especially the entire aisle of food for animals was overwhelming to me now. I wonder how many of us have really ever felt hunger. All twenty of the students in my class in Mathare told stories about times they had gone days without food. At times I have said, “there is no food in my house” when my cupboards were full and there were cans of food on my shelf. In the matter of one week, I was so touched by a group of people that my world view has changed. Now, my hope is that I continue to keep their stories in my heart so that I can share them with people and bring about change.

Read more students’ transformation stories of at




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