I love a good story. That’s part of what drives me to travel; the people I find in new places often tell me things that I never would have learned at home in Canada.
And some of my favourite real-life stories aren’t just sitting around somewhere, waiting to be discovered. No, they’re being actively created by passionate, driven people.
I’ve had the opportunity to meet some of these inspiring people on my travels so far. I’m impressed by people driven to challenge the status quo, step into uncharted territory, and work to improve their world. These brief paragraphs can’t capture their entire stories, but I hope you’ll see why I’ve been happy to meet them on my own journey.
Dan Ogola is a friend I met in Nairobi, where I stayed for nearly a week with him and his young family. Dan grew up in Ukwala, a small rural community in western Kenya, then later moved to the Nairobi slum of Kibera. These are very economically poor conditions that rarely produce movers or shakers, but Dan has become an energetic social entrepreneur. He founded the Matibabu Foundation, which is devoted to promoting prosperity through better health and education. Dan has built a hospital in his hometown and co-ordinates dozens of volunteer American doctors each year. He believes in supporting the young women who often marry and start families so young, so he founded a girls high school. His next project is a education centre that will offer adult classes and improve community health awareness.
Dan was featured on CNN earlier this year as a global innovater. You can watch a preview of their great full-length profile (the long one is also available on YouTube) here:
Kate McKenzie is a teacher from Alberta on an ambitious eight-month journey around the world to find positive stories of hope and share them with her students back home. Kate is traveling to some of the world’s most challenging places, including Afghanistan, Colombia, and Pakistan. I met her in Rwanda, where she joined our team to visit the Kiziba refugee camp.
Kate asks great questions and is really keen to find positive aspects even in the most challenging places. That’s refreshing, when our Westernized eyes sometimes focus more on the poverty and difficulties in other countries. And she seemed always interested in being with local people and learning about their lives firsthand.
Read more about her Worldviews project at http://www.worldviewsproject.com.
You can also hear about the Worldviews project in her own words here:
And finally, I spent this past weekend with Joel Chacha. He was born in rural south-western Kenya, but was able to come to Ontario with a missionary family in the 1960s to finish high school and get his post-secondary education.
That opportunity changed his life, and he hasn’t forgotten the impact of access to education. He now lives and works in Mississauga, and has found Canadian donors among his friends and co-workers to support nearly 30 students back home in Kenya. Joel comes home at least once each year to meet the students, check their marks, and encourage their progress – with limited funds and too many bright minds to nourish, poor achievers may not have their scholarships continue!
I met Joel in New Hamburg before my trip, and he kindly invited me to spend some time at his family home. It was a great chance to meet with these young people, who have almost all had one or both parents die from AIDS, cancer, or other diseases. With a much lower life expectancy in Kenya, orphans are a big problem, but Joel sees education as the door to a better life and a career beyond subsistence farming on the family’s plot of land.
His organization is called Teamwork Children’s Services and he has also begun managing a similar program in Zambia.
That’s just the start! But these three examples have done very interesting things, and done them with respect and generosity.