We Rise or We Fall Together March 20, 2015 by Leann Bankoski
By: Leann Bankoski, CFK Executive Director
In late January, I landed in Nairobi for a three-month stay. Typically, when I visit Kenya, it’s only for 1-2 weeks, so the idea of being here for a full 3 months is exciting! Inevitably, when I tell people about my stay, they often ask, “What is it like to be in Kenya for longer?” The lessons I’ve learned about the Kibera community are too many to count, so I’ll leave you with 2 takeaways:
The work happening in Kibera is life-changing!
Last Wednesday afternoon, I ordered a pair of custom-designed, handmade sandals from Petit. Petit has been a part of CFK since 2002. She joined the Sports Association first, then began attending meetings for the Daughters United Program. With the birth of her daughter, Wendy, she became a mother at the age of 16. Petit continued to be involved in CFK, building her leadership skills and actively giving back to the community as an alumni leader. She has always been keenly aware of the unique challenges young mothers like herself face. Recently, Petit decided she wanted to start her own girls’ center for young mothers. When she was presented with the opportunity to launch the center through a small grant from CFK, Petit seized it and opened the Unicorn Girls Resource Center, a place of support for extremely marginalized young girls, including those who are young mothers like her. 6 years ago, I recall meeting her and thinking she was sassy, young, and full of personality, just as she is now. Today, I see Petit as a remarkable leader and role model. And the sandals she makes are beautiful!
The world is small.
On February 10th, I got an email alert from UNC about 3 students that were murdered near campus. I was in shock. I felt so far from the UNC community and blindsided by such a senseless tragedy. My husband and I followed the news, but it wasn’t the same as being in North Carolina to mourn alongside colleagues and friends. And then something unexpected happened. The CFK Kenya staff said they’d heard about the murders and they too were heartbroken. I have found such comfort in knowing that my colleagues here in Kenya ache with this tragedy as much as my colleagues in NC.
Time zones separate us, but our shared humanity makes the world small. It’s become increasingly clear to me that even as we try to distinguish and divide ourselves from one other—in the end, our destinies are bound. We rise or we fall together.