Hi Friends!

So as scary as it may be I am leaving for a two month adventure in East Africa on Friday! (is this real life?!!!) Before I tell you all about this fabulous adventure I will backtrack a bit to how I got here.Image
When I was applying for universities in the fall of my senior year I knew for certain that I wanted to go far away. I only applied to schools outside of my own province of Ontario, where none of my friends were applying. This struck some of my friends as odd as they know how close I am with my family and how much I enjoy the comforts of home (DVR, Sarah’s baking, Charlie, Toby, and Henry, Dinner dates with Mom and Dad, days spent poolside with the whole family). My family however was not surprised at all and could not have been more supportive as they know that one of my defining characteristics has always been my love of adventure. This love of adventure started early in my life when I decided as a strong-minded six year old that I too wanted to go to overnight camp like my older siblings. Luckily I have parents that have always trusted my instincts and so off they sent me, and I could not be more glad that they did as I fell in love with the adventures that come with camp life and have gone back every summer since. I found plenty of little adventures throughout my elementary and high school years but took my first BIG adventure when I traveled to the east coast of Canada to attend University at STFX. I won’t pretend that there were not a few times in my first few weeks out there that I became homesick and missed life back in Ontario, but I never for a second questioned my choice of moving out there. Choosing to go far away for university has been the best decision I have ever made; I was forced to step out of my comfort zone, meet lots of new people, make new friends, and live on my own (I can now make more than Kraft Dinner!) Traveling to Nova Scotia for school has affirmed my belief that only good things can happen when you take big leaps of faith. After my first year of university I knew I was ready for my next big adventure and my next big leap.
Now to backtrack once again I will explain quickly about my love of volunteering. This love was found late in life but once it was it buried itself deep into my soul and has never left. When I was 16 I had the amazing opportunity to travel to New Orleans with a group of students that had also participated in the leadership program at Muskoka Woods, the camp I had grown up attending. And so I spent the March break of my grade eleven year gutting houses in NOLA, and hanging out with the most adorable children in the world in the government housing projects. This week changed my life. From that point on I knew that I wanted my future to involve making the world a better place, and spreading awareness about causes I believed in (and if you know me you know I have A LOT of causes). I didn’t know then, and I still do not know now how these dreams I have will manifest themselves but I trust that by taking great leaps of faith I will eventually find my way.
Fast-forward to me going to Africa. I knew after New Orleans I wanted to go on another volunteer trip, and deep in my heart I knew that I wanted to go to East Africa. So I saved up money waitressing during my first summer home from university and began researching trips. In December of 2012 I finally found one that I knew was for me.
I will be traveling with the wonderful organization Operation Groundswell who works to give participants a new view on what ‘traveling’ and ‘volunteering’ means. Their aim is ” to build a community of “backpacktivists” that are socially, environmentally and politically aware of their impact in the communities they travel to and live in.” Not only does the trip provide me with a unique opportunity to travel and adventure through Kenya, Uganda, and Rwanda but it will also help to connect me with some of the most determined and unique people and organizations who are working incredibly hard to bring issues of gender, sexuality, and human rights into the spotlight. These are topics I am incredibly passionate about and I am so excited to join up with a group of people who feels the same way and is excited about making positive change. We will be spending a lot of our time in the bustling metropolis of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi. We’ll learn about the post-election violence of 2007 through Solo 7, an artist activist in the Kibera slum. We will also work alongside human rights organizations such as The Gay Kenya Trust, and various women’s and children’s groups in the Mathare Slum. We will also be working in the Kisumu region of Kenya which is home to countless organizations that work to fight for human rights and gender related issues. There we will be working alongside journalists and media organizations to learn about the realities of East African life. We will also be working in Rwanda  staying with host families, uncovering stories and experiences from one of Africa’s most unfortunate human rights travesties. We will travel around to various genocide memorials and work with local organizations who work to facilitate positive change and sustainable peace. And in Uganda I will be bungee jumping OVER and white water rafting IN the Nile! (Can you say trip of a lifetime!?)

Now that is just a snapshot of what we will be doing and I am sure we will encounter many more projects and adventures along the way. This is going to be a really big leap of faith for me but I am confident that it will be a fruitful one. Currently I am TERRIFIED, ANXIOUS, and EXCITED all at the same time which often feels like I am having multiple mini heart-attacks. I have yet to pack or even buy everything I need and I think I am sub-consciously putting all of these last minute things off to make myself believe that this trip isn’t really happening.
But it is. In just three days this blondie will be touching down in Nairobi town and taking on whatever this opportunity has to offer. I will be taking HEAPS of pictures and videos to show to everyone what my travels looked like when I am back home but I hope to be able to update this blog at least once a week to let everyone know how my journey is going.

SO that is all for now! Thank you for journeying with me, I will miss all of you SO much during this trip but will be SO excited to tell you all about it when I get back!!!

xxx. Em

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