In summer 2011, Ellen Hansen, associate professor of social sciences, and a group consisting of students and community members, visited the Happy Life Home for Orphaned and Abandoned Children in Nairobe, Kenya as part of a service learning trip. Now, plans are being made to return.
“If you’ve ever traveled to other countries, you know that you learn things you can never expect, and you learn things that you’ll never learn by reading about a place,” Hansen said. “So it’s a horizon expanding experience, just going abroad.”
Hansen said the previous trip provided many learning experiences, from dealing with inconsistent water and power to learning about service itself while working at the orphanage and on other projects, such as minor construction.
Hansen said that the planning for the 2011 trip began in summer 2010 when Andrew McHenry, pastor of the First Congregational Church in Emporia, introduced her to Peter Ndungu, pastor and director of Happy Life Home.
Preparations for the upcoming trip, set for May 25 through June 8 or 15, 2013, depending on the participant’s choice, began this summer.
McHenry’s church is one of seven sponsors for Happy Life Home, and McHenry has visited the home three times previously, two of which were prior to the trip in 2011, which he also took part in.
“The trip is something that really meets both the needs of the Emporia State students and the faculty and the mission,” McHenry said. “For the faculty, we’re more interested in expanding the opportunities for students to travel and study abroad. There have been some in Korea, there’ve been some in Europe…but nothing really changes your perspective like seeing a third world country firsthand.”
McHenry said that Happy Life Home itself is a good place to go, as it has onsite lodging for volunteers.
Among those volunteers for the 2011 trip was Alyssa Salisbury, senior psychology major, who said that her favorite part of the trip was seeing how grateful the children were for the things they had, despite the poor conditions they were living in. Salisbury recommended that any students who wish to go should make sure they’re ready for what they’ll experience.
“Just really do your research on (the trip) and make sure it’s really something you want to do because you’re getting into these children’s lives, and it’s really nothing to mess around with,” Salisbury said.
Hansen said between travel fees, updated vaccinations, room and board and souvenirs, the trip will cost around $3,000 total.
An informational meeting was held on Sept. 5 in Plumb Hall. Another meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday at the First Congregational Church, 326 West 12th Ave., at the corner of 12th and State Street. The meeting is open to anyone who is interested, including students and community members.