What am I doing here?

“Why on earth did I sign up for two months here? What am I even doing?
I shouldn’t be here!”

Dread, a bit of panic, and an overwhelming amount of doubt was there to greet me when I was driving to the project site from the airport in Mombasa.

I always thought it was cliché when they say,  ”you’ll never know what poverty is until you see it in person, face to face.”  But they are entirely right. To see it that close. To see it seem endless with every street, every corner, every sea of garbage you see a child and animal picking through, every crowded market, every person you see lying in the streets, every shack that you would never want to call home, every burning pile of rubbish, every repugnant smell that wafts into your nose, every broken down building, every child wandering alone, and the excessive amounts of people living in conditions that you would avoid even walking through will overwhelm you and help you understand exactly what poverty is.

It will make you too aware of your own fortune. Of how well off you are. To be coming into this entirely different world with the culture and history you carry with you. To hate where you’re from and want to forget that you even came here. To feel ashamed of the good hand you were dealt in life.  To want to hide away and not be here ‘to help.’ Which now, as you’re driving though it – seem so minuscule, conceited and ridiculous. Selfishly taking an ‘experience’ away from this place. And what are you really giving back? Nothing can ever be enough so you should just turn back now.

It’s overwhelming for everyone who makes that trek from the airport to the house. If you open up to other volunteers you’ll realize very quickly that most have felt similar emotions. But every time they get back from visiting the schools all of that doubt is quickly erased. The kids become priority one and everything else seems to matter less and less.  They get a small taste of the difference volunteers have made in this pocket of Mombasa. And that doubt is gone, it all seems worth it – and you’re ready to contribute everything you’ve got.

Soon enough the time you thought would be an eternity is far too short and you want to double or triple the amount. Dread sets in on how many days are left and its never, ever enough time. What a change from the initial panic of being here ‘too long.’ I don’t think there’s such a thing anymore.

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